There has been plenty of relevant new material for philanthrocapitalists to read in 2012. Here, in no particular order, are our top philanthrocapitalism books of the year:
1. Abundance: the Future is Better Than You Think, by Peter Diamandis. The founder of the X Prize has written a much needed dose of optimism at a time when the world’s faith in progress is at a low ebb. As he argues, the rise of a new generation of philanthrocapitalists, especially from the tech sector, is one reason why his optimism may be justified.
2. Need, Speed and Greed: How the New Rules of Innovation Can Transform Businesses, Propel Nations to Greatness, and Tame the World’s Most Wicked Problems, by Vijay Vaitheeswaren. A colleague of Matthew’s at The Economist, Vaitheeswaren has written a lively and thoughtful treatise on how innovation happens, including a look at the role of philanthrocapitalism in it, especially as businesses look increasingly to create what Michael Porter calls “shared value” that benefits both society and the bottom line.
3. Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, by Chrystia Freeland. A fascinating portrait of the new, super rich global elite, and the opportunities and threats they are creating. Includes an interesting, though perhaps overly sceptical, discussion of how a growing number of these people are embracing philanthrocapitalism.
4. Who Cares Wins: Why Good Business is Better Business, by David Jones. The new boss of Havas, a big advertising firm, and founder of the One Young World global youth leadership summit, makes the case that increasingly success in business will depend on explicitly setting out to help solve society’s biggest problems. It is written with the clarity of message (and, perhaps, lack of nuance) you would expect from an ad man, but is chock full of examples that cannot fail to inspire.
5. Shake the World: It’s Not About Finding a Job, It’s About Creating a Life, by James Marshall Reilly. If you need proof that the generation now entering the workforce is motivated increasingly by improving the world as much as by making money, this book provides plenty of it. Again, a bit breathlessly cheerleaderish, but full of plenty of meat and inspiration.
6. Let It Go: The Entrepreneur Turned Ardent Philanthropist, by Stephanie Shirley and Richard Askwith. Dame Steve, who adopted her male sounding nickname to combat the sexism she encountered in the workplace, is a pioneering British tech entrepreneur who went on to be the country’s first notable philanthrocapitalist of the modern era. Such was her impact that Gordon Brown made her Britain’s first ambassador for philanthropy. Her autobiography is a great read, and will inspire anyone – but especially women – grappling with the challenges of starting or growing a firm, or becoming an effective giver.
7. A Year Up: How a Pioneering Program Teaches Young Adults Real Skills for Real Jobs – With Real Success, by Gerald Chertavian. The inspiring tale of Year Up, by its founder. Plenty of detail and insight about what makes a leading non-profit tick in the age of philanthrocapitalism.
8. Uncontrolled: The Surprising Payoff of Trial-and-Error for Business, Politics, and Society, by James Manzi. Experimentation and risk-taking is at the heart of philanthrocapitalism. This fascinating book by a successful software entrepreneur sheds much valuable light on how to create effective experiments and become a successful risk-taker, whether in business, government or philanthropy.
9. Philanthropy in America: A History, by Olivier Zunz. We argue that the boom in philanthropy in America at the start of the 20th Century was, globally speaking, the fourth golden age of giving, and the boom we are now in is the fifth. Zunz provides a fascinating history of that fourth golden age and the decades since, showing the huge impact giving has had on American life. Like many histories, it is at its weakest reporting recent developments.
10. Fifty Shades of Grey, by EL James. Not every philanthrocapitalist likes to spread the love through a dominant relationship with a sexy young graduate, but for those that do, this best-selling novel about young tycoon and humanitarian Christian Grey is a must read.
11. It Ain’t What You Give, It’s The Way That You Give It, by Caroline Fiennes. A book that tells you how to get maximum bang for your philanthropic buck, whether you’re Bill Gates or Jo Bloggs. Memorably described by Spears Magazine as “A slap around the charitable chops”.
Lastly, if you would rather watch than read, check out the marvellous new collection of “Conversations with Remarkable Givers” put together by the Bridgespan Group. This is a follow to last year’s excellent book, Give Smart, by Joel Fleishman and Bridgespan founder Tom Tierney.