While many a novel that’s promoted as “inspirational” turns out to be a bunch of hot air, it’s certainly not the case with How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, a collection of case studies compiled by author, journalist and philanthropist David Bornstein; a compelling, insightful and genuinely moving book that will definitely serve as a call to action for many a reader seeking incentive to act upon their idealistic notions.
The book opens with a forward that details the history of Ashoka, a global organization that sponsors and promotes social entrepreneurs, thereby promoting social justice worldwide. Since it was founded by Bill Drayton in India in 1980, Ashoka has expanded to over 60 countries, and served a wide variety of causes; ranging from providing solar energy to a village to Brazil to helping AIDS patients in South Africa to funding college educations for underprivileged students in the United States. Using examples such as Gandhi and Florence Nightingale, Bornstein uses this forward to identify common traits and practices of social entrepreneurs, their means of fulfilling their goals, and the lasting impressions they made not only in their chosen causes but on the minds of future generations of dedicated activists.
These remarkable true stories feature philanthropists not only from all around the world, but from all walks of life. Some pursue their charitable businesses as full-time professions, such as Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum; some acquire wealth and then pursue worthwhile causes, such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet; others go into it out of necessity, such as Erzsébet Szekeres, a single mother in communist Hungary who fought to provide a better life for her handicapped son. Yet they are all determined and admirable individuals united under Ashoka by the common goal of making a difference, and in that they are at once familiar and relatable.
According to Bornstein, the prospects of the field of social entreuprenuership are optimistic, as it has seen a drastic increase in the past twenty years, and will only continue to expand. Currently, over 250 colleges and universities—including Harvard, Yale, Stanford and NYU—offer courses in the subject. Indeed, the Acumen Fund, which supports aspiring social entrepreneurs, has received over one thousand applications within the past two years, as have many similar organizations.
If you’re a reader looking for inspiration, David Bornstein is certainly a writer worth following. He’s also the author of The Price of a Dream: The Story of the Grameen Bank; and his articles have appeared in publications such as Atlantic Monthly and the New York Times. He has co-written To Our Credit, a PBS documentary about combating poverty, and has founded Dowser.org, a website dedicated to discovering new entrepreneurs, and encouraging many more.