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Article VIII: The Lawyers: Lying, False Claims, Threats and Insanity: Social Ventures in Africa? by Brian Ray Dinning, JD, LLM and social venture lawyer

Article VIII:  The Lawyers:  Lying, False Claims, Threats and Insanity

 

By:  Brian Ray Dinning, JD, LLM and Social Venture Lawyer[1]

 

July 20, 2012

 

What does a lawyer who was suspended from practicing law for three years for making false claims against me and others and not being truthful with a court and other unprofessional and tortious behavior with a history of insanity have to do with this story? A LOT!  He is one of the lawyers for the bad press collaborators (see Articles III through VII at www.socialentrepreneurshipinafrica.com).   Jason Christopher Roper and his close friend and former law partner, George Bowles are the lawyers for the aggressive bad press campaign collaborators.  These two lawyers not only participated in most, if not all, of the aggressive bad press campaign, they are the two people who have profited substantially by representing this group – earning hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

 

George Bowles was the lawyer for Batte and Stiner.  Bowles contacted business associates of Pure Africa, Earth Conservancy and me in an effort to damage and discredit the social venture projects in South Africa and me and to support his claims.  On at least two occasions, Bowles contacted our business partners (general contractors and builders from Virginia who were overseeing the development work on the Wild Coast of South Africa) to discredit me and to engage in a fishing expedition to solicit them as clients in a possible legal action against me.  Interfering with and damaging existing business relationships, providing false and inflammatory information and then seeking to represent these people is wrong – it is illegal and actionable (tortious interference) but it is also against a lawyer’s code of ethics.

 

These actions by Bowles are not only unprofessional and unethical but they cost the projects hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost investment and the loss of two or more business relationships.  Our business relationships with general contractors a year or more to develop since the projects are in Africa and generally included one or more due diligence trips to South Africa.  Each time one of these relationships was destroyed by Bowles, it cost the social venture projects in time, money and valuable resources.  Bowles and his clients also sent confidential and privileged information to Bossie Bosman, which was used to discredit us in South Africa with the government, our professional team, our local community partners and our business partners.[2]  He also admittedly shared confidential and privileged information with his good friend and former partner Roper.  It is unclear whether Bowles’ law firm, Williams Mullen is aware of the tortious, interfering and damaging conduct.[3]

 

Jason Christopher Roper was actively involved in the aggressive negative press campaign in an illegal and actionable way as well.  He openly advertised for new clients on the blog of Jeff Brown and he admitted to contacting the South African government and others in an effort to damage and discredit the projects and me.  He also admitted to working in concert with and sharing confidential and protected information with his good friend, Bowles.  Together, these two worked hard to damage and discredit the projects and me and they profited handsomely from their efforts through the payment of legal fees by Batte, Stiner and the other bad press campaign collaborators.[4]

 

The contact by Roper and Bowles to the government of South Africa, to Sotheby’s International Realty, to Pam Golding Properties and others stopped our projects on at least three specific instances directly:  at Mdumbi Bay with Fresh Properties,[5] at Hole in the Wall with Sotheby’s International Realty,[6] and with Pam Golding Properties.[7]  Each time this occurred, it stopped the marketing campaign and cost the social venture projects millions of dollars in revenue.  This revenue would have been used to repay our financial partners and to provide for a financial return to the local community and the social venture partners.  It is unclear how many indirect opportunities were lost to the bad press campaign but I know of several instances where business relationships ended due to the blog of Jeff Brown and others.

 

Many times, we tried to stop them from interfering by sending letters of support and seeking endorsements from all of our professional team members.[8]  We also sought and received endorsement letters and support from the Government of South Africa including South African President Jacob Zuma, National Cabinet Members and National and local government.[9]

 

Roper and Bowles coordinated the legal attack on me and the social venture projects to line their pockets with legal fees.  Instead of simply asking the social venture projects for a return of their money, they sued first using a generic fraud complaint.  Since the only way to get to an individual personally instead of the business is by alleging fraud, they started off by using a general allegation of fraud to file a lawsuit against me personally as well as against the social venture companies.  In the first three cases, the social venture partners and myself settled three lawsuits by paying back the investors in full with interest and attorneys’ fees.  The next legal battle was with the Stiners.  The social venture companies would have eventually paid them back as well when funding was available to settle the lawsuit but the damage that they did to the social venture projects through the aggressive bad press campaign plus the death threats against me led us to agree that settling the lawsuit was not appropriate and a countersuit was filed.  It was then that the Stiners dismissed their lawsuit forever.  The final lawsuit (other than the $30 million lawsuit pending against the bad press campaign club filed by me) was a lawsuit filed by Roper.  This suit cost Jason Christopher Roper his job because my legal counsel and I were present when the senior partners of his firm at McKenry Dancigars said to him that “there is no case.”  Roper continued with the lawsuit contrary to his firm’s advice and was fired.  Strangely, he then reportedly attempted to commit suicide, was hospitalized and then continued to practice law until his recent suspension.[10]

 

I was finally able to achieve a small victory with Roper through the Virginia State Bar.  Judge Karen Burrell documented Roper’s negative, unprofessional and attacking behavior against me in both correspondence and court order.[11]  On February 17, 2012, Jason Christopher Roper was suspended from practicing law for three years by the Virginia State Bar.  The announcement from the Virginia State Bar reads:

 

     “Jason Christopher Roper, 702 Lakeview Court, Mars, PA 16046

VSB Docket Nos. 09-021-080040, 10-021-080199, 10-021-080602

On February 17, 2012, the Virginia State Bar Disciplinary Board suspended Jason Christopher Roper’s license to practice law for three years for violating rules governing candor toward the tribunal; fairness to opposing party or counsel; respect for rights of third persons; confidentiality of information; conflict of interest: general rule; conflict of interest: former client; declining or terminating representation; meritorious claims and contentions; ; communication with persons represented by counsel; bar admission and disciplinary matters; and misconduct.”

 

This, in turn, gave me the necessary evidence to prepare and file the current $30 million lawsuit including claims for federal civil RICO against Jason Christopher Roper, George Bowles and the bad press campaign collaborators.  My goal with the lawsuit is to fight for the rights of the social venture partners, the investors and donors, the local poor communities in Africa and me against this negative and actionable conduct by a small group of people. These people cost us millions of dollars in potential profit, millions of dollars of costs and expenses and years of hard work and effort for the people of Africa.

 

Just to highlight the attacking, unprofessional and unbalanced thinking of this group, Roper sent this scary and threatening email to me:

 

“Mr. Dinning:

Good morning and congratulations on your indictment!  May you enjoy the next twenty to thirty years in a nice federal peneteniary without the comforts of your bimbo wife, your kids, or the finer things in life . . . Don’t worry about your wife.  If she appears at your trial, I will make sure to inform her that if she needs a good serving, she can always give me a call. 

 

Laughing still.

Jason C. Roper”

 

My legal counsel responded with:

“Mr. Roper –

I was just forwarded your communication with Mr. Dinning.  Note that your communication itself, as well as the content, are not only violative of PA ethical rules, but are unlawful in and of themselves.  Besides being disgusting and offensive. 

Given your history of unstable and violent behavior, I must take your statements, especially as to threatened sexual assault on Mrs. Dinning, as real threats to her well being and report the same as well as insist that you never, in any manner, communicate with my client again.  If you do so, appropriate legal action will be taken in Pennsylvania. 

I’m not saying this to argue with you, and I will not respond to any response or argument that you make in return.  You either comply or don’t.  If you don’t, I will take appropriate action.”

After sending this to my lawyer, misconduct bar complaints were filed by my legal counsel and me in both Virginia and Pennsylvania for this shocking and threatening behavior.

This is not the conduct of rational people.  What I have shared with you is the actual, documented conduct of some of our financial partners and their legal counsel in social ventures in Africa.  It is also the conduct of the principle instigators behind the current charges pending against me in the United States as a final blow in their aggressive bad press campaign.

 

While I am happy to face them in court, I wanted to tell my side of the story and to share with you my heart for the people of Africa.  While no one is perfect, all of my consulting fees, expenses, personal expenses and draw compensation was documented in consulting agreements and authorized by the social venture companies.  You do not have to take my word for it though, as I have attached a letter from one of our social venture partners, Dr. William Brown, Ph.D Professor and Fulbright Scholar to Assistant US Attorney Steve Haynie in February, 2012.  In this letter, Dr. Brown (which can be supported and corroborated by “dozens of people” according to Dr. Brown) openly discusses the aggressive bad press campaign and the fact that my consulting fees and expenses were all authorized and approved by the Board of Directors and by my consulting agreements.[12]

 

While I am happy to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in court, I can tell you that my reputation, family and over 16 years of work on social ventures has been irreparably damaged by this unjust process.  The truly sad thing is that the real impact of this will be against the local people in Africa, who were and are counting on us for help not to mention the wildlife that is counting on us for safety and protection.[13]  I can only hope that others will take up the cause of social ventures in Africa (despite the risks I have described) and help the local people of Africa to help preserve and conserve their land and natural resources for future generations to enjoy.

 

 


[1] My background is at http://www.avvo.com/attorneys/23321-va-brian-dinning-629141.html

[2] George Bowles, for his part in the aggressive bad press campaign, is listed as one of the defendants in the pending $30 million lawsuit by me and Pure Africa to reclaim some of the damage caused by their reckless and intentional actions in damaging me and the social venture projects.  Our goal is to ensure that the projects move forward for the benefit of the local communities in Africa.

 [4] Jason Christopher Roper has already been suspended for three years from practicing law for his unprofessional and attacking conduct against me by the Virginia State Bar as documented by Judge Karen Burrell in both correspondence and court order.  Jason Roper, for his part in the aggressive bad press campaign, is listed as one of the defendants in the pending $30 million lawsuit by me and Pure Africa to reclaim some of the damage caused by their reckless and intentional actions in damaging me and the social venture projects.  For his background, see http://www.avvo.com/attorneys/15219-pa-jason-roper-537025/reviews.html

[6] Sotheby’s emails.

[10] It should also be noted that Jason Christopher Roper was fired from his last two law firms (Blumling & Gusky and McKenry Dancigars) and it is reported to me by other attorneys that he was fired from two previous law firms for similarly bizarre and unprofessional behavior.

[11] See Letter from Judge Karen Burrell.  Article 8 FN Judge Burrell Letter re Roper

[12] See Letter of Dr. William Brown to Steve Haynie, Asst. US Attorney  Article 1 FN 1 Letter from William Brown to Mr. Haynie

[13] Letter from Xolile at Mdumbi Bay Community Trust.  Article 8 FN Xolile 2012 Letter

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Introduction to my Social Venture Work in Africa by Brian Ray Dinning, JD, LLM and Social Venture Lawyer

Article 1: Introduction to my Social Venture Work in Africa

By: Brian Ray Dinning, JD, LLM and Social Venture Lawyer

June 27, 2012

NOTE: As I am writing this series, I have been wrongly accused of wire fraud related to social venture projects in Africa and face a trial in the United States. See Footnote 1.  While I do not believe I have done anything criminal, that decision is likely in the hands of a jury of my peers and I hope and pray that truth and justice will ultimately prevail. The purpose of this series is to tell my side of the story, complete with letters, video, emails, documents and all backed up by witnesses. As a lifelong follower of Christ, I trust in God and his promises like John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (NIV) I also want my wife, children and family to know that I did my very best to help as many of the 400 million poverty-stricken people of Africa as I could and I will work as long and as hard as I can to help them for the rest of my life.

I also want my family, friends and others to know the truth behind the delays, slowdowns, obstacles and impossible situations we faced when doing social ventures in Africa. While it has been disheartening at times and sometimes I just want to give up, I often think of men like Nelson Mandela, who endured years in prison only to be released to become the President of South Africa. As Mr. Mandela states:

“Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves.”        NELSON MANDELA, speech, May 10, 1994

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” NELSON MANDELA, Autobiography

My aunt and uncle were Christian missionaries in Africa and my family performed missions work in South Africa for over 35 years. Brought up in a dynamic faith-based household, I was always taught that we must care for orphans, widows and the poor – and that everyone is born with a purpose in life. As unlikely as it might sound, by the age of 10, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer, and I also knew that one of my purposes in life was to help people in Africa. It wasn’t until much later in life that I understood how I might combine those two ambitions.

I’ve been a practicing lawyer for 22 years and, up until recently, I’ve had a spotless record, full of accomplishments and commendations that have brought me and my family a great deal of pride. As a tax and business consultant to energy and mining companies in 2011/2012, I was able to charge an hourly rate for consulting work of $400 and I am blessed to make a good living in the for-profit world. In social ventures, you can also make a salary or work as a consultant but sometimes (most times) the pay is not as good.

I have had the privilege of traveling to Africa over 60 times, and in 1992 through 1994, I helped my professor at Georgetown University write a legal textbook on how nonprofit organizations can do for-profit social ventures, which is the foundation of the modern day social venture or social entrepreneurship project. This work resulted in the legal treatise entitled, “Sanders, Partnerships and Joint Ventures Involving Tax Exempt Organizations” (Wiley & Sons 1994).

I started doing work for clients in Africa in 1994 and have been working on social venture projects in Africa ever since then. These were missions-type projects where we would help build a church or community center, help with clean water, renewable energy, organic food and more. In this work, I realized that the local people of Africa had dreams to become something more, to be connected to the world that existed beyond the boundaries they were confronted by – to also ensure that their children had a future. So, I believe that I was blessed with the talents, ability and vision to look for innovative ways to help the local people in Africa to create jobs, income and a future. This was – plainly stated – to look at their natural resources (land, water, wildlife, mineral rights etc.) and help them locate the tools (people, financial partners and education) to help them maximize those resources – by building a tourism lodge, starting a micro business or starting a minerals project. This way, the local African people could achieve sustainability – meaning they could feed their families, afford to send their children to school and have food and clean water. More importantly, when talking with local community elders, they overwhelmingly said they want to provide a bright future for their children.

Initially, in 1994, I was asked to go to South Africa with some filmmakers to do a reconciliation film entitled “The Final Solution” by filmmaker Christopher Krusen about the life of a dynamic lawyer turned missionary named Gerrit Wolfaardt. This changed my life because Gerrit told me that “you must meet the heartfelt needs of the African people in order to talk to them about God, and missions work and micro enterprise. A starving person needs to be fed first before all else.” On this trip, I met John Coors, the youngest of the Coors brewery brothers. John hired me as a consultant to help with his project “Golden Photon” – which was designed to create solar energy water pumping systems to provide clean water to the rural communities in Africa. They also created a solar energy battery charging system to charge car batteries, which could be used, exchanged and reused by local people to power a light, radio or other electric appliance for their homes. Both were designed as micro businesses and were ingenious social ventures. These men, Gerrit Wolfaardt and John Coors, were pioneers in social ventures and I am thankful for the example they set for me. With my recent research and writing on how non-profits can do for-profit ventures, I was perfectly suited to help them.

These were amazing times because the Apartheid Era had just ended a few months earlier and Nelson Mandela, jailed 27 years by the Apartheid Era as a terrorist, was now the President of South Africa at the age of 76! The entire country was buzzing with life and hope – and expectations: for example, Nelson Mandela promised that he would help provide housing for all people so tens of thousands of people living in the rural countryside moved into the cities expecting to be given a home – not understanding that such a promise would take decades to complete. I met Bishop Frank Retief of the St. Johns Church of England in Cape Town, where eleven people were tragically killed in a church bombing by those loyal to Nelson Mandela in their struggle for freedom. Such stories of loss and tragedy and yet miraculously the Government of South Africa switched control from all White to mostly all Black in a short span of months – and all without any bloodshed. South Africa was a new nation and I was blessed to travel there several times a year from 1994 to the present.

In 1998, I met a man in Stellenbosch, South Africa, the wine country outside of Cape Town, who had heard of our social venture work and asked if I would like to travel to a country in need, Central African Republic, and work at a National Park, Manova Gounda St. Floris National Park – a World Heritage Site in Danger. From 1980 to 1999, the once rich elephant population dropped from 66,000 to 2,000 – all victims of poaching! It is also one of the poorest countries in all of Africa and its population is being ravaged by HIV/AIDS. After researching the country and the issues, I agreed to travel with him to Central African Republic in 1999.

Knowing that we needed a lot of help, I called Ted Turner’s office at CNN in Atlanta. His assistant listened to my story and then told me to send a fax to her office. Three days later, I received a call from Ted Turner’s office asking me to go to his newly formed UN Foundation in Washington, DC to meet with them. In 1999 – 2002, I worked as a consultant for Earth Conservancy where we partnered with UNESCO and the UN Foundation in Central African Republic to manage three large National Parks including Manova Gounda St. Floris National Park. In 2001, Earth Conservancy organized a UNESCO and United Nations sponsored mission trip to assess the current state of the National Parks. Headed by an intelligent and insightful woman named Elizabeth Wangari from UNESCO’s World Heritage Center, the trip and mission in May, 2001 was a great success and we had amazing adventures including several Presidential receptions with President Ange Felix Patasse.

We built two small tourism camps to help create jobs and to teach the local community about conserving wildlife so that tourists would come to the untouched paradise. There were many stories about life and death struggles with poachers, being held at machine gun point by soldiers, the amazing biodiversity and wildlife, walking on foot into a pride of lions, cannibals, naked pygmies and more. As early as 2000, we heard of the terrible persecution of Christians in Southern Sudan. In fact, it was the Sudanese soldiers who were the primary poachers in the National Park. With all this land, millions of acres, I thought the National Parks would be a perfect place to also provide sanctuary for those people being persecuted in Southern Sudan – just across the border from Manova Gounda St. Floris National Park.

Based upon these visits, in 2000 and 2001, prior to September 11, 2001, I wrote several White Papers to the late Congressman Murtha asking the US Government to help in our Central African Republic work as the small country is surrounded by Libya, Sudan, Chad and Congo. In meeting with the Congressman, I suggested that a peacekeeping and conservation mission would allow the US Government to post intelligence personnel so that these dangerous areas filled with terrorist training camps could be watched. The White Papers were bounced around the US Congress and different government agencies and I met with many people but it was decided that since the US Government did not have a formal presence in Central African Republic that our Government could not help. Tragically, we learned that many of Saddam Hussein’s terrorists trained just across the border from Manova Gounda St. Floris National Park. I often wonder if these terrorists could have been detected or stopped earlier had we been able to establish an intelligence gathering post in Central African Republic, while also doing our humanitarian and wildlife conservation work.

But, as life always evolves and circumstances change, one week after our United Nations sponsored trip to Central African Republic, the military of the country staged a coup, President Patasse fled the country taking untold millions of dollars with him and most of the government officials we worked with were killed. With the help of his friend Qaddafi (who I met in 2000 along with President Nicephore Soglo of Benin) and the Libyan and Congolese army, Patasse regained control of the country but a successful coup ousted him from power in 2003. Ten years later, after a failed Presidential bid to become the President of Central African Republic again, former President Patasse died in Cameroon in February, 2011.

The sad story is that the people of Central African Republic, who live in a country filled with the most amazing natural resources, remain the poorest of the poor in Africa. Also, the infamous warlord Joseph Kony and his rebel army are thought to be hiding out in those beautiful National Parks in Central African Republic still abducting children, raping, murdering and promoting terror. Tragically, due to circumstances beyond our control, the work for the local poor in Central African Republic remains unfulfilled. I often dream of that beautiful country and the people there and in Southern Sudan and wish I could have done more to help.

In 2002, my law firm was sponsoring The Shakespeare Theatre season of productions in Washington, DC. I was asked to represent the firm at a gala banquet for the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC. There I dined with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Justice Rehnquist and the newly-appointed Head of Africa at USAID, Constance Newman, now Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Ms. Newman was fascinated by the social venture model of partnering for-profit and non-profit companies to promote community-based projects in Africa. Ms. Newman asked that I meet with her staff at USAID and provide power point presentations and keep her updated with any progress.

At the same time, in 2003 and 2004, Dr. William Brown, a Fulbright Scholar and Ph.D Professor, and an innovative film crew worked with Earth Conservancy to produce two award winning HIV/AIDS education films work in Kenya and Tanzania with the United States Department of Defense. The films focused on the true life stories of soccer stars and promoting education, testing and awareness of HIV/AIDS. Winning awards at the Houston WorldFest film festival, the films achieved the goal of educating young people about HIV/AIDS and were shown throughout Kenya and Tanzania using a screen projector shown on bedsheets sewn together by a team who traveled from village to village. Earth Conservancy stills works in Tanzania and I am working on the establishment of social ventures with Dr. Steven Kiruswa, Ph.D and Maasai warrior, at his home town near Mount Kilimanjaro.

In 2005, our social venture team was privileged to partner with several local Xhosa Tribal communities in South Africa to help them manage and sustainably develop tens of thousands of acres of beautiful oceanfront property.  See Footnote 2.  Sotheby’s International Realty said it is the most untouched and beautiful coastal property remaining in South Africa.  See Footnote 3.  Because all of the small beach hotels were run by local white South Africans under a for-profit model – meaning they did not share any profits or ownership with the local people – our goal was to help the local community develop their own natural resources where the local people were actually partners in the projects.  See Footnote 4.  This would allow the local communities to not only receive jobs and education but also potentially receive profit, if the projects succeeded. Through Earth Conservancy, we also participated in three missions trips to build a church and a playground for a local orphanage. We also sent hundreds of bicycles, tons of food and clothing, soccer balls, medical supplies, computers and school supplies to the local people from clothing and bicycle drives that my wife and I organized.

As of today, I am still working as hard as I can for social ventures to help the poor in Africa. In 2011 and 2012, I helped to pay the start up costs for several new social venture projects in organic farming, education and a wildlife refuge and I have not received any compensation for my efforts. Furthermore, I started to pay back my past compensation from the social ventures to be discussed in this series. My goal is to help the people in Africa and to do my best – along with other caring people – to create sustainable and successful social ventures in Africa.

Article 2 in the Series is entitled: Social Ventures in Africa: What can go Wrong?

FOOTNOTES 1-4

Article 1 FN 1 Letter from William Brown to Mr. Haynie

Article 1 FN 2 Sotheby’s Endorsement Letter

Article 1 FN 3 Hole in the Wall Listing in Sotheby’s

Article 1 FN 4 Legal Opinion Letter for Hole in the Wall by Smith Tabata Law Firm

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Forbes lists “20 most powerful men in Africa for 2012” by Ray Dinning, tax lawyer

The 20 Most Powerful People In African Business 2012

They are the African business leaders, empire builders, moguls and high-flying chief executives of multinational corporations who possess continental clout and wield the most widespread influence in Africa’s business and economic circles.

These are the corporate titans and leaders who set the African economic agenda. Their voices are much listened to within Africa’s business and political circles, and through their resolutions and actions, they shape the economic future of the continent.

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Social Entrepreneurship: Redefining Your Career – by Ray Dinning, social venture attorney

In a recent lecture series on defining “authentic manhood” and a man’s role in society today, the following four factors were discussed as critical in our modern world (which seem frankly to me to be applicable to both men and women in our society) and so I think these characteristics apply to us all:

1.  Reject Passivity – Get Involved in any issue or cause you feel strongly about;

2.  Accept Responsibility – If no one else will do it, then you must take responsibility and act;

3.  Live Courageously – Nothing ventured – nothing gained;

4.  Invest your time and resources for the future – Think about other, future generations and being a wise steward with the talents, resources and time we have on this Earth.

In reviewing these characteristics, it seems that the macho image of the male role model is being replaced by a kinder, more socially-minded modern day man – the social entrepreneur.  Take the following excerpt from an article written on Dr. Mohammed Yunus:

Below is taken from http://www.bankingonthepoor.blogspot.com

Dr. Muhammad Yunus kicked-off the Commonwealth Club’s series of talks on social entrepreneurship today in a speech at the Fairmont Hotel. The event doubled as a book signing for his new work, “Building Social Business—The New Kind of Capitalism that Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs.” Dr. Yunus and Grameen Bank, the institution he founded in 1976 to provide credit to poor women in Bangladesh, were co-recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for their work in developing microfinance.

In his speech Dr. Yunus traced the evolution of his thinking from the founding of Grameen Bank to his present passion for promoting social businesses that serve the poor. In 1974, while teaching economics in Chittagong University, he observed first hand the effects of a devastating famine on the poor of Bangladesh. He realized the elegant economic theories he had studied were next to useless for these people.

Venturing outside the gates of the university he began to learn of the underlying problems afflicting the poor, locking them in a cycle of poverty. Principally, he realized their lack of access to reasonable credit kept them in the clutches of the money lenders. With the equivalent of a mere $27 he was able to break this cycle of exploitation for 42 women. If he could do so much for so little Dr. Yunus wondered why banks shouldn’t be able to do much more for the poor?

Unable to convince the established banks that the poor were indeed “credit worthy” and would not only pay back their loans but also use them to lift themselves and their families out of extreme poverty, he founded Grameen Bank. Today the bank has over 8 million clients, 97% of whom are women, 2,600 branches and over 20,000 employees. The bank lends more that $100 million per month and experiences a 98% repayment rate on its loans. “Compare this performance to that of the big banks during the current economic crisis and tell me who is credit worthy,” Dr. Yunus said.

Lack of credit was not the only problem he uncovered. Lack of sanitation, health care, access to information, education, nutrition were among the many issues Dr. Yunus saw affecting the poor. “When I see a problem I create a business to address it” he stated. But the form of the businesses he creates is different from the normal for-profit companies. Social enterprises are enterprises either owned by the poor or have been funded by social entrepreneurs willing to forgo a monetary return on their investments.

As discussed in his new book, social business have dual “bottom lines” one social and the other economic. They operate as for-profit businesses to ensure their sustainability, but forego an economic return in order to achieve a social impact. He cited Grameen’s collaboration with the French company Danone to produce a special yogurt product for malnourished children in Bangladesh as an example of such a social business.

And now Dr. Yunus brings his poverty fighting philosophy to the United States. Since January of 2008, Grameen America has opened three branches in New York and one in Omaha, Nebraska, to serve the needs of poor entrepreneurs. Employing the same group lending methodology pioneered by Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, Grameen America has already lent to more than 3,000 low income small business owners in the United States with the same 98% repayment record. He announced that Grameen America will open a branch in San Francisco this summer.

The poor did not create the conditions that trap them in a cycle of poverty, nor are they to blame for the many crises, financial, environmental and social that threaten the world today. That is the fault of systems predicated on economic theories that view humankind as motivated purely by profit and self interest. There is, according to Dr. Yunus, another side to human nature, a selfless side that rushes to help when disaster strikes. Build businesses that appeal to the selfless side of human nature and he believes we will find solutions to the problems that keep more than 2 billion people in extreme poverty.”

I, for one, am interested in living a courageous and socially-minded life, dedicated to helping others and the poor in Africa and elsewhere around the world.  To many, it may be an unwise or futile exercise.  To me, I would rather be planting organic Moringa trees in Africa to help fight malnutrition or creating micro enterprise opportunities for those in need or using my time, talents and resources to help others in our World.  This may invoke criticism from the narrow-minded, but guess what – social entrepreneurship is here to stay.  You can stick your head in the sand of passivity and inaction, or you can live a courageous life helping others and making our Earth a better place.

Besides, all those socially-minded MBAs graduating from prestigious universities such as Harvard, Columbia, Cambridge with degrees specializing in Social Entrepreneurship and others around the world cannot be wrong – see http://www.good.is/post/are-mbas-ditching-investment-banking-for-social-entrepreneurship/

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Forbes notes “Cape Town as one of the most beautiful cities in the world by Ray Dinning, JD, LLM (tax)

http://blog.sa-venues.com/provinces/western-cape/cape-town-makes-the-forbes-com-worlds-most-beautiful-cities-list/

Having been to Cape Town dozens of times, I can attest to the beauty of the City and its people.

Hope you get to visit sometime.

 

 

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The SVX – Toronto’s Social Venture Exchange by Ray Dinning, JD, LLM and social venture lawyer

The Toronto Social Venture Exchange (www.thesvx.org) may have the potential to provide social venture capital to a much larger, global market.  Patterned after the successful Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), the SVX is designed to attached investors into selected social venture projects in a stock exchange format.  The SVX, therefore, has the opportunity to attract social venture capital from a  worldwide social investor pool to be “invested” into social ventures worldwide.  Insiders at the SVX stated that “the SVX should be launched formally in May, 2012.”

Founded as a collaborative effort by Adam Spence and socially-minded Toronto professional firms and companies, the SVX is a excellent concept that could shape the formation of future social venture exchanges on a worldwide basis.  With the advent of  the B Corporation (social benefit corporation) and similar business/social business entity structures, a social stock exchange could also be envisioned in the future.

These are all excellent ideas that will evolve over the next two years into what could be the future of social venture capital – let’s get past angel investors and micro lending and into the world financial markets – to create worldwide social change through social entrepreneurship, social ventures and transformational change.

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Social Venture Due Diligence – The Acumen Fund’s BACO Analysis by Ray Dinning, JD, LLM,

The Acumen Fund has developed a rigorous, yet effective due diligence tool to measure the cost of capital between social venture funding available.  BACO is “best available charitable option” where “the point of the analysis is to inform our portfolio decision-making with a quantifiable indication of whether our social investment will “outperform” a plausible alternative.”

While the Acumen Fund has garnered acclaim, new social innovators such as the Toronto Social Venture Exchange (www.thesvx.org) may have the potential to provide social venture capital to a much larger, global market.  Patterned after the successful Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), the SVX is designed to attached investors into selected social venture projects in a stock exchange format.  The SVX, therefore, has the opportunity to attract social venture capital from a  worldwide social investor pool to be “invested” into social ventures worldwide.  Insiders at the SVX stated that “the SVX should be launched formally in May, 2012.”

The SVX is one social venture capital project to watch closely in 2012.

 

BACO Concept Paper final_B1cNOVEM

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