Social Enterprise: 9 Must Read Books About Changing the World

Social Enterprise: 9 Must Read Books About Changing the World

by Pete Rognli
February 13, 2014
Books are bound inspiration. Whether you're an aspiring or practicing social entrepreneur, you can learn invaluable lessons from these 9 great reads sure to spark your social innovation and imagination.

Social Enterprise: 9 Must Read Books About Changing the World

Pete Rognli

1. The Lean Startup

Image Think

Eric Ries's original Silicon Valley bible that launched a movement contains some great lessons for social entrepreneurs. 


2. Let My People Go Surfing: the Education of a Reluctant Business Man

An argument for purpose in business.

As the founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard talks about realizing and re-realizing the importance of social purpose in business. Reads like a gripping work of fiction. 


3. Hatching Twitter

Hatching Twitter

Nick Bilton writes a journalistic but totally gripping account of the twitter team's founding story and their mission to bring expression to the masses. It reads like a soap opera (in a good way), and is a good (and depressing) case study in what happens when a founding team can’t get their values aligned.


4. Getting to Plan B

Getting To Plan B Has Great Lessons for Social Entrepreneurs

John Mullins and Randy Komisar deliver some thought-provoking case studies on social enterprise and social entrepreneurship. A case study about a social startup in India attempting to bring laundry machines to the masses may be provocative for critical readers. 


5. The American Way of Eating

Lessons (and potential opportunities) for ways that social entrepreneurs can make a difference in the supply chain.

Tracie McMillan does a Nickel and Dimed (Barbara Ehrenreich, 1998) style dive into the bottom rungs of the American food supply chain. The book is broken into three parts: (1) as a garlic-picking migrant laborer, (2) working in the produce department in a Detroit Walmart and (3) in the kitchen at a Brooklyn Applebee's (the one in Bed-Stuy). What’s in it for social entrepreneurs? There’s plenty of inspirational bits to chew-on throughout the book. But the real meat is in the produce section, where McMillan takes a deep look at the economics of farmers’ markets, entrepreneurial produce distribution to gas stations so that they may accept food stamps and the war-era history of community "Victory Gardens."

Please suggest a title (or argue with our selections) in the comments section below.

6. Lean In

An empowering and provocative read that will inspire you to create change from within.

What’s the lesson for social entrepreneurs in Sheryl Sandberg's ultra-bestselling book? We’re all empowered to create change. No matter your organization or your position, you can make a difference. In fact, you should. 


7. Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right

Ayn Rand will have you thinking about the social role of business and enterprise in society.

Regardless as to whether or not you’ve read Atlas Shrugged, your ideas about the virtues (or demons) of capitalism are shaped by Ayn Rand in more ways than you could possibly imagine -- that is, unless you’ve read Jennifer Burns' incredibly well researched and original biography. It's a great insight into how Rand and mid 20th century politics shaped the way we see the role of government and industry today.

> And a Bonus (Must): If you haven’t read Atlas Shrugged or the Fountainhead, pick up a copy at any (non-socialist) used bookstore, and dive in today.  


8. Why Nations Fail: the origins of power, prosperity and poverty.

A great argument against the ideas that countries should pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
Why do nations fail? The short answer is that extortion, extraction and repression limit innovation and drive the wrong incentives. Power structures that control, extort and take are bound to fail. Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson deliver a great lesson for business leaders and aspiring entrepreneurs about the supposed potential for everyone (and every society) on this planet to be masters of their own fate.


9. Citizenville

Citizenville has some great lessons for how social enterprise and social entrepreneurs can help to fix (traditionally) governmental issues.

California Lt. Governer Gavin Newson gives us an inspiration and a practical path forward for bridging (or bypassing) our political differences while using technology to collaborate around real solutions that everyone can get behind.


Please suggest a title (or argue with our selections) in the comments section below.

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