My Nominee For The Title Of ‘The Most Interesting Man In The World’
Warner Woodworth, now 78, is an emeritus professor at the Marriott School of Business at Brigham Young University. Describing him that way is sort of like saying that Bill Gates used to work at Microsoft. While true, it fails completely to capture the essence of the person.
Warner has had a hand in launching 40 NGOs, has worked with social innovators around the world, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammad Yunus.
His politics are distinctly liberal. At BYU, a famously consevative and pious school owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he has been advocating for worker ownership for two generations. While worker ownership isn’t incongruous with capitalism it is a hallmark of socialism. He says he advocates for “humanistic capitalism.”
He admits his work isn’t always appreciated. “I get my share of criticism from my colleagues and my students and letters from their parents and letters from their church leaders, sometimes to church officials in Salt Lake or the administration, but bless their hearts, the big boys [at Church headquarters] have always said, ‘Warner, you do something unique, something we value greatly. You’re reaching lots of people, none of us can. And you’re not just talking. You’re making change in the world.’ So it’s worked out to be a pretty positive experience.”
Warner loves the Church but isn’t shy about his politics. For instance, he visited one of the migrant caravans from Central America as it arrived in Northern Mexico, advocating for better treatment for them.
As we visited, Warner shared his experience living in Brazil for two years at age 19. “I saw the oppression. I saw the poverty. I came back saying, ‘I know my mission in life. I know my purpose, it’s to help people like them and to learn from them and collaborate and build partnerships.’”
And that is what he’s done for 50 years.
Interview with Warner Woodworth, the Founder of NGOs, Professor Emeritus Marriott School of Business of Social Entrepreneurship Global Consulting LLC.
The following is the pre-interview with Warner Woodworth. Be sure to watch the recorded interview above.
For-profit/Nonprofit: 501(c)3 Nonprofit
Revenue model: Among the 41 NGOs and projects my colleagues and I have established, we’ve used a range of strategies to get revenue. These organizations include, Unitus Microfinance Accelerator (over 40 nations), Mentors International (6 countries), HELP International (17 nations), and many others. They include small private donations, large contributions from wealthy individuals, impact investing from those seeking an eventual return, as well as a few institutional forms of support from foundations, universities and churches.
Scale: The scale of our collective work is quite large. We employ over 800 people worldwide, have on-the-ground programs in 62 countries, and generate some $27 million annually. During some years our work has impacted as many as 9-10 million people. Our microlending process has helped improve the well being of nearly a hundred million people, and the loan paybacks are above 98 percent globally.
What is the problem you solve and how do you solve it?
We’ve had many challenges over the years. Early on it was to educate potential donors that microfinance can work, that it helps lift people out of poverty and that increased household incomes will be used to benefit the family: Education for kids, healthcare when ill, etc. As the MFI movement has grown over 30 years, today’s challenges are different: Developing innovative strategies as economies change, hiring and retaining excellent staff, expanding services to address Third World suffering such as hurricanes, flooding, droughts, the need for rural schools, provisions of healthcare, etc.
More about Social Entrepreneurship Global Consulting LLC:
Our work is to inspire others to achieve increased influence in empowering the poor by deepening one’s learning to improve the world, collaborating to shape the future, connecting with new partners to scale and increase personal impacts, sustaining NGOs that labor to improve society, and reducing suffering, and generating greater awareness about others’ needs and dreams.
Warner Woodworth. Photo Credit: Anna Nalbandyan
Warner Woodworth’s bio:
Who am I? My lifelong purpose is that of being a social innovator. Around the globe, people call me a disruptor, change agent, and sometimes renegade. Many refer to me as a catalyst, that is, a mover and shaker. I have always sought a life of authenticity, not superficiality or passivity. I seek to challenge society, not to conform. I work for transformation and social change, not business-as-usual. My life is one of collaborating with others to develop a sense of community, of high ethics, of deep relevance. I labor to build capacity among the global poor, the marginalized, those who suffer. My objective is greater democracy in the world, not top-down control by elites. My long-term dream is for a better world of peace and social justice, a place where everyone has a voice and where all can not only survive, but thrive. The paradigm of my work is that of empowering the world’s have-nots so they may enjoy more sustainable lives. I’m not a pessimist, but a realistic optimist, one who clearly seeks a better world for people.
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