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How to Change the World

I finally slogged through How to Change the World by David Bornstein. I say slogged because this book is weighty and its content is rich. Think of it like that super awesome piece of cheesecake. It's delicious, but if you're smart, you'll back up off of it, take a nap, do some crunches, and then come back to it when you're ready for more.

I'd dare say the book is one of the definitive works out there related to social entrepreneurship. And whether you're just getting started investigating this world or you're knee-deep in it as I am, I recommend this book as a fantastic primer and examination of what's possible when you look for collaborative, market-based, or scalable approaches to solving some of the world's biggest problems.

Bornstein mainly looks at the work of Ashoka fellows around the world and the good and innovate work their doing. This may or may not be of interest to you - the detailed ins and outs of an approach to poverty or child welfare or medical care - so thankfully Bornstein also includes his own conclusions drawn about what makes social entrepreneurs successful, what types of people are drawn to this work, and what you can do to get your idea off the ground.

As I usually do, here are some of the best quotes I found in the book (emphasis added):

In the United States and Canada alone, more than two hundred universities have established centers, courses, competitions, scholarships or speaker series focusing on this field [of social entrepreneurship].

Social entrepreneurship is not about a few extraordinary people saving the day for everyone else. At its deepest level, it is about revealing possibilities that are currently unseen and releasing the capacity within each person to reshape a part of the world. It does not require an elite education; it requires a backpack. The corpus of knowledge in social entrepreneurship comes from first-hand engagement with the world - from asking lots of questions and listening and observing with a deep caring to understand.

"I am an entrepreneur, and as an entrepreneur, I am always possessed by an idea." - Fabio Rosa, an entrepreneur profiled in the book

Changing a system means changing attitudes, expectations, and behaviors. It means overcoming disbelief, prejudice, and fear. Old systems do not readily embrace new ideas or information; defenders of the status quo can be stubbornly impervious to common sense.

"The laws don't matter if you don't have the institution to enforce them." - Bill Drayton

"If we take a charity approach, we will be here for 50,000 years and nothing will be different." - Jeroo Billimoria, an entrepreneur profiled in the book

[Change occurs with] an obsessive individual working behind the scenes - a person with vision, drive, integrity of purpose, great persuasive powers, and remarkable stamina.

"When I hold lectures, I tell people, 'If you really believe in something, you just have to do it and do it and do it, because if I had given up one month prior to 1989, I would have ended up with nothing.'" - Erzsebet Szekeres, an entrepreneur profiled in the book

I think the heart of it is that entrepreneurs, for some reason deep in their personality know, from the time they are little, that they are on this world to change it in a fundamental way.

"I had faith that if people told a part of their story that was important to them, it would convey their strengths to another human being in a way that nothing else could." - J. B. Schramm, an entrepreneur profiled in the book

One of the most important qualities of innovative organizations, I have found, is a strong commitment to listening.

It is said that chance only favors the prepared mind.

The most successful entrepreneurs were the ones most determined to achieve a long-term goal that was deeply meaningful to them.

Although it is probably impossible to fully explain why people become social entrepreneurs, it is certainly possible to identify them. And society stands to benefit by finding these people, encouraging them, and helping them to do what they need to do.

Numbers are problematic to the extent that they give the illusion of providing more truth than they actually do. They also favor what is easiest to measure, not what is most important.

Without a doubt, the past twenty years had produced far more social entrepreneurs than terrorists.