danone.communities : what is it?
The story of danone.communities begins in 2005 with the meeting of Pr.Yunus and Franck Riboud. It is part of an innovative approach to support social businesses that are created to respond to issues of malnutrition and poverty. These little companies develop a new kind of business models, able to ensure their autonomy and to serve their social mission. On the field, these projects mobilize diverse skills: the co-construction and the involvement of local communities are central to these adventures.
It all started in November 2005 with a meeting between Danone CEO Franck Riboud and Muhammad Yunus, President of microlender Grameen Bank and winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Realizing that they shared the same vision of development for poor countries, the two men moved quickly to found a business that would leverage their complementary skills. Grameen Danone Foods was built on an innovative idea: set up a small yogurt plant in Bogra, Bangladesh, to promote local development and bring health to the country’s poorest people. Today, the micro-plant they envisioned is in full operation and more plants will be built on the same model throughout Bangladesh.
A native of Bangladesh, Professor Muhammad Yunus holds a doctorate in economics from Vanderbilt University in the United States. In 1972, he returned to Bangladesh to teach at Chittagong University. The microcredit concept came to him in 1974, during a famine in Bangladesh: “The country was suffering from a terrible famine,” he recalls. “When I saw that the theories I taught couldn’t prevent people from dying all around me, my head started to spin.” He set out to learn more about the precarious life of the villagers living near the university, and observed first-hand how his $27 loan enabled a group of 42 families to make and sell small handicrafts without resorting to loan sharks. On reflection, Yunus became convinced that similar loans on a broader scale could reduce poverty in rural Bangladesh.Learn more
Marseille, 1972. Antoine Riboud, Danone CEO and father of present-day CEO Franck Riboud, stepped up to the podium at a meeting of CNPF, the French employers’ association. And the speech he gave became a milestone.Learn more
In the early 2000s, as Danone expanded its international presence into countries that are significantly poorer than those in Europe, affordability became a critical issue. In response, the group developed low-cost products such as Milkuat in Indonesia and Danimals in South Africa. Danone also launched Dream, an advanced Research and Development project targeting low-cost products with powerful health benefits, and began to consider new economic models.Learn more
The social business network supported by danone.communities was inspired by the work of Professor Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize and founder of Grameen Bank -- the world’s first large-scale microlender, which has helped nearly 2.5 million poor people to date. Muhammad Yunus has clearly defined social business and distinguished it from traditional business:Learn more
In the real world, good intentions aren’t enough. Which is why danone.communities is leading the way towards a new kind of development, hoping others will follow and develop creative solutions of their own. It’s a work in progress, growing stronger with each new project and each new partnership with local stakeholders, for this is by nature a shared effort.
Throughout 2012, the danone.communities blog has eagerly shared the latest developments in our own projects, news from the world of social business, and the ideas that make social business so compelling.
Here are just a few of the year’s highlights as mentioned on our blog:
At the beginning of the year, Fortune Magazine named Muhammad Yunus as one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time, alongside Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Perhaps not by coincidence, it was Bangladeshi Nazia Zebin who won the project grant in our Social Business Youngsters competition on Facebook. A 24-years-old student, Nazia is committed to promoting access to culture for everyone in Bangladesh, including rural residents. In May, she traveled to Paris for the Global Communities Meeting, where she met experts from the social business community who had come to work together and imagine the solutions and initiatives of the future.
Our midyear highlight is always June 28: Social Business Day, celebrating the people who practice social business around the world. Here in Paris, danone.communities held a conference to give them a voice and to continue our mission of raising awareness of social business.
During the 2012 edition of Global Communities Meeting in Paris, danone.communities has initiated a new meeting, before the conference with Pr. Yunus. This special meeting was called Experts Workshops Meeting.
Since its creation in 2007, danone.communities has been evolving in a partnership’s galaxy and has never walked alone. Indeed, Grameen Danone Foods Ltd, the 1rst project, originally started thanks to its partners: Grameen Bank. Without the Grameen Bank’s knowledge and expertise, Danone would have met much more difficulties to enter this new territory. Moreover, without the support of Care Bangladesh, it would have been much harder to settle up again the door-to-door sales network in 2008, after the milk crisis.
With years and with projects, the partners’ network got wider and today it gathers about 50 partners, for 10 projects. At danone.communities, we know that all these partners are experts of specific topics: micro-distribution, finance, social impact…
While designing the Global Communities Meeting 2012, the danone.communities team has decided to gather more experts in the same place to make emerge learnings and knowledge to share and spread good practices or things to avoid for a social business project.
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