Share this article

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp

The 5 Best Authors (and their books) to Up Your Social Solutions

“There is more treasure in books than all the pirate’s loot on treasure island,” — Walt Disney

When I was growing up, there was a series of children’s books my mom used to read to me and my siblings at night. In the books, the main character would be transported from her home to different events in history. The transport always began with a rhyme, “reading is the magic key to take you where you want to be.”

The logic behind this quote applies, too, to our social ventures: in reading the works of social innovators who are paving the way before us, we can learn valuable lessons that help us “get to where we want to be” — to a better world. Fortunately, there are a few of these social pioneers who document their experiences, lessons, and recommendations for anyone who is interested in rolling up their sleeves and following suit.

We at YSH never stop learning about ways we can accelerate our solutions to big problems facing society. Thanks to these five authors — and their books — we keep garnering insights and experiences that help shape our problem-solving. Check them out and tell us how they help you!


  1. Professor Yunus

As our namesake would indicate, there is no author we can recommend more on the subject of social solutions. Professor Yunus has not only created the world’s first microcredit institution, the Grameen Bank but has also defined the principles of Social Business, helping to launch hundreds of successful social businesses himself.

Cover of Prof Yunus’s book, Creating a World without Poverty

Fortunately for those who consider him their Professor, he has written his own curriculum in the form of his books: Banker to the Poor: Microlending and the Battle Against World Poverty: Microlending and the Battle Against World Poverty; Creating a World Without Poverty: How Social Business Can Transform Our LivesBuilding Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism That Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs, and a World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment and Zero Net Carbon Emissions. Our team has our favorites, each inspiring us in different ways. Banker to the Poor helps understand microcredit; Creating a World Without Poverty, social business; Building Social Business, a roadmap for social businesses to grow & thrive; and A World of Three Zeros, what it takes to create a future that is free from the scourge of poverty, lack of employment and pollution by drawing on the power of social business (and sports!). Very curious to know which will be your favorite of his — tell us and we’ll share thoughts.

2. Jaqueline Novogratz

Novogratz is the founder of Acumen, one of the world’s most acclaimed organizations for “changing the way the world tackles poverty by investing in sustainable businesses, leaders, and ideas”. Her journey that led to the organization’s founding is documented in her first book, The Blue Sweater: Bridging The Gap Between Rich And Poor In An Interconnected World. In it, she provides insights into why the prevailing system of philanthropy fails and teaches her learnings on how to ethically and sustainably solve problems by investing in entrepreneurs.. Acknowledging Prof Yunus as an inspiration and teacher for her work, the book is an excellent resource for inspiring, challenging and instructing both social entrepreneurs, philanthropists and investors. Her most recent book, Manifesto for a Moral Revolution: Practices to Build a Better World, was released on May 5th 2020 (and has successfully been downloaded to this YSH author’s kindle).

3. Jeanne Liedtka

If you’ve attended a YSH workshop, chances are you know about design thinking (DT). An approach to human-centered design, design thinking is a process that puts empathy at the heart of solutions to challenges. Jeanne Liedtka, a Professor, former CEO & foundation director, is an industry go-to for design thinking, and how to leverage it for building social business solutions. She has authored many books on the subject, including Design Thinking for the Greater Good: Innovation in the Social SectorSolving Problems with Design Thinking: Ten Stories of What Works and Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers (with an accompanying field guide). While the first is specifically dedicated to solving the greatest social challenges of our society by applying the design thinking method, her other books too share insights on what works (and doesn’t work) from social entrepreneurs applying DT in the field.

4. Eric Ries & Ann Mei Chang

Build. Measure. Learn. Repeat. Have you encountered this feedback loop? Based on the scientific method, engineer and author, Eric Ries, stipulated the approach and how to apply it to create the leanest possible business model growth. His first book, The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, is today a startup entrepreneur’s primer. It describes principles to enhance time & money as entrepreneurs test business models, with strong applications to social business innovation. His other book, The Startup Way: How Modern Companies Use Entrepreneurial Management to Transform Culture and Drive Long-Term Growth, focuses on how to apply the lean approach to managing startups. Recently, he supported Ann Mei Chang’s book, Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good which adapts Lean Start-Up principles specifically to the social sector.

5. David Bornstein

Bornstein wrote what is considered today one of two canonical texts for social entrepreneurs today: How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideaswhich details examples, anecdotes and analyses of some of the most successful social business veneers around the world. He has since written more on the subject, with Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know. His first book, The Price of a Dream: The Story of the Grameen Bank consists of a series of interviews with villagers, policymakers, bankers, and Professor Yunus himself to share about the global bank that lifts millions out of poverty.

Any books that have helped you with your problem-solving journeys? Let us know — we’d love to exchange recommendations!

“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader,” — Margaret Fuller