Friday, October 5, 2007

A Book about Social Entrepreneurs

There have always been individuals who had a significant impact on the world - for the better or for the worse. Usually we know the big names, for example Mohamed Yunnus, last year's nobel price laureate, who helped to improve the lifes of millions of people in Bangla Desh by giving them access to micro-credits. There are, however, a lot of people who remain unknown to a wider public. It is thanks to authors like David Bornstein that we get know about those people.

I haven't read a non-fiction book for long that kept my full attendance for quite a while, a page-turner so to say.

How to Change the World is such a book. It is the story of the Ashoka Foundation and of social entrepreneurs and the power of new ideas. The Ashoka Foundation was created by Bill Drayton in the eighties and it has become the leading organization for supporting social activists who create new concepts to help marginalized groups in all parts of the world. People who were able to find innovative solutions for the pressing problems of our times.

Bornstein, besides recording the history of this unique organization follows the path of some of the Ashoka fellows who are selected according to the strict system of the foundation. Take, for example, Jenoo Billimoria, who gave the kick start of what now has become an India-wide network of telephone hotlines for street kids, called Childline. Or Fábio Rosa, who fought against windmills until he was able to implement a programme for affordable electrification in rural Brazil. Or J.B. Schramm, who developed a system for helping underpriviliged kids to enroll in universities of the U.S.

These are stories of people who share a few things in comon: they are brave, they follow their vision regardless of how many stones are put into their way, and they find innovative ways of marketing and reproducing their ideas. They are true entrepreneurs - in the original sense of the word ("undertakers").

Reading this book, I was reaffirmed that a better workd is possible, and that there are lots of people out there who have helped to make that dream come true for millions of poor and marginalized people.

It goes without saying - this is a must read book. More information can be found on the website howtochangetheworld.org.

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