Helping Social Enterprises Make a Real Difference

Guest post by Rosemary Addis, Social Innovation Strategist for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations of Australia.


Better World Books is a great example of a social enterprise – with its mission of making a global difference through literacy, one of the most powerful tools for change and inclusion.  I am delighted to have the opportunity to post a guest blog to this community and share with you a book that has inspired me and my team in our work to support social enterprises “down under.”


So much powerful writing has contributed to this field.  A book that was fundamental in shaping my thinking about social enterprises is The power of unreasonable people: How social entrepreneurs create markets that change the world by Pamela Hartigan and John Elkington (2008).  It is a powerful, eye-opening look at unconventional entrepreneurs who have refused to accept the world as it is and instead have seized every opportunity to be ‘unreasonable’ to create real and lasting change in their communities.


The case studies and business models explored in the book show that it is open to all of us to be ‘unreasonable’ and that groundbreaking work takes courage, commitment, energy and drive and the ability to push on with a vision despite obstacles and setbacks.  These are the characteristics of great social entrepreneurs.

Having trained in the legal profession, which prizes reason, this book helped me reframe unreason as the agency of change.  In fact, being a “disruptive influence” can be a badge of honour to be encouraged in those working to promote social innovation and change.

I have had the pleasure and privilege to meet Dr Hartigan, including on her visit to Australia to support one of our leading universities in their work to foster social entrepreneurship.  The work Dr Hartigan leads with her team at the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Said Business School at Oxford demonstrates the very practical way in which her passion translates to support for entrepreneurs – and inspiration to others.  Entrepreneurs can change and build markets.  When they focus on social mission, the change can be profound.


In Australia, my team and I have been working to support entrepreneurs on a number of fronts, most recently with an innovative project to improving access to capital for social enterprises.  The Australian Government recently announced the establishment of the Social Enterprise Development and Investment Fund (SEDIF).  The new funds are an important step in providing access to capital at the right time for social entrepreneurs to be able to develop and grow their enterprises to achieve change.  Seeded with Government support, these funds are the first of their kind in Australia.


They also represent an important early contribution to a capital market to support social as well as economic outcomes.  The potential of entrepreneurship in this emerging area and how we can all play a role is captured in another compelling read penned by Jed Emerson and Antony Bugg-Levine: Impact Investing: Transforming How We Make Money While Making a Difference (2011).
So I encourage you to read about the possibilities of combining social and economic value to create change.

These books and other literature in the field are great reminders that social change is not only the province of governments, big companies, or ‘other people’.  The good news is that anyone can bring new ideas, or adapt existing ones, to address unmet social needs and tackle social problems.  And if people tell you that you are being “unreasonable” as you work to grow your social enterprise or make your contribution to combating the world’s pressing social issues, there is every chance that you are on the right track to make your contribution to change for the better.


Are you an “unreasonable” social entrepreneur? Is there is a book that has inspired you to act as a conscious consumer? We’d love for you to share your story below.


*Note* The above blog post is a guest blog from Rosemary Addis, the Social Innovation Strategist for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations of Australia. This content does not necessarily reflect the views of Better World Books (as our lawyers make sure we say). We love having guest bloggers and invite you to email if you are interested in covering a book or topic on the BWB Blog. Thank you, Rosemary, we re grateful for your insight and work towards social enterprise progress!

One Comment

  1. Great article, the social enterprise sector is going from strength to strength.

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