Friends of Fazle Abed study world class scaling of what we now call UN Sustainability Goals but Abed in 1972 first called Goal 1 Poverty alleviation when he founded BRA-C (Bangladesh Rural Advancement Collabs so that Bangladesh became the first nation empowered by poorest village women. Start with 3 favorite wESG (womens Entrepreneurial Scaling Goals : human collaborations of 100K ::1billion :: 50million

  • *** 100000 lives matter eg 5.1 metavillage= 1972

  • ...***1billion girls action networking -eg 3.1 oral rehydration

  • ***50 million graduate Apps: 5.4 purpose of first 100 new unis of sdg generation - over the last half century the greatest human development miracle (extra ref schumacher 1 million bilages) has been networked by 1 billion poorest asian village women -here we invite you to help map the 30 collaborations they linkedin - their chief guide 2019-1970 the former oil company executive fazle abed- In spite of being pivotal to how one quarter of all human beings progressed (and by far the deepest co-creators of Sustainability goal solutions- nobody ever printed any paper money for them - its only since innovating the world's largest cashless banking 1.5 systems that many westerners even began to study 21st C happiest possibilities with them.
Out of Bangladesh, village mothers hired 100000 village coaches - webbed 30 collaborations - giant leaps for womankind & youth as first sustainability generation
Intergenerational collaboration entrepreneur platforms 5.1  metavillage sustainable community building - women empowered:15000 families at a time;5.2   billion asian women,5.3  brac net; 5.4   asian universities share sdg graduates 5.5  climate smart village exchanges,5.6 meta and zoom-me up scotty
BANK FOR ALL 1.1  1.2  1.3   1.4   1.5   1.6 celebrate 30 most human collaborations from developing world of last half-century - inspiring  anyone valuing UN and youth as first sustainability generation
EDUCATION  adult village entrepreneurs 4.1; primary 4.2  ; teen 4.3; university4.4 ; pre-school4.5;tech multidisciplinary luminaries 4.6 
HEALTH oral rehydration 3.1 ;para health "doordash" basic meds 3,2; scale vaccination3.3 ;tuberculosis & 3.4  Frugal processes eg wash sanitation, maternity3.5  ; James Grant School of public health 3.6
FOOD/land security 2.1  rice; 2.2 veggie  2.3    cash crops & village fair; 2.4  poultry;2.5  dairy, 2,6  14 nation leading supply chains financial opportunities to end poverty ;

UN says: Today's Education Systems No Longer Fit for PurposeAt we search out collaboration events- most exciting in 2022 - UN total transformation of education -september NY; Neumann's families collaboration search AI Hall of Fame; fen ale owners of transmedia race to humanise the metaverse... started from a brainstorming dinner convened by Japan Ambassador to Dhaka who noticed my father's surveys of Asia Rising begun with Japan 1962 (endorsed by JF Kennedy) had not completely detailed Bangladesh Rural Advancement's  contributions to sustaining humanity and celebrating nation building through women empowerment . Dad's last public birthday party had celebrated launch of Muhammad Yunus Global Social Business Book February 2008 with 40 guests at Royal Automobile Club, St James, London. Father had also paid for sampling 2000 of Yunus books, 10000 dvds (youtube style interviews with all grameen directors during summer 2008 when the Nobel judges opened Yunus Museum in Mirpur, as well as part of launch of 2 Journals by Adam Smith Scholars in Glasgow that had emerged from Yunus making the 250th keynote speech on Adam Smith Moral Sentiments Dec 2008. But Fazle Abed whom my father never got the chance to meet had started 11 years before Yunus Grameen Bank 1983 Ordinance , built health and agricultural foundations, and then schooling -altogether a 5 dimensions approach that was not possible to appreciate from onee dimensional microcreditsummit yunus the clintons, queen Sofia staged annually from 1997. Abed said we could do a Mooc if it was laid out round C for collaborations. He was keen to map how 6  Collabs per the 5 primary sdgs had been integrated through 2 quarters of a century 1972-1995 when rural meant no electricity grids or phones; 1995 when partnering platforms afforded extraordinary leapfrog models that could be designed with mobile networks and solar. It took 16 trips while Abed was alive (and the curiosity og many graduate journalists _ to get this mooc started, and we still try to update it even as Abed left the world in Dec 2019. We welcome corrections and omissions. We have attempted here to map the deepest economic miracle

Thursday, March 31, 2022

1.4 brac bank at 20

BRAC Bank celebrates 20 years of progress

Presently, Brac Bank is the largest collateral-free lender to the small entrepreneurs with rural penetration of more than 70% revitalising rural economy and generating employment

Picture: Courtesy
Picture: Courtesy

Brac Bank is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a strong commitment to contribute more to national progress. 

Living up to the vision of its founder, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, KCMG, Brac  Bank was the first bank in Bangladesh to introduce collateral-free small ticket loan to the legions of small and medium enterprises at the nook and corner of the country helping them grow and thrive and contribute more to the economic development, said a press release. 

Presently, Brac Bank is the largest collateral-free lender to the small entrepreneurs with rural penetration of more than 70% revitalising rural economy and generating employment.

Its performance indicators in the Bangladesh banking sector are reflected in the highest market capitalisation and the highest international investor shareholding in the local banking sector and the highest bank credit rating of all banks in the country from both international rating agencies, S&P and Moody's.

As Bangladesh begins journey to graduate into a middle-income country within this decade and a developed nation by 2041, Brac Bank aspires to contribute to the government's development journey through inclusive banking and entrepreneurship development, the press release added. 

"Brac Bank has already made its mark in the country's banking arena through world-class products and services, consistent financial results, good governance, compliance, ethics, transparency and values-based banking," Brac Bank  Managing Director and CEO Selim RF Hussain said.

"With the talented and committed team empowered by technology, together we are determined to take BRAC Bank to the next level achieving exponential growth in market share, while continuing to progress the financial inclusion and values based development agenda of our founding Chairperson, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, KCMG," he added. 

"We gratefully acknowledge the trust of our valued customers and shareholders, guidance of the Board of Directors and the regulators and of course, the contribution of our employees that make the bank what it is today," he further said.

1.1 5.1 bangladesh first large population nation where rural public service built nation? Brac at 50 March 2022

WHAT IS RURAL (and what is BRA-C Bangladesh Rural Advancement COLLABORATIONS)

Educators/parents/family builders need to be very clear about definitions so as not to upset powers such as big city corporations professions and politicians. We are just trying to share a local and global code to value mapping human development across generations as core to national growth. We welcome co-editing support of this blog where you see errors/omissions (

Unless we agree human development code that is deeply local as mother nature herself, THEN ever since von neumann peers gifted us 100 rimes more tech per decade we have been destined for 2020s "last chance" denouements - do artificial intels serve humans or vice versa. The big brother choice storytold by George Orweell even though his timelines were wrong by one generation. As New York started to fully emerge from covid spring 2022, we thank all those who participated in collaboration cafe AI and climate exchanges - see including march 30's 1 million global student chatline with sp[ecial contribution from Safiqul Islam who during Fazle Abed's life was his core developer of the curriculum used by the largest non-government schools system in the world 4.2 brac primary

Bangaladesh was born from war of independence wuth pakistan in 1971 8th most populous nation. The peoples had drawn double short straw of colonisation. Under British Adminstration until 1947 the whole of the bay of Bengal had shared superport access to Calcutta. From partitioning not only duid Indoa's rival culture block Bangaldeshi's from direct access to shipping but for nearly quarter of a century pakistan over 1000 miles away by land adminstered east pakistan as secondary people to its own.

 (A quarter of all nations are small islands where once could say its not relevant to distinguish urban/rural- in fact stewardship of the ocean estate may be the main resource the peoples depend on

Engines did not exist until Glasgow 1760s so to some extent all (richest) nations have transformed from rurtal first to urban led government.

The two most relevant defintions of rural seem to be - urbal places are not food self-sufficient- they depend on rural areas (or in case of superports like singapore they depend on trade with countries that include rural areas)

In the developing world, until 1995 rural also meant no access to electricity (grids) so no enfines no telecommunications. What happened from 1995combination of sola and mobile becemae the greatest innovation opportinoty half the worlds people simultaneously encountered.

In Bangladesh rural has quite an unsusual characteristic. Most Bangaldesh rural people are as closely populated as many people in cities. At least 80% od bangaldesh's rural chalenge is not about isolated peoples (although there is a seg,ment of that population to). When Abed designed vilage health services in his first 100000 person metavilage it was quite practical to design a microifarnchise where one vilage woman served 300 gamilies retail medican needs eacjh weekly (personal shopping walked to each home so to speak). Her route would not have taken her more than 15 minutes from wgere sh hersekf lived - in some cases less than 10 minutes to serve 300 neraest families. Its amazing when you look at western descriptions of bangaldesh microfinace how the wholesaling dynamics of Brac's responsibility fro suppklying 100000 peopel at at time are overloked. Wholesaling to a 90% rural nation needs to be owned in trust by the rural peoples not by some middle man who sucks value out of rural localities every quarter. Rural caoitalism is mapped naturally around sme networks /sypply chioans. Interestingly AsiaRisinf hi-tech treading models also connected deep sme startup expertise valued by communities where those design and makers skills were most nurtured. Distributing enegineering knowhow is how Asa has developed wherever human rightes have emerged. This is different from assuming lawters admibnster over people. When Asian public service is at its best it is engineer enetrepreneur led- again why its important to study fazle abed viewed as the most exciting public service engineer of the hakf century that changed the millennium - defined human purposes around millennium and then ssuatinability development goals


A mixtire of necessity and the good fortune that Asia's leading young engineer (Fazle Abed who had become his homelnad's CEO for Royal Dutch Shell in Il world's top 7 corporations) dedicated himself to rural advancement colaborations and by accident (spending his life savongs on rebuilding vilagers homes)5.1 metavilage), he became responsible for sustaining 100,000 villagers livelihoods who were on the brink of starvation .

 This metavilage responsibility led to 1.1 microfranchsingh - the new model of bottom up aid. All this at a time when 90% og banagldesh people were rural; the national government tax etc base was so small at birth of nation that it could only barely provide security for the nation and develop services for the 10% who lived in cities (which due to war and double colonisation (britain then pakistan) etc were the least developed urban areas in the world

As well as the miracle of a world calss enginer serving rural, the cukltrural fact that almost no rural womnen had been valued as productive afents could be turned into the advantage- half the coutry's human resources were not being supported proiductively.

Each of the 4 collaborations - 2 building agricultuure/ie nations food system,s; 3 building last mile rural health; 4 building rural edication 5 building 100000 lives matter rural communities needs to be mapped from scratch not assumptions that advanced western acadmics or policy makers hold. 

Actually if the west in particular wished to understand how the two thirds of Asians have risen out of almosy all being colonised as recently as 1945 then it is necessary to study both super vilage (rural keynesianism) and supercity develpmet. # nations led the way - japan , korea south and taiwan. However the point is these nations had prior engineering capabilities and urban sytustires which after the defeta of Japan in world war 2 needed ressembling. They all quickly returned to urban goverance but in ways that respecetd 100% rural employment as pivital to feedin the nation. The Economist sutveys on Asia from 1962 Japan to all of the half of world's peopl in 1977 east of iran have argued that Asia Rising has depended on successfully blending both models. However whats unique about bangaldesh with its poorest nation and 90% rural beginning is that withour rural development there would have been no sustainable national development. Some people have called bangaldesh the aid lab. More than any other nation irs rural development has depended on long-term trusted partnerships bring knowhow to each rural developed sector. By studying we (with your help) can clarify all the extrordinary innovations of rural women empowerment. For those who want an advanced nation building study look at how between 1975 to 1999 rural womens capitalsim also came to china from the conteiuent out while the engineering of supercities came from the coast in. Whether or not particular 2020s nations deem china as fiuerce competitor ofr collaborators not to study chiense vilage women development 1976-1999 is to choose to be blind to what schumacher/keynes deemed the graetest miracle economists would need to solve - endinf roural poverty of milliosn of ruralk vilages which mainly tyhe english adminsitartion of Asia had left out of access to engines from 1760 to 1945 except where coastal trade designed for the empire required urban hubs

Of course even as we seek to clarify development processes , water, energy, defence/safety are in a democratic sense every parnets responsibility to stewatd but by 20th C convention assumed decisions that central government at least initially makes (even if it chooses to privatises the utlities ijnvolved)

We are not saying the opposite interest of urban/rural are simple. Histirically urban people have grown the mnore carbon they use and to that exten the less that carbon waste is charged as a user responsibility. This conflicts with rural people whose assets are the first to be destroyed ifb waste is dumped on them or in climate-risky places like low landing river basins of bangaldesh -rural gfamilies are put at the edge of sutvival. As may be neighboring peoples if failed institutions cause refugee situations

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

1.4 brac bank

 fall 2021 selim has been ceo of brac bank since 2015

he spoke oct 2021 at ft conference members speaking at the event: 

Martin Rohner, Executive Director of The Global Alliance for Banking on Values Martin Rohner, Executive Director of The Global Alliance for Banking on Values  


 Priscilla Sims Brown, CEO of Amalgamated Bank 


Selim Hussain, CEO of BRAC Bank Limited 

Selim Hussain

Managing Director and CEO
BRAC Bank Limited

Selim Hussain is Managing Director and CEO at BRAC Bank. He is a career banker with over 35 years of experience in South Asian financial institutions. He started his banking career with the two largest multi-national banks in Bangladesh, first ANZ Grindlays Bank and later Standard Chartered Bank, and worked there for twenty-four years. In 2010, he moved to the largest Non-Banking Financial Institution in Bangladesh, the IDLC Finance Group, as their Managing Director. He headed IDLC Finance and was also the Chairman of IDLC Investment Limited and IDLC Securities Limited for six years. At the end of 2015, Selim joined BRAC Bank Limited as its Managing Director and CEO and has been there since. During his tenure in IDLC Finance, Selim was the Chairman of IDLC Investment Ltd and IDLC Securities Ltd, a Board Director at the Credit Rating Agency of Bangladesh (CRAB) and the Vice Chairman of the Bangladesh Leasing and Finance Co Association (BLFCA). Selim currently serves on the Governing Board of the Association of Banks in Bangladesh as its Vice-Chairman. He is a member of the Governing Board of the SME Foundation in Bangladesh, an apex institution established by the Government of Bangladesh to spearhead SME development. Selim is a Board Director of IIDFC, a Non-Banking Financial Institution, BRAC EPL Investments Ltd, BRAC EPL Stock-Brokerage Ltd and BRAC IT Services Ltd. He is Chairman of the Board Audit Committee of bKash Ltd, the largest mobile financial service in Bangladesh. He is also on the Governing Board of the Financial Alliance for Women, a network of international financial institutions dedicated to championing the female economy. Selim holds a degree in Accounting from the Business Faculty and an MBA from the Institute of Business Administration from Dhaka University.


Darrin Williams, CEO of Southern Bancorp 


Bevis Watts, CEO of Triodos Bank UK  


About the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV) 

The GABV is a network of independent banks and banking cooperatives with a shared mission to use finance to deliver sustainable economic, social, and environmental development. Founded in 2009, the GABV comprises 67 financial institutions operating in 40 countries across Asia, Africa, Australia, Latin America, North America, and Europe. It serves more than 70 million customers collectively, has over USD 200 billion of combined assets under management, and employs more than 80,000 co-workers. 

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Friday, March 4, 2022

5.2 Golden Oldies Bloomberg businessweek = 2002 fazle abed at 66; alliance magazine 2005


Fazle Hasan Abed

Founder and Chairman, BRAC

With his cream-colored Nehru-collar shirt, simple black trousers, and quiet demeanor, Fazle Hasan Abed could be any educated Bengali gentleman in Dhaka, Bangladesh. But Abed, 66, is one of the nation's most important men and a guiding light globally in development circles. His Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) has lifted millions out of poverty through education, health-care, and microfinance programs.

Founded in 1972, just after Bangladesh gained independence from Pakistan, BRAC recently launched its own bank and is now setting up a $53 million program for the nation's poorest citizens. On June 12, it also opened its first overseas office--in Kabul, Afghanistan. Zimbabwe and other nations are modeling programs after Abed's. "Fazle Abed is a brilliant visionary," says Katharine McKee, director of micro-enterprise development at the U.S. Agency for International Development. "BRAC is an impressive organization, whether in financial services, basic education, or setting poor women up in the poultry business."

Most of BRAC's 35 million beneficiaries are women, who traditionally faced terrible exploitation. Its centers in Bangladesh's 86,000 villages operate schools that have helped some 4 million girls get at least five years of education. Centers also educate adults in health care and legal issues and offer training and small loans so villagers can start small businesses, from shops to laundry services. What's more, BRAC generates 80% of its $160 million annual budget from its own commercial farms and fisheries.

The son of a wealthy landowner, Abed's business acumen comes from his training as an accountant in Britain and as a former finance exec for Shell Ltd. He got involved in relief work when he joined the cleanup efforts after devastating floods hit Bangladesh in 1970. Now, Abed is shifting BRAC's management to a younger team. But he will remain a guiding light in development, for Bangladesh and the rest of the world's poor.


alliance 2005

Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of the world's largest non-government organisation Brac, named three factors – determination, thinking in national terms and inspiration as key to the organisation's success. 

Here is an interview of Sir Abed published by the British magazine Alliance on March 1, 2005.  

What lies behind this huge success, Caroline Hartnell asked Fazle Abed. Questioning everything they do and being prepared to tackle whatever is needed to make their programmes successful are certainly part of the secret behind the success of this extraordinarily entrepreneurial organization.

The secret of success?

Asked what lies behind BRAC's phenomenal success, the first thing Fazle Abed mentions is determination: 'We were determined to bring about changes in the lives of poor people.' The second thing is thinking in national terms: 'We always had a national goal; we never thought in terms of working in a small area. We thought, all right, if we work with the poorest people in this community, who's going to work with the poorest people in that other community? So we felt that whatever we do, we should try and replicate it throughout the nation if we can.'

The third thing he mentions is inspiration. 'We always thought nationally, worked locally, and looked for inspiration globally. We were inspired by Paolo Freire's work on the pedagogy of the oppressed, which he came out with in 1972. It was wonderful to have a thinker who was thinking about poor people and how they can become actors in history and not just passive recipients of other people's aid. He made us realize that poor people are human beings and can do things for themselves, and it's our duty to empower them so they can analyse their own situation, see how exploitation works in society, and see what they need to do to escape these exploitative processes.'

Finally, he says, 'one needs to have not only ambition but also the ability to do the work. The organization must be competent to take on national tasks. That confidence we got from the campaign for oral rehydration, to cut down diarrhoeal mortality, in the 1980s. That involved going to every household in rural Bangladesh, 13 million households, and it took ten years to do it. Then we became a little more ambitious. We thought that if we can go to every household, then we can cover the whole country with everything we do.'

An expanding organization
BRAC now has 31,638 staff, but at the end of 1973 it had just 120. In 1979, before the start of the oral rehydration programme, the number was 300. When the programme started, 1,700 people were added, bringing the total up to 2,000. 'And then we grew incrementally,' says Abed. 'By 1990 we were about 3,000 staff. But between 1990 and 2000 we really grew very fast, and we became 25,000 by the end of 2000.'

The oral rehydration programme was a huge achievement. It cut down infant and child mortality dramatically – from 258 per thousand to 75 per thousand – by teaching mothers how to make oral rehydration fluid at home. It was in 1990, after the success of the programme, that BRAC went to donors in a big way. The programme had cost about $15 million, but in 1990 BRAC was looking for $100 million. But no one donor was able to meet this kind of demand.

At this stage the type of donor changed. 'It used to be NGOs that funded us,' explains Abed, 'Oxfam, Novib, and so on, the Ford Foundation. But then came the governments – the British, the Dutch, the Germans, Swedish SIDA, Canadian CIDA, the Norwegians. So we had all these governments forming a consortium to fund BRAC.' After that, says Abed, 'we grew very fast'.

While the Bangladesh Government was not one of the donor governments, Abed regards their role as a 'benign' one. 'The Bangladesh Government didn't support us, but they didn't stop us receiving funding. In other countries like India or Kenya, I think the government would have stopped it, they wouldn't like an NGO to become so large and powerful. Though the Bangladesh Government didn't actually admit that they weren't providing the services, they didn't create any particular impediments to our growth.'

If something needs doing …
The way BRAC grew seems to have been very much a case of one thing leading to another. Take the microfinance programme. 'We were providing money to village women to help them start businesses, but there were limitations on that.' For example, if the aim was to get a million women into poultry farming, the lack of a poultry vaccination programme was a problem. 'So we decided we would need to get a poultry vaccination programme going in every village.' This involved training one woman in every village to be a vaccinator, and linking her with the government livestock department. BRAC trained about 70,000 women in as many villages.

But the livestock departments sometimes didn't have the vaccines, and there was also a problem of cold chain maintenance: you have to keep vaccines at a particular temperature or they go off. The solution was to have six or seven BRAC staff maintaining cold chain for the vaccines from the government in Dhaka to the districts. There was also a group to repair the refrigerators in the district livestock departments. 'So we saw to it that the village women got the vaccines they needed.'

But this was by no means the end of it: the next issue was the variety of hens. While the normal local variety of hens give about 60 eggs a year, some hybrid varieties will lay 280 eggs a year. 'So we decided to replace the local variety with hybrids. To do this, we needed poultry farms, hatcheries, so that we could provide day-old chicks to the women. So we went into business. We set up poultry farms, producing 2 million day-old chicks a month. We therefore not only provided women with microfinance to buy the poultry but also supplied the day-old chicks.'

At this stage this wasn't a money-earning venture. The government had poultry farms too, so BRAC charged exactly the same price as the government and in fact made some losses initially. When the government raised prices, it became cost-effective.

But this still isn't the end of the poultry story. The next problem was feed. The best feed is maize, but Bangladesh didn't grow any maize. 'So we went into feed.' For maize-growing, BRAC had to go into a joint venture with an Australian farm. 'In everything that we did, we went into the details of every stage of development.'

… we'll do it ourselves
The same was true of BRAC's cow-rearing programme. 'Many women didn't want to go outside the house,' says Abed. 'They wanted a cow so they could just look after it and get milk and sell it.' But it was not that simple, they discovered. 'I went to one of the remotest areas in the north of Bangladesh,' Abed remembers, 'and interviewed a woman who had bought a cow for about $100. She was getting 2 litres of milk a day. So I said, "You must be doing very well." And she said, "No, I'm not doing well because I can't sell my milk, and if I do sell people only pay me 7 taka, which is about a third of the normal price."

'So this made me think that maybe we should set up a milk plant. Collect milk from villages where there's no demand, chill it and bring it back to Dhaka by tanker, pasteurize it, make butter, yoghurt and milk, and sell it in the market. So we did that. Most of the women who were getting very little money for their milk now get double the amount. In order to ensure that women's income went up, we had to get into different kinds of businesses, which did not exist before in Bangladesh.'

Producing iodized salt is another BRAC business. 'I was so mad at the salt-makers,' says Abed. 'Iodine is provided by government, but they wouldn't mix it with the salt because mixing is another operation and it costs money, so they were just throwing it away. We need iodized salt in our country because there are a lot of goitres and so on.' So BRAC hired about ten people to visit salt plants and check whether they were putting iodine into the salt. 'But many of them found that they were not welcome and they were thrown out. In anger I said, I am going to produce salt myself with iodine in it. So we went into the salt business.'

Apart from providing iodized salt themselves, BRAC's move seems to have forced other salt-makers to follow suit. 'Our competitors are now coming back with iodized salt. I suppose in a way we have spurred them into action.'
This attitude – if something needs doing, we'll do it ourselves – must surely be one of the key reasons why BRAC has been able to do so much.

These BRAC enterprises now provide 80 per cent of the organization's operating costs, with the rest coming from external donors. Although BRAC's annual report distinguishes 'programme support enterprises' from 'commercial enterprises', in fact all serve the same dual purpose of producing income for BRAC and supporting poor people.

From local to national
But although expansion has been so rapid and so dramatic, it is always carefully planned, Abed insists. 'Everything that we do, we always try out in a small area first. We try to become effective – ie we're delivering the service we want to deliver and people are getting what they need – and then we try to become efficient, discarding non-essential tasks. So you are basically looking at what activities you do that are essential and what could be cut out with not much impact on effectiveness. When you are effective and efficient in a small area, you are ready to expand. This is the model for franchising, though in our case this is within the organization.'

Not that a 'small' area here means very small. 'It has to be large enough to have all kinds of problems in it,' explains Abed. With BRAC's tuberculosis control programme, for example, they worked in one area first and then went into ten different areas. When that worked, they were ready to cover the entire country. 'But we have been waiting ten years to get the $100 million we need. We now have $44 million from the Global Fund for Tuberculosis, Malaria and AIDs to start off our tuberculosis control programme. But we were prepared, we had everything worked out. We had the methodology, the infrastructure, the ability to train people, we just needed money. Now we've got it and we're on our way to implementing it.'

Ongoing research and monitoring
The oral rehydration programme provides a good example of the sort of tireless research and monitoring of its programmes that BRAC does. When they started to follow up to find out how many women actually used oral rehydration, they found only 6 per cent were doing so. 'We found teachers themselves didn't really believe in what they were teaching; they felt the method was second-rate. So we brought 100 workers to Dhaka and demonstrated the therapy to them and the teaching improved.' (BRAC fully recognizes how vital it is to train people well, with 10 per cent of the salary budget set aside for training.)

The use rate now went up to 18 per cent, which Abed was still not happy with. 'We then discovered you need to teach fathers too, in fact the entire family, the entire community. We started advertising on TV and radio. We went to mosques and marketplaces.' The use rate then started rising, eventually reaching a much healthier 60 per cent. 'Our original conception was just to teach the mother, but it didn't work.'

Working with government
For a smaller social enterprise that works with government or other large donors, there can be a danger of getting swamped and not being able to do things in your own way. But working with governments doesn't seem to have been a problem for BRAC.

'By the time we came to larger donors,' says Abed, 'we were mature enough as an organization to deal with them. It was almost 20 years after we started, and we were prepared to meet all kinds of demands that they made of us in terms of reports and so on. They also sent out teams to look at our programmes. Consultants would come from a specific donor like the UK's Department for International Development, or the donor consortium would send four people to come and look at various aspects of our organization and programme. But we came out fairly well in these reports; we were quite good at meeting the objectives and targets set.'

Was there pressure to do things differently from how they wanted to do them? 'Not a great deal,' says Abed. 'There were certain things that we wanted to do that the donors said. "OK, you can do it but we can't give you money for that." But there was no great deal of difficulty with the donors.'

One problem they did have was with bureaucracy within donor organizations, particularly the European Community. 'If they committed funding, it would take about a year to get the money, and by that time I had to borrow money from banks and so on.'

Learning from mistakes
What about mistakes? Did BRAC make mistakes along the way as they developed things? 'Continuously,' is Abed's immediate answer. But mistakes were spotted fairly quickly. In fact, as with the other social entrepreneurs who talked to Alliance about learning from mistakes, many of these so-called mistakes are at the conceptual level.

To take a typical example. 'Initially,' says Abed, 'we held dear in our hearts that we should work only for five to ten years in a community. After that poor people would take over and do things themselves.' The idea that poor people, once empowered, should be able to demand services and get them, came from Paulo Freire. 'Otherwise, how do I cover the entire country? But in the end we came to the conclusion that poor people, however much they are empowered, need certain services, and if the government is not providing them, basically we have to be there – providing antenatal care to women, children's healthcare, immunization and so on. So the initial idea of withdrawing from an area had to be adjusted.'

Letting the government off the hook?
It seems slightly ironical that BRAC should have started off with the idea of empowering people to demand services from government and ended up providing them itself. In one sense this isn't a problem at all because it works and BRAC is almost self-sustaining. But is BRAC letting the government off the hook?

'In a way we are,' Fazle Abed admits. But the problem as he sees it is that Bangladesh is still very much centrally governed: it doesn't really have a local government structure. 'BRAC could withdraw from rural areas if local government was empowered. So we are now basically demanding from the central government a strong local government structure so that poor people can get services that they now get from us. Putting pressure on central government is much more difficult than putting pressure on local government. Getting government to take responsibility will be possible once we get a local government structure.'

If BRAC is successful in this, it will probably cease to offer certain services, for example primary education. 'Why shouldn't primary education be available to all children? It's compulsory and it's supposed to be provided by the state. We will certainly withdraw from primary education if we can. But that doesn't mean that BRAC will get out of education altogether – we will then move on to secondary education. I'm not worried about losing a particular niche for our work. Needs are always evolving and BRAC will always have work to do.'

Moving into Afghanistan
Since June 2002, BRAC has also been working in Afghanistan. In fact, BRAC Afghanistan now has 2,000 staff members – 200 Bangladeshi staff and 1,800 Afghans – working in education, health and income generation. How did this come about?

'Well,' says Abed. 'when I saw 2 million Afghans going back home, I remembered how in 1972 10 million Bangladeshis returned home to Bangladesh. So thought, we have got all the experience of relief and rehabilitation followed by nationwide development. Why don't we send 50 of our staff to Afghanistan? So we sent 50 of our staff initially, and they hired Afghans. We found we had to adapt what we learned in Bangladesh a little, but not a great deal.'

Moving on as leader
Fazle Abed founded BRAC in 1972 and has headed the organization for 32 years. At some stage he will presumably want to step down. In fact, he has already taken a step back. For 30 years he was executive director of BRAC, but a couple of years ago he hired a new full-time executive director; he is now the chairperson. 'I want to wean myself gradually out of BRAC,' he says. 'I think if I do it well, and the next leadership continues in the same entrepreneurial fashion, the organization will survive and flourish.'

As it turns out, it has not been that easy to find the right successor. The new executive director came from the government and is an interim appointment. 'I wanted to retire but I couldn't find anybody at that point to take over from me internally. Two or three BRAC people are now vying for the top post, and in the next couple of years we will make the change.' He will stay on as chairman for the time being – 'it's not a big deal.'

Fazle Abed doesn't appear to have too many anxieties about the culture of the organization changing when he does finally manage to leave. Having a long-term BRAC employee taking over the running of the organization will clearly help.

'We have worked so hard on the BRAC culture,' he says. 'The way we operate is very entrepreneurial, we question everything, we're continually learning to do things better. I hope that we will have the same culture in the organization when I am no longer there.'

Transmission of the unique BRAC culture throughout the whole organization is based partly on an extraordinary system of staff reporting. All BRAC's 31,000 staff members report upwards once a month. 'Groups of field workers meet with their immediate supervisor, and those supervisors then meet with their supervisors … and so it percolates upwards.'

This may be time-consuming but it's very important, says Abed. 'Other people in the organization get to understand what's happening in the field; field workers know that what they say is going to percolate up. As a result, no one feels that decision-making is being done in isolation at the top; everybody knows their own views and assessment of the situation will feed into decisions.'

Decisions are in any case taken 'at the lowest possible level rather than at the highest possible level. So if somebody makes a mistake, they can say they have made a mistake, but they must please report it back.'

Fazle Hasan Abed is Founder and Chairperson of BRAC, formerly known as the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee. An accountant by training and originally by profession, he founded BRAC in 1972 after the war of independence from Pakistan, initially to provide relief and rehabilitation to returning war refugees in a remote area of the country. A year later, the organization turned to long-term poverty alleviation and empowerment of the poor, especially women. BRAC works in health, education and microfinance. It is active in 68,408 villages in all the 64 districts of Bangladesh. It has 4.8 million group members, 4.2 million borrowers, and 31,000 one room, one-teacher schools. Eighty per cent of BRAC's annual budget of US$235 million comes from its own enterprises, and 20 per cent from external sources. In June 2002 BRAC Afghanistan was founded. It now runs schools, health centres and credit operations in seven provinces out of twelve. Fazle Hasan Abed has received numerous awards, both nationally and internationally, most recently the Gates Award for Global Health 2004 and the UNDP Mahbub ul Huq Award for Outstanding Contribution in Human Development, 2004.