This article continue my service of gathering reviews and commentary about key books and other resources about social innovation.    I highlight key ideas and lessons from one of the most important books about social innovation (a.k.a. social entrepreneurship.) Written by David Bornstein (2006) How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas is a key source of insights, information, and inspiration about the emerging global network of change agents     Click link below to learn more!!

Oxford University Press, USA; Updated edition (September 17, 2007)

Published in over twenty countries, How to Change the World has become the Bible for social entrepreneurship. It profiles men and women from around the world who have found innovative solutions to a wide variety of social and economic problems. Whether they work to deliver solar energy to Brazilian villagers, or improve access to college in the United States, social entrepreneurs offer pioneering solutions that change lives. …

According to Bornstein, the list of top business entrepreneurs who are focusing either full time or a considerable amount of time on social entrepreneurship is highly impressive:

  • Pierre Omidyar, founder of ebay, created Omidyar Network to “enable individual self empowerment on a global scale.”
  • Jeff Skoll, cofounder of ebay, also runs Participant Productions, which makes socially conscious films including An Inconvenient Truth and Goodnight and Good Luck.
  • Bill Gates has left Microsoft to pursue a full time career in philanthropy.
  • Warren Buffett recently donated $30 billion to the Gates Foundation.
  • William Draper, one of the biggest venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, created the Draper Richards Foundation to support social entrepreneurs.
  • Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum (Davos), founded the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.
  • Sergey Brin and Larry Page, founders of Google, created, which supports social entrepreneurs and has raised over $1 billion.
  • Legendary venture capitalist John Doerr is leading an effort to raise $100 million for microcredit loans.

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.

These extraordinary stories highlight a massive transformation that is going largely unreported by the media: Around the world, the fastest growing segment of society is the nonprofit sector, as millions of ordinary people    social entrepreneurs    are increasingly stepping in to solve problems where governments and bureaucracies have failed.

How to Change the World shows, as its title suggests, that with determination and innovation, even a single person can make a surprising difference. For anyone seeking to make a positive mark on the world, this will be both an inspiring read and an invaluable handbook. It will change the way you see the world.

“Bornstein’s book will touch the hearts and minds of many. I hope it will get the wide readership it deserves.”  Arminio Fraga, Former Governor of the Central Bank of Brazil

“A book about hope, about courage, and about the power of those extraordinary men and women who change the world.”  Jeff Skoll, Founder and Chairman, Skoll Foundation; first president of eBay

“The social entrepreneurs chronicled in this book are part of the vital generation of independent, creative leaders.”  Bill Bradley


David Bornstein specializes in writing about social innovations. His first book, The Price of a Dream: The Story of the Grameen Bank, won second prize in the Harry Chapin Media Awards and was selected as a finalist for the New York Public Library Book Award for Excellence in journalism. His articles have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly and The New York Times. He lives in New York with his wife, Abigail, and son, Elijah.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1. Restless People
  • Chapter 2. From Little Acorns Do Great Trees Grow
  • Chapter 3. The Light In My Head Went On, Fábio Rosa, Brazil: Rural Electrification
  • Chapter 4. The Fixed Determination Of An Indomitable Will: Florence Nightingale: England
  • Chapter 5. A Very Significant Force: Bill Drayton, United States: The Bubble
  • Chapter 6. Why Was I Never Told About This?
  • Chapter 7. Ten-Nine-Eight-Childline!: Jeroo Billimoria, India: Child Protection
  • Chapter 8. The Role Of The Social Entrepreneur
  • Chapter 9. What Sort Of A Mother Are You? Erzsébet Szekeres, Hungary
  • Chapter 10. Are They Possessed, Really Possessed, By An Idea?
  • Chapter 11. If The World Is To Be Put In Order: Vera Cordeiro, Brazil:Reforming Healthcare
  • Chapter 12. In Search Of Social Excellence
  • Chapter 13. The Talent Is Out There: J. B. Schramm, United States: College Access
  • Chapter 14. Ashoka: Global Expansion
  • Chapter 15. Something Had To Be Done: Veronica Khosa, South Africa:Care For AIDS Patients
  • Chapter 16. Four Practices Of Innovative Organizations
  • Chapter 17. This Country Has To Change: Javed Abidi, India: Disability Rights
  • Chapter 18. Six Qualities Of Successful Social Entrepreneurs
  • Chapter 19. Morality Must March With Capacity: James Grant, United States
  • Chapter 20. Blueprint Copying
  • Chapter 21. Conclusion: The Emergence Of The Citizen Sector
  • Chapter 22. Epilogue

Six Qualities of Successful Social Entrepreneurs

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

  1. Willingness to Self Correct – Because of their motivation, highly successful entrepreneurs are highly self correcting. The entrepreneurs inclination to self correct stems from the attachment to a goal rather than to a particular approach or plan. Like young businesses, social change organizations usually go through many iterations as their strategies or “business models” evolve in response to problems, new opportunities and changing market conditions. The entrepreneur’s willingness to self correct is vital to this continuous adaptive process.
  2. Willingness to Share Credit – For entrepreneurs, a willingness to share credit lies along the “critical path” to success, simply because the more credit they share, the more people typically will want to help them. If an entrepreneur’s true intention is to make change happen, then sharing credit will come naturally.
  3. Willingness to Break Free of Established Structures – Social entrepreneurs can cause change by redirecting existing organizations. [Those:] who initiate their ideas while teaching in universities usually step outside the academy to build their organizations. What they gain is the freedom to act and the distance to see beyond the orthodoxy in their fields. This is critical because all innovation entails the ability to separate from the past.
  4. Willingness to Cross Disciplinary Boundaries – Independence from established structures not only helps social entrepreneurs wrest free of prevailing assumptions, it gives them latitude to combine resources in a new way. Faced with whole problems, social entrepreneurs readily cross disciplinary boundaries, pulling together people from different spheres, with different kinds of experience and expertise, who can, together, build workable solutions that are qualitatively new.
  5. Willingness to Work Quietly – Many social entrepreneurs spend decades steadily advancing their ideas, influencing people in small groups or one on one, and it is often exceedingly difficult to understand or measure their impact. Often they become recognized only after years working in relative obscurity.
  6. Strong Ethical Impetus – It is meaningless to talk about social entrepreneurs without considering the ethical quality of their motivation: the why. Although it is probably impossible to fully explain why people become social entrepreneurs, it is certainly possible to identify them. And society stands to benefit by finding these people, encouraging them, and helping them to do what they need to do.

“How to Change the World” tells the stories of people around the globe who are working to solve many of the world’s most intractable problems. Described as “full of hope and energy, exciting solutions and compelling characters”, this book strives to demonstrate how a growing wave of “social entrepreneurs.”  individuals with initiative, creativity, savvy and determination are reshaping the world for the better.


  1. Putting Children in Charge
  2. Enlisting “Barefoot” Professionals
  3. Designing New Legal Frameworks for Environmental Reform
  4. Helping Small Producers Capture Greater Profits
  5. Linking Economic Development and Environmental Protection
  6. Unleashing Resources in the Community You Are Serving
  7. Linking the Citizen, Government, and Business Sectors for Comprehensive Solutions

The Book Includes a Great Resource Section Organized for:

  • Resources for People Seeking Jobs and Volunteer Opportunities
  • Organizations that Identify and/or Support (or Invest in) Social Entrepreneurs
  • Management, Funding, and Networking Resources for Citizen Organizations
  • Academic Based Resources
  • Resources for Funders
  • Resources for Businesses


Mr. Bornstein notes in his Conclusion:  “To be sure, some social entrepreneurs seem hard wired. But countless other people, perhaps less single minded and obsessive in their focus, share the desire and possess the talent to build and support citizen organizations at all levels.”

In How to Change the World, author David Bornstein presents short biographies of ordinary citizens who have cared enough to actually go out and change what is wrong in society. The nine stories of social entrepreneurs or innovators, dubbed ‘transformative forces’ by the author, have the power to inspire readers to want to do something. The fine examples of social entrepreneurship within the pages of this book make one realize that there is hope for the planet after all.

To quote Bornstein, “Across the world, social entrepreneurs are demonstrating new approaches to many social ills and new models to create social wealth, promote social well being, and restore the environment.” What is tremendously energizing is that so many of these change agents already exist and are moving mountains for you and me, and for our children.

The major contribution of the book is that it underlines that one doesn’t have to be rich or powerful to alter the current reality. What is required is to feel empathy and concern in high doses, and to recognize and understand a problem. The stories trace how, if one is sufficiently charged, creative ideas for getting around problem areas be it public apathy or bureaucratic indifference  flow naturally. The hallmark of a true social entrepreneur really shines through at the next stage, when these ideas are converted into reality.

And for young people, who hold the keys to the world’s future, this book is a must read. At an age when cynicism is almost a virtue, it will inspire them, and hammer home the realization that there is an alternative route to getting meaning from life. By changing others’ lives.

This book offers a superb introduction to the burgeoning field of social entrepreneurship, which has gained prominence in the past two decades but is still awkwardly explained. Rather than group radically different projects under the umbrella term “social entrepreneurship,” Bornstein goes to the root and describes what makes a social entrepreneur.

While well known figures such as Florence Nightingale and Unicef head James P. Grant are described, most of the individuals profiled in the book are active, independent entrepreneurs found through the network resources of Bill Drayton’s organization Ashoka: Innovators for the Public. Ashoka has broke new ground as a venture capital firm for social betterment, investing in carefully selected individuals and projects that promise long term, sustainable returns   that is, positive social change   and more than any other organization promoting the ideas of social entrepreneurship around the globe.

The variety of conditions and approaches Bornstein describes may appear bewildering at first, but in fact this breadth is perhaps most effectively drives the book’s point home: Bornstein highlights the lateral thinking and tenacity of the entrepreneurs, who recognized and devoted themselves to solving problems others did not even acknowledge. Most of the entrepreneurs arrived at their methodologies through trial and error, never realizing at the time that others were engaged in analogous work in vastly disparate fields.

The book avoids the pitfalls of excess piety and preachiness and instead reads like a collection of exciting and incredible life stories. Bornstein wisely lets the entrepreneurs’ works and words speak for themselves whenever possible, and thus the book feels genuinely moving and inspirational rather than overwrought.

Bornstein accurately writes, “Anyone who has ever dreamt of solving a problem or making a positive change in his or her environment will find encouraging and instructive stories here.” He takes us around the world to visit social entrepreneurs and find out what makes these people tireless fighters for their causes.

As Bornstein points out, they have in common a willingness to work quietly, to share credit, and to plow through their own savings and time to make progress. Social entrepreneurs have a greater attachment to finding solutions than to being right, rich, or recognized.  Social entrepreneurs don’t start with the perfect plan, they just have a complete commitment to solving a problem. Like a river they flow around obstacles of status quo, regulations, lack of funding, program design flaws, and changing needs, always adjusting and maneuvering to still reach their goals.

  • Many people are questioning their ability to create change. No matter what your political leanings, it is easy to feel far from positions of power and authority. These profiles demonstrate that there is no stopping the power of a good idea in the hands of a passionate individual.
  • Many people question the meaning and richness of their lives and careers. For people who are looking for a more rewarding and fulfilling sector, there is endless opportunity in being or supporting a social entrepreneur.
  • This book doesn’t overwhelm with bleak statistics, but instead makes you realize that there are people with answers. You can be one of them, or you can help one of them, and that will make the difference. The book shows that this is a global phenomenon, and one that can be nurtured by global communication and access.

Bornstein offers this: “One of the most important things that can be done to improve the state of the world is to build a framework of social and economic supports to multiply the number and the effectiveness of the world’s social entrepreneurs.” The first step is to get this book.

This book is the first “map” of a completely new form of endeavor, profoundly individual in inspiration and global in scale, that of social entrepreneurship, not to be confused with non profit or non governmental, more traditional forms.

“Social entrepreneurs are uniquely suited to make headway on problems that have resisted considerable money and intelligence.”

“Governments are looking at problems from the outside, social entrepreneurs see problems and solutions from the inside.”

Optimism, hope, energy are being unleashed as never before – but not being properly mapped, reported, or appreciated outside small circles.  New pathways being discovered every day in every place.

Individuals are driven to understand, and driven to remove shackles from others with shared knowledge.


Bill Drayton, U.S. – Ashoka: Innovators for the Public Social Entrepreneurship

In 1980, Bill Drayton, former Assistant Administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection agency who pioneered the first demonstration of “emissions trading”-a market based approach to pollution reduction that has since been adopted around the world-founded Ashoka: Innovators for the Public based on the recognition that social entrepreneurs deliver the highest leverage and impact society wide for addressing social problems.  Drayton, a former management consultant with McKinsey & Company, established Ashoka to provide social entrepreneurs – and their new ideas – with financial backing and a series of professional supports to help them spread their ideas and solutions, individually and collectively. Through Ashoka, Drayton has played a major role developing and legitimizing the profession of social entrepreneurship.

Jeroo Billimoria, India – Childline India Child Protection

Jeroo Billimoria has provided millions of vulnerable children living in India with a 24 hour toll free telephone hotline that connects them to an extensive network of hundreds of child service organizations, making it possible for ordinary citizens, policemen or social workers to assist children in danger at any time. Manned by street children themselves, Childline combines 24 hour emergency telephone services with follow up support to alleviate their distress. Through the franchise model, Childline has been able to multiply rapidly to more than 40 Indian cities. Jeroo is currently spearheading the replication of Childline India throughout Europe and Asia.

Erzsébet Szekeres, Hungary – Alliance Industrial Union

Erzsébet Szekeres developed a program to address three of the most difficult problems that disabled adults face in Hungary – a lack of job training, few employment opportunities, and a housing shortage. By addressing these issues, she is helping the disabled to be as independent as possible and is replacing the outdated, paternalistic approach of the state toward this segment of society. Her organization has built centers across Hungary which provide skills training, access to employment and housing for previously institutionalized disabled citizens. Currently, Erzsébet is spreading her model throughout Europe with the help of the Committee for Disabled of the European Union.

Vera Cordeiro, Brazil – Saúde Criança Renascer Association

Vera Cordeiro founded the Saúde Criança (“Children’s Health”) Renascer Association in 1991 at the Public Hospital of Lagoa in Rio de Janeiro, with the aim of providing emergency assistance to ill children from low income families during and immediately after hospitalization. Hundreds of children enter Brazil’s public hospitals each month, many of whom live in extreme poverty. Factors linked to economic, domestic, psychological and social conditions create unbearable burdens for these children and their families. Naturally, these adverse conditions inhibit a child’s recuperation and guarantee repeated hospital visits. Renascer seeks to break this vicious cycle by providing families with the minimum material and psychological support necessary to foster home recovery or at least to minimize patient suffering.

J.B. Schramm, U.S. – College Summit

J.B. Schramm is helping low income students across the U.S. enroll and succeed in college. Operating from outside the educational system, J.B. has identified a fundamental disconnect that prevents thousands of high potential students from attending college. (College graduates can expect to earn $1 million more during their lifetimes than high school graduates.) J.B. has designed a program that motivates all the actors within this system (students, high schools, colleges, and communities) to correct it. His training programs are designed for high school students who possess the talent to succeed in college, but lack the support to maneuver through the application process to present their strengths effectively. College Summit organizes intensive, four day, on campus workshops during which low income high school seniors complete their college applications essays, overcome emotional hurdles through peer support, receive one on one college counseling, complete common applications and learn to navigate the financial aid system.

Veronica Khosa, South Africa – Tateni Home Care Nursing Services

Veronica Khosa saw that the health care system in South Africa was unable to manage the AIDS crisis. A nurse by trade, she had visited hundreds of people with AIDS who were suffering alone in their homes, with no one around to provide simple care or pain relief. In response, she founded Tateni Home Care Nursing Services and instituted a community based model capable of addressing the AIDS pandemic at the enormous scale of the problem. She spent years developing and professionalizing her basic home care model, instituting an innovative system to provide training to thousands of unemployed youths so they could offer effective care to the people in their communities and families. The government has adopted her model for the largest state in South Africa and it has since spread to more than fifty localities.

Javed Abidi, India – National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People

Javed Abidi is organizing a united cross disability movement to make legislative rights and economic opportunities a reality for 60 million disabled Indians. Simultaneously, he is building partnerships with the government and the corporate sector to define legal incentives and corporate policies for the equitable employment of the disabled. Abidi led a successful movement in 2000 for the inclusion of the disabled in the country’s first census of the new millennium. He played a key role in the passage of the Indian Disability Act. Through his strategic leadership and tireless efforts, the Indian disability movement has achieved many significant gains in the past seven years, including improving access to buildings, hotels, transport systems, universities and national monuments (including the Taj Mahal) and influencing many corporations to increase employment opportunities for disabled.

James Grant, U.S. – Unicef – The Child Survival Revolution

Grant conceived of and orchestrated a global campaign to stop the needless deaths of millions of children each year from easily preventable illnesses. The “child survival and development revolution” that he launched in 1983 mobilized massive international support to bring cheap, life saving medicines and technologies to children in developing countries including vaccinations and oral rehydration therapy to prevent death from diarrhoeal dehydration, the single biggest killer of children. By 2000, this revolution for children was estimated to have saved 25 million young lives.

Jimi Hendrix Prophetic and Profound Quote

Interview: David Bornstein on Social Entrepreneurs
by: David Creelman

Originally published in, February 25th 2004 issue

David Creelman (DC) – How did you get involved in the study of social entrepreneurs?

David Bornstein (DB) – I had moved to New York to study journalism and was looking for stories. I heard about the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh which loans money to very poor women in villages. These are small loans-like $100 per year. It allows a woman to buy a cow, some bamboo or other materials so she can work. I thought, “This is interesting,” so I went to Bangladesh and spent a year there.

Out of that experience came my first book about the bank, The Price of a Dream. It is a great human-resource story. Imagine an organization with 12,000 employees who walk around villages in Bangladesh and manage the loans of millions of poor village women. How do they do it? They have dispersed four-billion dollars and have a very high repayment rate. More than that, they have re-shaped the world of international development.

DC – And this is what I find interesting; a change-management intervention by a small group of people in a remote place who end up having a global impact.

DB – For my new book I went around the world to interview people whose goal was to cause a major social change.  If there is one dominant theme in what makes social entrepreneurs successful it is their creative use of human resources. …

DB – One organization I write about in the book is Ashoka, which was founded in 1981 by William Drayton, who we can think of as the social entrepreneur of social entrepreneurship. Over the past 20 years, Ashoka has supported more than 1,400 people like Veronica Khosa in 45 counties. Bill had been working with the management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. Traveling around the world he began to see that the most valuable resource are the people whom he called “social entrepreneurs.” People who decide in their hearts that they want to effect a certain kind of change and because of the quality of their motivation and their particular brew of talents they actually do go out and build organizations like Childline and Tateni Home Care Services, Veronica’s group.

Drayton’s insight was that if you want to cause system change, you have to move away from the mentality that we should support projects. Ultimately, the seed for all change is in the heart of a person. His goal was to create a selection system to find this kind of person early in their careers. …

DC – What selection system did Drayton develop?

DB – He uses a structured interviewing method to look at four qualities: creativity, entrepreneurial quality, social impact of the person’s idea, and ethical fiber.

Creativity is very easy to identify. People don’t suddenly become creative at age forty. If it’s there, it has always been there. Interviewers ask, “What other organizations have you created? How did you do it?” They ask very specific questions that will illustrate how the applicant solved, or couldn’t solve, problems that came their way.

Entrepreneurial quality is usually related to a deep inner drive, even an obsession. You see in entrepreneurs an intense motivation, a need, to build something, or solve a problem. Usually this can be identified by looking at someone’s life history and by seeing how they respond to challenges, opportunities or obstacles. People don’t come upon new ideas suddenly.

Ashoka looks at the social impact of the idea. Ashoka wants to identify big impact ideas that can really make a difference in the world. Sometimes there are ideas that are so useful or innovative that others will eagerly adopt them once they are demonstrated. This can be assessed separately from the individual who is behind the idea. …

Most of the social entrepreneurs around the world who are doing things at significant scale have unleashed hidden resources in the communities they are serving.

I’ll give you another example. There is a man in Bangladesh who found that there was a big problem in schools in rural areas. Each teacher had 60 or 70 kids in class and the kids just weren’t learning. He had no money to hire more teachers but he realized in every class there were a half dozen students who picked things up right away. He divided his class into groups of ten, placing one of the quick students in each group and made them co-teachers.

The co-teacher’s job is to help teach their peers and the teacher’s job is to go around from group to group and handle the things that the co-teachers can’t do well. In this fashion, he multiplied the amount of teaching time in his class by a factor of six or seven.

DC – I like the concept that the resources you need exist someplace and it’s not a matter of getting budget approval from the CFO.

DB – I’ll give you an example from Brazil. Rodrigo Baggio, who lives in Rio, tried to get the public school where he was teaching to offer better computer classes to the poor kids who live in favelas, the urban shanty towns across Brazil. But the school was too slow so he decided to set up his own computer school. He got a company to donate a bunch of computers and set it up and it worked very well. He began wondering, “How do I do more of this?”

That was in 1995; today he has more than 400 of these schools around the world. Two years ago his budget was only $300,000. So how did he do it? He goes into the community and says, “If you get your act together and send us a proposal for how you’re going to run a computer school, we will bring in the equipment and train you.” The community has to find a building and get the support of a reputable community group.

By locating the resources inside the community, by assuming that they’re smart and competent, he has quickly sparked the creation of many schools.

DC – It’s one thing finding the hidden resources, but I see that you also have to organize things so they can scale without building a big infrastructure.

DB – A lot of this comes from the presumption of competence, and being very selective with who you work with.

DB – When we’re talking about social entrepreneurship we are talking about the emergence of a whole new sector, the citizen sector. Millions of organizations have opened up over the last 10 to 20 years because people all around the world are saying I see problems and I want to solve them.  This is a new market for companies offering services and it is an alternative career path for people who want to do something meaningful with their lives.