Select Page

Are you researching social entrepreneurship? What are you hoping to learn? Do you know what social entrepreneurship is, by definition?

Social Entrepreneurship Reading List

Social entrepreneurship resources are scattered throughout the web. There is misinformation out there as I am sure there is with most topics – regardless of how ambiguous they may seem.
Author Update (January 2nd, 2016): I initially posted this reading list in March 2015. Since then, I have written a number of social entrepreneurship articles that of which I would like to include. This list will give you an understanding of what social entrepreneurship is as well as some specific insights as to how you might get started on the path to building your own social enterprise as well.

It can be difficult to get started especially when the top social entrepreneurship organizations from around the globe each have their own definition of social entrepreneurship. Rightfully so, as it is a complex topic.
After much research, collecting resources, and trial and error I was able to build a few of a my own social enterprises. My most recent project is Action Horizon Institute. We are growing social entrepreneurs at Action Horizon Institute.

Reading list streamlines social entrepreneurship

Table of Contents

  1. Sudden Surge in Capital
  2. What is social entrepreneurship?
  3. Concepts
  4. Cooperatives
  5. Books
  6. Assets and Activities
  7. Impact Investing
  8. Measuring Impact
  9. Universities
  10. Online Courses
  11. Certifications
  12. Events
  13. People
  14. Foundations
  15. Federal
  16. Ecosystems
  17. Twitter Hashtags
  18. Key Players

Sudden surge in capital

To see the government aligning capital for social problem resolution makes it much easier to use my imagination to come up with solutions for the problems which plague this nation. I look at this government funding as validation and permission.

What is social entrepreneurship?

I wrote a short post on how I define social entrepreneurs and the enterprises they build.
The following definitions provide insight into the terms (1) social entrepreneurship, (2) social entrepreneur, and (3) social enterprise.


These are books which have been valuable in my transformation to the social entrepreneurship way of life. I included links to the books which you can read for free online. Some of the books are important because they stretch your mind to the possibilities of what humans have accomplished. There will be no revolution today. We are too sophisticated to fight a losing battle. Thinking in terms of “us vs them” prevents society from evolving. The future is about working together. These readings should help you begin to frame issues from a solutionary standpoint.

  • Common Sense by Thomas Paine was written 250 years ago as a pocket-guide which was read, borrowed, and lent throughout social circles. Two versions of Common Sense by Thomas Paine can be read online for no cost.
  • The Prince by Machiavelli was published in the early 1500s and is widely known as the first of its kind. It is a valuable piece of literature to those interested in earning honor and power as a leader. Read The Prince in its entirety.
  • The Great Learning by Confucius is a short read about virtue, and a renovation of the people.
  • The Art of War written by Machiavelli in the 1500s is comprised of seven books. It is a lot to read, but I wanted to mention it. Full version online can be read here. If you choose between this and The Prince, I recommend The Prince.
  • The Art of War was also the title of a book by Sun Tzu. “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.” Read the full composition of The Art of War by Sun-Tzu free.
  • What to do When it’s Your Turn [And it’s always your turn] is a new book by Seth Godin. Your Turn is a unique publication. First of its kind. It is an inspirational tool to help people believe in themselves and understand the world is changing. I am bringing a stack of Your Turn books to our first local community meetup. Seth includes free books in every order so you can share them. Your Turn is a powerful call-to-action.
  • Tribes by Seth Godin has been a favorite of early adopters for the last few years. Tribes is about building and leading a tribe of people around your business or project. There are multiple tribes in existence at one time. Your tribe, my tribe, that person’s tribe, etc. Thus, we all must become leaders of our tribes. The book, Tribes, may not click for you if you are still convinced the future consists of traditional 9a-5p jobs. Read Tribes to be inspired to lead.
  • The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets that Change the World written by John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan. Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets that Change the World is a must read.


Do not be alarmed if the definitions of social entrepreneurship seem out of reach. There are a few other concepts surrounding the nucleus which will help you shape the ideas naturally.

  • Theory of Change is a term I wished I learned from day one. I was told I was wrong or crazy because of the solutionary framework I developed over the last six months. It was easy to believe them because traditional business is quick and easy. Theory of Change is the long, drawn out plan which outlines the solution for systemic change to take place. Learn it. Like…yesterday.
  • Three general phases to building a social enterprise: Inspiration. Ideation. Implementation.
  • Human Centered Design is about changing the way we view our purpose, and it encourages you to look at society from a high level view. Look at all the components. People. Families. Government. Business. Education. Poverty. If you have a problem, redesign the system to meet the needs of humans suffering.
  • Shared Value is about using business to solve social problems.
  • Solutions must work for mainstream and extremes


I recently added the Cooperative section. Once I have time I will fill in this section with the other links I have collected. For now, here are a few resources:

Assets and Activities

You will create your own valuable assets once you get moving in the right direction. These tools will get you there.

Impact Investing

Impact investors are specifically interested in invested in social entrepreneurs who are building sustainable business models that tackle social problems. Below is a list of impact investing resources, labs, accelerators, and funds. I am terribly sorry for the untitled links, but it is going to take me a little while to switch them over. Didn’t want you to miss out on the resources in the meantime.

Measuring Impact

Social Entrepreneurship in Universities

Online Courses

Certificate Programs




  • Get Mentor Me is a network for matching up individuals with powerful mentors


I don’t mean to confuse you with this list of foundations so I need to make a quick disclaimer. Foundations are generally known for providing grant opportunities to nonprofits. However, if you look into grant opportunities make sure your pitching, or running, a profitable social business. Otherwise, you will have to spend valuable time from your schedule various times throughout the year securing funding. Another problem with this is foundations tend to assign grant funds for projects to meet specific needs. Your social enterprise may fit their mold on the first year, but when you revisit them the following year they may be seeking completely different projects. If you go the foundation route look at the grant as a precious investment which will get you up and running. Working closely with mentors and financial advisors who have experience with this will increase the likelihood of your success.



  • OpenIDEO is a crowd-sourced knowledge base of resources for social entrepreneurs
  • Impact Hub
  • Social Enterprise Greenhouse (SEG)
  • Understanding ecosystems role in systems change
  • Social Enterprise Ecosystem is the alignment of resources, public spaces, educational literature (which you will find listed throughout this post), inspiration, legal services, mentors, community members, access to capital, business and marketing services, recruitment of new talent, policy reform, and a shared understanding of what is needed combined with a cooperative plan of action.
  • The Social Enterprise Census provides the data needed to build the most effective social enterprise ecosystems require great time commitment combined with a complex web of support systems to nurture humans as their personalities evolve and their behaviors change. It is your job to figure out how to make this process as frictionless and user-friendly as possible.
  • Social Enterprise Pipeline is a component of the social enterprise ecosystem. Your pipeline is the strong flow of community members who are bubbling with new ideas to improve the way their cities functions. Some initiatives are likely in motion already. Existing impact projects typically do not generate revenue on their own. The founders are likely spending their own money, or attempting to generate donations.

Twitter Hashtags

  • #impactinvesting is a hashtag for impact investors
  • #socent means social entrepreneurs or social entrepreneurship or social enterprises
  • #socinv is social investing
  • #access
  • #socentMBA is the new hashtag for the leading education resource on social entrepreneurship

Key Players

This social entrepreneurship reading list is not complete. I will continue adding resources in the next few days. If I missed anything important please let me know in the comments or tweet me or send me a message on Facebook.
Eventually, I will split apart the sections into their own reading lists. If you would like to get notifications of updates to these resources enter your email address below.
[gravityform id=”4″ name=”Get in touch with me… – Copy 1″ title=”false” description=”false”]
Do you have any social enterprise resources that are not in this list? I was hoping we could expand the books section a bit. Please send me your thoughts, links, and ideas on how to improve this resource.