Books of the Year, Part 3

2010 has been a good year for books touching on philanthrocapitalism. In no particular order, here is our final batch of favourites (not including our own “The Road From Ruin“). We will highlight our worst books of the year and remind you of some must-read classics in later posts.

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,

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.”