Nobel laureate speaks at statewide social business plan competition

1/20/2013


TUSKEGEE, Ala. (January 20, 2013) – College students from around the State of Alabama gathered at the university to offer their solutions to some of the area’s most pressing social and economic problems. The Alabama Social Business Forum, held Jan. 18 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center at Tuskegee University, encouraged the students to formulate viable business plans using social business concepts such as those defined by the founder of the Grameen Bank and 2006 Nobel Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus, who was also the keynote speaker for the event. Social businesses hope to solve a community problem such as poverty, hunger or joblessness may generate a small profit, but their objectives are not solely financial.

 
Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and 2006 Nobel Prize winner.
 

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Sixteen teams, including four from Tuskegee, created and presented plans to judging panels that included community and business leaders. Other participating institutions included: Alabama State University, Auburn University, Auburn University at Montgomery, Trenholm State Technical College, University of Alabama, University of Alabama at Birmingham and Stamford University.

Before the final round of competition, Yunus addressed the participants, judges and members of the university and regional community in the Kellogg Hotel ballroom. He shared his personal account about why he became involved in social business first in Bangladesh, now all over the world. He said the problems he found in his home country are problems that are faced all over the world, including Macon County. He said the business plan competition was a starting point in generating ideas that can serve a higher purpose.

“This is not an exercise for exercise sake, but an exercise for getting problems resolved,” Yunus said.

He also said charity, although helpful, is not a final solution to address society’s ills.

“When charity money goes out, it goes out and does a wonderful thing. But, it doesn’t come back,” Yunus said. “We spend more time raising the money than doing the thing. If we use a business model, the whole thing opens up.”

The Tuskegee teams’ presentations addressed several issues such as: childhood obesity, community education centers and farm lending. The competition’s first place winner was one of the university’s teams. Dalal Alkordi, a graduate student studying agricultural economics, and her adviser, Youssouf Diabate, an assistant professor of agricultural and resources economics, presented a plan to create a local bank that would extend loans to farmers in the Black Belt region. 

According to the team: “This financing mechanism will lead to a rich social business landscape in the Alabama Black Belt. The business model will also enable local initiatives to enhance part of their social services into a financially sustainable social business model and allow them to continue to positively shape the Black Belt.

Final Results for the Alabama Social Business Forum team competition:
     First place: Tuskegee University, “Black Belt Farmers”
     Second place: University of Alabama, “Worker Owned Cooperative”
     Third place: Auburn University, “Ethical Food"


From left: Mohammad Bhuiyan, vice president for innovation and sustainable development; Patricia S. Rochon, Tuskegee University first lady; Youssouf Diabate, an assistant professor of agricultural and resources economics; Dalal Alkordi, a graduate student studying agricultural economics; Muhammad Yunus, Nobel laureate; Matthew Jenkins, Tuskegee University Foundation chair and Deborah Honore’ Crews, Tuskegee University Foundation member.


Randi Harrison, a junior elementary education major from Spartanburg, S.C., holds up her group's presentation poster for their nutrient-enriched and healthier chocolate chip cookie idea for children that was submitted for the competition.





© 2013 Tuskegee University

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