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on 15 December 2011
Short review: How to set up and run socially aware enterprises. Average advice on how to run a business. Better business books available.

Longer review:

This is a worthy book. The core value of the book is to show you how to create an enterprise that not only employs people but helps make the world a better place. What's not to like? With all of us in the middle of the current economic storm, this theme is one that we all could support.

Unfortunately, this book fails to deliver.

I have read many, many business books and this was one of the worst I've read. I had to force myself to finish it (see why I did so below) but I really didn't enjoy myself. And I'm one of those odd types that DOES enjoy reading business books!

I found Scofield's anecdotes dull and uninspiring. I found his advice mundane. And I struggled to see why his book would help you run a social business.

Once I got over my 'guilt' at criticising such a noble book, I realised that it fails, for me, on two counts:

1. It's actually a poor 'How to Guide'. There are many other better business books available. Books that will better equip you to create your global empire. My recommendation would be:How to be a Social Entrepreneur: Make Money and Change the World

2. This book doesn't explain in any great depth what it means to be a 'social business'. I had a very vague notion of what a social enterprise looks like before I read the book. Unfortunately, after reading this book, I'm still not much clearer. Maybe I missed something, but Scofield didn't help me understand what distinguishes a social enterprise from a regular business.

So, in conclusion, if you're looking to set up a business that will improve the world then I salute you! Really I do.

But save your time and read something else. And save your money to invest in your business!

[Disclaimer - I was sent a free copy of the book by the publishers]
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on 24 April 2012
In a couple places in The Social Entrepreneur's Handbook, the author, Rupert Scofield, states that he originally wanted to write a memoir and that he was persuaded to write a handbook. I'm very glad that the author chose the handbook format and not a memoir. We all love a good story, but memoirs are like the Soviet Union slowly taking over libraries and bookstores one shelf at a time.

The Social Entrepreneur's Handbook is much more outward looking, and hence of more use, than any memoir I've ever read. Don't worry, the book is chock full of entertaining stories of Mr. Scofield's many years of international work. He opens with a few of his near brushes with death and goes on from there. But, the book is really about you the reader who is interested in changing the world for the better.

There are many practical insights into what it takes to bring a dream into reality. The author reflects on his many years of experience helping to build a leading international microfinance institution. Mr. Scofield offers practical advice on everything from hiring a finance manager to picking an MIS and he is not shy about detailing the mistakes he made along the way. But, most important, Mr. Scofield verifies that you really can change the world for the better and have a good time doing it. His book shows you how.
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Anyone planning or running a social enterprise or charity (or even commercial organisation with intent for social good) should read this book - it has so much useful information that I read it twice before I wrote this review
Scofield writes about his experience creating, establishing and growing FINCA, an international micro-finance organisation, and writes from experience (sometimes joyful, sometimes bitter). This is not a book about "it ought to be like this", but it explains the unexpected and the unforseen - you learn so much from Scofield's experience and the experience he draws on from other organisations that you will make fewer mistakes and enjoy more success.
Is it only relevant to microfinance? I built a Social Enterprise providing healthcare and I'm now setting up a charity for health awareness, and I found many if not all of the lessons fascinating and highly relevant.
FOR EXAMPLE: How do I spot the wrong people to employ, the ones who sing beautifully at interview and either suck in money and deliver nothing, or change the culture in the wrong way? What about bringing in experts from the "dark side" (the commercial world) to help the business grow? Schofield has done all of this and more. How do I find celebrity endorsement? How do I maintain the organisation as autonomous units but keep to the founding principles? How do I keep in touch with my donors and retain their commitment, without driving them away? Again, Scofield can present real-life stories both of his clients and rivals, and of FINCA's internal politics.

We've all read coffee table books about the "goodness" of social enterprise. This isn't one of those. It's a book so full of experience that it is one you will go back to again and again, and probably buy copies for your executive board and main donors. Your initial investment could get expensive, but I can guarantee that you will look back on it as one of the best investments you ever made.
And for the students out there - why make the mistakes yourself? Why try to reinvent the wheel with something that bumps you along? The most important thing in life is to find good mentors, and I think Scofield qualifies as one of those!

Received as a review copy from the publisher
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on 9 September 2011
This book by Rupert Scofield details the steps that the aspiring social entrepreneur should expect to take, if they are to improve the likelihood of realising their ambitions in the world of the non-profit. This includes the initial poverty experience phase, in order to develop empathy towards the clients and the mission, and proceeds onward through the stage of apprenticeship and a possible career path within an established non-profit, or the choice of breaking out and establishing a non-profit of one's own.

The structure of the book is helpful with its breakdown into main sections, principles and anecdotal examples. The quality of writing is consistent in style, and is peppered with amusing similes that demonstrate Rupert Scofield's creative writing prowess, which are often and obviously superior to those who use such literary devices in literary fiction. For example: When criticising a piece of troublesome financial management software: 'buggier than nightfall over a Bangaladeshi rice paddy' :-)

In addition, Rupert Scofield covers the subject, warts and all, with regard to the highlights and lowlights, the highlifes and lowlifes that are likely to be encountered. Sometimes, and alarmingly too often, to the extent of being a serious risk to life and limb.

A point touched upon, and which will continue to be a serious challenge, in spite of the Arab Spring, for example, is the predicament faced by developing nations over how it is possible for there to be a safe enough and stable enough environment within which those who have been lifted out of dire poverty, can remain in the country, so as not to lose the benefit of their new found prosperity and ambitions to more stable locales abroad, that really do not need their presence, and which contributes too much to an endless cycle of poverty, that may, at best, remain just above dire.

Finally, with its focus on organisation and management systems, as the means to improve the likelihood of a successful non-profit, there is useful information to be had for those who would be entrepreneurs in the manjana, manjana economises of southern Europe, who need to more gently progress from ground zero, to the rigours of the for-profit enterprises that their countries, such as Greece, Portugal and Spain, so badly need.

I would also recommend The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators by Jeff Dyer, to complement this title, so that the development of the social entrepreneur's innovation skills, are more rapidly and successfully developed.

The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators
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on 10 October 2011
This book contains a lot of useful information and it is very motivating.
It really is a very comprehensive guide to setting up and running a charity.

There is a huge amount of practical information and advice.
It is American so not everything is relevant and I thought that perhaps there were too many references to firing staff.

This book also works well as a general management guide.
It is written in an easy to read style and there are many interesting stories

I had not heard of the organisation or the author before but a quick internet search reveals FINCA to be a very credible organisation.

( Disclosure - I did receive a free copy of this book)
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on 26 July 2011
Rupert Scofield's book 'The Social Entrepreneur's Handbook' is not only a comprehensive and grounded guide to building your own non-for-profit business but also an inspiring work which reminds you of your power and responsibility as a world citizen.
This book gives you an in-depth and inside view into the highly successful micro-finance non-for-profit international organisation FINCA. Not only is it a highly useful toolkit it is also entertaining and a complete pleasure to read from start to finish.
I thoroughly recommend it!
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