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How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  2,043 ratings  ·  166 reviews
What business entrepreneurs are to the economy, social entrepreneurs are to social change. They are, writes David Bornstein, the driven, creative individuals who question the status quo, exploit new opportunities, refuse to give up--and remake the world for the better.
How to Change the World tells the fascinating stories of these remarkable individuals--many in the Unite
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published February 5th 2004 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2004)
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Emily D
Feb 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I remember feeling very self-conscious whenever I read or carried this book around in public. Friends, whenever they see you carrying a book, will always ask "What are you reading?" I'd sheepishly show them the cover, anticipating what I know was coming next.. An "Emily, are you really trying to change the world?" or "Oh Em, you know you can't save the world, right?"

Had I read Novogratz by then, I would have retorted with a "Probably not, but I'd be happy enough if I could manage to give it a nu
Nathan Albright
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: challenge-2019
This book is a highly revealing one, but not necessarily in the way that the author of this book likely intends.  When I started to read this book I got angry so I had to let it lie low for a few days until I could read it in a calmer mood.  Ultimately, I did learn from this book so it is not one I feel I could view as one of the worst books ever.  But what I learned from the book put me in stark opposition to the author and his intents and demonstrated the corruption of the social entrepreneurs ...more
Jan 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
• I loved this book because it was about real-life people who are doing remarkable things in the world…it is an inspiration for me about what’s possible. Some specific things I learned are that:
o Often Government/NGO ideas of what people need are different than people’s ideas of what they need, so ask the people what they actually need and address that (Fabio Rosa)
o Accountability is important on the receiving side too: i.e. when mothers failed to keep their end of the bargain, Renascer released
Mar 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is like a company catalog for Ashoka. The project examples I read about were interesting and inspiring. As the author points out, e.g. regarding Mary Lasker, "social entrepreneurs" can do more harm than good, so what matters is doing what works to help people.

Personal rant:
I understand that "social entrepreneur" is a different thing from "entrepreneur" and that there is a presumably good intention behind it, but it is unnecessarily confusing. "Entrepreneur" should mean what it means
A.G. Stranger
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book which opened my eyes to so many things. Here are my favorite quotes : ...more
Matt Burgess
May 05, 2010 rated it did not like it
It is not often I read a book that is basically a waste of time, but this book by David Bornstein is one of them. I picked it up with the hopes of promise of something useful, but I was left with a collection of poorly written stories about "social entrepreneurs". Instead of writing about them and explaining their accomplishments in more practical terms, Bornstein leaves us with a history lesson.

Buy this book if you want a fairly lengthy book on your shelf with an impressive title. Don't buy it
This should've been an inspirational and motivating read, but for me it missed the mark.

Bornstein's book is really a PR product of the Ashoka Fellows program and its founder, Bill Drayton. That's not to detract from its contribution, but to position the book and indirectly hint at some of Bornstein's limitations in virtue of writing essentially a biography of the various Fellows he's interviewed and whose work he's followed.

In the current era of ubiquitous randomized controlled trials (RCTs),
Aug 09, 2014 rated it liked it
it was more of an introductory to social entrepreneurship to the public governments, schools etc. Rather than the entrepreneurs themselves.

I disliked the constant mention of other big organizations or 'microfiance' as if it's the only option or the best example. ( although he clarified that it has its downside as well at some point).

the resources he used or mentioned at the end of the book were extremely helpful.

overall a good book and informative but not concrete or practical 1, 2, 3 guide.
Arkar Kyaw
Nov 07, 2012 rated it did not like it
"A pseudo-inspirational/motivational self-help book from a rich American organization seeking to promote public leadership so that proles are treated with temporary cures and capitalism can keep working smoothly." ...more
Aug 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: leadership
Interesting case studies, particularly around disability, development and NGO’s in a global context.

The book honours the trials, failures, and creative solutions of leaders which is great.

It’s operates more like a textbook that paperback which is helpful for students.

It’s a bit dry and exhausting to jump from continent to continent and some of the backstory isn’t really needed.

The writing meanders and repeats. It could be a bit more brief and could be outlined so it’s easier to extract the me
Nov 21, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction

How to Change the World is one of the most interesting and inspiring books. It basically gives you a good introduction about the work of Social Entrepreneurship; what it means, what it does or can do, who its “heroes” are, and how it can be applied effectively.

What I find most interesting about this book is how the information is being presented. I really loved the author’s writing style and flow of thoughts. Mainly, the book introduces a series of detailed case studies of successful
Sep 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is a very interesting book that shows the importance of the "citizen sector" and the ideas and work of social entrepreneurs. The government and private sector cannot take care of all the needs in the world, so it is inspiring to see people stepping up to make a difference by taking their ideas and working relentlessly to make them happen. This book gives several examples of people in the world working hard to change societies for the better while encouraging all of us to be "changemakers" ( ...more
This is an intriguing book. I didn't finish it because I didn't find it entirely captivating (and I was reading a couple other books at the same time), but the idea behind the book and the stories in it are lots of food for thought. The idea of the author is to take a look at social entrepreneurs-- people who have dynamic, viable ideas of how to better their surroundings or the conditions of others in a sustainable way. And through the assistance of a charitable organization, they've done it. I ...more
Tommy Estlund
Very interesting collection of case studies in the emerging citizen sector. (As opposed to either public or private, the emerging "citizen sector" is an entity unto itself.)

I found this very informative, and very hopeful. As I recently discussed with a friend, the most viable solution to the ills of this world cannot be government directed. (Yes, i think there is an absolute place for government involvement, as I am somewhat of a socialist, but the truly sustainable changes that need to occur n
Charles Nkwabi
This book expresses innovate and new methods to development. The writer David is a great thinker! Such kind of ideas are very much important to everybody. To me every time when I read this book, I get many challenges. I see the time is going without doing something big, though I know that the big number (numeric)come from one. So every step I do starts another one.

If all of us could have innovative ideas and put into practice the skills and knowledge that we are learning from books, Colleges an
Jun 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
Some chapters of this book were assigned to me in a college class on social entrepreneurship. I decided to go back and read the whole thing, and was pleased. The writing itself isn't anything to remark on, and it's not especially instructive on the "how" end of things (despite what the title might suggest). What it is, though, is a journalistic set of little vignettes on some seemingly normal people who have done some pretty phenomenal things. It's a quick read, and really quite inspiring. Don't ...more
May 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: have, development
This was given to me at a development conference I was at. It is centered around projects that Ashoka fellows run, with each chapter a summary of the fellow and their idea. I didn't know much about Ashoka before reading this, which appears to be a great organization. The projects are all quite interesting to read about.

The book is definitely worth reading for those interested in social entrepreneurship. However, if could benefit from having tried to extract more "blueprints" as it calls them, f
I would recommend this to anyone interested in the social sector, but who doesn't know a whole ton about it. It's enjoyable to read, with short profiles of Bill Drayton's Ashoka foundation and a selected group of people and their high-impact projects. It eventually makes some interesting conclusions about what qualities a successful social entrepreneur possesses and about how this sector is starting to go through some major transformations. I liked the epilogue about how the author continued to ...more
Warren Parad
Dec 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
It is good to know that the advances in business management and scale from the last 50 years are finally being accepted and acknowledged in the social sector. However those ideas are not the limelight of this book, and it seems the author has had no idea that these concepts have been long established, like a child in a candy store for the first time.

It is a good list of biographies of some social entrepreneurs, however some of those aren't even good ones, but the author doesn't know himself how
Ajmal Sataar
Dec 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is the book that started me off on my path to becoming a social entrepreneur. It was great to hear about the true social entrepreneurs, who innovated and worked very hard to solve social problems, simply because it was their calling. Today, we see more social entrepreneurs who run "social enterprises" which have business models attached to them, and that's great too, but I enjoyed hearing the untold stories of these very inspiring people. ...more
Candelaria Silva
Jan 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The power of simple and sometimes small ideas, combined with visionary and persistent people, a bit of luck and collaboration with others can and does change the world. This book was so inspiring to me. I like to read about good works done by good people.
Mary Thoresen
May 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is an encouraging book to read- people who seem powerless being helped by others who might appear powerless, but who think as entrepreneurs. They come up with new ways to help people in big ways!
Feb 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
The stories of social entrepreneurship in Bornstein’s How to Change the World are inspiring and instructive. I read as a textbook, but would read again.
Chris Jensen
Mar 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
This book is not what the title would suggest. Its just an excuse to promote a particular foundation.
Eliza Doll
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book will be another one that I will likely refer back to for years. A quote from a NYT review on the front says that this is "A bible in the field", and I believe it to be. Even though the the quantity of books related directly to social business/entrepreneurship/the like that I have read have been few (Give Work, Building a Social Business, Banker to the Poor, World of Three Zeroes, Moment of Lift, and I'll add in there Factualness, Sapiens -at times, and Talking to my Daughter About Capi ...more
Jane Paula
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have always been fascinated by the notion of social Entrepreneurship. The book is an excellent introduction to the work of a social entrepreneur.

In the book, Bornstein follows the stories of different Ashoka fellows, documenting their journey through life and their ventures, illustrating how ordinary people take action to do remarkable things.

Among the specific things I learned was the qualities of a social entrepreneur:
1. Willingness to self-correct and change course upon evidence of heading
Aug 03, 2020 rated it liked it
//1 star for the content + 1 star for the topic and importance + 1 star for all the effort put into writing this book

The author talks too much, but doesn't really say anything. This book has too much content, but little essential themes and ideas. I personally love Entrepreneurship and new ideas that can change the world, yet this book fails to portrait it in an engaging way. Also, this book is not about what the title suggests: "How to Change the World". This book is about people who ha
Iain Hamill
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting reading and inspiring once you can look past the rather pretentious title...

A potted history of the Ashoka organisation, worked up through case studies of some of the presumably more successful social enterprises they have been involved with!

Like most of the more accessible literature in the field of social enterprise - the focus is on anecdote and case study, with no real attempt to link to the few theoretical articles in the better third sector journals.

It’s the people and case s
Henrik Haapala
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: happiness, how-to
Social entrepreneurs: “We hear little about them. Indeed, most of the news we receive focuses on the troubles in the world. Clearly, we face a cascade of challenges and dangers at home and abroad - and we need to know about them. But while we are inundated with stories of violence, corruption and incompetence we hear relatively little about the struggles and successes of the people who are advancing positive changes. The ratio of problem-focused information to solution-focused information in the ...more
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't believe I didn't write a review of this book when I first read it. Now, I have to read it, again. Which is cool, because I remember loving it. I'll try to do better about reviewing it, this time around. ...more
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Six Qualities of Successful Social Entrepreneurs 1 46 Jun 23, 2009 11:55AM  

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David Bornstein specializes in writing about social innovation. He is the author of The Price of a Dream and How to Change the World, which has been published in 20 languages. His articles have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times, and many other publications globally. He co-wrote the PBS documentary "To Our Credit." He is the founder of, a Web site devoted to uncovering ...more

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