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5 (and a half) books every Social Changemaker should read

Whenever I came to a point in my personal or professional life where I wasn’t sure if I am doing the right thing or what should my next steps be […]

Whenever I came to a point in my personal or professional life where I wasn’t sure if I am doing the right thing or what should my next steps be in order to achieve my goal, I always found help, comfort and peace in books. Inspired by a quote of Jim Rohn, an American entrepreneur and motivational speaker – “The book you don’t read won’t help”, I decided to read a dozen of books recommended by friends, youth workers, leaders, entrepreneurs so that you don’t have to, and help you find the right ones in the sea of inspirational, motivational and practical books.

  1. How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and The Power of New Ideas, by David Bornstein

It is called the Bible for social entrepreneurs, and for a good reason I may add. This is not a “how-to” guide, even though the title might suggest otherwise. It is rather a collection of stories of social entrepreneurs around the world.  It is very factual and informative, but also has very personal and emotional stories.

How To Change the World is not just for (aspiring) social entrepreneurs – it will help you find inspiration and motivation in the strength and persistence of the people described, no matter what is it you do in life. Caution: it might change your life forever.

  1. Start something that matters, by Blake Mycoskie

You’ve probably heard of, or might even own a pair of TOMS, but do you know the story behind it? It is a social enterprise, one of the pioneers of ‘one for one’ movement. For every pair bought, TOMS donates one pair of shoes to the child in need. This easy-to-read book is a testimony of how and why Blake founded TOMS. It is also full of practical advice on how to include giving in your business model, why building trust is important, how to deal with and overcome fear and many others. Blake shows the successes but also failures they survived, and draws on lessons learned from both.

The book will probably be more useful for purpose driven people and those already in the field of social entrepreneurship, as it is written as a set of short lessons. However, the book is such an easy read, I would actually recommend it to everyone.

  1. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, by Ashlee Vance

This is probably not a typical book you will find in the book recommendations for social changemakers, however, I found it quite edifying. The book doesn’t portray Elon Musk (entrepreneur and innovator behind PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity) as a perfect manager, CEO nor husband. It doesn’t hide the scandals and controversies over his takeovers and ownerships of the companies.

Than why is it a must read? Because he is one of the rare actual visionaries of our time. His mission to put people in Mars, and the efforts to actually achieve this, has inspired me and left me in awe so many times throughout the book. The persistence he showed, even in the toughest times (at one point he almost declared bankruptcy), will definitely make you question your reasons for quitting on your dreams and aspirations.

Probably one of my favorite Elon’s quotes from the book is – “I think there are probably too many smart people pursuing internet stuff, finance and law. […] That’s part of the reason why we haven’t seen as much innovation.”

This book is for all social changemakers, no matter the field and industry (and for space enthusiast for sure). It will shift your perspective from short term to long term thinking, and also offer some valuable lessons along the way. Truly inspiring!

  1. Start with why, How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, by Simon Sinek

Start With Why will not inspire you into action as previous books might. It will however provide you with a useful tool you can use in your life, business and impact making. Simon did not discover something revolutionary, and some parts of the book might seem too obvious while reading. However, it is a thing we often forget or disregard to communicate to other people. His model for inspirational leadership – the Golden Circle, will make you think about Why. Why you do what you’re doing, and how to then channel that towards your audience to inspire them to follow your vision.

The book is very clear, with lots of examples, and although at times it might seem a bit repetitive, I urge you to carry on. There is also a website that follows the book, where you can find some useful free tools to embark on the journey of discovering your Why. I would recommend it to everyone, especially to those on the leadership positions within organizations.

  1. The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries

Okay, if you haven’t heard of the book, go straight to the bookstore/library and pick it up. It is a must for anyone entering the startup world today. Why? Because it will change your thinking of business as rigid, hard-changing system that works forever. The Lean Startup methodology pushes you to test your product or service cheaply and quickly, and make better business decisions (or recover from bad ones quicker).

The Lean Startup book can be chewed up in couple of hours, but the lessons you learn along the way will stick with you for a long time. Don’t hesitate to read even if you are not entering the world of entrepreneurship. It can also be used as a way of thinking in various non-business projects, as the next book will expand on.

5½. Lean Startup for Social Change: The revolutionary path to big impact, by Michel Gelobter

To be clear – I am not suggesting you should read only half of this book. On the contrary! However, as Lean Startup for Social Change builds up on the previous book and I honestly recommend reading it right after.  Gelobter takes Ries’s concepts of Lean Startup and unpacks them into valuable tools for experiments and value drivers in non-profits and governments.

This is a great read for changemakers looking for ways to go Lean in their work for a better and more sustainable impact.

Have you read any of these books? What are the most valuable lessons you got from them?

Are there any other books you would recommend? 

                                     We take note…