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The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  449 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Renowned playwright George Bernard Shaw once said "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." By this definition, some of today's entrepreneurs are decidedly unreasonable--and have even been dubbed crazy. Yet as John Elkington and Pamela Hart ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published January 7th 2008 by Harvard Business Review Press (first published 2008)
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Dec 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
The examples of social innovation that Elkington & Hartigan highlight in this book are truly great examples of people making a difference. The book is a little confused about who its audience is though. For-profit business people who need convincing as to why social issues matter? People who care about social issues who need some schooling in the ways of business? I was hoping for more personal stories about these so-called unreasonable people but was disappointed. The book is less about the peo ...more
Mal Warwick
May 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
How Unreasonable People Are Changing the World

For more than a decade I’ve been deeply immersed in the world of social entrepreneurship. Yet somehow I neglected to read this important book when it was first published four years ago. (I acquired a copy, stuck it on a shelf, and promptly forgot all about it.) To my mind, The Power of Unreasonable People ranks with David Bornstein’s seminal work, How to Change the World, as a point of entry into this fascinating, and increasingly important, realm.

Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
There are some interesting characters and programs covered but the overall argument that the for-profit market is what fixes things is not very convincing. With the Condom King for example, there's a lot of mixing of apples and oranges and it seemed as though the market-like components were initially funded by government and that the main parts actually related to condoms were state/non-profit throughout. ...more
Jul 25, 2008 rated it liked it
This book provides a good overview of models for social entrepreneurship, such as Leveraged Nonprofit Ventures, Hybrid Nonprofit Ventures, and Social Business Ventures--all of which may serve social or environmental goals. To illustrate and compare the features of these models, the authors showcase variety of "social entrepreneurs" corresponding to each model.

An interesting theme suggested by multiple entrepreneurs is that the lack of affordable goods and services in the developing world is not
May 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Inspiring report on social entrepreneurs

Even the world’ most blissful optimists cringe when they look at today’s massive global challenges, including poverty, environmental pollution, terrorism and climate change. Cynics throw up their hands in disgust, retreat behind protective walls and gates, and pray they can somehow ride out the storm while the world cracks apart. In contrast, social entrepreneurs do not run away from trouble. They develop workable solutions to the world’s most pressing pro
Nguyen Tuan
Sep 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, social
The book was recommended to me by a friend.

A major part of the reading focuses on the classification of different branches of social entrepreneurship, and is the strongest aspect of the book. Most information from this book you can find out by yourself from the Internet (well, you can find anything in the Internet anyway), but its systematic presentation and well developed arguments make it worth your time.

However, it should be noted, when it comes to case studies, the book itself is very brief
Eva Radke
Nov 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Changed my life. The first book I read about me, not for me.
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read thia book for my thesis and I really learned a lot!
Through the examples i got inspired about how entrepreneurship and social responaibility go hand in hamd for a sustainable future.
I strongly recommend it to anyone with an interest in social business.
Jul 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Full of real examples and business cases. Easy to read and digest,
The main takeaway is the classification of business models for social enterprise.
Jaap Tilburg
Nov 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
very inspiring book on how entrepreneurs can operate social
Oct 07, 2009 rated it liked it
This book makes a business case for creating businesses that are not highly profit driven.

It covers a lot of ground in describing how social entrepreneurs attempt to correct things that are wrong in the world. Historically, social entrepreneurs have been people who have had successful careers in some field and then gone onto address problems that affect the poor or other people not addressed by the standard capitalistic model.

But why should social entrepreneurship be left to those who are alrea
Jun 25, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book contains more technical details and precise case studies about developing-country-based entrepreneurs than many others I've read in the field of international development. I can say thanks to the good folks at Harvard Business School Press!

I look forward to finishing the book, and then mailing it to Alec in Santa Monica as part of our agreed upon exchange; I will write a more thorough review then.

My favorite quotes from the book:

"The future of the world lies in the hands of market-base
Jeremias Andrews
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Awesome and inspiring
Apr 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
this was a great read, with bold ideas about new businesses and the changing landscape of business where bottom lines expand beyond economics to account also for equity (social return on investment/social bottom line) and the environment. replete with useful, inspiring case studies on model 1 (nonprofit), model 2 (hybrid), and especially the new breed of model 3 (social business) organizations - the authors did a thorough job of helping build a road map for tomorrow's ventures by addressing orga ...more
Mar 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business, innovation
The stories of social entrepreneurship in _The Power of Unreasonable People_ are the reasons to read the book. It is extraordinarily difficult to map the requirements of a yet-unimagined innovation or process of innovation, so the authors are left to summarizing a few broad-stroke observations about qualities shared in social entrepreneurship. May this text be a source of inspiration and a launch pad for all of us who are practicing innovation these days, and may we practice more of what is need ...more
Of the things I liked about this book, its optimism ranks#1. This book will make you feel like solving the world's problems is just one social organization and some creative thinking away...which in some ways it is, I think, so that is a great aspect of this book. On the other hand, while it makes these statements its example organizations don't report back on real results and viability for a global context. He sites charitable organizations that are indeed making a difference in communities but ...more
Jan 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
This wasn't really a popular science book but it was kind of academic, I'm not really sure under what category it falls (it had references from wikipedia) but it was really interesting.

It describes and analyses businesses based on social capital and how they manage to a)exist and b) thrive in todays economically driven market.

The examples given of various social enterprises worldwide where really interesting and I found it quite inspiring- even if I cant come up with a single good idea myself..
Torsten Sewing
Jan 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I've met Pamela Hartigan at the Harvard Social Enterprise conference in 2008, where she presented that book. Her ease of communication is as impressive as her charm, but what's more: the analysis and dissection of various types of social enterprises cuts through the cluttering clouds of imprecision. Five years later, the "scene" is still unclear about "what is a social enterprise", "why and how is it different from a social business", "what is the role of the entrepreneur" ("admired alpha-animal ...more
Jun 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read this for my Social Work Social Entrepreneur mini-course at the University of Michigan. I didn't really know a lot about Social Enterprise and this book gave a pretty good overview of its history and some of the different components, goals and types of social entrepreneurship. It's definitely a book I felt could have been a little bit shorter, but its an easy read and a good primer for thinking about and informally evaluating companies and organizations that are or state that they are soci ...more
Megan Jones
Mar 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: cultural, classroom
This book served it's purpose precisely. I wanted an overview of entrepreneurship described in a somewhat entertaining, easy-to-understand, way that would be engaging to young adults. This did a great job describing characteristics of entrepreneurs (why they're considered "unreasonable" which captivated the "unreasonable" high school spirit) followed by excellent examples relevant to my South American students. Great read! ...more
Mar 25, 2009 rated it liked it
Another good book that does a good job of giving a high level overview of a topic. In this case, the emergence and segmentation of social entrepreneurship. I like how they segment social entrepreneurs and social ventures into different classes based on core-business strategy and provide recommendations for each type of model to succeed.

Jessica Bruckert
Dec 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The Power of Unreasonable People cocktails social awareness with strategic thinking, in a captivating – and enjoyable – text that draws on cases creating profound impact in both local communities and in a global context. It would be ‘unreasonable’ not to take a closer look at this action-inspiring piece that was handed out last year to attendees at the World Economic Forum.

Sep 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: put-down

Not quite the book I had thought it would be. Much better suited to business school students or corporate types with little insight into the non-profit world. As someone who works in a non-profit organization, I was hoping to find 5 or 6 profiles of leaders in the field - not a series of organizational case studies.
Mar 01, 2008 rated it liked it
Inspirational in many ways, it's very pleasant to read about people who are doing the impossible and rethinking how we do business. It was quite a bit deeper than I had the hankering for at the moment, so I may have missed a few things. ...more
Dec 02, 2008 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Aaron by: Tom Jones
Being a an unreasable person who is annoyed with the current reality, perhaps this book would provide solace and some company.
The book was fantastic at introducing me to social entrepreneurs all over the world, especially in Latin America. I re-read portions of it all the time. - John
Brad Bate
Jun 13, 2010 rated it did not like it
Struggled to finish this book - not very interesting or informative
Tiarma Panjaitan
the book that every young indonesian should read
Aug 28, 2012 rated it liked it
inspiring first half of the book, the other half are short cased studies with under-explained takeaways.
Rodrigo Quintanar
May 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
Only if you have considerable money to start a "social cause" is worth to read it. ...more
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John Elkington is an Executive Director of SustainAbility Ltd. A leading authority on the role of industry in sustainable development, he is a consultant to such organisations as BP, Procter & Gamble, USAID, and the UN Environment Programme.
He sits on advisory panels at the Merlin Ecology Fund and the Nature Conservancy Council. He has authored or co-authored numerous books and has published sever

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