Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know

April 8, 2010
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The renowned author David Bornstein, in conjunction with the CEO of BRAC, Susan Davis, is just about to release a new book titled “Social Entrepreneurship – What Everyone Needs to Know”.  Though the book is not officially released until April 15th, we already have a book review here on Rising Pyramid (Those who pre-ordered received the book a bit early)!  The book is meant to be a general introduction into the Social Entrepreneurship space for those who would like to understand the basics.  In many ways it is meant to provide readers a brief snapshot of all the key players and recent happenings in the space.  To accomplish this, the authors base their chapters off of a series of common questions about social business.  The questions/chapters are grouped into three primary parts:

A)    Defining Social Entrepreneurship

B)     Challenges of Causing Change

C)    Envisioning an Innovating Society

The questions answered by the book range from simple, such as, “What does a social entrepreneur do?” to more complex questions that the industry is still grappling with, such as, “How do social entrepreneurs evaluate their impact?” or “How is social entrepreneurship influencing business?”.   In some regards, these are the same questions that we attempt to answer here on Rising Pyramid and that others are writing about every day on many other blogs.  Since “What Everyone Needs to Know” is meant to be an informative account of the current industry structure and issues, the book will have a different feel depending on the reader’s familiarity with the topic.  For those who have less knowledge of social enterprise, this book is an excellent way to get a snapshot of everything going on.  In particular, it will give you the vocabulary and knowledge of organizations that are necessary to fully appreciate more sophisticated blogs like NextBillion.net.  For those that are already invested in the Social Entrepreneurship space, this book isn’t necessarily a page turner, but it is a wonderful way to step back and look at the big picture.   I particularly enjoyed the read because every time I recognized an organization, I was happy to read about them.

My only critique of the book is that it did not do much to separate out for-profit social businesses from non-profit social businesses.  Though I believe we are all part of the same movement, for-profit and non-profit enterprises use very different approaches that each have their time and place.  I believe this book would have come full circle if it explicitly provided a framework for thinking about the various types of organizations that all comprise what we call, “Social Entrepreneurship”.  Another book, “The Power of Unreasonable People” does this and is another great resource for those trying to get “smart” on the industry.

The best part of the book was in the end when the authors switched gears and started to discuss why and how the reader can get involved in social entrepreneurship if they choose.  A key tenet of their advice was that the place to start understanding how to get involved is in you; it is important to look inward to find your passions.  Finally, the book concludes with a list of thoughts for social entrepreneurs and a list of resources for further research.  I was excited to see that NextBillion.net, where I also write posts, was featured!

Overall, a great quick read!

- Bryan

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