Thursday, 3 January 2013

Book Review: Rippling; how social entrepreneurs spread innovation throughout the world. Beverley Schwartz 2012

Social entrepreneurs work on societal problems; they push against the norms of societies, governments and organisations. They develop unique solutions because they have to. Social entrepreneurs are not the stuff of organisational employees. These are very focused individuals who operate outside of regular structures to make change happen. They speak up, point out and are unafraid to plough, what at times is, a lonely furrow.

This book is about large scale change and transformation. It's neither an academic review nor a pop-science polemic. Instead it covers the stories of real social entrepreneurs as they create and implement systems changing innovations.

The book provides a number of case studies and draws out some guiding principles and lessons.

Advice on being a social entrepreneur includes:

  • "Take responsibility for your life"; this is about getting out there and up there with what you believe in. It's about taking your ideas and working full out to find sponsorship and to convince others. It's not about "selling" a corporate idea within the corporation, although the way social entrepreneurs influence provides useful lessons.
  • "Remain objective". This sounds really odd but the essence is to avoid falling on love with your idea so much taht you're unable to see it's faults and end up defending it when others try to improve it. It is about focusing on the benefits to others - note: to others, not to yourself or your organisation.
  • "Do something"; social entrepreneurs are not thought leaders or academics. They are people who get things done and they do this by marshalling their own resources (internal and external) and expending personal energy on keeping the action going. They are in for the long term and demonstrate remarkable consistency of purpose. They are 'doe-ers'.
  • "Solution"; They are entirely solution focused. They constantly work to find a solutions to keep their work moving forward. They tend not to use the language of "problems" or consider problems as barriers - instead they are the opportunities to improve and speed up implementation. Sounds a bit obvious and trite - but the case studies in this book demonstrate this.
Schwartz identifies four characteristics of social entrepreneurs:
  1. Purpose
  2. Passion
  3. Pattern
  4. Participation
To some extent these seem the same characteristics that are used to define good leadership or those who foster social movements. From reading her book, I think Schwartz is positing that its the amount of each of these characteristics that matters: amount and strength. Social entrepreneurs are not spending time on office gossip, annual planning away days, business planning processes - they are putting the maximum amount of energy into their fundamental beliefs, and taking them to action.

Great book. 

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