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Small Change: Why Business Won't Save the World

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  • Posted April 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Informed discussion of how business and social activism do and do not mix

    Popular wisdom says that nonprofit entities could achieve reform and efficiency best by acting like for-profits, and that being businesslike is the finest all-purpose path for organizations addressing the world's problems. Social activist Michael Edwards disagrees. In this thoughtful, articulate argument, he enumerates - without ever slipping into polemic ¬- the pitfalls in that line of thinking. He explains how nonprofits develop their own methods, and how vulnerable their processes are to inflexible thinking. He discusses with clarity and rigor the likely role business tactics could play in solving pressing issues, and he examines how capitalism and philanthropy do and do not work together. At first, this fascinating discussion seems contrarian, but it gains common sense as it goes along. getAbstract highly recommends this book to those who want to know how capitalism and philanthropy unite, to those who are interested in changing the world (or even the street) and, of course, to anyone with billions who wants to shift the social dynamic.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Required reading for everyone in philanthropy

    "Small Change should be required reading for every foundation board member and program officer, every major donor -- in fact, philanthropists of any description. In this tiny volume, Michael Edwards lays bare the fatal flaws in the philanthropic world in America today and offers a prescription for healing the field that could play a major role in putting our country back on track to leading with its values.

    Oddly enough, Edwards did not set out to write a critique of American philanthropy. The book is subtitled Why Business Won't Save the World, and the author's stated objective was to debate the dubious claims of the "philanthrocapitalism" espoused by The Economist's Michael Bishop and others, the "creative capitalism" offered by Bill Gates, the "fortune at the bottom of the pyramid" of C. K. Prahalad, "corporate social responsibility" of the window-dressing variety, and "social enterprise" in virtually all its guises. His goal, in short, was to reject the role of business, business thinking, and the market as solutions for the ills of the nonprofit sector.

    Michael Edwards is brilliant, articulate, and extremely knowledgeable about philanthropy, civil society, and social change, all of which are major themes in this book. For nearly ten years, he directed the Ford Foundation's Governance and Civil Society Program, and he has spent a total of three decades in the nonprofit sector. On matters involving business he is less sure-footed. In the course of writing this book, he conducted extensive research on the role of business and business thinking in the not-for-profit world. That research shows clearly in Edwards' eloquent critique of philanthropy that either comes directly from corporate sources or is guided by the metrics-driven methodologies of the business world."

    From Mal Warwick's blog on books: http://malwarwickonbooks.com/2010/02/15/small-change-by-michael-edwards/

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