World Book Day: 3 books for social entrepreneurs

by David McGlashan

It’s World Book Day today, so I thought I would share three books by inspiring social entrepreneurs that I’ve enjoyed reading.  I read two of these over a year ago so I’m hoping that my powers of recall don’t fail me! 

1.  Banker to the Poor: The Story of Grameen Bank, by Muhammed Yunus  

The story of how Yunus founded Grameen Bank, which started the microfinance and microcredit movement.  The book begins with Yunus’ time at university in America, and his involvement in the birth of modern day Bangladesh in the 1970s and runs through to the turn of the millennium.  It’s a fascinating journey, and Yunus writes with beautiful simplicity.  What’s striking is Yunus’ sheer persistence to get things done; he’s met with resistance on almost everything that he tries to do, but he keeps going and keeps proving the doubters wrong.

Yunus has also written ‘Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism That Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs’ and ‘Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism’.  If you’ve read them, let me know what you think by commenting below.


2.  The Purple Cow, by Seth Godin

This book probably shouldn’t be here.  It’s a marketing book more than anything else, but it’s provides a brilliant introduction to some of the principles to marketing and it’s one that every social entrepreneur should read.

The Purple Cow works off the basic principle that successful products need to stand out from the crowd, like a purple cow would in a field.  Godin’s maxim is that products need to ‘be remarkable’, which ties in nicely with SSE founder Michael Young’s idea that ‘Everybody has the capacity to be remarkable’.  None of the ideas in the book are amazingly groundbreaking, but I often meet social entrepreneurs who are struggling with their marketing and always recommend reading this as a starting point.

You can read a lot of Godin’s work on his blog:


3.  The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World, by Jacqueline Novogratz

Novogratz is the founder of Acumen, a non profit which invests ‘patient capital’ in social enterprises which tackle issues of poverty.  Novogratz left a career in finance to work for UNICEF in Rwanda, where she also founded Duterimbere, a microfinance organisation. Her story straddles either side of the genocide in Rwanda, and it’s heartbreaking to see the impact that it had on many of the people that Novogratz worked with.

There are a lot of similarities in Novogratz’s story with Yunus; the constant battles that she had to overcome (often from large institutions) and also the focus on providing finance to women, who are often left isolated and overlooked by ‘traditional’ banking in developing countries.  It’s a fascinating read, and I was left awestruck at Novogratz’s achievements.

In case you are wondering -the blue sweater in the title of the book refers to a sweater that Novogratz donated to a charity while she was in high school; she apparently saw the exact sweater being worn by a boy over a decade later in Rwanda.   I’ll leave it to you to decide whether this actually happened or not!


David McGlashan (@davemcglashan)

Share Button

Comments are closed.