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You'll find a lot  suggestions on the web for books and articles on Social Innovation and Enterprise, just do an orqanic search and you'll get hits saying '6 must-reads' or '12 most compelling books about changing the world' and for a while it made me wonder where they come up with these numbers. I then realized it was a case of  books they could find when whoever wrote that was given that 'job'. 6 or 12 or 9 or whatever number was what they could come up with under those deadlines.

The books are all titles with description copy/pasted from the foreword or cover. And though many of them are good, it is simply a generic list with no idea of knowing whether those books were any good.

We're doing it differently, I've read most of these books. I have not written extended reviews for I do not want to bias you, but I have added a line of description just to give you a sense of what the book is about.

Most links lead to, I find the site has reader-reviews from a wide variety of people--- those who read for fun to professionals to students. Read some reviews, (good and bad) and then decide if you want to go ahead with the book...

THIS IS ONGOING WORK AND I WILL ADD BOOKS AND ARTICLES AS I READ THEM. I don't add everything I read, because trust me, a lot of it is , well, not very useful. I do not want to be one compiling a list of 100 books for you to weed through!! And if I ever end up with a 100 book list, I will sure categorize / order and prioritize them. The idea behind this book list is we wade through the whole gamut and pull out interesting ones, so that you don't have to weed out the, well, weeds!!

If you have a suggestion, please Contact Us and let us know.

I am very grateful to all my friends and colleagues who pitched in with suggestions. Thank you for this and keep suggesting!

Al Etmanski.png

Al Etmanski's Top Picks

We asked serial social innovator Al Etmanski to give us his list of books on Social Innovation. His picks are eclectic, insightful (as usual!) and makes you think! We are very grateful to him for his input and for making the time to compile this list for us. Thank you Al!



Murray, Grice and Mulgan ,2010, The Open Book of Social Innovation.

According to the authors, this book ' describes the hundreds of methods and tools for innovation being used across the world, as a first step to developing a knowledge base.'  A good read to gain perspective on tools and methods and best of all, it's free!  Download here.



Schwartz , 2012, Rippling: How Social Entrepreneurs Spread Innovation Throughout the World


Schwartz is an Ashoka person (if you don't know what Ashoka is, look it up, this is one organization you must know about if you want to do anything socially entrepreneurial. Whether you think they are useful or not, Ashoka is a big player in the field and you should know about them!!). This books stems from her exposure to Ashoka fellows (social entrepreneurs). The author makes significant effort to demonstrate that when passion, empathy, creativity and persistence comes together, amazing things are possible.


You can read more here

Bornstein, 2004 How to Change the world: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas.


This book has now become a classic, with plenty of basics and examples. A must read to get a broad understanding of issues and to read about a range of socially entrepreneurial ventures and ideas. Full of examples, but again heavy emphasis on Ashoka and its fellows. See some reviews here and decide if you want to read it. We'd still say yes, esp. if you are new to the field or are looking for examples and at the more practical side of things.



Baghai and Quigley, 2010, As One: Individual Action Collective Power


The authors share their lessons learnt from a two year flagship project at Deloitte, examining the meaning of 'As one'. Has a global focus and has a rich set of resources from a host of countries around world. It is about cooperation, conflict and collaboration. You can read more about it here.




Steidle ,2017, Leading from Within: Conscious Social Change and Mindfulness for Social Innovation


This book aims to be a road map to those that want to drive change in society on fundamental, transformative level. It talks about empathy and mindfulness as a driver for change. The book highlights the necessity for personal development through self-awareness to ultimately bring about 'conscious social change'.


 You can read more here


Senge, 2006,  The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization


We recommend this book for one and only one reason: The author makes it clear, that to sustain and succeed in the long run is for an organization to learn faster than the competition. The new edition contains information distilled from several companies, for and nonprofit. Reader reviews here.



Vasan et al. (2013) Do Good Well: Your Guide to Leadership, Action, and Social Innovation


'Practical, wise, and witty, Do Good Well is a groundbreaking book that offers a comprehensive and readily adaptable guide to social innovation that not only captures the entrepreneurial and creative spirit of our time, but also harnesses the insights, wisdom, and down-to-earth experience of today's most accomplished young leaders.' says Amazon. It is a #1 best seller on Amazon.


You can read more here.

Jason Fried,  2010, Rework


We threw this one in to mix it up a bit. This book is about how everything we've been taught about doing business is wrong or unnecessary! The author argues how making plans, bringing in investors or even having an office is not really necessary (the last one we all know now!!). The point is to 'stop talking and start working' as the foreword says. Not an earth shattering book, but might be something you'd want to give a read.


Read more reviews here.


Kahane, 2017, Collaborating with the Enemy

This one is not about innovations per se, but about the speed bumps that happen when innovating.


If you want to know about the struggles of collaborating with larger stakeholder groups, international groups and generally understand the human side of collaboration, this is the book. Kahane, of Reos and Partners talks about his own firsthand experiences about the human side of collaboration. How, even though everyone is interested in the issue on hand and want the same thing, personal and parochial  considerations, as well as personal bias and barriers prevent optimum outcome. It is a light read written simply, you cannot miss the point!

See reader reviews here.

Chang, Lean Impact- How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good

This book shows how social change is complicated and what is needed is better listening and a wide array of stakeholders. It offers tools and ideas from customer-centric, rapidly iterative data driven approaches. It drives home the point that no innovation is 'perfect' and rapid adaptation is imperative. A useful read, especially for those wondering how scientific approaches mesh with this field of social innovation. See reader reviews here.


Keohane , 2013, Social Entrepreneurship for the 21st Century: Innovation Across the Nonprofit, Private, and Public Sectors


“In her book ‘Social Entrepreneurship for the 21st Century’, Georgia Levenson Keohane provides a great insight into the emergence of social business and entrepreneurship. Her work provides a clear-sighted analysis of the many different dynamics at play as we test new models and solutions for global economic change” says Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Laureate, author of ‘Banker to the Poor’.


 The book can be helpful for policymakers, nonprofits, academics and researchers, as well as investors that are in search of methods and solutions to attain the triple bottom line.


See reader reviews of the book here 


Goldsmith et al. ,2010, The Power of Social Innovation: How Civic Entrepreneurs Ignite Community Networks for Good


This is more a guide than book, and is useful in understanding how to develop ideas, strategies at a community level. The guide covers various case studies and best practices of various social innovations in the fields of education delivery and social service.

See reader reviews of the book  here 



Manzini , 2015 Design, When Everybody Designs: An Introduction to Design for Social Innovation (Design Thinking, Design Theory)


This book attempts to show the interconnectedness between design and social innovation. The author argues that collaborative efforts between designers and innovators can yield larger impact on societies. Again, the book highlights several case studies to make its point. This book gives you a good understanding of both social innovation and design thinking, this is a recent find and an excellent one at that!!

See reader reviews of the book here 



Nicholls et al. (2011) Social Innovation: Blurring Boundaries to Reconfigure Markets


The book provides varied perspectives from leading professionals in the field. This is more research oriented and is a must-read for anyone intending to do any kind of research on social innovation. The three main areas it tackles are: meaning strategies and logics, performance measurement and governance and sustainability and the environment. This is not a beginners book and you need at least a basic understanding of the field before reading this.


See reader reviews here.

Nicholls et al. , 2015, New Frontiers in Social Innovation Research



‘Interest in social innovation continues to rise, from governments setting up social innovation ‘labs’ to large corporations developing social innovation strategies. Yet theory lags behind practice, and this hampers our ability to understand social innovation and make the most of its potential. This collection brings together work by leading social innovation researchers globally, exploring the practice and process of researching social innovation, its nature and effects. Combining theoretical chapters and empirical studies, it shows how social innovation is blurring traditional boundaries between the market, the state and civil society, thereby developing new forms of services, relationships and collaborations. It takes a critical perspective, analyzing potential downsides of social innovation that often remain unexplored or are glossed over, yet concludes with a powerful vision of the potential for social innovation to transform society. It aims to be a valuable resource for students and researchers, as well as policymakers and others supporting and leading social innovation.’


Reader reviews here.

Al's list

Al Etmanski's List of Suggested Books on  Social Innovation

1) Cormac Russell , Rekindling Democracy –

2)Shaun Loney,  2018, The Beautiful Bailout: How a Social Innovation Scale-up Will Solve Government’s Priciest Problems 

 3)Shaun Loney, 2016, An Army of Problem Solvers: Reconciliation and the Solutions Economy 

 4) Arthur Kleinman, The Soul of Care – The Moral Education of a Husband and a Doctor by

5)  Vandana Shiva , Ronnie Cummins, July 14 2020, Reclaiming the Commons: Biodiversity, Traditional Knowledge, and the Rights of Mother Earth      


6)  Vandana Shiva, Oct 27, 2015, Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace

 7) Michael Ungar, 2019, Change Your World: The Science of Resilience and the True Path to Success

8) Todd Dufresne, The Democracy of Suffering

9) Adam Kahane, Transformative Scenario Planning 

10) Al Etmanski, 2015, Impact - Six Patterns to Spread Your Social innovation and


11)Al Etmanski, 2020, The Power of Disability – 10 Lessons for surviving, Thriving and Changing the World. (Note: this is less a book about disability and more a book about changing the world)

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