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Dialogue for a Social Business Network
Dr. Karl Osner

Professor Yunus, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,

"Overcoming poverty with entrepreneurial creativity and competence" - that is the goal that has brought us together today. And it is the leitmotif of today's dialogue.

Professor Yunus, with your idea of Social Business that you presented at the awards ceremony for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, you have offered us a visionary concept. The core idea behind your Social Business concept is finding a sustainable way to overcome poverty with the help of economically viable business ideas as an addition to traditional businesses and conventional poverty alleviation.

As far as the implementation of your concept goes, you are counting on the growing willingness of entrepreneurs not only to support social and charitable goals using some of the profits from entrepreneurial activities, but also to engage in entrepreneurial activities where the products and services that have positive impacts on the daily lives of poor families are the direct business goal.

It is clear that an approach such as this can only bear fruit if the full range of entrepreneurial "virtues" can be brought into play. These include innovative business ideas, discovering and exploiting market opportunities, dealing with risk and - last but not least - personal commitment. In other words, we are talking here about a genuinely entrepreneurial approach. Overcoming poverty is the goal, sustainable entrepreneurial action as an expression of social responsibility the means.

It is for us a great privilege, dear Professor Yunus, that we will be able in today's dialogue workshop, to brainstorm with you about how the Social Business concept can be put into practice in business. With that aim in mind, we want to have an exchange about what each of us can contribute - possibly even in a given case by investing our own capital.

Some of us, about half the participants in today's meeting, are private entrepreneurs and leading figures from the business sector. The other half are leading figures from society and the Church, who are also in a position to make valuable contributions: for example by acting as go-betweens to establish contacts with socially motivated entrepreneurs, or as players in areas where there are possible intersections or avenues for joint projects.

In this connection I would like to mention, with much gratitude, the example of the KIWI Church and Business Network of the Stuttgart/Rottenburg Diocese. With their help we were able at the beginning of July to make the first attempt to hold a dialogue with entrepreneurs in Stuttgart, as a precursor to today's meeting. I would also like to mention as examples of possible cooperation partners Ashoka Germany and the Central Committee of German Catholics, which is also particularly concerned with promoting ethical investments.

Let me not forget to mention the personal contacts with you, Professor Yunus, and with leading members of staff from the Grameen Bank such as Nurjahan Begum, Lamiya Morshed, Barua Dipal; five of those here present owe it to them that they were able to experience for themselves in an exposure in the field the entrepreneurial creativity and competence of Grameen Bank customers such as Saleha Begum and the millions of "Jorimons". I believe I am right in saying that the Social Business idea was greatly inspired by the convincing willingness of the poor to practise self-help.

As well as saying a very warm thank you to all of you for taking part in this discussion, I would also like to express the hope that the entrepreneurial potential for productive self-help of the poor will inspire and motivate us participants as well.

In conclusion, I would like to say a few words about the planned timetable for this meeting, which was sent to you with the invitation: Professor Yunus will first explain his Social Business idea. After a discussion of the concept lasting about half an hour, we then want to discuss together any questions we may have and the possibilities regarding each individual's personal commitment. Each of us is invited to take part in this exchange of thoughts.

I think that a kind of brainstorming, in which we gather together all our ideas and suggestions and share them with one another is a good format to use for the discussion. I have a question from the first meeting with entrepreneurs in Stuttgart in July, which I mentioned earlier, which I would like to include in the brainstorming: What possibilities are there for medium-sized and family-run businesses in particular to engage in social business activities?

Finally, we would like to conclude by establishing on the basis of an initial assessment whether there is a fundamental interest in continuing the dialogue and in participating in it. We, the three initiators of this dialogue workshop, who make up the Social Business Network as it stands right now, are willing to develop with you, Professor Yunus, and interested participants, ideas as to how the dialogue can be continued based on the outcome of today's discussion.

Bearing in mind the pleasingly high number of participants here today, I would like to ask everyone to help us adhere to our timetable by keeping their contributions as short and precise as possible. During the personal exchanges after the dialogue and during the joint lunch, I would ask you to help ensure that as many of us as possible have the opportunity to exchange a few words with Professor Yunus in person. A personal exchange with Professor Yunus and the personal exchange between participants is a concrete outcome of this workshop that we from the Social Business Network are hoping to achieve with this meeting.

In order to ensure that the joint dialogue is as fruitful as possible for all, despite potential language barriers, my colleague Kerstin Humberg will try to summarise the main points in a few sentences in German at the end of each segment.

Thank you once again for being here and for your interest in our endeavour, and now I ask to introduce yourselves to one another and after this I ask Professor Yunus to take the floor.