As we get ready to take summer vacations, bringing along a good book is a must. When I first thought about writing this column, curating the newest books of the year came to mind. However, when I started going through my bookshelf, I kept going back to some "older" tried and true favorites. What I found were the ideas, concepts and recommendations in these books have staying power. They were relevant when they first came out and they still provide lessons today. As we continue to build the social innovation field, it is important to stay at the forefront of trends and systemic shifts. At the same time, depth trumps "sexy." Have a great summer, expand your knowledge and take action.
What are your favorite social innovations reads? Please join in the conversation - what is on your list and why?
What role can business and markets take to drive social innovation?
- SuperCorp, Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Based on a three-year investigation and 350 interviews, Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s SuperCorp demonstrates that the companies that are most successful at keeping at the forefront of the shifting demands of consumers and the market are also the most progressive and socially minded. These vanguard companies such as IBM and Proctor & Gamble hold socially responsible values and utilize them to run thriving and financially profitable businesses.
- Reinventing the Bazaar, John McMillan
In Reinventing the Bazaar, John McMillan examines the modern marketplace in all its forms and how it does and does not function. From the world’s largest flower market in the Dutch village of Aalsmeer to the online platform of eBay, McMillan investigates the question of what role governments should serve in the market, especially in the face of the current recession. Over the course of the book, he argues for a moderate level of government regulation to complement a flexible market environment and encourage economic growth.
- Social Innovation, Inc., Jason Saul
In Social Innovation, Inc., Jason Saul makes an argument for a new generation of companies that not only make a profit but also drive social change. He provides a roadmap of five strategies to social innovation as well as presents his findings on successful social business ventures after four years of research in the field. An informative and insightful book, Social Innovation, Inc. supplies a path to stay relevant in the current economy and transform a conventional business into an instrument for social change.
What and how can nonprofit organizations be more effective?
- Integrating Mission and Strategy for Nonprofit Organizations, James A. Phills, Jr.
Exploring the position of mission and strategy in the success of nonprofit organizations, James Phills addresses the unique challenges nonprofits face. Integrating Mission and Strategy for Nonprofit Organizations provides a blueprint for nonprofits to follow in order to apply the most robust and alinged strategies to their socially minded missions.
- Outcome Mapping, Earl, Carden & Smutylo
In a new approach to assessing the impact of development organizations, Outcome Mapping focuses on the shifts in behavior and relationships that come about as the result of a program rather than its products. Not only does the publication walk the reader through the steps of the outcome mapping approach, but it also provides information on designing and facilitating workshops. Thus, adding not just the “what” but also the how to. Earl, Carden and Smutylo provide a novel look at evaluating the success of development and socially minded organizations.
- Forces for Good, the Six Practices of High Impact Nonprofits, Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant
In an era of speed and instant “knowledge”, it is rare for practitioners to take four years to conduct research. The applied research used to tease out the six practices of high impact nonprofits brought new and valuable lessons to the nonprofit sector. This book has a depth of research, accessible ideas and an outline of a roadmap to drive more social change. In the end, the focus on impact shines through and reminds us that to make a tangible difference in the world. Although these other factors are significant, they are simply the means to an end. We need to be more focused on how our efforts make a tangible difference in the communities we serve.
A few other favorites:
- The Opposable Mind, Roger Martin
Roger Martin introduces the concept of integrative thinking as the special edge that distinguishes a brilliant leader from a conventional one. The ability to formulate a successful solution from two opposing ideas and visualize the problem as a whole allows these leaders to address business related challenges in new and innovative ways. This type of “habit of thought” can be consciously developed and is thus employable to create innovation in any sector.
- Facilitators Guide to Participatory Decision Making, Sam Kaner, with Lenny Lind, Catherine Toldi, Sarah Fisk, and Duane Berger
The cornerstone of any socially innovative venture is the integration of the opinions and ideas of every member of the team. In his book Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision Making, Sam Kaner provides the tools to encourage collaboration, increase mutual understanding, promote participation and make effective and efficient decisions with the benefit of input from all team members.
- SWITCH: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, Chip Heath & Dan Heath
Leading and motivating social innovation in the end is an exercise in change. And Chip and Dan’s book provides insight and tools to help anyone be more successful in driving change. As they so eloquently bring to the forefront, successful change occurs when people change their behavior. A person’s behavior is driven by three factors: his logic and rationality (what the authors call the “Rider”), his emotions (the “Elephant”), and his environment (the “Path”). The best way to create change, say the authors, is to “Direct the Rider,” “Motivate the Elephant,” and “Shape the Path.” We can all use these simple and real tools to drive social change in our organizations and fields.