Dr. Muhammad Yunus -- Bio

Dr. Mohammad Yunus has dedicated his life to creating opportunities for the world's poor who now comprise over 60 percent of the world's population but live off only 5 percent of its income. For thirty years, he has provided “micro-credit” to tiny businesses in the poorest villages of Bangladesh. With loans of only one or two dollars, small family businesses could free themselves from unscrupulous money lenders who starved their small operations of any profit, thus perpetuating the local poverty.

In 1983, Dr. Yunus formed the Grameen (meaning “village”) bank to break this devastating cycle and provide low interest, flexible loans for business, housing, insurance, and education. The Bank now services over 7 million customers with an astounding 99% repayment rate. Dr. Yunus and the Grameen Bank won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for improving the lives of so many of the poor. The program is now expanding to other countries besides Bangladesh. One recent example is the substantial backing from Mexican telecom billionaire Carlo Slim, who plans to start a micro-finance bank in Mexico City. The bank will use $45 million of initial capital to issue over 80,000 loans during its initial phase of operation. .

Transdisciplinary science and engineering could become the perfect compliment to the work of Dr. Yunus. Transdisciplinary thinking examines the whole problem without artificial borders. Micro-finance has proved its worth in a number of countries around the world. As the idea extends to other areas like health care and telecommunications, the original approach must be integrated with social and infrastructure projects or it may put at risk any gains previously attained. By merging cross-disciplinary approaches like transdisciplinarity with practical first-hand, on-the-ground experience and understanding, the momentum of Dr. Yunus' work can be propelled into a new sustainable future for over half of all humanity. Beyond the obvious humanitarian aspects, there are benefits of this unique combination to the industrialized nations as well. When small low-level economies are formed, they can quickly evolve into small consumer markets which become more receptive to modern products and services. While each individual consumes only a small sum, the combined spending power of so many can create sizable markets for specialized, targeted products and services, thus propelling economic growth everywhere. Labor costs remain low and product quality is high because each little business is motivated directly by family well-being. Small family businesses must maintain efficient operations and avoid extravagances to remain viable. Furthermore, with technology pervading these micro-markets, small businesses will get access to the spending power of the industrialized nations, which can substantially accelerate trade.

Dr. Yunus has already begun to put cell phones in the hands of the women entrepreneurs. The methods discovered through this transdisciplinarity partnership are directly applicable within industrialized nations. Not only do these abundant nations have pockets of poverty themselves, at times, they experience unusual events which are economically destabilizing. The aftermath of natural disasters like hurricanes Katrina and Ike need integrated thinking backed by coordinated action to alleviate the immediate devastation and often lingering poverty within the region. Recessions or other economic crises cause disruptions which last for years. To get things moving again, governments must act, but an economic response alone may not be enough to quickly reverse a decline. Confidence in the monetary system will only return when people's basic needs are met. Lessons learned from past disasters show inadequate, disjointed responses can drag out any anticipated recovery. The effects ripple across the world in complex ways which can best be understood with transdisciplinary models.

The methods learned by helping poorer nations can be put to work in transitioning people through difficult periods. It is this very reason that transdisciplinarity science and engineering should be employed to design an integrated and lasting solution. The techniques developed by Dr. Yunus and enhanced by transdisciplinary methods, offer new options, tailored to a specific culture, geography and economy. New solutions can lift the lives of everyone and benefit the overall world economy.