Twenty-five-year partnership: Dr. Muhammad Yunus, founder Grameen Bank of Bangladesh and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate with Professor Warner Woodworth, global social entrepreneur and faculty emeritus at the Marriott School of Business, Brigham Young University.
“Namaste!” Welcome to my website! Thanks for being interested. On it, you will find the various thrusts of my life’s mission, my passions, and the core of my academic, professional and humanitarian work over the years. In the sections that follow, you can read hundreds of my articles, books, and PowerPoint presentations through the years.
Warner Woodworth’s Social Innovation Work with the Poor: Microcredit, Social Entrepreneurship, and Sustainability in Leading Global Change
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; see.
I have long argued that to change the world, we must not merely think differently, we must do different things!
In my career, I’ve been a tenured full professor teaching MBAs, MPAs, law students, and others in the Department of Management, Marriott School of Business, Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah for four decades, and recently retired with Professor Emeritus status. I’ve also been a visiting professor/scholar at the University of Michigan, University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Claremont University in California, the International Labor Office in Geneva, Switzerland, Wayne State University in Detroit, and at other institutions in Hawaii, Lithuania, Russia, etc.
The paragraphs below summarize the multiple innovations growing out of my work with colleagues and students to change the world by utilizing leading-edge tools for learning the theory and practice of social entrepreneurship and other methodologies. In recent years, presentations regarding these efforts have been made at Harvard, Wharton, Columbia, Thunderbird, Stanford, Darden, Cornell, and other top business schools, as well as emerging, smaller, innovative colleges.
Our collaborative work has accelerated and enjoyed considerable recognition. For example, The Grameen Foundation selected our NGO in India, SKS, to be honored with its Excellence Award that was presented in Washington, DC. BYU presented me with its first-ever “Social Innovator of the Year Award” with a $10,000 award (which I then donated to a social enterprise). Pres. Bill Clinton chose our Unitus NGO as one of only four nonprofit organizations to receive his Certificate of Commitment Award at the inaugural Clinton Global Initiatives conference in NYC. At Unitus, we have also received several “Social Capital” awards from Fast Company Magazine and the Monitor Consulting Group for over 4 years. I was flown to NYC to receive a Global Faculty Pioneer Award from the Aspen Institute and Beyond Grey Pinstripes for my work on sustainable strategies and corporate social responsibility. I was recognized by academics from around the world for my course innovations at the Oxford World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship teaching competition in the UK.
In 2018 I was recognized by BYU for 40 years of Humanitarian Service as one of several outstanding alumni with plaques, photos, and quotes at the new permanent education exhibit in the Joseph F. Smith Bldg. to inspire coming generations to change the world; see. I was honored to be appointed to be the first Peter Drucker Centennial Visiting Scholar (celebrating the 100th anniversary of the great guru’s birth) at the Drucker School of Management, Claremont University in California. My wife and humanitarian partner, Kaye and I were honored as International Heroes by the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge on George Washington’s birthday for our work among the Third World poor at a large gala. More recently, I was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Red Cross for my service to humanity.
President Jimmy Carter, Warner, and friends: I feel that Jimmy Carter is without a doubt one of the greatest humanitarians in our country’s history.
I’ve prepared this document with basic information about my work which began while earning a Ph.D. at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. It highlights various things I’ve initiated, designed and implemented over the years in the execution of microfinance, civil society, and social entrepreneurship strategies globally.
1. Global Leaders in the Field: I’ve responded to multiple government and business leaders in the Philippines, Brazil, Eastern Europe, Asia, Central America, South America and Africa who requested ideas, sought training on economic and educational initiatives, or asked that I set up, or extend, our NGO projects to their countries (India, Peru, Mexico, Kenya, Philippines, Mozambique, Poland, Thailand, Brazil, Bolivia, Uganda, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Haiti, etc.). We’ve created micro-credit programs for impoverished communities in many places, as well as worker-owned cooperatives or civil society programs, in some instances.
2. Training: Beyond the BYU and U.S. training programs I conduct annually in the U.S., I usually do more such sessions when traveling globally. Such requests include training a group of policy-makers in Chile about microfinance; training and consulting governors and mayors in central Brazil where I helped to launch NGOs for economic development and sustainability; delivering huge seminars in Panama with top government, business and NGO leaders who met for advice; carrying out training/consulting sessions with economic development officials in Argentina, Paraguay, and northern Brazil; conducting multiple economic self-reliance training sessions for leaders in Mexico, Kenya, Mozambique, Ghana, Thailand, UK, California, Arizona; consulting with the Navajo Nation and the Southern Ute Native American tribes in income-generating projects, etc.
3. Mentors International: In the late 1980s I responded to Filipinos in Hawaii and the Philippines to begin an economic self-reliance project in Manila. Later, after an in-depth analysis by my student team from the Marriott School, BYU, we officially launched Philippines Enterprise Mentors International (PEDF) and began gaining financial support from a handful of wealthy U.S. donors. While some BYU officials doubted that my early MFI courses and independent fund-raising efforts would ever gain traction or survive more than a few months, our work continues to thrive after 3 decades. In a recent meeting, the historical data show we’ve facilitated the movement of some 5 million people toward economic well-being. Over one million families have received microloans that have been repaid with interest at a rate above 97 percent. The total capital we raised and loaned is now over $103 million. And what is now simply called Mentors International grew to 520-plus full-time paid staff and has spread its impacts beyond the Philippines to El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Nepal, Dominican Republic, Peru and more:
4. Co-ops & ESOPs: For two decades in the 1980-90s I was a fierce advocate for U.S. worker empowerment. With my Cornell partners, William Foote Whyte and Christopher Meek, we did research and lobbied Congress on behalf of groups seeking to preserve manufacturing jobs. With lawyers, labor leaders, executives, and other professionals, we lobbied for support to save or reduce plant closings, aid communities that were losing their economic foundations, create greater equality, etc. I personally traveled the country testifying in U.S. Senate hearings, advising the federal government in designing programs such as ESOPs (Employee Stock Ownership Plans) and worker-owned cooperatives that would provide incentives for states to aid businesses in trouble, create worker re-training programs, and more. Our initial efforts expanded rapidly as many Americans caught the vision of local economic resurgence. Political leaders from the left and right agreed with our strategies, from Ronald Reagan to Ted Kennedy, and others. Eventually, much legislation passed in Congress that led to a nationwide movement known as worker ownership. The ESOP strategy led to the eventual statistics that today include approximately 15 million individuals laboring in some seven thousand firms that they own, many of them owning 100 percent of the shares, where they may also have shop floor labor-management teams, as well as board seats that enable them to set strategies and policies for a better future. ESOP assets today total over $2 trillion. I was elected to the board of the National Center for Employee Ownership in Washington, DC, and current ESOP data can be found on their website,. With others, our drive to also foster worker-owned cooperatives ultimately led to the establishment of the National Cooperative Bank in Washington ( which has now funded over $6 billion in capital support. With its funding and technical assistance, there are 30,000 co-ops across the U.S. such as housing co-ops, food co-ops, manufacturing co-ops, health co-ops, and many other cooperative models. After two decades of building these mechanisms for economic well-being as an economic movement across America, I gradually shifted my efforts to fighting poverty in the Third World as described further below.
5. BYU Civil Society Methodologies: In the past 4 decades I have been mentoring various BYU faculty and many students to initiate a number of new programs at the Marriott School: 11 annual microenterprise conferences up to now, the Journal of Microfinance, 4 innovative courses in this area, 3 books and numerous speeches about these issues at leading business schools about our work. We have trained over 3,400 students as global change agents to do internships with the poor in some 40 nations:
6. “Small Fortunes” PBS film: With professional filmmakers, we put together a one-hour documentary that features a number of our BYU-related NGOs, as well as some of our longtime friends and partners such as Maria Otero at ACCION, Muhammad Yunus at the Grameen Bank, and John Hatch of FINCA International. It was chosen to premiere at the launch of the UN’s 2005 International Year of Microcredit. It has since been shown in more than a hundred PBS TV affiliates around the country and has resulted in the formation of numerous Action Groups of Americans wanting to alleviate global poverty through microcredit. I co-authored the film’s extensive websites at PBS and BYU-TV which may be seen at https://searchworks.stanford.edu/view/7190315.
7. CESR: I secured $3 million to establish the Center for Economic Self-Reliance (CESR), now known as the Ballard Center, at BYU. My former grad student is the director and it is gradually securing another $7 million more to ensure that everything at the center becomes institutionalized for the long term. CESR holds seminars on topics like sustainability and CSR; offers NGO training programs; organizes annual conferences, and operates one of America’s largest and best-funded university Social Innovation student competitions. It has grown to enjoy faculty involvement from a dozen departments across campus, as well as from other universities. At CESR we initiated the new “microfranchise” movement to expand replication tools for job creation in a dozen countries, partnering with innovative NGOs like Freedom from Hunger, Scojo, ACE, etc. This Marriott School effort is beginning to deepen at BYU, and to gradually expand to other institutions of higher education like the University of Denver, Wharton, Beloit, Stanford, Pfeiffer University, University of the Pacific, etc.
8. Scholarship: Academic aspects of my work includes a total of 10 books, over a hundred published articles and book chapters, 200-plus conference papers, the creation of various MBA and other social innovation courses, consultant to Fortune 500 corporations, as well as other medium-sized or smaller firms. See, for example, our article published by the Academy of Management:
9. MBM: We also have a little, real-world project, MicroBusiness Mentors, in Utah Valley adjacent to BYU. Since 2003, it’s been an ongoing education lab for my students to learn how microcredit programs can actually be carried out. We market our services to poor Latinos, mostly migrants, and refugees in the area, and train them during 8 entrepreneurial modules in Spanish that we’ve developed. Upon preparing a feasible business plan and graduating, each client may receive a $500 loan to start a simple micro business that may gradually expand to a $3,800 loan. We continue to consult and advise them as they grow their tiny, family-owned enterprises over the months that follow. Demand is so great we started offering our training in English to other immigrants, as well. Learn more at. Over time, the Utah banking community has invested in our efforts and we are exploring expansion to Salt Lake City.
10. NGO Start-ups: I am the founder or a co-founder of some 41 NGOs and social entrepreneur projects launched with business colleagues or from my Marriott School courses, many that eventually became non-profit foundations, through collaboration with alumni, successful entrepreneurs, attorneys, and other professionals. These include Mentors International, for instance, which started with 3 grad students at BYU working with me in the Philippines in 1989 and is still operational, raising over $103 million in microloans since, having a staff of 520 in seven nations, and creating a million new jobs. I should point out that 89 percent of EMI loans go to women, and the default rate is a mere 2.2 percent while blessing over 5 million people through the years as they move toward self-reliance with improved quality of life (). Other smaller examples include Zaytoon in Jordan, Musana in Uganda, SOAR in China, Acción Contra La Pobreza (Honduras), Achatina Farms in Ghana, Nova Geração in southern Brazil, and others. Collectively last year, these groups raised $27 million for microfinance, trained 362,000 microentrepreneurs in simple, small business skills, and grew in 2018 to in excess of 8.2 million impoverished microcredit clients, mostly in India, Mexico, Kenya, and the Philippines—all in 2018 alone.
They also include operations in Mali, Thailand, Mozambique, Peru, Indonesia, Argentina, Brazil, Ghana, Haiti, Tanzania, El Salvador, and Uganda. Another of these organizations, perhaps the largest, is Unitus, which I co-founded with a group of entrepreneurs from coast to coast back in 2000. Our business strategy was to make our global microfinance nonprofit an “accelerator” with me as the first board of trustees’ chair. We generated monies and at first donated, and later invested in high potential NGOs we could help grow from a mere 3,000 or so clients/borrowers to hundreds of thousands, and then to millions (). Although it may be hard to believe, our Unitus programs have eventually raised over $1.2 billion and assisted in the creation of some 17 million microenterprises in 40 nations. See more details about some of these NGOs we launched elsewhere on this website.
11. Global Change Agentry: “Wave of Hope” was a project designed in my OB 490 course, “Becoming a Global Change Agent” by students and me in 2005. Our goal was to form a new humanitarian aid organization to respond with our business skills in rebuilding after the terrible 2004 Asian tsunami killed some 230,000 victims in 11 nations around the Indian Ocean. I mobilized and helped train over a hundred students from BYU, Berkeley, U of Utah, Portland State, Utah Valley Univ., Harvard, Utah State, GWU, et al. We each spent a month or more volunteering as social entrepreneurs in the coastal areas of Khao Lak, Thailand where entire villages had been destroyed and survivors were struggling to recover. Instead of the tsunami’s waves of destruction, we rolled out as a wave that bore hope for the future. We raised $200,000 and started three worker-owned co-ops and other self-sustaining enterprises to lift families out of poverty (The Joseph Smith Tsunami Rescue Brigade of 2005. Also, check out the online PPTs of a broader presentation on our NGO work that I gave at the CHOICE Humanitarian Symposium in 2017 titled “Marrying NGOs with Business to Achieve Social Justice.”.) Operating through an earlier student-led initiative, Empowering Nations, we generated a number of high-impact projects, including helping to build some 120 houses, reopened and refurbished damaged schools, and taught education classes to surviving children. Empowering Nations continued the next year to accelerate its outreach by expanding to other countries and projects—Ghana, where 46 volunteers labored to aid poor African children, to Thailand to continue rebuilding from the tsunami’s destruction, as well as to new areas like Paraguay, Peru, and Kenya. My article about our efforts can be read at a Mormon news source, Meridian Magazine:
12. Nobel Peace Laureate: My good friend and partner in some of these efforts, Muhammad Yunus of the Grameen Bank received the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. He invited me to become an Advisory Board member for another of our collaborative projects, that of bringing the Grameen Bank model from Bangladesh to the U.S. Thus, Grameen America was launched in New York City and has now raised in excess of a billion dollars in rolling out its strategy to other regions. So far there are programs in 13 states such as North Carolina, Texas, Indiana, Nebraska, California, Massachusetts, with others being planned for the coming years. It’s now following our Unitus model in launching an impact investing fund. See more at.
13. Social Entrepreneurship: For 2 decades we’ve been recruiting and training HELP International (HELP ELiminate Poverty) volunteers, an NGO we established in 1999, sending hundreds of BYU students for 6-16 weeks or more to the Third World after Hurricane Mitch set Honduras back 50 years. Countries benefiting so far include Nepal, Honduras, India, Guatemala, Fiji, El Salvador, Bolivia, Uganda, Peru, Venezuela, the Philippines, Brazil, Tanzania, Nicaragua, Thailand, and Middle Eastern refugees in Greece. HELP specializes in “appropriate technologies” like Square-Foot-Gardening methods, adobe stove construction, microenterprise training, healthcare, orphanage services, house-building, the teaching of computer and ESL skills. Much more can be learned by linking to. As social enterprises, both HELP and Empowering Nations have become something akin to a College Peace Corps. Collectively, just these two NGOs have mobilized, trained, and sent to the Third World over 2,000 young adults to serve humanity.
14. Sustain Haiti 2010: Humanitarian Outreach—After the devastating Haiti earthquake that killed some 310,000 people on the island nation in 2010, friends, students, and I designed and launched a new project, Sustain Haiti, to rebuild family life among the survivors. Services offered include microenterprise development, sustainable Square-Foot-Gardening methods, water purification systems, health & hygiene, rebuilt orphanages, schools, and other community needs. Learn about our labors at. Our strategy began on the ground in Haiti during 2010 in the town of Leogane, the quake’s epicenter where there had been very little aid provided. We then returned to the U.S. to formally incorporate as a social enterprise and design plans for the future. The organization hires Haitian staff on the ground year-round and recruits U.S. volunteers each summer. Nine years later we’re still moving forward in solidarity with the Haitian people. Learn more by reading Meridian Magazine’s article:
15. Refugee Services: Much of my time and expertise over the past several years has been dedicated to serving refugees, both locally & internationally. A range of successful programs in Utah & elsewhere have sought to make individuals & families feel more welcome, learn English, feel safe, find increased dignity, learn their rights under the U.S. constitution, & develop basic competency skills for raising a family within the foreign culture of America so they may become successful, effective citizens in the future. I’ve sought to encourage congress, governors, & other officials to open up entry for refugees fleeing oppression. Beyond our borders, with other collaborators, I’ve helped mobilize volunteer teams to serve in refugee camps in Greece, Turkey, Jordan and some areas of Africa. We’ve raised funds, taken goods, helped make tents & trailers in which families dwell a bit nicer. I’ve assisted some camp managers & government officials to establish better-designed services, including creating jobs & delivering other meaningful opportunities so that refugee camp existence is more humane. More can be seen at one of our NGOs.
16. Expanding Globally: Recently, I wrapped up my formal career of teaching and action research for over 40 years, 37 of them at BYU where I labored to lift the Marriott School up to being ranked among the top 20 business schools for entrepreneurship, microfinance, leadership, and ethics. I’m now spending most of my 30 hrs./week traveling and speaking around the globe to businesses and other professionals, accelerating our newest NGOs and social businesses, consulting with governments and social enterprises, conducting seminars at business schools worldwide, raising money, collecting data and publishing more in order to leave a strong legacy of helping to rid the world of the worst forms of human suffering. As professor emeritus, I love the fact that I can be in Zimbabwe on Tuesday and not have to race back to teach my MBA class on Thursday!
All in all, I labor to accelerate our efforts and expand our capacities for influence around the globe. Fortunately, superb young people, as well as more mature individuals everywhere are joining the cause to eliminate poverty and human suffering and to build human dignity and self-reliance. This is no easy task, but it is becoming very doable. Extreme global poverty has been cut in half during the past two decades. Each year thousands of new individuals are becoming engaged in this movement to improve the quality of life in the world’s poorest nations and to accelerate social and economic impacts for the better.
For those who know me, it’s clear I’m not a traditional academic who plows ahead with a plethora of research projects, the results usually yielding obscure theoretical concepts for others to assess and perhaps on which to build. Although I was always one of the most prolific researchers at BYU and easily jumped through the school’s ever-increasing hurdles to move up the professorial ranks and secure tenure, my areas of study went far beyond organizational behavior and human resources. I’ve presented scholarly papers and published numerous articles, from OB to strategy, sociology to psychology, Mormonism to other spiritual traditions, trade unions to workplace team building, economics to globalization, managerial ethics to corporate social responsibility, democratic management to worker ownership, politics to social justice, environmentalism to rural development, feminism to community organizing, Third World poverty to microfinance, and so forth. While I have had a wide variety of intellectual interests and theoretical curiosity, there have always been several major trajectories: Change, equality, and the reduction of human suffering. Thus, my website is more like traveling through the jungle, not a nice neat overview of a sterilized academic career.
As a professor, I’ve not been one who enjoys never-ending faculty meetings where policies are reviewed in insignificant detail and in which decisions are rare. My years as an administrator were hard to manage because I never did seek a Ph.D. to be a university bureaucrat who sought to manage minutia. I was always more interested in changing each university I’ve worked at, not reinforcing its bureaucratic structures. My colleagues who entered the management levels of governance may have enjoyed teaching less and getting paid more, but in my view, those roles also took a human cost.
I loved teaching university students and the fun debates, class conflicts and alternative perspectives that enriched everyone’s understanding. But I didn’t like the individuals who wanted to be spoon-fed, those expecting clear hard answers from a text, and those who were dependent. I sought to push rigorous thinking, complexity, and initiative. Over the years, various deans told me I was the toughest grader in the Marriott School, a distinction I didn’t seek, but one I accepted as a certain badge of respect. It cost me in student ratings, but it produced excellent results. I’ve had the privilege to see many outstanding young people go on to graduate degrees at both the master’s and Ph.D. levels and impact the larger society in amazingly successful ways. As with many universities in the United States, BYU had to wrestle with its image as a soft, easy, academic institution suffering from grade inflation which diminished the university’s credibility and reputation. As a tough grader, I was recognized as the faculty who pushed to legitimize BYU’s university status.
In viewing this website, the reader can see it’s not like the typical professorial link. It’s more like heading out into the wilderness. Let’s say that it’s akin to a safari in Masaai Mara, the great bush region of Kenya where various big game creatures are observable and where we can learn much. Alternatively, this site may be thought of as an exploration of Brazil’s great Amazon basin where rivers meander and new jungle wildlife abounds. As you travel through my website, consider it a chance to explore, not to simply review what is known. My career is not a safe, manicured landscape where the farms are neatly laid out and fenced, the boundaries all drawn. Rather, join me in pioneering new vistas, climbing peaks of uncertainty, canoeing through rivers without maps. Hopefully, you will discover new things as you read, think and confront innovative perspectives and see ways to improve the maps of your own mind.
As one of my great mentors, Hugh Nibley, advised: “Don’t be like anybody else. Be different. Then you can make a contribution. Otherwise you just echo something; you’re just a reflection.”
The broad categories of my productivity are listed at the top of the home page: Home, Microcredit, Humanitarianism, Education And Teaching, Worker Empowerment, General Management, Organizational Change, Religion And Spirituality, Third World, Political Issues, Media Coverage, Vita, Personal And Family, Blog, Contact. Each main link has a brief description that defines each area and contains sub-links for the specific interest you may have. As will soon become obvious, much of my work is “off the beaten track” of traditional professors. This fact is not inadvertent; it is intentional.
This entire website exists for several reasons. One is that the many individuals seeking information about me, my research, the projects I have (or had), my courses and media coverage has become too demanding for me to respond to all inquiries. By going to my website, people can retrieve articles, books, course descriptions, and so forth. This will make it not only easier for me but more available to you as well.
Secondly, the website helps me become more transparent as to the work I do, the values I hold, the dreams and strategies I pursue in building a better world. With the ever-growing problems of unethical, illegal and ineffective decision-making carried out by those in power, I’ve grown concerned that too much is done behind closed doors, where secret decisions are made, inappropriate actions occur, and societal damage is inflicted, especially on those at the bottom of the social pyramid.
Hence, one promising objective of the worldwide web for me is to create greater openness, accountability, and transparency. I support legislation known as “sunshine laws” that require governments to hold open meetings accessible to the public rather than doing backroom deals. I’ve come to increasingly believe, as have prominent world figures like George Soros, Nelson Mandela, and Mohandas Gandhi, that a more open society is a healthier society.
Often, I am asked: “How did you get to where you are now, being able to have a degree of influence for good around the world?” I am continually questioned about this by current students who seek their future life’s purpose, as well as by managers who want to give up corporate positions in order to become social entrepreneurs. Such inquiries also occur when NGO leaders inquire about moving into the private sector. Also donors, housewives, university alumni, government officials, academic colleagues, and others raise similar questions. This internet site is an attempt to respond to such inquiries.
A final point I want to make upfront is that if I have done any good in the world, I must humbly acknowledge the hand of God, according to spiritual values and principles of the Mormon tradition. All I have ever sought to do is serve a greater purpose, find my own calling in life, and use my time, skills and resources to bless those in need. Being prompted throughout my years by the Holy Spirit, I hope that the world is a tiny bit better.
It is an article of my faith that, as the Apostle Paul declared, “I believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all…I believe all things, I hope all things, I have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, I seek after these things.”
Stages of Warner P. Woodworth’s Career
Below is my attempt to show the stages of my career and highlight key elements of each stage, drawing on the theoretical model of my two former Organizational Behavior (OB) colleagues at BYU, Gene Dalton and Paul Thompson.
Apprentice: As a new Ph.D. in OB from the University of Michigan in the 1970s, I came to BYU without a clear career focus. I became a young assistant professor in the Master of Organizational Behavior (MOB) program. I had a wide range of passions for multiple issues: civil rights, women’s liberation, employee empowerment, leadership and management, quality of working life, and organizational change. I taught courses in these areas, did research and published articles, and served to foster these social agendas in various communities of practice. I created new, innovative courses at BYU, including the following: Leadership; Business Ethics and Social Responsibility; Quality of Working Life; and the first course at BYU on Women’s Studies (co-taught with a professional woman from the community).
With others from across campus, we created a committee to advise the university administration on women’s concerns, race and diversity. We launched a campus-wide women’s conference which, in those days, centered on women students, rather than the current event that primarily serves older LDS women from the region, not young female BYU students. Teams of my students designed and conducted service-learning projects with immigrant workers, women’s advocacy groups, and I mentored several student projects that would help to change university policies. These included, for instance, how women are treated on campus, why and how the football program could begin to attract and retain African American athletes.
Some of my research added to a growing scholarly reputation. For instance, I drafted an innovative paper entitled “Consulting with Conflicting Parties” and submitted it to the National Academy of Management. It was not only accepted for presentation at the Academy’s annual conference, but was also chosen as one of the “best” to be published in the Academy of Management Proceedings.
Expert: In the 1980s I began to focus my energies on key problems that were increasing in U.S. society: the decline of the labor movement and growing trade union struggles, factory shutdowns and deindustrialization, increasingly bureaucratic organizational structures, unethical management, absentee-owned companies, and community economic disintegration. I also helped to design and implement new managerial interventions: Quality of Working Life (QWL) methods, TQM and quality circles, participative management, area labor-management committees, ESOPs, worker-owned cooperatives, European industrial democracy and co-determination. In this phase of my career, I greatly expanded my action research agenda by consulting with companies and unions jointly, collecting data, writing various articles, cases, and books. I had papers accepted at innovative conferences around the world including events in Asia, as well as the countries behind the Iron Curtain and Latin America.
I advised governments on how to democratize industry–from the Sandinistas in Nicaragua to Communists in East Germany and Poland, enjoying a growing degree of recognition and influence. Indeed, Dr. George Strauss, a prominent OB professor at Berkeley, told BYU officials that “No successful conference on worker-ownership could be held anyplace in the world without Warner Woodworth’s presenting a paper on his research.”
With support like this, I easily moved from assistant to associate professor during this period, receiving high course and teacher ratings in the classroom, giving strong professional and community service, as well as conducting considerable research and enjoying publication success. Treating many of my students as “colleagues,” not just dependent classroom conformists, we collaborated on various field projects, doing action research at Jamestown, New York, and Rath Packing in Iowa (with academics at Cornell); studying worker co-operatives with colleagues at Harvard; becoming the lead consultant on famous worker buyouts like Hyatt Clark Industries, and advising Lee Iacocca’s board at Chrysler, etc.
With my students, I established several nonprofit consulting entities: Action Research, Inc.; Organizational Resources, LLC; and the WMP (Worker-Managed Program) we created within the Marriott School. Later, with faculty associates from the MOB Department, Sociology and the College of Education, we established the Program on Economic Innovation and Revitalization (PEIR), to help communities across the nation combat corporate flight and plant closings. We also created a hands-on, financially-independent social enterprise at BYU, called Equitech, a worker/student/faculty-run industrial cooperative that manufactured products which were sold throughout campus.
All these programs became very successful efforts, enabling me as a professor to practice what I preached, or in today’s vernacular, mentor students and “walk the talk.” At the same time, such projects allowed students to get real-world experience through utilizing OB theories and tools. For instance, at Equitech, by actually setting up a firm, having to design the organizational structure, create accounting systems, manufacturing processes, marketing, and sales, as well as learn management/worker problem-solving and decision making–students really learned critical skills in each relevant area, as well as entrepreneurship and democratic managerial tools.
Throughout this Stage 2 Expert period, it should be mentioned that a key partner during much of this was Christopher Meek, a Cornell Ph. D. then teaching at Boston College, who we later hired at BYU. Chris’ collaboration was central to expanding my own efforts and impacts. Together we consulted with unions and executives, expanded action research projects, co-authored books and a number of joint papers and articles. We organized major events at prestigious occasions like the Academy of Management’s “Showcase Symposium” with Joseph Vittoria, CEO of Avis in Washington, D.C. We also helped formulate U.S. legislation to promote ESOPs, worker co-ops, and other innovative approaches to save jobs and build community well-being, as well as socio-economic justice. We testified at congressional hearings to help create the National Cooperative Bank with $400 million in start-up funds to foster worker ownership.
I enjoyed considerable prestige by being invited to speak at Harvard, Yale, the U.S. Economic Administration, U.S. Labor Department, and so forth. My work was featured in the national media such as the New York Times, Business Week, Time, the Washington Post, Newsweek, and on national television, NPR radio, and so forth. By this time, I was being sought a great deal to provide policy suggestions, share my research, and give expert testimony in lawsuits, in congressional hearings, to aid radical environmentalists like N-RAG (the Northern Rockies Action Group) in Montana, and conservative groups such as the Catholic Church’s U.S. Conference of Bishops as they put together a position paper on the U.S. economy. I served academic and professional groups like the National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO) and the Association for Workplace Democracy, both of whom elected me to their boards, as well as other organizations.
Mentor: From the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, my career fully evolved into a new stage, that of mentoring students within and groups outside of the university. My OB corporate work that had focused primarily on U.S. and European organizational issues, shifted more to the Third World. I moved from the formal economy of big business, trade unions, and government to the informal economy of black-market, or underground, income-generating activity. Instead of labor-management cooperation, the emphasis was on emerging new markets and nations in transition.
In this stage, I began to mobilize and train students to go among the global poor, helping them to develop their local, indigenous economies, not from top-down, but rather, from the bottom-up. With a small team of students in 1988-89, for example, I organized a seminar on the Philippines’ economic and social plight. It ultimately led to our incorporation as a nongovernmental organization (NGO), eventually known as Enterprise Mentors International. Since that startup, EMI has given out over $9 million in microloans, and today has some 20 offices in 5 countries. It has 7 indigenous non-profit partners and annually trains over 30,000 poor people in basic microentrepreneurship. As a founder, board member, secretary/treasurer and eventually vice president, I’ve enjoyed mentoring poor Third World families, middle-class BYU students who interned with EMI, and wealthy U.S. executives who joined our board because they wanted to make a difference but didn’t know how.
Nor was EMI the only such group that I co-founded. Together with students, community volunteers, church associates, and others, we developed two innovative streams for aiding the Third World. One was microcredit, a strategy that includes business skills training, microloans, and on-going consulting. Numerous new groups we collectively established also started to do microlending including Chasqui Humanitarian, Accion Contra la Pobreza, Humanitarian Link, and so on.
The other thrust was a broader humanitarian approach to development. This includes disaster aid during a crisis, equipment for digging wells so water can be accessed in drought-stricken regions, seeds for family gardens, and so on. An example of my work here is that of being a board member, vice-chair and eventually board chairman of the Ouelessebougou-Utah Alliance working in Mali, West Africa with over 70 impoverished villages.
As a mentor, I also helped form other boards of trustees for new NGOs, served as a volunteer corporate officer on several of them, designed and conducted training sessions on topics such as defining the mission, establishing or changing the organizational culture, altering the structure, conducting team building, planning fund-raising campaigns, doing performance assessments and so forth.
Sponsor: The fourth stage of my career has developed from the mid-1990s into the new 21st Century. By this point I had been an Apprentice (1976-83), an Expert (1984-89), and these stages were followed by becoming a Mentor (1990-96) to students, young faculty, and corporate colleagues as they sought to change the world. My career next evolved into becoming a Sponsor for accelerating innovative programs, new NGOs, and expanding global movements (1997-2005).
What is a Sponsor? It’s one who moves beyond details of a narrow specialty, or supporting a few individuals, and begins to leverage whole groups or organizations, helping them implement new visions, accelerate existing efforts, and have a wider and deeper impact for good. It may even lead to the creation of new social inventions and institutions in society.
As I began to envision new possibilities for building self-reliance among poor families around the globe, I started to realign my teaching/research and outreach strategies. I moved farther away from traditional OB issues like management skills, teams and ESOPs in the U.S. and Europe because those efforts had begun to be widely practiced. The thrust of my work turned increasingly to the Third World–to international development, NGOs, microcredit, and social entrepreneurship. I began to develop and teach new college courses in these areas. They integrated theory with practice, as well as spiritual teachings and economic values.
I became an informal advisor to LDS Church welfare and humanitarian programs. I had lobbied long and hard for the creation of an LDS humanitarian fund, and it eventually began to be established. Next, I proposed a unique new entity in the Church, our own NGO. By 1996-97, Latter-day Saint Charities was formally organized as an LDS parallel to Catholic Charities and the Mennonite Third World economic development program. Over the past 15 years, the Church has given out some $643 million in assistance to those in need throughout 154 nations.
From the early 1990s, I also advocated the creation of a new program to help returned missionaries in developing nations, and I suggested that it be called the “Perpetual Education Fund,” modeled after the early Mormon pioneer “Perpetual Emigration Fund.” Several ex-mission presidents later began to promulgate this idea too, and they launched programs to achieve this, particularly Arturo De Hoyos in Mexico. Also, several NGOs we created began experimental education efforts, most notably in Brazil and Chile, but also the Alma Success Academy that trained returned missionaries in Guatemala.
Helping to advocate and sponsor these innovations in the Church was for me a great joy. These efforts also led to sponsorship of many more humanitarian NGOs in that people in Utah began to move beyond our national reputation for being a place that fostered lots of business startups. Instead, we began to achieve similar recognition for creating new nonprofit startups. Over time, I gradually became acquainted with numerous Utah business entrepreneurs who wanted to start using their talents to lift impoverished Third World families. They didn’t want to merely pay their taxes and hope that the U.S. government could fix global problems. Nor did they simply feel that if they donated to the Red Cross, the travails of the world would easily be eliminated. Rather, they felt that they, too, could actually do something on a concrete, personal level to really make a difference.
During this Stage 4 Sponsorship, I gave dozens of speeches annually to such groups as the Business Roundtable, the Utah Valley Entrepreneurial Forum, BYU alumni associations, Rotary Clubs, and so on. Individuals began to be inspired by the notion that while they couldn’t do everything, each of us can do something. People like Todd Manwaring read my book, Working Toward Zion, and felt inspired to give up his lucrative job selling computer systems to Boeing in Seattle, move to Utah, and become one of my MOB students. Since then Todd has helped start several new NGOs including Humanitarian Link, and Action Against Poverty, two networks of like-minded people who seek to make a difference. Likewise, Denver entrepreneur, Steve Gibson, listened to me speak at an entrepreneurship conference. He followed that up with personal action, first donating to Enterprise Mentors International, then selling his business and moving to Utah to begin volunteering at the BYU Center for Entrepreneurship and joining EMI’s board. He became so struck by the plight of struggling returned Filipino LDS missionaries through EMI, that he and his wife Bette designed their own NGO, the Academy for Creating Enterprise (ACE), moved to the Philippines, to implement a successful program to bootstrap new business startups.
These examples suffice to illustrate my developing career role in the late 1990s as a Sponsor of innovative social institutions. Essentially, although I continued to mentor growing numbers of individuals, this new stage moved to my focus on establishing new organizations that I could guide, offer insights, and assist in board formation and fundraising. Instead of these just being my projects, they were “owned” by others who sought to alleviate poverty–in Latin America, Asia and Africa, among LDS communities, as well as Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims.
The ripple effects of such initiatives gradually increased. From a half-dozen or so LDS-related programs in the mid-1990s, new NGO creation multiplied annually until there were perhaps 40-50 by 2000. Today the number has tripled to approximately 150 known groups working in nearly a hundred countries. They do microcredit, square foot gardening, women’s empowerment, adult literacy, orphanages, worker cooperatives, reforestation, access to water, small-scale family agriculture, computer skills, health care and sanitation, leadership development, child adoptions, community organizing, microenterprise training, HIV-AIDS prevention, crisis response, microentrepreneurial consulting, medical and dental excursions, new home construction, and rural health care. Together they utilize various tactics for accomplishing village development. In-depth descriptions of many of these programs can be found by clicking on Third World at the top of this web site.
As these strategies have been designed and implemented, my role as a Sponsor has led to making one or more types of contributions: to help legitimize new start-ups, to get them funds and donors, to suggest potential board members, to critique their progress, to be a sounding board, and to enable them to learn about the work and results of similar groups. My growing numbers of books, papers, cases, and training materials provide technical assistance. I also often sponsor such efforts by soliciting trained students/alumni who can give fledgling NGOs more intense, in-depth consulting, by drawing on their OB, OD, MBA, and MPA competencies. To my mind, a number of these young people are becoming “social entrepreneurs,” a relatively new term for societal change agents. I’m currently spending a lot of my time and energy on developing models and tools to help embed social entrepreneurial skills in a whole new generation of such individuals.
A final illustration of my role as a Sponsor has taken place within BYU itself. During the earlier Apprentice, Expert and Mentor phases, I focused on creating new courses, as well as advising students on Honors, OB, and Kennedy Center theses. During the present Sponsor stage, I’ve worked more intensely to remake the Marriott School into an incubator for social enterprise. Other faculty have gradually joined this effort, teaching, for instance, a microcredit module in their courses, or starting a research project with an NGO. For example, Dr. Kristie Seawright has begun taking students to Asia on business excursions for which they get academic credit. She has guided several individuals in doing field research while there and then returning to write academic papers afterward. Dr. Gary Woller, who I enlisted into the microcredit movement in 1997, has developed a strong interest in doing research in this area. Since then he’s published dozens of papers on microcredit, was co-founder with me as editors of the new Journal of Microfinance and has begun doing considerable consulting with microfinance institutions during the past two years.
Dr. Don Adolphson, Professor Woller and I created the Marriott School Committee to Alleviate Poverty. We organized the First Annual Microenterprise Conference at BYU in 1998, and over the years it has brought thousands of interested individuals to campus to learn about the movement, become involved, give financial support, read articles, network with others, and in some cases, become inspired to start their own family foundations or NGOs.
In late 1998 after Hurricane Mitch destroyed Central America, I launched the sponsorship of a new BYU-affiliated project now called HELP International. A new course was created and organized Winter Semester 1999. A massive response to aid Mitch’s victims in Honduras led to 79 students taking the course, 46 of whom went to Central America as BYU volunteers for 2-4 months throughout the summer. We raised $116,000, capitalized 97 village banks, shoveled mud out of schools so they could reopen, delivered babies in rural health clinics, and so forth. With my ongoing sponsorship, and the involvement of others since then, that little project has grown into a student-centered NGO that has provided humanitarian and economic development assistance to additional Latin American nations by sending over 300 trained volunteers to assist effective NGOs already in existence, as well as to start up innovative new projects. HELP International today is a thriving, off-campus NGO with its own staff, board, and finances. In some ways, HELP has become a kind of short-term Mormon Peace Corps experience, enhancing BYU’s reputation, changing students’ lives, and blessing the global poor, one family at a time.
Eventually, many of these BYU-affiliated projects and programs began to converge into a single new Marriott School entity. It is the culmination of a dream I’ve had for 12-15 years, that we could become a business school with a conscience. I had always felt that we should not only train future public and private sector leaders to be effective managers, but we should channel some of our skills and expertise to addressing global poverty. New courses, a willing and trained cadre of students, an annual conference, an innovative microfinance journal, growing faculty interests and research–all these could be leveraged by establishing a new entity at BYU.
Thus, over the past two years, the idea of a Center for Economic Self-Reliance (CESR) has been negotiated and approved by BYU administrators and the board of trustees. An extremely generous $3 million donation from my friends, Bob and Lynette Gay, has made this dream of mine become a reality. With faculty and outside advisory boards and the capable talents of the Center’s managing director, CESR now is a major institutional mechanism that is starting to fuel many of our earlier and somewhat disparate programs.
It is the embodiment of a long-term dream for me. I hope to be able to help bring in another $7 million over the next several years so that CESR is fully endowed for the long haul, regardless of Marriott School leadership changes or unpredictable university decisions in the future. Thus, my Sponsor work is evolving to be not just about course design and classroom teaching, nor only doing research and publishing the results. Also, it’s not only collaborating with and mentoring individual students or outside professionals. Indeed, the new center becomes an enduring institutional legacy for expanding our capacity to change the world. For me and my long-term career, it becomes the final steps of life’s journey as a professor of Organizational Behavior. It also shows that real change can be achieved by anyone regardless of official resistance and/or bureaucratic barriers.
“Fences are made for those who cannot fly.”
— Elbert Hubbard, American Writer
*I would like to express my appreciation to my two sons, Doug and Micah, and my niece Shan for designing, building, updating, and maintaining this website.