Social entreprenrurs: Rippling by Beverly Schwartz

Hiding behind the abstract title of this book is an engrossing account that might better have been subtitled “How Ashoka Fellows Spread Innovation Throughout the World.” (I won’t venture to suggest a better title.) The social entrepreneurs in question are, indeed, all Ashoka Fellows, the author served Ashoka as global marketing director for eight years, and Bill Drayton, Ashoka’s founder and chair, wrote a foreword. But I guess “social entrepreneurs” is more inclusive and thus presumably sells more books than “Ashoka Fellows,” so I really shouldn’t complain.

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with Ashoka, please do yourself a favor and click on the underlined name in this sentence. The Ashoka network is nothing less than one of the greatest social innovations of the 20th century. Its more than 2,000 Fellows in over 70 countries around the world are, collectively, the most powerful engine for constructive social change on Planet Earth.

Rippling: How Social Entrepreneurs Spread Innovation Throughout the World by Beverly Schwartz ★★★★★

There are two aspects of this first book from Ashoka that I found especially winning:

First, author Beverly Schwartz tells the stories of 18 Ashoka Fellows from around the world, and none of them are the usual suspects. (I’m referring to the Fellows whose names and tales are familiar to anyone who has read more than a book or two about social enterprise.)

Second, Rippling is organized in a manner that illuminates the range and the character of the work that Ashoka Fellows do: “the five strategic ways that social entrepreneurs change social systems — inclusive of both social business and citizen sector models.” These five paths include “restructuring institutional norms,” “changing market dynamics,” “using market forces to create social value,” “advancing full citizenship,” and “cultivating empathy.” Schwartz presents three or four examples in each of these sections, so the reader gains understanding about both the commonalities and the differences among Ashoka’s growing network of Fellows. Most of these stories are engaging. Some are deeply moving. A few were riveting.

Even a cursory familiarity with Ashoka will expose you to the organization’s distinctive vocabulary. Its credo is “Everyone a changemaker.” The work of its fellows engenders “virtuous cycles of social benefit.” Its core value is “empathy.” Far be it from me to try explaining these terms. I suggest you read the book. Do so, and you will gain hope for the future of our species.

For further reading

If this subject of interest to you, please check out my post, Third World poverty and economic development: a reading list.

Like to read books about business? Check out My 10 favorite books about business history and 10 best books about innovation.

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