It's all too easy to feel bleak about the state of the world. With unemployment at an all-time high, environmental degradation commonplace and divisiveness and inequality rife, there's an increasing desire to shun the traditional models we have relied upon to solve these issues, and find an alternative instead. One new model, from the new book A World of Three Zeros by Muhammad Yunus, puts entrepreneurialism at the heart of the solution. The book calls for zero poverty, zero unemployment and zero emissions and offers an enchanting, optimistic, yet practical approach to complex problem solving. Coined by Muhummad Yunus, of Grameen Bank fame, the movement is steadily gaining steam and sparking much-needed conversation. Here's what you need to know about how the future could look, and why entrepreneurialism matters more than ever.
Zero One: Poverty
Yunus believes that poverty should only be found in a museum. He states that only by creating their own work and owning their own income streams, the cycle of poverty has a chance of being broken. And this makes sense. Rather than working for others, and passing on the profits in return for a wage, self-employment offers a chance to grow wealth. And we see this happening in the startup community. One of the most prominent areas of growth has been a direct-to-consumer model, where old distribution networks and value chains are broken up, in favor of a more equitable model for both suppliers and consumers.
Zero Two: Unemployment
Historically, humans have been entrepreneurial, resourceful and ingenious. It was these very skills that helped us to develop and thrive across the globe, building cities, cultures and civilizations. It wasn't until very recently that we have looked to companies to employ us; rather than finding our own work and solving problems that we see right in front of our eyes. In a recent interview with Yunus, he said, "The concept of employment is our undoing. We should be directing ourselves to become entrepreneurs."
And this matters more than ever. In an era of AI, where jobs are being threatened, so too are people's identities. Much of our self-esteem and self-worth comes from how we spend our working hours. And when you take that away, it's easy to feel lost; on top of losing an income stream. Sparking a community of entrepreneurs, who build their own jobs and solve problems that matter to them creates a dynamic that is self-sustaining and self-perpetuating. By becoming entrepreneurs, people can catch the wealth that is created, rather than watch it go to the hands of a concentrated few.
Zero Three: Emissions
The final zero in Yunus's equation is about restructuring around self-driven entrepreneurship, against initiatives that improve a community and the planet's outcomes. Recently, many businesses have relentlessly pursued profit, at the expense of environmental and social factors. The assumption is that most businesses are made up of people who only want to play to the selfish side of humanity. However, humanity is also selfless; and wants to help, improve and make things better for the greater community. In a new model, underpinned by entrepreneurship, there is room to create business solutions that are both selfish (profit making) and selfless (make life better).
Who's Doing This Well
Yunus says, "The best way to cultivate a sustainable business is to solve humanity's greatest problems". Often, this sort of audacity comes from entrepreneurs, yet some big businesses are setting out to make a difference; and critically, they have the scale to truly drive impact. For example, McCain Food Company deliberately buy produce deemed too 'ugly' for the supermarkets and use it to create a line of soups. Or Danone, who produces a special yogurt, packed with nutrients to address malnutrition in Bangladesh. And it matters. More research is coming to light on how companies that invest in CSR initiatives achieve higher earnings per share and greater employee retention.
What The Future Holds
Like many, Yunus finds hope in the next generation, who are open minded, flexible and hungry for change. It's up to all of us to help equip them with the skills they need to thrive as entrepreneurs. This can start from a very young age, with parents teaching their children that they can be job creators and schools setting up education systems that reinforce that message. Yunus says, "Right now, schools are priding themselves that they are making people 'job ready', with no intention of letting people discover their own ability and innate entrepreneurial skills". For many, entrepreneurship is more than a job, it's an attitude and way of life. And crucially, it has the power to catapult us out of some of the highly precarious situations we are currently in. Whether you are actively an entrepreneur, or an entrepreneur at heart, now's the time to channel that tenacity and switch into problem solving mode.