5 Books for Every Social Entrepreneur’s Holiday Wish List

Written by on November 30, 2009 in Book Club, Entrepreneurship, Featured, Strategy, World - 12 Comments

Read!‘Tis the season for giving…and receiving. If you’re a social entrepreneur looking for items (other than funding) to put on your wishlist, check out these great reads.


In my opinion, the definitive work on social enterprise and BOP business. The “how to” do good while doing good. The new anniversary edition includes additional case studies that provide critical learnings for social entrepreneurs of all stripes.

The Innovator’s Solution by Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor

A famous treatise on innovation by the godfather of Innosight Ventures (Clayton Christensen). This sequel to “The Innovators’s Dilemma” lays out how disruptive innovation happens. Social enterprise and BOP business represent the extreme in disruptive innovation, so this is not just good reading, it’s hugely relevant.

Dealing with Darwin by Geoffrey Moore

Perhaps the most intense and thoughtful work on innovation out there. Geoffrey Moore walks through the innovation life cycle in great detail, thus putting forward a methodology for managing product and organizational life cycles for sustainable success. Because when these things are not well-managed, today’s Google becomes tomorrow’s GM.

Built to Last by James Collins and Jerry Porras.

The often-forgotten prequel to “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, this book outlines the factors that tend to create sustainable and visionary organizations. Along the way, they shatter a number of myths, including the idea that great companies began with great products and/or charismatic leaders or that they came into being to maximize profits.
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Moneyball by Michael Lewis OR Competing on Analytics by Thomas Davenport and Jeanne Harris.
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Given the focus on metrics in the social enterprise space, I wanted this wish list to include a book on the topic. However, I couldn’t decide on just one, so you’ll have to choose for yourself.  “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis is a fun and fascinating read on the metrics revolution in pro baseball led by Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s. The story give insight into how to make metrics that matter and illustrates how old metrics die hard. “Competing on Analytics,” on the other hand, is a more business-theoretical book that aspires to be a “how to” use metrics to establish competitive advantage. Lots of good anecdotes here, as well.

Mike Shoemaker

Mike is a graduate of St. Olaf College in Minnesota and a former Fulbright Scholar at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Colombia. Mike currently manages strategic alliances for a global consulting firm, is a volunteer and advisor to The Ayllu Initiative, and blogs at Human Ventures.

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  • Vladimir Shamanov

    Interesting selection! but could you suggest anything more recent? Any criticism of Prahalad?

  • http://twitter.com/soccapital Mike Shoemaker

    Thanks, Vladimir. Dealing with Darwin was published in 2006 and Competing on Analytics is from 2007, so there are a couple of more recent titles there. I don't believe I've read anything more recent that I feel is as definitive as the books on this list, but I'd welcome ideas from other readers.

    As far as criticisms of Prahalad, I'm only aware of a few journal articles (fairly easy to find with a Google search) but no full-blown books that tackle the topic. Again, I'd love to hear from others.

  • http://www.se-alliance.org/resources_bookstore.cfm Paulina Miglaska

    Please take a look the Social Enterprise Bookstore for some additional suggestions: http://www.se-alliance.org/resources_bookstore.cfm

  • http://twitter.com/soccapital Mike Shoemaker

    Thanks, Paulina. Great resource.

  • Hopkins0130

    Mike, thank you for these wonderful reading suggestions. Might I also suggest “The Tactics of Hope: How Social Entrepreneurs Are Changing Our World” by Wilford Welch and Foreword by Desmond Tutu?

    It is filled with 27 stories of social entrepreneurs from around the world who inspire readers to move from concern to passion to action in tackling social and environmental issues. They include Paul Farmer, Van Jones, Lynne and Bill Twist, Rodrigo Baggio, Jessica Flannery, and many other Ashoka and Skoll Foundation winners!

    The website is http://www.tacticsofhope.org

    Please let me know if you have heard of it before!

  • http://twitter.com/soccapital Mike Shoemaker

    Thanks! I had not heard of it, but it sounds great. Thanks for sharing.

  • Adam_Walz

    Great post Mike!

    Another inspiring, practical, and recently written book is Seth Godin's “Tribes.”
    Love Godin's books as he offers great anecdotes and insights into how you can push the envelope a little further and generate more momentum for your ideas.

    Here's the editorial review from Publisher's Weekly:

    Short on pages but long on repetition, this newest book by Godin (Purple Cow) argues that lasting and substantive change can be best effected by a tribe: a group of people connected to each other, to a leader and to an idea. Smart innovators find or assemble a movement of similarly minded individuals and get the tribe excited by a new product, service or message, often via the Internet (consider, for example, the popularity of the Obama campaign, Facebook or Twitter). Tribes, Godin says, can be within or outside a corporation, and almost everyone can be a leader; most are kept from realizing their potential by fear of criticism and fear of being wrong. The book's helpful nuggets are buried beneath esoteric case studies and multiple reiterations: we can be leaders if we want, tribes are the way of the future and change is good. On that last note, the advice found in this book should be used with caution. Change isn't made by asking permission, Godin says. Change is made by asking forgiveness, later. That may be true, but in this economy and in certain corporations, it may also be a good way to lose a job.

    Here's the link to the book on Amazon — http://bit.ly/QT77

  • http://twitter.com/soccapital Mike Shoemaker

    Nice, Adam. Godin is always a good choice.

  • http://twitter.com/soccapital Mike Shoemaker

    Nice, Adam. Godin is always a good choice.

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