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March 19, 2009 / compassioninpolitics

Best Social Entrepreneurship Books: 30 Second Reviews

Great Books for Social Entrepreneurs and Micro enterprise Innovators

I’ve read a lot in the social entrepreneurship space over the last 12 months, with a particular focus on those at the bottom of the pyramid. Here are 30 second reviews of the best of the best. I’m particularly impressed by the depth, passion, and detail of the first seven books.

Base of the Pyramid Books

Out of Poverty by Paul Polack
• Polack’s 12 Steps to practical problem solving which is insightful and provides needed focus for social innovators and entrepreneurs at any level.
• A smart and compassionate focus on those that live on $1 a day.
• Listening to your customers and simple is just good business for the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP)
• Integrates issues of simplicity, listening, and grassroots marketing to help BOP entrepreneurs and social ventures.
• Tells the International Development Enterprises (IDE) story

Design for the Other 90 Percent by Amy Smith
• Short articles with principles of design for the other 90 percent from Polak from IDE and one of the founders of Kickstart
• Great short case studies which provide a fantastic overview of the space. A real sense of design innovation in the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) market.
• Great visual design. It’s a great way to tell to the story to other stakeholders, because its visual.

Bottom of the Pyramid by CK Prahalad
• About a dozen case studies of key social enterprise ventures including Cemex, Jaipur Foot, e-Choupals, and HHL soap.
• Makes a great case for the opportunity base of the pyramid (BOP) market
• Lots of support materials at the University of Michigan school as well as some exclusive publisher resources created for book buyers.
• “Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid” is a classic social innovation and business book.

Next 4 Billion: Market Size and Business Strategy at the Base of the Pyramid by the World Resources Institute
• About 2 dozen examples in 6 different critical market sectors including energy, water, communications, and health care.
• Tons of statistics from each bottom of the pyramid market.
• The visual data and dollar based metrics for industries, continents, and countries is pretty amazing. Can help entrepreneurs understand the size of the market more accurately.
(Available in PDF form for free online: “The Next 4 Billion“)

Social Entrepreneurship Books

Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets that Change the World by John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan
• Fantastic profiles and examples from across the spectrum of social business ventures
• Lots of different perspectives and unique interview answers from Kickstart to Whole Foods and beyond.
• Passionate

Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism by Mohammed Yunnus
• Helps articulate a great case for microloans and social business
• Tells the Grameen story including challenges, growth, and collaborations.
• Gives you a sense of the time line and dedication it takes to run a social business.
Mohammed Yunnus finally provides a great explanation of many of the component companies in the Grameen family.

Micro Franchising Books

Micro franchising: Creating Wealth at the Bottom of the Pyramid, edited by Jason Fairbourne, Stephen W. Gibson, and W. Gibb Dyer
• Extensive case studies of a handful of organizations that rival those created for Bottom of the Pyramid
• Mentions several successful social enterprise ventures.
• Chapter length case studies of social businesses like the Scojo Foundation (now Vision Spring), Vodacom Community Services, the Health Store Foundation, and Honey Care Africa.

Ending Global Poverty: The Micro franchise Solution, by Kirk Magleby
• Short overview of micro franchise issues
• Most is available online for free, but its also very affordable.

Technology Startup Books

Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days, by Jessica Livingston
• For those interested in software as a service, technology startups (ITC), and VC funding.
• Good read that profiles about 20 founders of technology startups.
• Unfortunately, no explicit social business focus. Very limited direct use in the social business space except the passion and determination

(Note: most all of these social business books are $12 to 15 on Amazon, except the next 4 billion which is $27 and Micro franchise Solution: Creating Wealth at the Bottom of the Pyramid is $35)

The Next Step in Learning about Social Entrepreneurship and Innovations for the BOP

I’m becoming more passionate about mobile technology, particularly in the heath care context and “business in a box” type social venture franchising. At the moment, I’m a little frustrated by the lack of literature on social enterprises that be started for between $50 and $5000, which could really help easily replicate successful models for the BOP.

Next on my list should probably be “Capitalism at the Crossroads: The Unlimited Business Opportunities in Solving the World’s Most Difficult Problems” by Stuart Hart, “Forces for Good” by Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant, or David Bornstein’s “How to Change the World.” I’ll likely check out the Hart book first, given that it devotes chapters 5 and 6 specifically to BOP social businesses. Of perhaps I’ll check out some of the resources from Social Edge’s list of books and articles for social entrepreneurs.

Your Take on Base of the Pyramid and Social Entrepreneurship Books
What social enterprise or innovation book are you reading? What are your favorites? What do you recommend for the beginner, intermediate, or advanced social venture practitioner? Would love to hear what you have to say…


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