Top 30 Social Entrepeneurship Reads for Aspiring Changemakers

The Ashoka Future Forum witnessed many innovators who shared their groundbreaking, future-focused ideas and solutions for the world's most pressing challenges. Below is a list of books written by such innovators; Ashoka Fellows, social entrepreneurs and experts some of whom were featured at the forum:

Rippling: How Social Entrepreneurs Spread Innovation Throughout the World by Beverly Schwartz

Schwartz provides a five point paradigm of social entrepreneurship that will allow any individual to become an innovative changemaker while sharing stories of ground-breaking innovators.

2. The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum by Ashoka Fellow Temple Grandin

Grandin believes that the autistic individual has the power to make a unique contribution to society—and she inspires those across the autistic spectrum to be changemakers by becoming empowered by their condition. 

3. Behind the Kitchen Door by Ashoka Fellow Saru Jayaraman

Jayaraman creates a bold agenda to raise the living standards of the millions of workers, including many immigrants and people of color, who work in the American dining industry and pushes for equality on both sides of the kitchen door.

4. Being Global: How to Think, Act, and Lead in a Transformed World by Angel Cabrera and Gregory Unruh

Cabrera and Unruh provide a guide for individuals—ranging from citizens, students to leaders—to developing the skills and connections needed in becoming effective business leaders in the globalized world where the speed of change has picked up. 


5. Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife by Ashoka Fellow Marc Freedman

Freedman envisions the transition beyond midlife as an empowering one. Through a map of personal narratives, he inspires and encourages individuals to transform their “crises” into opportunities for change. Marc's social enterprise 'Encore' presents viable options for meaningful involvement past midlife.

6. Chasing Ghosts: Failures and Facades in Iraq: A Soldier’s Perspective by Ashoka Fellow Paul Rieckhoff

After spending almost a year as a platoon leader and witnessing bloodshed in Iraq, Rieckhoff offers his stark and personal perspective on the Iraq war.

7. Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed by Adam Bryant

By pulling together dozens of interviews of top CEOs in various industries, Bryant creates a guide for changemakers of all levels to discover their path to success. 

8. End of Ignorance: Multiplying Our Human Potential by Ashoka Fellow John Mighton

Mighton has a revolutionary vision of education in which every child can succeed in every subject. He challenges us to identify and reverse the moment in which we become disenchanted with a subject and neglect to pursue it—thus revitalizing the learning process to create a new generation of well-rounded intellectuals.

9. Faces of Learning: 50 Powerful Stories of Defining Moments in Education by Sam Chaltain

There is always a special moment in one’s education in which he or she engages in true learning. Chaltain documents these moments through personal stories from various backgrounds, and weaves them together to create a model for improving one’s own learning style. 

10. Genership: Beyond Leadership Toward Liberating the Creative Soul by Ashoka Fellow David Castro

“Genership,” or the enabling of creativity within groups, creates a new model of leadership. Through this model, Castro presents an inspiring vision of leaders who encourage and capitalize on the power of inherent human creativity. >

11. Girls on Track: A Parent’s Guide to Inspiring our Daughters to Achieve a Lifetime of Self by Ashoka Fellow Molly Barker

Barker challenges the various societal pressures which shape young girls by outlining a ten week self-esteem-building plan to empower girls and enhance their health.

12. Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam M. Grant

Grant redefines how we perceive success by looking not at personal qualities, but at how we interact with others. He attributes many success stories to a trend of “givers” —those who contribute to others and expect nothing in return—and in doing so, creates a revolutionary paradigm for individual success.

13. Giving 2.0: Transform Your Giving and Our World by Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen

Arrillaga-Andreessen creates the changemaker’s guide to giving. She shows how, from volunteering to using technology and social media, anyone can become an everyday philanthropist.

14. Going to Green: A Standards-Based Environmental Education Curriculum for Schools by Ashoka Fellow Harry Wiland

Wiland’s learning curriculum integrates academics with service-based learning, thereby empowering citizens to build healthy and green communities.

15. How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas by David Bornstein

Bornstein provides in depth profiles of social entrepreneurs and their innovative ideas, providing a platform for readers to understand how individuals can make a difference in the world. 

16. Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future by Leonard A. Schlesinger, Charles F. Kiefer, and Paul B. Brown

Schlesinger, Kiefer, and Brown craft a method to navigate a constantly uncertain world with an entrepreneurial attitude.

17. KaBOOM! A Movement to Save Play by Ashoka Fellow Darell Hammond

Hammond has built 2,000 playgrounds in some of America’s poorest neighborhoods. He aims to ensure that all children, regardless of their class, have access safe and creative play spaces.

18. Man Seeks God: My Flirtations with the Divine by Eric Weiner

Weiner is on a search to find spiritual truth among many religions. He documents his travels through different countries to create an entertaining and inspiring story of spiritual fulfillment.

19. Net Locality: Why Location Matters in a Networked World by Eric Gordon and Adriana de Souza e Silva

In an increasingly technology-dependent universe, the emergent functionality of location awareness creates a more interconnected world. Gordon and de Souza e Silva expound on the theory of Net Locality and how to use it as a tool for pro-social development.

20. Non Nonprofit: For-Profit Thinking for Nonprofit Success by Ashoka Fellow Steve Rothschild

Rothschild combines his own experience founding and developing the nonprofit Twin Cities RISE! with an explanation for social entrepreneurs of how for-profit business principles can be applied to nonprofits to create more impact.

21. Philosophy of Sustainable Design by Ashoka Fellow Jason F. McLennan

McLennan’s work has shaped the green building movement. He aims to educate individuals on the principles of sustainable design and to inspire them to build more responsibly. 

22. Zugunruhe: The Inner Migration to Profound Environmental Change by Ashoka Fellow Jason F. McLennan

Zugunruhe, or the restlessness and agitation that some species feel before migration, can also be seen manifesting in people who long for a deeper involvement with sustainability. McLennan’s book is intended to inspire these people to pursue this longing and to take the first individual step towards revolutionary environmental change. 

23. Powered by Pro Bono: The Nonprofits Step-by-Step Guide to Scoping, Securing Managing, and Scaling Pro Bono Resources by The Taproot Foundation (Ashoka Fellow Aaron Hurst)

The Taproot Foundation outlines a strategy for nonprofits who are struggling with tight budgets to access resources and manage projects effectively. 

24. A Random Book about the Power of ANYone by Ashoka Youth Venturer Talia Leman

Leman, a high school student and the founder of an organization which encourages young people to do good deeds, inspires anyone and everyone to embrace life’s unknowns and re-think the possibilities for change around them. 

25. Release 2.1: A Design for Living in the Digital Age by Esther Dyson

Dyson explores the new character of life in the digital age and teaches us how we can use the Internet to change the rules we live by.  

26. Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America by Ashoka Fellow Eboo Patel

Amidst growing prejudice in America against Muslims and members of other faiths, Patel argues for a better, more pluralistic America—one in which individuals respect each other across their differences.  

27. Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy by Emily Bazelon

Bazelon examines the issue of bullying from nuanced angles, and using stories, case studies, and research, she assembles a strategy to tackle bullying

28. Sustainably Delicious: Making the World a Better Place, One Recipe at a Time by Michel Nischan and Mary Goodbody

Chef Nischan channels his respect for the environment into recipes which are both tasty and environmentally responsible. 

29. Uninsured in America: Life and Death in the Land of Opportunity by Susan Starr Sered

Sered aims to explore the impact of inadequate medical care on people’s lives and the broader implications it has for America.

30. A Year Up: How a Pioneering Program Teaches Young Adults Real Skills for Real Jobs-With Real Success by Ashoka Fellow Gerald Chertavian

Chertavian is the founder of the social venture Year Up, which aims to eliminate the divide between low income workers and the economic mainstream by providing them with training and mentorship. His book shares the inspiring success stories of participants in his program.