Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Gulen Movement enterprises through the lens of 'Social Business'

(Video Duration: 5 mins. 6 secs.)

Dr. Greg Barton
Greg Barton, Ph.D.
Hizmet Movement and Civic Engagement was the topic of the second panel at the "International Conference on Gulen Movement: Paradigms, Projects, Aspirations" held at the International House of University of Chicago in 2010.

In the panel, Dr. Greg Barton of Monash University, Australia presented his paper titled Understanding the Gulen Movement enterprises through the lens of ‘Social Business’. Below are some excerpts from Dr. Barton's presentation:

In some areas, this is true in Turkey but I’ve to say that it is also true in the Western Hemisphere and in this country, people look at the movement and say ‘Well, this is an Islamic movement; it must be up to something and it must have some ulterior motive, some intention.’ and that causes suspicion.

And it is certainly not an Islamist movement; it's unique, it is unquestionably -in my opinion- a progressive movement. It looks the future with optimism and hope, even though it draws at the same time the traditions of the past. But we still struggle for terms and for language to explain of how it works. One aspect has to do with financing, as Helen Ebaugh observed in her recent book, people often ask the question 'where does the money come from?'

…We look at Fethulah Gulen himself and it's difficult to know what to make of him. I'd suggest a thing to understand him that: He is not claiming to be theological innovator; he is certainly a significant intellectual but he is not making a claim of new ideas. What he is doing though -and he is very modest, so he doesn't make this claim- he has found a way of providing concrete pathways to activism for ordinary people.

One of the most remarkable things about the Gülen movement, and one of the things that people find most hard to understand, is the rapid growth of its educational, media and other enterprises in Turkey, and around the world, over the past two decades. The collective value of these enterprises now runs into hundreds of millions of dollars and they are responsible for the employment of tens of thousands of people.

The Gülen movement is often described as being a philanthropic religious movement and, whilst this is clearly the case, philanthropy alone cannot account for the scale and growth of these autonomous but socially connected enterprises. How they work and what they are is better explained using the model of ‘social business’ promoted by Muhammad Yunus in his new book. The founder of Bangladesh’s Grameen Bank and inspirational noble laureate argues that the many social challenges of this century cannot be met by traditional philanthropy alone but rather must be met by self-sustaining not-for-profit businesses that are set up expressly to meet pressing social needs.

The paradigm expounded in Creating a World without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism provides an excellent model for understanding the dynamics driving Gülen movement schools, colleges, universities, and media corporations such as Zaman Newspaper and Samanyolu Television. Much like Grameen Bank these enterprises were established expressly to meet pressing social needs, and although established using philanthropic seed capital they were intended from the outset to become self-sustaining businesses, allowing this seed capital to be reinvested in new initiatives. This, together with the readily reproducible, simple but effective, templates guiding the development of Gülen schools and colleges, is a key factor in their rapid growth.

This by no means fully accounts for the religious motivation behind the Gülen movement but it does much to explain how the Gülen movement works whilst at the same time pointing to parallels between the movement’s civil service and the kinds of civil society volunteerism that are more familiar in the West.

Related Video:
Fethullah Gulen & Gulen Movement - Remarks by Prof. Greg Barton