- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; First Edition (US) First Printing edition (January 7, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1422104060
- ISBN-13: 978-1422104064
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 21 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,099 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World Hardcover – January 7, 2008
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In this what's-next business manifesto, "social entrepreneurs" Elkington and Hartigan run with a quote from playwright George Bernard Shaw: "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man." Using that thesis, the authors argue that the best place to find tomorrow's revolutionary business models is on the unpredictable fringes of the mainstream market. There, they find cases like Jack Sim and his Singapore-based World Toilet Organization, who have ingeniously improved living conditions worldwide (and goosed profits) by, among other schemes, convincing governments and corporations to compete for cleanest public restroom honors. The heart of the book are the case studies, of both for-profit and nonprofit social organizations (many of them in Asian and Indian countries), which are mined for ideas and theories regarding their impact on global markets and local communities. Elkington (The Chrysalis Economy) and Hartigan also give nods to such well-known enterprises as Whole Foods, One Laptop Per Child, and Band Aid, Live Aid and Live 8. Written with a business-magazine style, Elkington and Hartigan's eye-opening work and noble intent-bridging business acumen and social awareness-make a convincing case for unconventional entrepreneurship.
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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.
The authors do well in categorizing the new organization models being used by social entrepreneurs and stoke the reader's enthusiasm to take on big problems. My only criticism is that it would have been additionally helpful to hear more in the many anecdotes about obstacles and what countermeasures worked or didn't work.
That said, this was a useful book that introduces the thought leaders in this growing community. If you and your team are are looking to solve a problem the market has not, I'd recommend it be on your list.