U.Va. Social Business Series to Feature Former Bangladeshi Leader

September 1, 2010 — University of Virginia students interested in social business models will have the opportunity to learn from the leaders in the field during a five-week film and speaker series, culminating with a talk by the man credited with overseeing the most successful elections in Bangladesh's history.

U.Va.'s chapter of Machik, a national non-profit organization that works to develop new opportunities for education, capacity-building and innovation in the Tibetan plateau, is cosponsoring the event with the student group Social Entrepreneurs for Economic Development, or SEED.

Series organizer Yuang Shao said Machik selected the films because they enable viewers to come "face to face" with the founders of some of the world's most successful social businesses – "social entrepreneurs who started out just like young men or women like us," she said.

Social businesses have a social objective, like providing health care for the poor, and investors do not expect any personal gain through the operation of their businesses.

The series features four films and two speakers. It kicks off Sept. 8 at 7:30 p.m. in room 410 of Rouss Hall with the screening of "Entrepreneur for Society," in which Bill Drayton, the founder of Ashoka, talks about how he decided to launch a global association of men and women seeking solutions to the world's most urgent social problems.

The following three Wednesdays, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., the public is invited to view films about the forming of BRAC, a development organization dedicated to alleviating poverty by empowering the poor; the founding of Grameen Bank by Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus; and a film about the operations of BRAC. The last film will be followed by a seminar led by McIntire School of Commerce professor Brad Brown, who will discuss microfinance in social business and its pros and cons.

The final event of the series is an Oct. 6 speech by Fakhruddin Ahmed, who in addition to leading Bangladesh's government from January 2007 to December 2008, has a solid history in microfinance.

Prior to his appointment as government caretaker, Ahmed served as managing director of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation from June 2005 to January 2007. PKSF provides financial and institution-building assistance to more than 200 microfinance institutions. 

Ahmed is a distinguished visiting scholar at U.Va.'s Center for International Studies.

-- by Jane Kelly