Yunus Center AIT (YCA) is a collaboration between Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus and the Asian Institute of Technology. The first such center established with an academic institution, YCA’s vision is to harness the power of social business to create a poverty-free world. YCA adopts an action-learning approach that fosters development and implementation of social business models informed by research, technology and partnerships with a focus on gender equality. YCA draws upon the knowledge infrastructure and the global research network of the Asian Institute of Technology and taps into the expertise of individuals and organizations representing over the countries.
Yunus Center AIT: A Decade of Engagement for Social Development
Compiled by Dr. Rowena Alcoba, Senior Program Officer 2019
YCA Formative years: 2009 – 2011
Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus and the Asian Institute of Technology formally launched the Yunus Center at AIT, the first of its kind outside of Bangladesh on the 19th of August, 2009. Prof. Muhammad Yunus remarked that this would be a landmark development in South-East Asia. “The Yunus Center at AIT will contribute to poverty alleviation by enabling rural people to handle and be in control of improving their own livelihoods through their own farming and agriculture-related business”.
In the first two years of its formation, YCA had been under the interim directorship of Dr. Borje Wallberg and later, Dr. Christer Holstberg. The term of the very first director of the center, Dr. Borje, was rather short-lived as he had completed his tenure with AIT by the end of 2009. Dr. Christer took over as Interim Director for a few months in 2010 and was eventually replaced by Dr. Riaz Khan, leading the Center for almost two years until mid-2012. There is lack of available information on the activities and engagements of the Center during the first two years, although it can be assumed that this formative period had been spent on raising awareness about the Center, especially that the concept of social business was still a novelty during that time. On May 2012, the Center organized a Social Business Symposium with Professor Yunus as keynote speaker and brought together business leaders and youngsters at one platform to discuss solutions to solve social problems in Thailand and the region.
YCA Reenergizing: 2012 – 2017
In an effort to reenergize the center in line with the vision of the institute’s new management, YCA’s operations was integrated with the AIT Extension. Under the capable leadership of Dr. Faiz Shah, the Yunus Center AIT got a major revamp in terms of vision, strategy and team composition. It positioned itself as a knowledge hub and enabling platform for enterprise-led development to address social challenges. Through the years, YCA has risen to become a thought-leader and a go-to resource in the areas of social business, sustainable development and mobile healthcare, among others. It has forged partnership with government and private organizations, serving as consultant in developing strategic programs for sustainability, corporate social responsibility and community engagement. YCA has designed, organized and implemented a number of capacity-building programs on social business, design thinking, case-writing, and leadership.
YCA Moving Forward: 2018 onwards
In the recent years, YCA has grown exponentially in terms of network and influence. Working within the framework of 3Es – Engage, Educate and Empower, YCA has successfully forged meaningful engagements and collaborations. It has solidified partnership with Professor Yunus, Grameen Bangladesh and the Yunus network around the world. YCA is represented in editorial boards, conference organizing committees and consortiums. The YCA international internship program has received dozens of brilliant students who turned out to be effective ambassadors of the YCA brand. On June 2019, YCA is geared to host the Social Business Day 2019, the world’s largest gathering of the social business community composed of leading experts, academics, innovators, and aspiring business owners. This is also in time with the celebration of YCA’s 10th year anniversary.
Moving forward, YCA will focus on developing programs and projects around the themes of cutting-edge technology such as AI, blockchain and telemedicine. In partnership with Professor Muhammad Yunus, YCA is poised to launch the Global Masters on Social Business by next year. This special masters program will raise a new breed of leaders who are equipped with the right mix of entrepreneurial skills, knowledge, creativity, passion and grit to create positive impact to society.