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Social Business Challenge

October 1, 2012

Welcome, and thank you for having me. It is wonderful to see so many students and business and community leaders gathered around the concept of social business and solving local problems using local solutions.

My administration has made education a priority, in no small part because we see it as an essential component to building an enduring prosperity for all Oregonians. Investment in early childhood learning is the most effective job-training program out there. Commitment to helping students read at level by third grade is an important predictor of them graduating from high school. And opportunities to attend college and get career training mean that Oregon students are prepared for the 21st century economy.

This event underscores the important, even essential role education plays in setting young people on a path to make our state and our world a better place. Oregon’s impressive higher education system inspires students to give back to their communities and to learn, first-hand, how engaging at the local level and developing innovative, socially responsible businesses and business practices add up to meaningful change.

This event is also about how we solve our problems, and the many ways higher education institutions are helping students connect to local values as a springboard to addressing challenges that face Oregonians.

Oregon is fortunate that our universities are graduating students not just with degrees, but with tools they need to contribute to our state’s innovation economy – skills honed through direct community-based and social business-based experiences.

These are students who are leaving school believing they can change the world. That’s a powerful belief, one that must be encouraged and cultivated.

They’re graduating with experience in nonprofits, classrooms, and social service agencies. Oregon’s University System touches more than one million lives each year through teaching, research, community extension programs, and public service, and these students’ extended classrooms have been made richer by the experiences of local businesses, farmers, ranchers, teachers, community workers, parents, and more.

The fact is, we need this kind of creative engagement to solve the many challenges we face -- and will face -- together as a state. By combining the power of social entrepreneurship with the effectiveness of community engagement, we can solve tough, often firmly entrenched problems and build a more prosperous future for all Oregonians.

And by supporting a diverse and effective education system, one that’s accessible to all Oregon students, we can meet some of our most ambitious but realistic goals, like raising Oregon’s per capita income back up above the national average, creating 25,000 new jobs each year, and attracting businesses that know they can start-up or relocate to Oregon and find a workforce that’s ready for the job from day one.

Even better, we are educating the next generation of entrepreneurs, inventors, and big-thinkers – people who have a foundation in the importance of education, the value of giving back to their local communities, and the positive impact of problem-solving based on local priorities.

This event is helping to highlight how social business efforts can give communities a sense of ownership and an invitation to go beyond a one-sized-fits-all approach to problem-solving.

A similar philosophy drives the state’s Regional Solutions program.

Regional Solutions Centers provide an innovative, collaborative approach to community and economic development in Oregon. Local Regional Solutions teams take a bottom-up approach to development projects -- working at the local level to identify priorities, solve problems, and seize opportunities to complete projects.

Like our institutions of higher education, these centers are embedded in communities throughout the state and tackling issues both large and small. We were fortunate to have teams of OUS students involved with some of our priority projects through Regional Solutions, and I’m excited to see the students’ plans and strategies for turning those ideas into actions.

It’s important for us all to remember that those ideas, no matter how small, truly can change the world. That lesson is more dramatically told in the story of today’s keynote speaker, for certainly Mohammad Yunus (You-Nus) changed the world with just a $27 loan to women in a poor Bangladeshi village.

Professor Yunus is the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Winner and is known worldwide as the “Father of Microcredit” and “Banker to the Poor.” He is the recipient of hundreds of national and international awards, including the US Presidential Medal of Freedom and the US Congressional Gold Medal.

Professor Yunus was chosen by the Wharton School of Business as one of The 25 Most Influential Business Persons of the Past 25 Years. In 2006, Time magazine listed him under “60 years of Asian Heroes” as one of the top 12 business leaders.

It is now my pleasure to introduce Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Mohammad Yunus.​

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