10 social enterprise books you need to know about

The more you read, the more you know, and the more you know, the more you grow. There’s so much to be gained from those who have been there and done that. And even more from those who’ve written the book on it.

So what should budding socents have on their bookshelf? We asked five authors, book-lovers and social entrepreneurs to share the titles that inspired and shaped their journeys – from inspiration and values to insight and practical tips. Read on for our latest literature list to help you read on some more…

Recommended by Becca Stevens – author, speaker, priest, social entrepreneur, founder and president of Thistle Farms. Stevens’ latest book, Love Heals, was released in September and is the culmination of 20 years in the Thistle Farm community.

Becca Stevens

1. Dorothy Day: Selected Writings "Dorothy was a social enterprise legend. Never faltering in her care for people in New York during the Depression and the ensuing 50 years, she began the Catholic Worker Movement and helped fund her soup kitchen through the sale of daily papers for just one cent. She challenged and inspired people to stand alongside those who suffer the violence of poverty and she is still incredibly inspiring today."

2. Out of My Life and Thought: The Autobiography of Albert Schwartz "Schwartz’ life is a profound example of love’s enduring power. He left the security of his first career to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor. With no safety net, he announced to the world he would build a hospital to serve sick people in Africa. His self-financing and ingenuity offer some profound lessons to us today about how we can live fully and gratefully, pursuing our ideals of justice."

Recommended by Brit Gilmore – one of Forbes’ top 30 under 30 social entrepreneurs in 2017 and president of The Giving Keys.

Brit Gilmore

3. Essentialism – Greg McKeown

“From 2012-2016, The Giving Keys doubled its revenue every year, we had a ‘say yes to everything’ approach to business and always figured out how to make it work. Good for growth, tough to sustain. We had to get to a point where we focused on the essentials in an aim to avoid burn out and ensure we grew a lot in a few important ways rather than growing a little bit in a multitude of ways. Essentialism really helped us focus.”

4. Grit – Angela Duckworth "Running a business is tough, persevering through startup life is invigorating and exhausting all at once. Grit was a great inspiration during challenging days to Just. Keep. Building. Grit breaks down the success of people with all the right skills and less grit versus people with less expertise and a lot of grit. It will encourage you."

Recommended by Noam Angrist – co-founder of Botswana-based Young 1ove and one of Forbes’ top 30 under 30 social entrepreneurs in 2017.

Noam Angrist

5. Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness – Richard H Thaler and Cass R Sunstein

“Everyday we make a multitude of choices about what we eat, what we invest in and even what we believe. Nudge looks at the hows and whys of this decision-making and provides a framework to better understand, influence and change behaviours to the benefit of our minds and societies.”

6. Scarcity: Why having too little means so much – Sendhil Mullainathan & Eldar Shafir

“Why can we never seem to keep on top of our workload? Why do people find it most difficult to sleep when sleep deprived? Why do the lonely find it most difficult to make friends? Scarcity looks at the science of having less, and how it impacts our abilities and decision-making, to help you can create products and programmes with impact.”

Recommended by Annie Duflo – executive director of Innovations for Poverty Action, Annie has written opinion pieces for The New York Times and The Washington Post around using data to fight poverty.

7. More Than Good Intentions – Dean Karlan & Jacob Appel

“Co-authored by Innovations for Poverty Action founder and president, Dean Karlan, More than Good Intentions draws on research and behavioural economics to break down what it really takes to reduce poverty and how donors can better invest their money to transform the well-being of the world.”

8. Poor Economics – Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo

“Poor Economics presents a radical rethinking of the economics of poverty and shows how solutions can come from unexpected places. Similarly to More than Good Intentions, it uses examples from around the world to show how evidence-based thinking can and should be applied to whatever social problem you care about.”

Recommended by Goldin Martinez – founder of Get Focused, a social movement to empower young people to read and exercise.

Goldin Martinez

9. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho

“Both of Martinez’ recommended reads are inspirational and aspirational. Originally written in Portuguese, The Alchemist tells the tale of a young shepherd whose quest for worldly treasure leads him to riches far different and more satisfying than he ever imagined. It’s a great lesson in listening to your heart, recognising opportunity along the way and following your dreams.”

10. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom – Don Miguel Ruiz and Janet Mills

“In this New York Times best-seller, Ruiz and Mills reveal the source of self-limiting beliefs and offer four principles to create love and happiness in your life: be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best.”

If we could add one more, it would be keep reading, learning and growing. We’d love to hear what’s inspiring you as you create change around the world.