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Books of the Year: Our Complete List

2010 has been a good year for books touching on philanthrocapitalism. In no particular order, here are our 15 favourites (not including our own “The Road From Ruin“):

The Power of Social Innovation“, by Stephen Goldsmith. This is a terrific look at some of the best examples of trying to take the ideas of social innovation to the scale at which they can make a huge positive difference – particularly to the effectiveness of government. Mr Goldsmith, one of America’s most innovative mayors in the 1990s and now an equally innovative deputy mayor of New York City, writes with the eye for detail and understanding of potential pitfalls of the experienced practitioner, yet covers a vast amount of ground and academic literature, mostly American but also British. Writing in The Economist, Matthew said that this book is “a sort of bible of social innovation, full of examples of social entrepreneurs’ successes.”

Life Is what You Make It: Find Your Own Path to Fulfillment,” by Peter Buffett. What is it like to be the son of Warren Buffett? Would being a member of what your famous father calls the “lucky sperm club” screw you up? Peter Buffett, who soon rejected a career in finance in favour of his passion for playing rock music, has written a candid, highly-readable and autobiographical examination of the pressures and opportunities that follow from being born into a wealthy family. Now an active philanthropist, with $1 billion of his dad’s money, Mr Buffett is honest about the difficulties he has faced, yet offers plenty of encouragement through his tale of self-discovery. Needless to say, this book is finding an enthusiastic readership amongst the children of the wealthy, but you don’t have to be rich to find something valuable in it.

Zilch: The Power of Zero In Business,” by Nancy Lublin. Too often non-profits are told to learn from business; in this lively, insightful and humorous book, Ms Lublin, the Chief Old Person at DoSomething.org, tells business what it can learn from non-profits, not least about how to thrive with virtually no money. This is a great guide to the best practice of some of the best non-profits, delivered with Ms Lublin’s unique brand of inspirational provocation. To get a taste of this great book, watch her interview with Matthew and read his review in The Economist.

Power in Numbers: UNITAID, Innovative Financing, and the Quest for Massive Good”, by Daniel Altman and Philippe Douste-Blazy. In the past few years, philanthrocapitalists have come up with some innovative ways of tapping new sources of capital to address some of the world’s toughest problems. Mr Altman, now the Director of Thought Leadership at Dalberg Global Development Advisors, and Mr Douste-Blazy, special advisor to the UN Secretary General on innovative financing for development, have written a thoughtful and accessible overview of the trends and issues that, if a bit too uncritical of Mr Douste-Blazy’s beloved UNITAID, is well worth reading. There is no other book we can think of that comes close to the breadth of its coverage of this topic – yet it is nice and short, too!

The World That Changes The World: How Philanthropy, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Are Transforming the Social Ecosystem,” by Willie Cheng and Sharifah Mohamed. This is an excellent collection of essays by 21 authors (including John Elkington, Geoff Mulgan, Kumi Naidoo and Jed Emerson) that is bang up to date in its description of the current players and connections that comprise the “social ecosystem” of philanthrocapitalism. The latest publication orchestrated by Mr Cheng, a Singapore-based business man and social entrepreneur, this is a great starting point (after reading “Philanthrocapitalism“, of course), for anyone wanting a theoretical framework in which to think about the future of social change.

Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know,” by David Bornstein and Susan Davis. A terrific, readable, concise guide (albeit a tad uncritical in places) that does exactly what it says on the tin: tell you everything you need to know about social entrepreneurship. It rightly defines social entrepreneurship broadly, as “a process by which citizens build or transform institutions to advance solutions to social problems.” As well as updating readers on the history of social entrepreneurship, it sets out a provocative vision (like Bornstein’s previous book, “How to Change the World“, heavily influenced by Ashoka founder Bill Drayton) of how everyone can become a change-making social entrepreneur.

The Big Society,” by Jesse Norman MP, is an impressive attempt by one of the intellectuals of the British Conservative Party to explain why Prime Minister David Cameron’s oft-ridiculed flagship policy is more than political spin, or a cloak for neoliberalism. Mr Norman takes the reader back to the foundations of Conservative thinking to set the Big Society in context (and, in so doing, see off its critics within the Conservative Party). The central message of the book, which echoes one of the themes in “Philanthrocapitalism,” is that government needs to admit that it does not have all the answers. In that sense, it reads as a somewhat surprising appeal to Mr Norman’s political opponents in the Labour Party to let go of their fixation on bigger government as the only solution to social problems. It is in this appeal for a new political debate in which left versus right means more than arguing for bigger versus smaller government that Mr Norman has written a prescient and powerful book.

The Networked Non-Profit,” by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine. How does the rise of social media change philanthropy? In this extremely useful practical guide, Ms Kanter and Ms Fine highlight the opportunities and challenges, and show how social media can greatly increase the overall effectiveness of giving and other engines of social change. Full of well-chosen examples – though, oddly, it ignores two of our favourite philanthrocapitalistic users of social media, Kiva and DonorsChoose (but you can read about them in “Philanthrocapitalism”).

Big Business, Big Responsibilities. From Villains to Visionaries: How Companies Are Tackling the World’s Greatest Challenges,” by Andy Wales, Matthew Gorman and Dustan Hope. A fascinating view from inside some big multinationals about the forces that are changing how companies relate to society. The authors argue that success for firms depends increasingly on them actively engaging in tackling some of the big problems facing society, rather than standing on the sidelines or opposing progress. Contains lots of interesting case studies, including some especially useful ones of how firms can partner effectively with non-profits/NGOs.

Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream,” by Arianna Huffington. Full of passion and telling examples, the founder of The Huffington Post has written a powerful warning that America is in danger of going down the tubes, with the majority of ordinary Americans faced with becoming increasingly marginalised and impoverished. One part of the answer, she argues, is to explore “how this moment of crisis for capitalism and philanthropy could be used to transform both – how capitalism could be imbued with a social mission, and philanthropy could be reinvigorated with the best practices of capitalism.” To learn more, watch Matthew’s interview with her for “Tea With The Economist.”

Waiting for ‘Superman’,” by Karl Weber and Davis Guggenheim. The book accompanying the campaigning movie of the same name, an attempt by the makers of “An Inconvenient Truth” to have a similar catalytic effect on the debate about how to improve America’s faiing schools. This spells out the extent of the problems and what is being done, and could be done, to fix them, at far greater depth and length than could be crammed into this extraordinarily powerful movie (see our earlier comments on its message and strategy here and here). The latest activist project by Participant Media, the for-profit social business of philanthrocapitalist eBay billionaire Jeff Skoll, the book comes with an added bonus: a free gift worth more than the price of the book that can be given away to help teachers pay for classroom projects through another of our favourite philanthrocapitalistic organisations, DonorsChoose.org.

MacroWikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World,” by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams. This is a great, must-read book about how connectivity is changing the world, and needs to do so even more if we are to come out of this current economic mess in significantly better shape than we went into it. The authors look not just at what business and government should do, but also at how the new tools of connectivity can drive social change. For example, some important lessons are learnt from two of our favourite philanthrocapitalistic organisations, Kiva and Ushahidi. Watch Matthew interview Mr Tapscott over Tea With The Economist.

Citizen You: Doing Your Part to Change the World,” by Jonathan Tisch. This is one of the better inspirational books of recent years about how each of us can make a difference – both in work and outside it – because it is informed by the practical experience of an author who has run a big company as CEO of Loews Hotels as well as being intimately engaged in the venture philanthropy movement through his association with New Profit Inc. Watch Matthew interview him over Tea With The Economist.

Sustainable Excellence: The Future of Business in a Fast Changing World,” by Aron Cramer and Zachary Karabell. This is as good a statement as you will get of what activists focused on corporate citizenship and social responsibility will demand of business in the years ahead. Lots of practical examples from the battlefield, and a convincing argument that increasingly the better firms treat their workers and the world, the more likely they are to succeed. Mr Cramer, who runs Business for Social Responsibility, a non-profit, is particularly good on the need to improve the ethics of supply chains, not least through partnerships with civil society organisations.

The Imaginations of Unreasonable Men: Inspiration, Vision and Purpose in the Quest to End Malaria,” by Bill Shore. This is a fascinating insider’s account of the extraordinary global campaign now under way to eradicate malaria, by one of America’s top social entrepreneurs. It is at once inspiring and challenging, in that it shows how philanthrocapitalism can make a difference but also how far there is to go, and how many lessons remain to be learnt. In discussing the belated realisation by the Gates Foundation that “disease-specific wars can succeed only if they also strengthen the overall health system in poor countries,” for example, Mr Shore reminds us all that “those fighting diseases as intractable as polio or malaria – or taking on any other task of that size – have to ask whether even their most ambitious efforts lack vision and imagination.”

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