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  Volume 6 | Issue 30 | July 29, 2012 |


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Youth in Action

The Book-Worm Revolution

Nazia Zebin
Photos: Nazia Zabin

If we are asked to choose one thing that has made Bangladesh famous in the global economy, it will have to be the introduction of social business. It basically refers to doing business with the motive of contributing to social welfare. Today, a lot of national and international organisations are undertaking social businesses all over the world, including Danone Groupe. This French organisation is not only the world leader at fresh dairy products, but has undertaken social business initiatives in six countries under a separate division called Danone Communities.

Professor Muhammad Yunus conducts a session at the conference in France.

This year, Danone Communities held Social Business Youngsters, a global competition run through Facebook with the target to encourage social business ideas among students. I, along with three friends, Monica Islam, Abdullah Ahmad Zarir, and Farzana Rahman, participated in it with a project called 'The Bookworm Revolution.' It aims to improve overall education level among the poor children of Bangladesh by making specially-designed, age-appropriate story books available to them at an affordable price.

The idea was greatly influenced by Nabila Idris, President of CommunityAction (CA), a registered non-profit organisation run by student volunteers. Being a volunteer at the organisation myself, I sought help from all the other volunteers there, who persistently supported the project with their votes and advice.

Our team won the competition and a grand prize of 3,000 Euros to start off our project. I, being the team leader, was invited to Paris, France to attend Global Communities Meeting (GCM) 2012, an annual conference to celebrate the spirit of social business. They also planned a session for me with MakeSense (www.makesense.org), a community of social business enthusiasts.

Global Communities Meeting 2012, an annual conference to celebrate the spirit of social business.

On my first day at Paris, I was warmly greeted at the office of Danone by Lawrence Saquer, the Communications Manager, and Matthieu Dardaillon, Community Management in-charge, of Danone Communities. The next day, Christian Vanizette, co-founder of MakeSense, met me and took me to City University for the hold-up they had arranged for me. Hold-ups are an-hour-and-a-half of creativity workshops with the goal to find innovative solutions to challenges of social entrepreneurs. The particular challenge which I proposed was how we can promote our product in rural areas with limited technology. I had six participants who at the end of the workshop came up with 100 ideas to solve the challenge.

On May 15 this year, Danone Communities celebrated its five years anniversary by gathering 200 social business experts from five continents for a grand workshop and holding the annual general conference of Global Communities Meeting 2012 later that day. I was fortunate to have been invited to attend the workshop as a special reporter on behalf of Danone Communities. The workshop hosted 10 different sessions on topics related to social business realities and way forward.

In that very venue the same day, the grand conference for GCM 2012 was held, which had around 2000 attendees from all over the world, and was led by our very own Professor Muhammad Yunus, and Franck Riboud, the chairman and the chief executive officer of Danone Groupe.

The potential of social businesses is unbelievably huge, and if implemented properly, they can bring sustainable changes to their beneficiaries. I hope we get to see more social business initiatives from business leaders and students alike in the future.

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