Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


The power of unreasonable people

March 2008

John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan.
Hardback. 272 pages. Harvard Business School Press. £14 / $27.50

Could social entrepreneurs be the solution to the environmental and social problems of the world?

This book, in admirable fashion, provides a great many examples of what social entrepreneurs can do – from the well-known Eden Project and the Grameen Bank to less famous programmes delivering electricity in Brazil and education in China. It also looks at how they do it, using surveys and interviews conducted by the authors to examine how social entrepreneurs raise finance and recruit the right talent.

The main message is that while such entrepreneurs are not the only answer, their vision, determination and persistence – their ‘unreasonableness’ – must be harnessed on a much wider scale if the environmental and social challenges we all face are to be overcome.

Given the size of most social enterprises set against the enormity of global problems, that means allowing social entrepreneurs to help ‘change the system’ from within and to ‘scale up’ their own successful activities – both objectives that will require the assistance of mainstream business.

Elkington and Hartigan discuss how alliances between social enterprises and other businesses can be encouraged by convincing those in the mainstream that such partnerships will bring them future market intelligence, improve staff retention through greater motivation and employee satisfaction and, in the words of one CEO at Davos earlier this year, allow them ‘to be seen with people who are loved’.

Adrian Henriques

Adrian Henriques | Global | Social Enterprise

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