Muhammad Yunus, Founder of Grameen Bank, Awarded Nobel Peace Prize
HOUSTON, October 17, 2006—Muhammad Yunus and the bank he founded, Grameen Bank, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to spur economic and social development by using innovative programs such as microcredit lending. At a recent Dean's Lecture Series, speaker Alex Counts, president and CEO, Grameen Foundation USA, spoke about the remarkable efforts that the foundation makes all over the world, providing aid and tiny loans to help some of the world's most-impoverished people, especially women, start businesses.
"Every single individual on earth has the potential and the right to live a decent life," the Norwegian Nobel Committee said. "Across cultures and civilizations, Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development."
About Muhammad Yunus and Alex Counts
Inspired by the work of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, Grameen Foundation was created to help share the Grameen philosophy and accelerate the impact of microfinance on the world’s poorest people. Started in 1976 by Professor Muhammad Yunus with a mere $27 from his own pocket, Grameen Bank today serves more than six million poor families with loans, savings, insurance and other services. The bank is fully owned by its clients and has been a model for microfinance institutions around the world.
Although they are independent organizations, Grameen Foundation and Grameen Bank maintain an enduring relationship. Grameen Foundation replicates the success of Grameen Bank internationally by supporting microfinance institutions that embody its vision and values. Professor Yunus is also a founding and current member of Grameen Foundation’s board of directors.
Alex Counts is president and CEO of Grameen Foundation USA (GFUSA) a dynamic, nonprofit, Washington D.C.-based organization that has grown to a global network of 52 microfinance partners in 22 countries. Counts became GFUSA’s first executive director in 1997, after several years honing his skills and vision in microfinance and poverty reduction. A 1988 Cornell University graduate, with a degree in economics, Counts’ commitment to poverty eradication deepened as a Fulbright scholar witnessing dire poverty as well as innovative solutions in Bangladesh. He then trained to be a catalyst for change under Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the founder and managing director of the Grameen Bank.
Through much of the 1990’s, Counts worked in Bangladesh establishing Grameen Bank’s flagship publication Grameen Dialogue, and working as a regional project manager for CARE-Bangladesh, CARE's largest mission worldwide. In between stints in Bangladesh, Count’s served as the legislative director of RESULTS, an international grassroots citizen's lobbying group working to create the political will to end hunger and that has played a leading role in advocating for increased funding and better targeting of resources to support global health, education and microfinance initiatives.
Counts founded Grameen Foundation USA (www.gfusa.org) in 1997 with a mere $6,000 in seed capital and a charge from Dr. Yunus. This new organization was to play the role of catalyst, channeling human, financial, and technological resources in the United States to support the growth of the poverty-focused microfinance movement.
Today, under Counts’ leadership, Grameen Foundation USA impacts an estimated eleven million lives in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and the Arab World. GFUSA’s annual budget has grown in each year of its existence, from $100,000 in 1997 to over $11 million in 2005, and its breakthrough impact has been chronicled in the Economist and elsewhere.
Counts has propelled GFUSA’s philosophy and approach through numerous articles on poverty and microcredit for the poor and has authored a book entitled Give Us Credit: How Muhammad Yunus' Micro-Lending Revolution is Empowering Women from Bangladesh to Chicago, which was published by Random House in 1996. The Indian edition of his book was the inspiration behind the establishment of Grameen Koota, a microfinance institution in Bangalore, India that served 14,000 women as of March 2005. He has been published in the Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune, the Miami Herald, the Christian Science Monitor, and elsewhere.
Counts serves on the Board of Directors of two microfinance institutions. He chairs the board of Project Enterprise in New York City, and is a board member of Fonkoze USA that supports microfinance in Haiti, and the PLAN Fund, a microfinance institution serving low-income people in Dallas, Texas. He is also a member of the Board of Advisors of the Katalysis Bootstrap Fund and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of Grameen Dialogue.
Counts speak fluent Bengali and lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife Emily and cat, Seymour.