Books of the Year, Part 2

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

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.”