Lean Startups for Social Change: The Revolutionary Path to Big Impact – Michel Gelobter

In business, the lean start-up movement is turning the traditional approach to innovation on its head. Rather than developing an elaborate plan, raising money to fund it, and then following it to its uncertain conclusion; a process that can take years; entrepreneurs in companies new and old are launching small inexpensive initiatives to test ideas, quickly learning from failures and successes, and using that data to further refine the ideas and test them again. Social entrepreneur Michel Gelobter says there’s no reason the social sector can’t do the same.

He uses dozens of real-world examples: a homelessness group that discovered the one metric they needed to improve to get more people off the streets; a technology-based literacy startup that was able to reach two million children in two years, when it took a more traditionally-oriented program fifteen; and many others.

Well worth a read for everyone starting up or for those who want to innovate effectively.

Purchase this book via Amazon

Social Enterprise: How to Successfully set up and grow a social enterprise – Heidi L Fisher

This is a book written by a Finance Director, Heidi Fisher so the messages about making money come across loud and clear. Heidi uses the Japanese concept of Ikigai “your reason for being” to illustrate how your passion, mission, profession and vocation can come together to shape a successful social enterprise.

The amazon description says: This book tells you what social enterprise is, how to set up a social enterprise and how to run, manage and grow it successfully.

•Do you want to make a difference to people and the planet?
•Do you want to make money in a way that aligns with your values?

This book makes it easier than you think with information on legal structures for social enterprise, how to develop products and services, pricing, tax and VAT issues, people management, marketing, financing and investment, social value and impact measurement, as well as looking at your exit strategy, how to avoid burnout and the future of social enterprise. The book is based on the UK perspective, and the tax and other legislation currently operating in the UK.

Purchase this book via Amazon

Start Something That Matters – Blake Mycoskie

In 2006, while travelling in Argentina, young entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie encountered children too poor to afford shoes, who developed injuries on their feet that often led to serious health problems. Blake knew he wanted to help, but rather than start a charity, he went against conventional wisdom and created a for profit business to help the children who he met. With the help of a local shoemaker, Blake struck out to merge activism and fashion in the form of a local canvas shoe worn by farmers and gauchos alike, called the alpargata. Blake called his creation TOMS Shoes (which stands for “Tomorrow’s Shoes”) and promised to give a pair of new shoes to a child in need for every pair that he sold. Starting with only two hundred pairs of handmade shoes, optimism, and entrepreneurial charisma, Blake successfully launched TOMS into the high fashion world. They can now be seen adorning the feet of celebrities such as Keira Knightley, Scarlett Johansson, and Tobey Maguire.

Blake’s mission is to prove that you can achieve financial success and make the world a better place at the same time. In this book, he shares the six counterintuitive principles that have guided the growth of TOMS for the past three years:

Make business personal
Be resourceful without resources
Reverse retirement
Keep it simple
Stay humble
Give more, advertise less

The result is an inspiring account of a young man whose entrepreneurial spirit was able to affect change in the world, and a call to others to be inspired to do the same.

As part of the One for One initiative, Random House will provide a new book to a child in need with every copy of Start Something That Matters purchased.

How to be a Social Entrepreneur Make Money & Change the World

This book by Robert Ashton, a good friend of Social Enterprise Acumen is grounded and sensible. It’s now only available from 3rd party sellers but well worth both reading and then turning into action.


The blurb says

“Don′t just make money make a difference.”

As a social entrepreneur, you can build a business that changes the world. But you will face some unique challenges. This book will prepare you for them.

Packed with advice, inspiration and real–life stories, it will help you:

  • Define what you want to do and why you want to do it
  • Find the right kind of funding
  • Build a brand that makes you unique
  • Find a team as motivated and inspired as you are
  • Measure the impact you′re having

How to be a Social Entrepreneur is the only social enterprise start–up guide you′ll ever need.


How to Change the World – David Bernstein

How to Change the World provides vivid profiles of social entrepreneurs. The book is an In Search of Excellence for social initiatives, intertwining personal stories, anecdotes, and analysis. Readers will discover how one person can make an astonishing difference in the world. The case studies in the book include Jody Williams, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for the international campaign against landmines she ran by e-mail from her Vermont home; Roberto Baggio, a 31-year old Brazilian who has established eighty computer schools in the slums of Brazil; and Diana Propper, who has used investment banking techniques to make American corporations responsive to environmental dangers.

We love the chapter on the six qualities of social entrepreneurs and use it as a quiz for start-ups

Answer these questions as follows.

1 = not at all like me

2 = a bit like me

3 = fairly like me

4 = very like me

5 = absolutely me

Question 1 2 3 4 5

I am willing to admit I am wrong and change my plans



I don’t care who gets the credit for what is achieved



I am happy to break the mould to achieve impact



I can bring together thinking from different disciplines



I want to do something rather than be someone



I want to restore justice in society or tackle a social issue







25-30               you are definitely destined to be a social entrepreneur

15-25               You are ready to change your bit of the world

6-14                 Think about staying with the day job


KOTO transforms the lives of disadvantaged and at-risk youth in Vietnam through a holistic hospitality training program

KOTO stands for Know One, Teach One. Learning should be passed on; knowledge is meant to be shared. This is the essential idea of KOTO’s Vietnamese-Australian founder, Jimmy Pham. More than 16 years ago, Mr Jimmy opened a hospitality training centre in Hanoi, giving at-risk and disadvantaged youth the opportunity to learn and thrive in their lives.​

KOTO’s purpose is to end the cycle of poverty by empowering and helping our targeted youth to forge a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.  ​

As a social enterprise, KOTO has trained over 700 students in training centres in Hanoi and Saigon, with 200 of them currently enrolled.​

In addition to the Foundation arm that focuses on raising funds to support its cause through charitable activities and initiatives, KOTO also operates an Enterprise arm, which serves as a platform for real life hospitality training and also a source of income to support the training and welfare of our students.

Kate Welch was privileged to work with The British Council in Vietnam and visited KOTO in Hanoi, tasted the lovely baked goods and met young trainees. She has since met the founder, Jimmy Pham on a number of occasions and still supports KOTO

Value Proposition Design – Alex Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Greg Bernarda & Alan Smith









Value Proposition Design helps you overcome the core challenges every business faces when creating successful products and services for customers.

Using the same outstanding visual format as the authors global bestseller, Business Model Generation, this sequel explains how to use Value Proposition to

1. Canvas
2. Design
3. Test
4. Evolve
resulting in products and services that customers actually want.
This book will help you understand what customers want and how to deliver it to them, you’ll learn simple new skills of design and testing which will help you deliver the needs desires of the target audience.
In addition the book gives you exclusive access to an online companion on Strategyzer.com. You will be able to assess your work, learn from peers, and download pdfs, checklists, and more.


How was Greenvines started ?
In 2010, three students just graduating from National Taiwan University’s School of Finance worked for a period of time and decided to start Greenvines. The mission of their company is” To sprout a more genuine, healthier lifestyle that sustains.”

Its social impact  

  1. Greenvines revolutionized the agriculture industry and the way that Taiwanese eat by producing the first organic “live sprout” and investing extensive R&D.
  2. The company launched its first organic sprout extract skincare product.They extended their
    belief to personal care products.
  3. Meanwhile, through food/farming education, it is striving to develop a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle for everyone.
  4. In addition, Greenvines also promotes Moringa Oil, a fair trade skin care product from Ghana which helps the growth of the Moringa trees and African farmers build better lives.
  5. As a certified B-Corp, Greenvines published its first benefit report in 2016.The company cares its employers’ welfare. For example, staff have 40 hours off paid off for volunteering every year.

What’s the business model of Greenvines?

In Bloomberg Business Week’s article, Greenvines is described as follows, “Greenvine, the Creator of Chinese Shu Uemura: Entrepreneurs who attempt  to break away from Tradition.”It has not only received widely recognition from the media but numerous awards(more than 50 media reports and 6 project awards from the government). Nowadays it works with over 300 high-quality distribution partners in Taiwan.

Written by Jennie Yen

In Our Hands – Steve Wyler

The story of community business demonstrates enthusiastic support from unlikely places, from radicals and conservatives, from the very poorest in society and from the very richest. It helps us to realise that the strength and endurance of the community business movement is not simply about breadth and scale in the here and now, but that we also have depth and scale in the past. And looking backwards into the history of community business turns out to be a way to help us look forward with greater confidence and hopefulness for the community business movement.

This is a fascinating book written by Steve Wyler OBE who was CEO of Locality until 2014. We have had the pleasure of knowing Steve for many years and learnt a lot from his wisdom and experience. He is up in The North East in early April to bring together activist around A Better Way.
This readable book reminds all of us engaged in civil society that we truly stand on the shoulders of giants. In tracing our history in such an engaging and readable way, Steve Wyler allows us to rethink our future, and in particular to understand the power of mutual support and solidarity in difficult times.

– Julia Unwin, Independent Inquiry into the Future of Civil Society

Special iApps

Special iApps develop educational apps for children with special educational needs, including autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, hearing impairment and other learning disabilities.

Special iApps is based in Durham and was founded by Bev and Colin Dean. Their younger son, William, was born in 2005 with Down syndrome and Hirschsprung’s disease. Bev recognised the potential of devices like the iPad for helping children with learning disabilities, but couldn’t find apps suitable for William, so she asked Colin to start writing some for him.

Special iApps are now growing with social investment and making the most of scale up programmes from UnLtd and the School for Social Entrepreneurs. Bev is a great supporter of the network and the North East Social Enterprise Festival run by Social Enterprise Acumen. They have won numerous awards for their work as tech entrepreneurs as well as for the social impact they are achieving.

Head over to Special iApps for more information