(Note: complimentary electronic and hard copies of the following books were provided for review purposes. My opinions are my own.)
Chicago-area social entrepreneurs, non-profits, and other social change agents are always seeking resources, information, and guidance in fulfilling their mission. Many books are often recommended as "starter" books, providing some insight. This week, we will look at three books which cover very diverse subjects, but which contain great information about job seeking, marketing, and thinking about entrepreneurship. Consider this a kind of "summer reading list".
Our first selection focuses on the very idea of entrepreneurship - an idea that is often misunderstood by social change agents as being very business-oriented. Focusing on a series of conversations around entrepreneurship, Fred Dawkin's Everyday Entrepreneur: Making it Happen provides a strong gateway into thinking about entrepreneurship. Granted, it is focused primarily on starting a business, but many of the thought patterns and challenges can easily be applied to non-profits, small businesses, or any other startup venture.
(And yes, there is an increasing number of individuals dedicated to social change who are looking to adopt more entrepreneurial strategies into their work. It's not incompatible with non-profit thought: after all, funders are increasingly focused on outcomes, and with increasing numbers of advocates resistant to such efforts....it can be challenging. Thankfully, Dawkin's book focuses on the entrepreneurial mindset, and that's what makes it such a terrific read for current and potential social change agents. Claiming to want to make an impact is one thing: acquiring the mindset and doing the work is another).
One key still leading to success is adopting an entrepreneurial approach...and for many struggling in this current economy, it can seem rather daunting. Although geared more towards career planning and job seeking, Paul B. Brown's Own Your Future: How to Think Like an Entrepreneur and Thrive in an Unpredictable Economy provides an excellent model for approaching professional matters. Advocating for developing values and goals then taking small steps, Brown provides an easy-to-understand approach around career entrepreneurship. Like Everyday Entrepreneurs, it is an easy read (each volume took one to two days to read on my tablet), and Own Your Future serves as a great introductory guide towards developing an entrepreneurial mindset.
(That's a particular challenge within social change, especially with funders and financial resources often difficult to locate and utilize. Many non-profit executives and advocates are adopting a "lean startup"-like attitude towards moving their organizations forward, hoping to strike a delicate balance between healthy experimentation and making positive, measurable impacts. With social change organizations adopting a much more business-like approach towards organizational development (for more details, read The Mission Myth), Brown's book provides some simple tools that cultivate not just a greater sense of mission and values, but also strategy and procedure.)
Finally, many organizations are finding themselves moving towards being more digital-marketing savvy, rethinking how they present themselves in the digital realm. Thankfully, Daniel Rowles' Digital Branding: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Strategy, Tactics and Measurement is a dense, but thorough guide towards understanding how to "brand" an organization online. For many in the digital realm, several of the concepts (like e-mail, web design, and social media) seem like "old hat", but Rowles provides a great entry point for both veterans and relative newcomers. With equal emphasis on strategy and measurement, Digital Branding provides a relatively easy-to-understand guide towards driving positive outcomes in digital engagement.
Social entrepreneurship is more than just a buzzword - it is becoming an increasingly prevalent mindset, focusing as much on creativity and ingenuity within the non-profit sphere as it is on mission-driven businesses. All three of these books provide some great lessons in easy-to-understand language for people working (or who wish to work) in the field. They are definitely worth purchasing....or at the very least, checking out of the Chicago Public Library.
Do you have any recommendations for reading around social entrepreneurship? Any questions or comments? You're more than welcome to leave them below. In addition, you are always welcome to pleas visit and join us on Facebook and you can contact me privately and directly - my contact information can be found via this blog's About page.
And as always, thanks for reading!