2011 ...a busy year and one that went by so quickly... I managed to read a few books finally in the second week of December.
Most fun and inspiring read was Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. The 570 page biography is a page turner and a must-read. The subject matter of course is fascinating, a genius, a powerful and intense individual with many contradictions that transformed 7 industries (personal computer, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, digital publishing, retail stores) with his passion and pursuit for making great products and making a great company that would last. And it is beautifully written.
Another book which is a useful read for people interested in social entrepreneurship, the future of capitalism and how the silos are breaking between the business and the social world is Sir Richard Branson's latest book "Screw Business as Usual" I enjoyed reading the second half as it iillustrates many examples of how some of the large global corporations/brands are starting to shift/experiment ways for "doing well and doing good". I find it powerful that this call for change is coming from one of the world's famous and admired business leaders.
My favourite books this year may seem a bit biased geographically as all authors are living in California.
-Switch-How to change things when change is hard- by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
-The Dragonfly Effect -quick, effective and powerful ways to use social media to drive social change by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith
-the Mesh -why the future of business is sharing- by Lisa Gansky
I was very fortunate to have been able to attend the lectures of Chip Heath and Jennifer Aaker when I participated this summer in the Stanford GBS Executive Program in Social Entrepreneurship (EPSE). Both are remarkable lecturers and their books are fun, effective, full of amazing examples and inspiring. Switch is about how we can effect transformative changes by understanding the two competing systems; the rational mind and the emotional mind. The Dragonfly Effect is a how to guide on driving social change (by using social media). I picked up Lisa Gansky's book, the Mesh, while attending SOCAP10 in autumn. The Mesh explains one of the "big ideas" or one of the most important trends that is shaping new businesses logic providing products and services through sharing.
Jacqueline Novogratz is founder and CEO of Acumen Fund a very successful and fast growing nonprofit venture capital firm for the poor that invests in sustainable enterprises bringing healthcare, safe water, alternative energy, and housing to low income people in the developing world. She founded Acumen Fund in 2001 and by the end of 2008 this firm had approved more than $40 million on investments in 40 enterprises serving the poor, creating through these enterprises 23,000 jobs providing basic services like water and life saving malaria bed nets to millions of low income people around the world. Her book The Blue Sweater -Bridging the Gap between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World-is an inspiring memoir of a woman who left a career in international banking to spend her life on a quest to understand global poverty and find powerful new ways of tackling it. Many important lessons can be learned just by following her heartbreaking and hilarious stories of starting a microfinance institution and a bakery in Rwanda. Also the book is packed with examples that teach us humility and that good intentions alone are not enough as described through some failed programs of traditional charity that have left the poor people in the same or worse conditions. One also learns about the Rwandan genocide through the stories of the survivors that Novogratz had worked with. The book is inspiring, educational, entertaining and a must read for everyone and especially for those who aspire to make a difference.
Happy New Year!
Hot, Flat and Crowded-Why the world needs a green revolution-and how we can renew our global future- by Thomas L. Friedman is an extremely educational and simultaneously an entertaining and engaging book. He takes a provocative look at two of the most serious challenges we face today: global environmental crisis and America's loss of focus and purpose since 9/11. He explains where we stand now, how these two challenges are linked and proposes how we can restore the world and revive America at the same time. Friedman explains in relatively simple language the crisis we face due to the convergence of global warming (HOT), the explosive growth of the middle-class and the leveling playing field thanks to technology (FLAT) and the rapidly increasing population-forecasted by the UN to grow from the current 6.7bn to 9.2bn in 2050- (CROWDED). He advocates that it will soon be too late to fix things unless there is a global effort to replace our inefficient energy practices with a strategy for clean energy, energy efficiency and conservation- i.e. Green Revolution. A timely contribution that raises the awareness on the critical environmental issues and the urgency to act. Highly recommended.
Last week while I was in Japan I picked up a book written by Safia Minney, a pioneer in fashionable and ecological fair trade. The book seems to be only available in Japanese but there is plenty of information on the web on Safia and People Tree, the fair trade company/brand she founded in 1995. People Tree (PT)works with more than 60 fashion and handicraft producers in 16 countries including India, Bangladesh, Peru and Kenya providing design and technical assistance based on traditional skills. PT sells their products through catalogue, internet, and also through 400 shops around Japan and 100 in Europe. Safia is an inpiring social entrepreneur that has been recognized by various organizations including the Schwab Foundation of Social Entrepreneurship where she was selected in 2004 as one of the world's "Outstanding Social Entrepreneurs". She has not only raised consumer awareness of poverty alleviation, ecology and fair trade but also has built a business of fashionable and ecological fair traded goods. PT's sales have surpassed 7.5 mn USD for 2006. Another remarkable social business, a win-win example.
Her blog is highly recommended and there is also a YouTube clip where Safia's presents People Tree in her own words, a presentation that she delivered in London in Sept 2008.
A lively debate has been sparked by Mike Edward's new book "Just Another Emperor-The Myths and Realities of Philanthrocapitalism" where he challenges the increasing use of business thinking in philanthropy and the current hype about it. It is in fact a controversial topic but certainly a healthy debate. I got to know about this topic as I follow Nextbillion where now the whole team is writing their comments on this subject.(highly recommended read). Also there is an on-line debate on this subject hosted by Global Philanthropy Forum. Here you can read comments from Matthew Bishop from the Economist who coined the word "philanthrocapitalism" and has written a book with Michael Green titled "Philanthrocapitalism: how the rich can save the world" coming out this fall.
I believe strongly that today there is a powerful movement of making the world a better place (the subject of my latest book) which has been accelerating due to the converging business (for-profit) and social (non-profit) worlds. Both worlds offer principles and methods in different areas that they ought to learn from each other. It is important to sort out what can be used most effectively from each world. I think that this is a timely debate and look forward to see the outcomes.
This book introduces the new innovative social/business models that are making the world a better place and portrays the inspiring people behind them.
Starting with an update on microfinance, it covers other innovative market-oriented models such as base of the pyramid (BOP) businesses, social enterprises and microfranchises. These models together with microfinance are improving the lives of the 4 billion people living at the BOP. The last section covers in detail a remarkable example in this area, Scojo Foundation. Scojo is developing the market for affordable reading glasses at the BOP through microfranchising.The book provides the author's insights on 1) how the business (for-profit) and social (non-profit) worlds have been converging, setting the stage for these new models to emerge, 2) how these models, the people behind them, and the advent of Web 2.0, are creating a strong and positive movement towards a more responsible, sustainable and kinder world and 3) how all of us could make a difference.The book has been published in German language by rueffer and rub with the title >Kleiner Einsatz Grosse Wirkung. (Small input, big impact - thus,the red chilis of the cover) This book illustrates a giga trend, the powerful movement of making the world a better place.
Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Price winner, in his continuing fight to make poverty history promotes a new type of enterprise which has as its objective to make a difference. These social business enterprises will be self sustainable, in his words “no loss, no dividend enterprises”. He refers to two types of such enterprises one having investors like the latest joint venture between Grameen and Danone, an enterprise providing fortified yoghurt to malnourished children. Investors will get their capital back, but, profits will be injected back to the company to continue to achieve its objective. The second type of social business enterprise is a for-profit model but owned by the poor such as Grameen Bank.This book goes in depth explaining his "Next Big Idea" social businesses and also present some ideas on how corporations and individuals can take part in achieving a "world without poverty". It is inspirational and of course uplifting. Highly recommended. Past related entry on this topic, "Muhammad Yunus promotes social businesses"http://www.microfinance.ws/weblog/2006/12/
MICROFRANCHISING: Creating Wealth at the Bottom of the Pyramid, the first major publication on this subject, is now available. (Edward Elgar Publishing). This edited volume comprising 13 chapters and 18 authors introduces the concept of microfranchising and discusses how this business model can be effectively used for poverty alleviation. Different models of microfranchising are reviewed and specific case studies are highlighted to show how it has worked and is working in different parts of the world. Also the advantages as well as potential problems and pitfalls of microfranchising are discussed. My contribution was on the subject of "Microfranchise Funding" (Chapter 12).
If there is one thing I could hope for is that the price for this book would be a bit lower so more people can afford to buy it and read it.
The Next 4 Billion: Market Size and Business Strategy at the Base of the Pyramid is a timely and valuable contribution by the team of WRI (Allen L. Hammond, William J. Kramer, Robert S. Katz, Julia T. Tran, Courtland Walker). This reports gives a detailed economic portrait of the BOP based on recorded incomes and expenditures and an overview of sector-specific business strategies from successful enterprises operating in the BOP markets. It is full of data and information that is needed for the private sector which is currently increasing its engagement to this large segment.
This book is the story of John Wood an ex-executive of Microsoft who founded "Room to Read", an NPO that promotes literacy throughout the developing world. Since its inception in 2000, Room to Read has established over 3000 libraries, constructed 221 schools, published 99 local language children's titles, donated 1.2mn English books, funded 2344 long-terms girl scholarships, and established 108 computer and language labs in developing countries (Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Laos, Sri Lanka, South Africa). What impressed me was not only the results but how they operate. In other words it is a model of the new breed of npos that are managed with professional business practices i.e., a management calling for scalable, sustainable and measurable results. The communities involved co-invest with Room to Read through the Challenge Grant Model for constructing the schools/libraries thus facilitating the long term sustainability of the projects. Also this book provides very good information on how to raise funds if one is building up an npo.
This is not a new book (came out in early 2005) but it is a must read and one of the most educational books I read in 2006. Jeffrey Sachs provides a clear strategy on how to end extreme poverty by 2025. What I found most informative were the explanations on why poverty had not diminished but increased in some areas in Africa after decades of the so-called aid or perceived aid provided by the industrialized nations. Also it is a great update on the most influencing economic and business forces today as it covers extensively the news giants such as China, India and Russia.
"Realizing Property Rights" (Swiss Human Rights Book Volume 1) a book edited by Hernando de Soto and Francis Cheneval is now out (Publisher: Rüffer & Rub). This book deals with property rights as human rights seen from different cultural and historical contexts and from different thematic angles. It has been an honour for me to have been able to contribute a chapter for this book titled "Microcredit, MicroFranchising and Women Entrepreneurs"