What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos


Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers


Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge


Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more

Taking Loans to the Micro Level: Muhammad Yunus

August 2, 2013, 12:00 AM

Big Idea: Micro-Loans/Micro-Financing


            Bangladeshi Banker and Economist, Muhammad Yunus, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for poverty reduction through his implementation of microfinance.  Microfinance and microcredit involves giving small loans to entrepreneurs who are too poor to qualify for a traditional bank loan.  This is an attempt to promote economic self-sufficiency and foster entrepreneurship among the poor. On a more macro level, it reduces global poverty.

            Yunus believes that access to the necessary resources to make a living, like access to credit, should be a basic human right.  Human beings are creative and will find some way to make more money if they are given the initial opportunity. Yet, two-thirds of the world’s population does not have access to any kind of financial services, including banks. Traditional banks only extend credit to those with higher incomes, employment, and collateral, basically leaving the poor at the mercy of loan sharks. The poor are creative and hard working entrepreneurs, denied access to basic financial resources.

            Questions have been raised about whether micro-financing is simply charity for the poor.  Yunus responds that giving money without any expectation of getting paid back, is charity. While charity can be constructive, it is not the way to foster entrepreneurship and self-reliance. Individuals receiving financial handouts, with not strings attached, are likely to squander the money and not pay it back.  But, as soon as there is an expectation that this money needs to be paid back, individuals will engage in activities that will allow them to do so.  In other words, they will not “misuse” this money.  

            Initially, when I learned that Yunus was giving loans to entrepreneurs who were too poor to acquire normal loans, I immediately thought men.  However, 97% of these microloans are given to women and there is a 96% repayment rate. Giving these loans to a predominant female population will do two things. The first is simple and direct it will build confidence and self-esteem of the women in the economic system.  The second is indirect. Since women take care of children, if you take care of women, you will take care of children. It is solving two problems for the price of one.

            Grameen Bank is 100% owned by poor Bangladeshi women. This means that there is an incentive to pay back the money to the bank, because the profit will all eventually go back to them, as owners of the bank, but more importantly, it will allow them to better achieve their goals. Grameen Bank is a social business. Its objective is not to generate profit like a traditional profit making institution, but to create economic self-sufficiency among the poor and increase self-esteem and confidence among women.

With these microloans and policies of microfinance, Yunus has aided in increasing the income level in Bangladesh, along with increasing the amount of people coming out of poverty.  At this point, 80% of families in Bangladesh have access to microcredit, and in 4 years, 100% will.

Yunus expanded his operations to New York and there is now a branch of Grameen Bank in NYC, which funds the projects of mostly single mothers, with a 99% loan repayment rate.  

Check it out here:




Taking Loans to the Micro L...

Newsletter: Share: