Oh how many times I've received the question:
What book can I read to learn more about social entrepreneurship?
That is often followed by...
What even is a social entrepreneur?
After finishing up The Blue Sweater: Bridging The Gap Between The Rich and The Poor on Audible this week, I realized just how essential it is to become educated by the stories of social entrepreneurs if you wish to be one. Social entrepreneurs tread a newly formed path in the business world, one that is often dark and has its own host of pitfalls similar and yet separate from a normal entrepreneur's barriers. Social entrepreneurs must overcome their inner and outer critics that tell them it is too much to save the world, the world does not want you to save it, and no one wants your so-called help. And indeed, this is true. So new perspectives must be found to forge a trail based on empowerment, dignity, and peaceful power.
When I was in high school, I was lucky enough to have an eccentric Philosophy and Literature that made Mountains Beyond Mountains required reading. At the heart of this book is an understanding of the truth of the Haitian proverb “Beyond mountains there are mountains”: as you solve one problem, another problem presents itself, and so you go on and try to solve that one too. This was the first time I encountered the story of a do-gooder who created a meaningful life out of sheer determination and collaboration.
Another thought for Changemakers: reading is essential to not only our personal research and development but also the growth of our projects, organizations, and advocacy work. We continually improve not only for ourselves but for those who choose to work alongside us. These stories can provide motivation during the inevitable downswings that can renew team spirit. You can also build a habit of shifting perspectives just like many of these social entrepreneurs needed to do many times in order to succeed. To build a better world we need to expand our minds to new possibilities for how we get there.
I hope you enjoy these recommendations! As a disclaimer, these are affiliate links. All profits from these links go to support the growth of our community.
by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia
Mackey’s realization of conscious capitalism began on Memorial Day 1981, as the fledgling Whole Foods Market was basically wiped out by a flood. Unexpectedly, dozens of customers and neighbors showed up to help; employees worked for free, not knowing if the store would survive; suppliers resupplied on credit; investors stepped up, too, and the Whole Foods Market’s bank loaned it money to restock; the store reopened in 28 days. All stakeholders were invested in the success of the company doing well.
This book reframes the narrative of "Profit is Evil" into one transformed by being a positive contributor to all stakeholders making intentional choices for good.
By Aaron Hurst
After Hurst became one of the leaders in developing the $15 billion pro bono service market, he set out on a mission to help people understand their Imperative.
In the book, Hurst claims that this is a movement movement from the digital age to what he calls The Purpose Economy through case studies, stories, and personal experience. He calls out what many are thinking– that work centered on a why and how is raising the bar on how business is done.
If you've ever felt the need to defend social enterprise, this book will give you the facts and anecdotes to make a strong case.
By Daniel Lubetzky
Inspired by his father, who survived the Holocaust thanks to the courageous kindness of strangers, Lubetzky began his career handselling a sun-dried tomato spread made collaboratively by Arabs and Jews in the war-torn Middle East. Despite early setbacks, he never lost his faith in his vision of a “not-only-for-profit” business—one that sold great products and helped to make the world a better place.
This book proves that you do not have to compromise on your mission to create an innovative, profitable company.
By Jacqueline Novogratz
My favorite book so far in 2017! Novogratz takes you along on her journey through Africa slowly discovering the need for providing small business loans to women. As a young idealist, Novogratz learns through making many mistakes that serving a group of people does not mean taking away their dignity or power. She shows how traditional charity often fails, but how a new form of philanthropic investing called "patient capital" can help make people self-sufficient and change millions of lives.
This book will shift your thinking from "How can I help?" to "How can I empower?"
By Yvon Chouinard
Despite having no business background, Yvon has created one of the most iconic social enterprises of our age, Patagonia, and has a strong philosophical focus on what steers his company.
This book is part biography and part company memoir about the story of a man who brought doing good and having grand adventures into the heart of his business life. His simple but powerful belief that directs his choices were to do right by workers, customers, and the environment, and profits will follow.
By Ido Leffler and Lance Kalish
Yes to Carrots has become one of the biggest natural beauty brands in the world and is one of the fastest-growing skincare brands. Leffler and Kalish have accomplished it all while maintaining solid principles, investing in meaningful business relationships, giving back to the community, and still making it home in time for dinner.
If you've struggled to maintain authentic and aligned to your mission, this story of Ido and Lance will give you the courage and perspective you need to avoid falling into the sea of sameness and do things differently.
By JOHN WOOD
Wood discovered his life’s work not at business school or helping lead Microsoft’s charge into Asia in the 1990s but on a soul-searching trip to the Himalayas. He made the difficult decision to walk away from his lucrative career to create Room to Read, a nonprofit organization that promotes education across the developing world. By the end of 2007, the organization will have established over 5,000 libraries and 400 schools, and awarded long-term scholarships to more than 3,000 girls, giving more than one million children the lifelong gift of education.
If you have ever pondered abandoning your desk job, Wood’s story will inspire you.
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What book would you recommend to social entrepreneurs?
Comment below with an answer.