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People Who Have Tried to Change the World
on January 15, 2011
Bornstein's "How to Change the World" is a love letter to Ashoka, an impressive and arguably very successful organization that identifies and supports social entrepreneurs throughout the world. Throughout the book, Bornstein provides a primer on Ashoka, its founder and methodology, as well as a number of success stories. He begins with a well-researched and interesting explanation about how the social entrepreneurship movement - or the citizen sector, as he calls it - found its sweet spot for expansion in the late 20th century. His narrative style is not nearly as compelling as first-person stories, such as "The Blue Sweater" (Novogratz, 2009), or even "Half the Sky" (Kristof & WuDunn, 2009). If each featured social entrepreneur had written a first-person account, this may have provided a more compelling read. One obviously missing component of Bornstein's vignettes is an acknowledgement of failure. On their respective roads to success, what significant missteps did these entrepreneurs take? What did they learn from those mistakes and failures?
This book may be a wonderful resource for people who are not yet familiar with social entrepreneurship or the amazing work that has been done by citizen sector individuals and organizations worldwide in the last 30 years. I appreciate the time Bornstein spent describing historical figures, demonstrating that social entrepreneurship is nothing new; it is simply finally getting the attention it deserves. However, the book falls short of its title. It is not a how-to. Although the resource list is well-balanced, and there are some nuggets of discussion of what it takes to be successful in social entrepreneurship, Bornstein falls short of providing insight for individuals who are wondering whether they have what it takes to be a social entrepreneur. Other than being passionate and obsessive, what else does it take? Do the vignettes provide actionable lessons learned for readers who are considering becoming social entrepreneurs, or who are already in the citizen sector but want to find more success? This reader was left wanting.