Books of the Year, Part 1

2010 has been a good year for books touching on philanthrocapitalism. In no particular order, here are the first five of our favourites (not including our own “The Road From Ruin“), with more to follow in later posts:

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, 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.