Book Review: Succeeding at Social Enterprise

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    Earlier this year, the Social Enterprise Alliance published Succeeding at Social Enterprise: Hard-Won Lessons for Nonprofits and Social Entrepreneurs (Jossey-Bass). Anyone interested in starting or strengthening a social enterprise would benefit from reading this informative book.

    The book’s sixteen chapters are organized into three sections: Startup and Structure, Methods, and Leadership. Each section contains chapters written by leading social entrepreneurs, offering “hard-won” lessons from the field. This book provides a sampling of bite sized morsels on many topics, with tips, anecdotes and a few war stories along the way. Regardless of your level of prior experience in social enterprise, you will gain useful insights from reading this book. I certainly did.

    People often ask us for social enterprise examples, case studies or success stories, along with lessons from those experiences that they might apply to their won work. This book delivers on those requests, and it does that very well. What it doesn’t provide is much in the way of in-depth “how to” information on starting a social enterprise, despite claims to be all about implementation. So, for example, there’s very little about market research and even less about competitor analysis, both essential ingredients for success in starting and sustaining a social enterprise. Instead, there’s a great deal about values, mission, stakeholders, social impact, even advocacy – each of which is important to many social enterprises but not always all that important to customers.

    But that’s a relatively minor critique of this informative book. Taken for what it is – lessons learned through stories and structures – Succeeding at Social Enterprise is well worth buying, reading and keeping for future reference. It’s a book you’ll come back to so many times you’ll appreciate the index that’s been thoughtfully included at the end.

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    Copyright © 2010 Rolfe Larson Associates – Fifteenth Anniversary, 1995 – 2010
    Author of Venture Forth! Endorsed by the late Paul Newman of Newman’s Own
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