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  • Writer's pictureFiona Prior

Shared Prosperity

Shared sustainable prosperity for all.

I’m not a believer in miracles but I do love a bit of magical smarts.

At the moment the world needs as much inspired cleverness as possible. Government is placing resources where it hopes it will do most good; many individuals are looking for ways to invest that will not only give them a return, but also contribute to the regeneration of our economy (knowing that ultimately the two go hand-in-hand); employers and employees are using the initiatives rolled out by Government and sheer will-power to keep a foothold; and individuals are straining to help themselves, families and friends while adhering to health requirements. And, of course, there is the flip-side but that is not my focus.

This all leads me to a bit of economic magic that changed the way I viewed the world forever, brought to my attention when doing a belated MBA. Now, to be very clear, this economic magic is pertinent to the developing world only and not our own developed society, however it is but one illustration of the many ways that a great economic theory accompanied by focused operational application can achieve a fountainhead of prosperity for all ... and be easy to understand.

The institution I put under the microscope was Grameen Danone Foods Limited, a joint venture, comprising of a micro-finance company (Grameen Bank, founded by 2006 Nobel Winning Economist Mohammed Yunus) and a large dairy product producer (Danone). The JV is based in Bogra, Bangladesh. The underlying motive and the rationale behind this joint enterprise was to short-circuit the relationship that exists between poverty and its many components – lack of education, inadequate housing, malnourishment, social exclusion, unemployment; all so often accompanied by environmental severity/degradation.

So … Grameen Bank with Danone inaugurated their first yogurt producing plant to produce a high nutrient, bite-size yogurt product that members of the community could afford. Distribution consisted of 1600 micro-vendors – village women within the 25 km radius. Further, micro finance was negotiated for villagers to buy extra cows to supply the dairy product and other required raw materials; while other villagers again were lent money to put refrigeration on their bicycles to distribute the product ‘on wheels’. Best practice was used to sidestep any negative environmental factors that can accompany manufacturing and have negative impact on village life – rain-water harvesting, solar panels for renewable energy supply, biodegradable product containers that produce nutrient rich fertiliser of decomposition … and so much more. Grameen-Danone was extraordinarily 3-dimensional, generative and long-sighted in conception and detailed in roll-out.

The cycle of poverty in Bogra was disconnected for existing and upcoming generations, wealth spilled over, and a micro economy was kick-started which inevitably changed the lives of an entire village and its neighbours.

How could I not have been bedazzled and light a candle for this visionary project!

In fact Grameen Danone perfectly illustrated the theory of another economist C. K. Prahalad who wrote ‘The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid’ (2004). This text espoused that by turning the impoverished at the ‘bottom of the (economic) pyramid’ from wasted non-producers into successful, active producers (empowered to flourish, earn and therefore spend and build) the entire economic system in which they were located would be kick-started. Grameen-Danone did just this in Bangladesh.

I highly recommend doing an MBA or any form of study in later life. It gave me an insight that has changed the way I view the world, and my optimism for the future. I now believe that some people who know about money are working to use their knowledge to actually improve the lives of others in a sustainable and responsible fashion.

Smart magic and/or genius.

Don’t we all need a bit of hope right now!

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