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on July 10, 2008
I love the topic of course which is why I read this after already reading other similar books.

This book lays out a classification of different kinds of social entrepreneurs, ranging from pure charity to pure business. This is the strongest element of the book, since other popular books have not explicitly discussed the fact that all are possible. The book also tries to provide case studies, and indeed I took notes of things to go look up further. However the case studies are to brief and scattered to really be useful.

I found the book mildly engaging in terms of writing style. I finished it, but I also put it down a lot of times.

If you have been doing your homework in this space much of this book will be repeat, but there is enough new that its worth your time. If you are new to this space of social entrepreneurship start with either of Bornstein-How To Change the World, which is very engaging to read and provides sufficiently in-depth case studies that you feel like you learned a few examples. Another place to start might be Yunnus - Banker to the Poor, also very engaging, but focused on just one case.
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I became very enthusiastic about the term "social entrepreneurship" when I made the transition from reading about collective intelligence and citizen wisdom councils and wealth of networks, to understanding that there was a form of energy I first encountered in How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, Updated Edition.

This book is remarkable, all the more so for being the third in the series that started with Cannibals with Forks in 1997 that introduced the term "triple bottom line" (financial, social, environmental); and in 2001, The Chrysalis Economy: How Citizen CEOs and Corporations Can Fuse Values and Value Creation, anticipating the period of creative destruction coming from 2000-2030.

I like this book very much, in part because after 20 years of thinking of myself as a reformist beating his head against the idiot secret world, I now realize I am a social entrepreneur who has turned his back on secrets and is focused on creating public intelligence in the public interest.

The authors made me smile with their early explanation that most social entrepreneurs can be so unreasonable as to be called lunatic. This is precisely what happened to me when I published "E3i: Ethics, Ecology, Evolution, and Intelligence" in the Fall 1992 edition of the Whole Earth Review--for having the temerity to suggest that we should emphasize open sources of information instead of spying, and sharing instead of hoarding, I was told that Sandra Cruzman, the top woman at CIA at the time, said "this confirms Steele's place on the lunatic fringe." So forgive me for this sidebar, but this book speaks to me in very personal as well as socially meaningful terms, it resonates with me, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to think about ways of doing good while doing well enough.

I always look for whether authors are respecting those that came before or have made adjacent contributions, and on that score this book is completely satisfactory. It is also blessed by the authors' broad range of examples, carefully selected from what is clearly a universe they know better than anyone else.

Citing George Bernard Shaw, they explain early on that "unreasonable people" are seen so for their seeking to abandon outmoded thoughts, mindsets, or practices. Amen, brother!

This is not a feel-good book in intent, although it achieves that effect. It is a serious book that methodically reviews new business models, leadership styles, and thinking about value creation. It held my total attention over two evenings of reading.

The authors offer esteem to social entrepreneurs with the observation that corporations are noticing and hiring such individuals for three reasons:

1. They see the future sooner than the average cubicle resident
2. They help retain talent by making the business challenging
3. They bring love and fun into the office environment

The authors caution that social entrepreneurs fail more often than not, but they persist and ultimately find means of making a difference while making a living.

They suggest that immature markets are best explored by non-profits while noting that hybrids with blended values are the most interesting forms.

Page 5 is suitable for scaling up and framing for the office. The ten characteristics of social entrepreneurs (severely abbreviated here):

1. Shrug off ideology and discipline
2. Focus on practical solutions
3. Innvoate
4. Do social value creation and SHARE
5. Jump in without waiting for back-up
6. Have unwavering beliefs in innate capacity of others
7. Dogged determination
8. Passion for change
9. Have a great deal to teach change makers in other sectors
0. Healthy impatience (don't do well in bureaucracies)

They tell the reader that confusion is a normal circumstance for social entrepreneurs, whom they define as those that take "direct action that generates a paradigm shift" while attacking an "unsatisfactory equilibrium."

They see a deep and lasting need for social entrepreneurs because coming decades will require unprecedented levels of system change (I add, and will have unprecedented and often unanticipated disasters, many turning into catastrophes for lack of planning, preparation, or responsiveness)

The authors tell us that the best of the charitable foundations are shifting from plain grant-making to sequential investments and deeper continuing relations with those being funded. At the same time they tell us that corporation and private equity firms are beginning to notice the value options in this space. [I think to myself, this is great, just at a time when corporations are also understanding green to gold, sustainable design, ecology of commerce, and true cost accounting.]

I am totally impressed with one page that describes how China has developed new green accounting methods and now realizes that environmentally-related work loss is no less than 10% of their newly-understood green Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

They provide a fine overview of new measures of merit including the double bottom line, the triple bottom line, the Social Return on Investment (SROI), and the "blended value proposition."

On page 20 I see a quote worth posting: social entrepreneurs "bring together natural, social, human, intellectual, and cultural forms of capital."

LEVERAGE is a key concept for these authors, and one I take very serioiusly as they describe how small investments can leverage indigenous capabilities (such as hard work from people who are poor but not stupid), philanthropic and other support, business partnerships, and income from previously untapped markets (at the Base of the Pyramid, like my Seattle friends they are clearly not comfortable with C. K. Prahalad's choice of title in The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits (Wharton School Publishing Paperbacks).

The middle section of the book discusses three models and examples of each:

1. The leveraged non-profit, which is hard to scale, dependent on hand-outs, focuses on public goods and being a change catalyst

2. The hybrid non-profit that combines non-profit and revenue generating activities, with a focus on outcome generation, empowering the people at the base, community-centric, focused on low cost long term, and on driving the market or pulling more traditional providers into the market.

3. The social business, which focuses on both social and financial returns, scales much more easily because it can assume both debt and equity. We learn that Whole Foods is an example, that it drove the organic market and leverages voluntary cooperation among many networks. Another example combines sustainable organic agriculture, rural employment of the uneducated but willing, price security for farmers, and transparent information.

I want to emphasize the latter: transparent information. I have been persuaded by numerous books on the wealth of knowledge as well as my own 30+ years as an intelligence professional that shared information and transparent decision support is a wealth creation process that scales fast and inexpensively.

The authors go on to discuss ten markets that lend themselves to social entrepreneurship, and I will list them with tiny examples--the book is absolutely a gem that merits buying a reading from end to end.

1. Demographic: condoms, aging, disadvantages
2. Financial: child knowledge of finances, simple technologies, helping poor self-organize for leverage
3. Nutritiional: duck rice, food bank, food waste elevated to tasty and nutritious near zero cost consumables
4. Resources: energy, energy, energy (I would add water, and throw a respectful salute the the George Mason University professor born in Bangladesh who created a virtually free means of removing arsenic from water using a combination of charcoal and steel filings (from the ships torn apart there, see The Outlaw Sea : A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime
5. Environment: educatae, plant trees
6. Health: high volume low cost (or free), cateract cures, telephone centers to help poor remotely
7. Gender (best ROI ever is on educating women, see A Half Penny on the Federal Dollar: The Future of Development Aid)
8. Educational: end rote learning, cross-pollinate, barefoot college that trains doctors and engineers narrowly and without years of credentialing (my own idea is call centers to education "one cell call at a time," I would love to see India do this sooner than later)
9. Digital: embrace and empower poor as citizens
0. Security: redefine as jobs for everyone rather than high-end military

The last third of the book covers

1. helping those at the base of the pyramid with access (e.g. curing neglected diseases); price (slash to 10%); and quality (e.g. $100 laptops).

2. Democratizing technology (four clusters: basic building blocks, motorcycles and free neutral air in and out of disaster zones; media and media technology; and genetics and biology.

3. Changing the rules of the game (search for my "New Rules for the New Craft of Intelligence" free on the Internet). They emphasize transparency; accountability; certification; land reform; emission trading; and value & valuation.

4. Scaling solutions, with examples covering true costs, clean toilets for tens of millions, and General Electric's commitment to 17 clean technoloogies, sustainability attracting the best and the brightest of the social entrepreneurs.

5. Lessons for leaders (below does not do the section justice--buy the book and read the whole thing):

- Focus on scalable entrepreneurial solutions
- Tackle apparently insolvable problems
- Be prepared to fail--but learn from failures
- Experiment with new business models
- Close the pay gap
- Join forces
- Seed tomorrow's markets
- Fuel growing expectations
- Help democratize technology
- Work to change the system
- Figure out how to scale and replicate
- Within reason, cultivate the art of being unreasonable

I put the book down extremely pleased with the content and the presentation. This is a very serious book for serious people, not just social entrepreneurs, but Second and Third World policy makers, bankers, investors, international and non-governmental leaders, and so on.

As I see it, social networks and collaboration among what I call the "ten tribes" (government, military, law enforcement, academia, business, media, non-governmental, labor, religion, and civil society) are in their very infancy. The Internet has not been matched by easily available information sharing and decision support tools (DARPA STRONG ANGEL and TOOZL is a start), and governments persist is wasting tens of billions waging war and stealing secrets, instead of waging peace and nurturing open sources of information in 183 languages.

This book continued the inspiration that I have been getting from others, and here I list a few others including the first book from Earth Intelligence Network (free at the website):

Improper behavior
Radical man
Society's Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People
Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace
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on April 7, 2008
Maybe it's just me, but I could not put this book down...

You've undoubtedly heard this said about a novel, but of a business book? Never. Yet this is exactly how this book effected me. From cover to cover, I was completely captivated!

This is the book for the pioneer and champion of alternate business models. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the future of business, whether micro-or mega-business. Not only does it feature businesses already established in carrying out some traditionally unheard-of practices, practices that incorporate the human element into what has thus far been a fairly sterile business environment, it also brings hope and a very real sense of possibility that the future will see a different model, one that is more adapted to basic human need.

Far from separating itself out as the model for micro-businesses that serve the poor, the new model suggests that basic human need is universal and that this need should be addressed through a new paradigm that recognizes, and caters to, the human element.

Those of us who follow the non-traditional start-up business world will recognize some of the companies mentioned here, companies such as the groundbreaking Grameen Bank of Bangladesh and its founder, Mohammad Yunus. But several other companies of equal importance in changing the way business is done are covered as well, making for fascinating reading for the follower of the entreprenurial world, be s/he mere spectator or active participant in the business world to come.

Get a copy of this book; it's inspiring! For progressive business owners it's a must read; for the small business start-up, it's the next best thing to a how-to guide. For both, it's a way to change the world. Unreasonable? I think not.
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on April 23, 2014
When I bought this book I was excited. Who doesn't want to be unreasonable? However, I actually quit this book mid way through and never finished it. John seems to have never been an entrepreneur at all and has a disconnect in my opinion.
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Most books about emerging, improved leadership and management methods capture high points among well known examples that haven't changed in years: Fortunately, The Power of Unreasonable People is a happy exception to that common weakness in being forward looking. As an example, the book ends with a call for filling in what's missing for social entrepreneurs to become an unstoppable force that solves the world's most important and persistent problems.

Who should read this book? Anyone who wants to make a difference in producing a society that provides better opportunities and qualities of life for everyone. If you think you might want to start a social enterprise, you should be reading this book today.

Why do I say these things? I recently sat through four days of conferences at a well-known university where the leading lights among its alumni described what they were doing as social entrepreneurs. I was appalled by what I heard. All but one organization had no larger vision than to slowly build a small effort from foundation grants. If you added up all of the likely results from these organizations, it wouldn't amount to much . . . except to warm the heart strings. Clearly, no major solution problems were going to be improved except in a few locales.

What's more, the leading lights were almost totally unaware of other, more effective methods for how to accomplish similar things. They needed to read this book rather than attend those conferences.

I started writing about social entrepreneurs in 2002, and it was hard then to find examples of superior operating models being used by entrepreneurs (as opposed to attention-getting methods that reporters like to write about) that were affecting over 10 million people. A lot has changed since then. Now I run into social entrepreneurs all the time through my teaching who are developing operating models that could affect hundreds of millions of people.

I was pleased to find out about a number of social operating models in this book that could serve as useful examples to others in different fields. I intend to recommend this book to everyone I know who wants to learn about such new models. I also intend to read more about the most interesting of the many cases in this fine book. That's rare for me because I read a lot. I applaud the intensive research that is the basis for this book. Well done!

The book does have one limitation that I think would be worth addressing in a future book that updates what is reported on here: There isn't enough discussion of how to develop better business models by assembling bit and pieces of what others have done in new ways.

For example, the book correctly applauds (through different examples) the operating principles of open-source innovation, serving more people by eliminating harmful costs to provide offerings for 5-10 percent of the usual resources, employing local people with a good understanding of what's needed, measuring social performance as a way to inexpensively encourage others to shift their focus, and being able to become large rapidly. Imagine what could be accomplished if the best enterprises mentioned in this book had a process to add the aspects of those approaches that they aren't using now.

Check it out and take action!
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on May 22, 2012
For more than a decade I've been deeply immersed in the world of social entrepreneurship. Yet somehow I neglected to read this important book when it was first published four years ago. (I acquired a copy, stuck it on a shelf, and promptly forgot all about it.) To my mind, The Power of Unreasonable People ranks with David Bornstein's seminal work, How to Change the World, as a point of entry into this fascinating, and increasingly important, realm.

The field of social entrepreneurship, still early in its development after Bill Drayton first gave the concept prominence early in the 1980s with the launch of Ashoka, is rife with disagreement. Some observers insist that a social enterprise must be a not-for-profit enterprise. Others assert that only for-profit ventures qualify for the label. Fortunately, Elkington and Hartigan believe that the whole range of organizational forms can be thought of as "social enterprises." I say fortunately because (a) I agree with them, and (b) to insist otherwise is to miss so much of what is exciting in the field.

The Power of Unreasonable People covers the landscape, describing examples from virtually every area of interest in development, from healthcare to education to poverty eradication. In fact, the book is most rewarding in its presentation of vignettes of individual social enterprises, including interviews with many of their principals. A lot of the examples are familiar to anyone active in the field. Some are not. However, this is no mere collection of case studies. The authors embed each organization within a typology of their devising, allowing the reader to get a sense of how they may be compared with one another. The Power of Unreasonable People concludes with a discussion of the structural changes that are essential if humankind is to prevail in the face of endemic poverty on three continents, ethnic and religious conflicts, and the growing impact of climate change.

John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan are two of the most qualified people in the world to have written this book. Elkington, a force in the area of corporate social responsibility for three decades and a prolific author, co-founded the consultancy SustainAbility in 1987 and originated the term Triple Bottom Line in the 1990s. Hartigan served as founding managing director of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship from 2001 to 2008, partnered with Elkington to establish the consultancy Volans, and now works as Director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University.

(From [...])
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on March 22, 2013
This book is very inspiring and motivating. It talks about social entrepreneurs and if that is something you are or are not interested, either way it applies to today's business world and environmental problems. It is full of interesting stories of 'unreasonable people'. A nice read.
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Even the world' most blissful optimists cringe when they look at today's massive global challenges, including poverty, environmental pollution, terrorism and climate change. Cynics throw up their hands in disgust, retreat behind protective walls and gates, and pray they can somehow ride out the storm while the world cracks apart. In contrast, social entrepreneurs do not run away from trouble. They develop workable solutions to the world's most pressing problems. In their book on social entrepreneurship, John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan examine the activities and accomplishments of these inspirational leaders. According to the authors, the globe's public and private organizations should quickly line up to support and fund the work of innovative social entrepreneurs. No one can escape the world's problems, so getAbstract recommends this inspiring book to those who would like to meet the few brave souls who are doing all they can to develop imaginative solutions to the challenges everyone shares.
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on January 28, 2009
Unreasonable people are the ones who drive change. We can all agree that change is needed, and that change is occurring. Social Entrepreneurs such as the ones profiled in this book are driving the changes that will revolutionize our world in the future.

The author explains how these innovators are finding ways to utilize market based principles and democratic ideals to improve communities. Ultimately, these entrepreneurs will lead the way into an untapped market of 4 billion low-income people who are just beginning to participate in the global economy.

If you want to see what changes are coming, and to participate in the markets of the future, study these unreasonable social entrepreneurs.
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on March 17, 2013
This book presented great companies and inspiring entrepreneurs. Only the material got redundant, meaning there could have been a wider range of businesses that change the world. Also, I wish the book got into some more details about the nuts and bolts of how the businesses were started. Otherwise this was insightful and inspiring.
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