The best books on social entrepreneurship

The Books I Picked & Why

Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know

By David Bornstein, Susan Davis

Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know

Why this book?

This short book hits the nail on the head over and over about what social entrepreneurship is, what it isn’t, why it matters, and how it differs from other approaches to causing social change.  I have given it to countless people over the years, especially those seeking their own place in the “do good” ecosystem.  On virtually every page, I found multiple insights about the realities of leading social change that I found not only true but also extremely helpful to me as I reflected on my own journey and its highs and lows as well as its more mundane elements and its many absurdities.


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Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism that Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs

By Muhammad Yunus, Karl Weber

Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism that Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs

Why this book?

I love all four of this Nobel Peace Prize laureates' books, including his first (Banker to the Poor) that I helped edit, but this one is the best of them all.  He describes his vision of a new economy that is driven by social businesses – companies that are created to drive social change, through a business strategy.  By the time this book came out, he had multiple successful examples of this new hybrid model to describe to the reader – and he does so in a succinct and highly compelling way.  Importantly, he explains how his model is distinct from not only traditional nonprofits but also from social enterprises funded by impact investors. 


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The Social Entrepreneur’s Handbook: How to Start, Build, and Run a Business That Improves the World

By Rupert Scofield

The Social Entrepreneur’s Handbook: How to Start, Build, and Run a Business That Improves the World

Why this book?

This guidebook in the form of a memoir, or memoir in the form of a guidebook, is both highly entertaining and profoundly useful.  Through brutally honest stories from his years leading FINCA, the global microfinance network, Scofield shows how social change happens: one mistake, one insight, and one breakthrough at a time.  By laying them out so clearly and in such a reader-friendly format, he has provided a valuable gift to a new generation of changemakers.


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Reclaiming Our Democracy: Healing the break between people and government.

By Sam Daley-Harris

Reclaiming Our Democracy: Healing the break between people and government.

Why this book?

Daley-Harris chronicles his experience founding and leading RESULTS, a scrappy and highly effective anti-poverty advocacy organization, and later his work to embed his insights into other organizations working on other crucial issues such as climate change.  His stories of citizens studying issues and then acting in concert with others to drive desperately-needed policy changes and divert hundreds of millions of dollars to effective programs are instructive as well as inspirational.  In this edition, he helpfully breaks down his tactics for spurring unprecedented and highly successful citizen advocacy into bite-sized steps that any organization can adapt.


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The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World

By Jacqueline Novogratz

The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World

Why this book?

This beautifully written memoir also describes the change-making process in a highly personal way, while detailing pitfalls and the larger issue of what our increasingly interconnected world means for the humanitarian movement.  Written by the founder of the Acumen Fund, this book is a pleasure to read and still rings true 12 years after it was originally published. 


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