Can’t Be Done or Can Be Done?

February 4, 2010 | 1:14 PM

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Written by Leslie Kane, Executive Vice President, Grameen America, Inc...

It was great to attend the 2010 Sundance Film Festival last week, where I was able to hear real Stories of Change. I was particularly impressed by one of the panels called “Can’t be Done”.

Conventional wisdom says some problems just can’t be fixed because they are too entrenched to remedy. These problems include poverty, public education, global warming. But, after attending the “Can’t be done!” panel, I once again began to assure myself that conventional wisdom is not always right.
The panel offered a in-depth conversation and lively debate with microfinance pioneer and Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus (Grameen Bank; featured in Sundance documentary “To Catch a Dollar”), education reformer Geoffrey Canada (Harlem Children’s Zone, featured in "Waiting for Superman"), environmental visionary Lester Brown (Earth Policy Institute, featured in "Climate Refugees"), and moderator Sally Osberg (President and CEO, Skoll Foundation). Each discussed topics around three Sundance film features, the Environment, Education, as well as Grameen America and Microfinance.
The panel drew a sell-out crowd to people who came to learn how each speaker found the inspiration and the perseverance to tackle problems that experts said were impossible to solve. All of them came across the following existential question: “If not me, then who? If not now, then when?”

Muhammad Yunus , our “rock star in the antipoverty space,” explained to the crowd his idea of one day putting poverty into a museum. He believes that one little opportunity for poor people can make all the difference. We just need to give them those opportunities; they will do the rest by themselves. He referred to the banking system, how almost two-thirds of the global population is outside of it, and therefore lacking the opportunity to access basic financial services. He urges us to redesign the banking system.

Geoffrey Canada, who created one of the most ambitions social service experiments of our time, shared the enlightening moment when he realized something more had to be done to end the cycle of poverty. “The Harlem Children Zone” is a comprehensive system of programs of schools to help Harlem children succeed that is being expanded to other parts of the U.S.

Lester Brown, many times called a “planetary hero,” urge the audience to change the system and restructure the way we approach the global climate change issue in order to find a solution to it. He said we don’t have much time to keep negotiating; we need to just start doing.

By the end, it was clear that solutions to intractable problems such as poverty, climate change, and education are within our reach, but we are the ones who need to make change happen.


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