Building Social Business

Books, Building Social Business


This month’s book is Building Social Business by Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank and microcredit. Social business is a growing enterprise model in which entrepreneurs and investors use profit for social good over personal financial gain.

Building Social Business draws its examples for creating a sustainable model from Grameen’s long list of endeavors, which include selling low-cost nutritious yogurt and addressing the water crisis. Part of Yunus’s definition of a social business is investing 100% of profits back into the enterprise. I wonder if asking investors to give up profits/dividends completely is realistic but I expect he will address this.

Social business has gained a lot of support recently and some (me, depending on the day) argue they are the refined, self-sustaining version of nonprofits. They are ‘all the rage’ right now (WhyDev has dubbed the phenomenon MOSE – My Own Social Enterprise), and this book will offer a good look at how they can be a part of international development…and creating a world without poverty.

A winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Muhammad Yunus’s other works include Banker to the Poor and Creating a World Without Poverty.


The Bright Continent

Books, The Bright Continent

the bright continent

The Bright Continent challenges the typical helpless depiction of Africans seen in the mainstream media and poverty campaigns. There is growing conversation about the need for a new approach to communications in international development and this illuminating account of day-to-day narratives is a great place to start.

Olopade visited 18 countries to document the ways Africans are taking control of their development through entrepreneurial and innovative means by making use of the resources around them. It is an account of the power of grassroots initiatives outside the sphere of Western aid and international intervention, which many other books focus on. In particular she highlights technology, commercialism, nature (natural resources), and youth.

When you’re thinking of Africa in the context of the wars you’ve seen, the poverty you assume, or the government you’ve given up on, you’re likewise missing the point. In the age of breakthrough technologies and instant access to information, blindness is no excuse. The stories in this book provide a new compass – not just for the continent, but for every sector of the global economy.

-Dayo Olopade, The Bright Continent

What Did You Read in 2014?


Reading a book for 30 minutes can reduce stress and boost your concentration. – The Wall Street Journal

Here are some of the best book lists floating around this time of year (in no particular order). Not all are related to development so there should be some unfamiliar titles to add to your 2015 bookshelf (or e-reader).

Ready? William Easterly hailed In the Light of What We Know as the best novel of 2014. Howard French, author of China’s Second Continent, compiled everything he read this year. Zara Rahman, a global dev data specialist, made a great list of the 50 books she read this year -all by women.

Other book lists include This is Africa’s choices for the best African works published between 2010-2014. The Washington Post says these books were the best, here’s what celebrities read, what the New York Public Library staff liked, and the books that impacted Maria Popova of the website Brain Pickings the most.

I re-read the Harry Potter series recently so Deathly Hallows is at the top of my list. As for development books, I learned the most from Development as Freedom but Dead Aid was the best written (good information and clear writing).

What was your favorite book of 2014? What is on your to-read list for 2015?

All the International Development Books (Vote)


Here is our grand list of international development books (not lacking in subtitles). I’ve added all the suggestions received so far and have hunted around for additional recommendations. You can also add books to the poll.

Vote for up to 5 of the most interesting, informative, or even ridiculous development books to let us know what we should be reading. These are also listed on our Goodreads page where you can find more information on each title and author.

Happy Reading!

Sources: Development Book Club Suggestions, Women in Aid, David AlgosoAid LeapChris Blattman, The Guardian

Additional Readings on The White Man’s Burden

Books, White Man's Burden

The following is a list of articles, conversations, and reviews about The White Man’s Burden. To discuss the book click here.

The Poverty Puzzle – NY Times Book Review

Thank you Kury for sharing this one. “Easterly is better at documenting the failures of planning than analyzing the successes of searching.” -V. Postrel

The Man Without a Plan

Critique of White Man’s Burden by Amartya Sen. Good points to keep in mind while reading.

Book Notes

Full summary of the book by David Mays.

A chat with Bill Gates’ least favorite aid expert, Bill Easterly

Short interview with Easterly about aid by Tom Paulson at the Humanosphere.


What are some other resources?

The Next Few Books


Someone brought up an important issue (thanks!). Depending on where you are in the world it may take some time to locate the books we are reading. For that reason, I am posting the next few books based on the suggestions I have received so far.

September: The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It by Paul Collier

October: Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo

November: Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor by Paul Farmer