How to Change the World | David Bornstein

Summary of: How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas
By: David Bornstein


Embark on a remarkable journey through the realm of social entrepreneurship, courtesy of David Bornstein’s enlightening book, ‘How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas’. Prepare to delve into the captivating profiles of trailblazing individuals, like Bill Drayton, the founder of Ashoka, who have revolutionized the social landscape through their unwavering innovation, perseverance, and tenacity. Engage with thought-provoking insights and transformative strategies that turn ordinary systems upside-down in pursuit of a better and just world. Throughout this riveting read, you will find lessons on the essential characteristics all successful entrepreneurs must possess, from flexibility and modesty to solid ethics and the ability to spread credit.

Bill Drayton: A Social Entrepreneur’s Legacy

Bill Drayton, born to unconventional parents, earned his entrepreneurial spurs early in life. He developed a fascination with India and social change, particularly with the work of Mohandas Gandhi and Ashoka. Drayton organized The Ashoka Table at Harvard University, inviting important business and government leaders to dine with students and discuss innovative ideas. Drayton worked for McKinsey & Company, taught at Stanford University and Harvard, and in 1977, became assistant administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Here he developed a regulatory concept called the “bubble” that became orthodox environmental protection wisdom, and a cornerstone of the European Union’s emissions trading strategy. Drayton founded Ashoka, an organization that supports social entrepreneurship and has since awarded over 3,000 fellowships to social entrepreneurs worldwide. Drayton’s legacy is a testament to the power of entrepreneurship and the potential of individuals to drive real change in society.

Reinventing Social Change

This book summary delves into the success story of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, established in 1978 by its founder, Drayton. The book highlights the challenges of official aid money and how investing in social entrepreneurs with the currency of social change can create more impact and measurable results. The author discusses Drayton’s unique insights and the strategies social entrepreneurs have employed to solve difficult social problems while promoting economic gains. This includes making sound environmental policy economically attractive, relying on nonprofessionals, uniting disparate sectors, and empowering the impoverished, amongst others. With a focus on creating measurable impact, Ashoka has provided $40 million in aid to 1,400 social entrepreneurs globally.

The Six Crucial Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs

Successful entrepreneurs share six essential characteristics, such as flexibility, credit-sharing, paradigm-shifting, boundary-crossing, patience, and strong ethics. Whether driven by profits or social change, these traits are essential for entrepreneurial success. While for-profit entrepreneurs prioritize solid business principles, social entrepreneurs reframe conventional systems to address ethical issues. Finding and supporting social entrepreneurs can lead to positive societal change.

Entrepreneurship is a complex and multifaceted venture. However, successful entrepreneurs share some fundamental characteristics, six of which are particularly crucial for success. First, flexibility is essential; entrepreneurs must be able to adapt to changing circumstances, pivot quickly when proven wrong, and focus on overarching goals while easily shifting tactics. Second, effective entrepreneurs spread credit and are open to sharing the spotlight with others in their team. Third, these entrepreneurs bypass traditional systems and start new, unprecedented forms of organizations. Fourth, they surpass disciplinary boundaries and bring together diverse perspectives to develop innovative solutions. Fifth, patience and modesty are key traits, as most entrepreneurs build their ideas slowly, influence individuals one-by-one, and keep a low profile for extended periods. Sixth, strong ethics drive social entrepreneurs, who often commit their lives to changing the status quo in response to morally unacceptable conditions, such as famine, disease, or death.

While ethical values and principles are essential for all entrepreneurs, especially those engaging in for-profit enterprises, social entrepreneurs prioritize social impact and paradigm-shifting that examines conventional approaches and structures. Identifying and supporting these individuals can lead to positive societal change and promote the creation of innovative solutions. Consequently, society should cultivate and motivate these individuals, helping them to achieve their objectives. Effective social entrepreneurs have compelling personal stories, such as the pioneering abolitionist John Woolman, who consciously chose to keep a low profile, influence people one at a time, and never claimed credit for his contributions. Hence, the importance of identifying and supporting social entrepreneurs who can bring about societal change cannot be overstated.

Child Protection Entrepreneur

Jeroo Billimoria’s Childline helps India’s vulnerable children through a network of help lines and emergency response systems. Her organization trains children to help children and has evolved from her work with Tata Institute of Social Sciences. After devoting herself full-time to Childline, she plans to create a global organization uniting child protection entrepreneurs to help children worldwide.

Erzsébe Szekeres: A Pioneer for the Disabled

Erzsébe Szekeres founded the Alliance Industrial Union after realizing the horrendous conditions the disabled faced in Hungary. Her organization creates assisted living units that provide work, training, and social activities, allowing the disabled to improve and contribute to society. With perseverance and dedication, Szekeres pioneered a new way of supporting people with disabilities and gave them the opportunity to flourish in a supportive environment.

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