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The Solution Revolution: How Business, Government, and Social Enterprises Are Teaming Up to Solve Society's Toughest Problems

The Solution Revolution: How Business, Government, and Social Enterprises Are Teaming Up to Solve Society's Toughest Problems

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by William D. Eggers, Paul Macmillan

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Government Alone Can’t Solve Society’s Biggest Problems

World hunger. Climate change. Crumbling infrastructure. It’s clear that in today’s era of fiscal constraints and political gridlock, we can no longer turn to government alone to tackle these and other towering social problems. What’s required is a new, more collaborative


Government Alone Can’t Solve Society’s Biggest Problems

World hunger. Climate change. Crumbling infrastructure. It’s clear that in today’s era of fiscal constraints and political gridlock, we can no longer turn to government alone to tackle these and other towering social problems. What’s required is a new, more collaborative and productive economic system. The Solution Revolution brings hope—revealing just such a burgeoning new economy where players from across the spectrum of business, government, philanthropy, and social enterprise converge to solve big problems and create public value.

By erasing public-private sector boundaries, the solution economy is unlocking trillions of dollars in social benefit and commercial value. Where tough societal problems persist, new problem solvers are crowdfunding, ridesharing, app-developing, or impact-investing to design innovative new solutions for seemingly intractable problems. Providing low-cost health care, fighting poverty, creating renewable energy, and preventing obesity are just a few of the tough challenges that also represent tremendous opportunities for those at the vanguard of this movement. They create markets for social good and trade solutions instead of dollars to fill the gap between what government can provide and what citizens need.

So what drives the solution economy? Who are these new players and how are their roles changing? How can we grow the movement? And how can we participate?

Deloitte’s William D. Eggers and Paul Macmillan answer these questions and more, and they introduce us to the people and organizations driving the revolution—from edgy social enterprises growing at a clip of 15 percent a year, to megafoundations, to Fortune 500 companies delivering social good on the path to profit. Recyclebank, RelayRides, and LivingGoods are just a few of the innovative organizations you’ll read about in this book.

Government cannot handle alone the huge challenges facing our global society—and it shouldn’t. We need a different economic paradigm that can flexibly draw on resources, combine efforts, and create value, while improving the lives of citizens. The Solution Revolution shows the way.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
“Imagine the world if we were able to double, triple, or even quadruple the number of problem solvers, the diversity of solutions, and the scale of social impacts.” This utopian assertion is at the heart of this energetic study of non-governmental solutions from Deloitte executives Eggers and Macmillan. In the past, when the government was responsible for effecting change, there were conflicting interests between departments and agencies and meager resources. But with the “solution revolution,” companies, educational institutions, and individuals are stepping in and providing better results at lower costs, the authors write. “A new economy has emerged at the borderlands where traditional sectors overlap,” the authors explain, based in a market for solutions to societal problems. In lively prose, the authors discuss such innovations as the Google employee shuttles, Recyclebank, and Zipcar. Outside of these big names, highlights of the book include the work of lesser-known game changers: Unilever’s Wheel soap, sold in small quantities at low prices, help the very poor fight diarrhea-related deaths, and a contest proposed by Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business professors to design a , simple-to-build house to address housing shortages. These stories along with substantive advice for individuals and governments alike present a persuasive argument that the future of global change rests squarely in the hands of ordinary citizens. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

“…pulsating with fresh ideas about civic and business and philanthropic engagement…the breadth of examples is impressive and global.” — The Wall Street Journal

“Eggers and Macmillan’s work succeeds…as a guide to new opportunities to profit from ‘socially impactful’ activities once thought unprofitable.” — Financial Times

“Another good read, The Solution Revolution explores how business, government, philanthropy and social enterprise are converging to solve big problems and create public value...the innovations Eggers and Macmillan outline, and the possibilities they imagine, are fascinating and tantalizing.” — The Washington Post

The Solution Revolution is an excellent primer for anyone interested in joining the ranks of the social sector…Very few authors and researchers have provided such a comprehensive view of the social sector…” — Policy Perspectives (policy-perspectives.org)

“This book looks at how business, government, and social enterprises are teaming up to solve society's toughest problems. “It’s the best book out there on mobilising communities to solve wicked problems,” says Peter Williams from audit and consulting firm Deloitte.” — Sydney Morning Herald, Summer Reading List, Tech Knowledge

“… a fascinating preview of our economic future, a system where choice, sustainability, and more adaptive ecosystems offer all of us the ability to collaborate towards better solutions.” — USA Book News

“… a pick for social issues and business collections alike. Business collections will find this a specific, inspirational guide!” — Midwest Book Review

“For a book devoted to seemingly intractable problems, it has a very hopeful message.” — BizEd magazine

“A thought-provoking book on how changes have given rise to new issues and challenges and how important it is for society to think beyond self.” — The Star

“an energetic study” and saying, “These stories along with substantive advice for individuals and governments alike present a persuasive argument that the future of global change rests squarely in the hands of ordinary citizens.” — Publishers Weekly

“… worth reading because it is vital to comprehend how, to an astonishing extent, this convergence is already changing the world.” — Vancouver Sun

“If you’re looking for an optimistic read, The Solution Revolution: How Business, Government, and Social Enterprises Are Teaming Up to Solve Society’s Toughest Problems is a perfect choice…This is high-energy, high-level thinking being put into on-the-ground practice to see what comes of it.” — Associations Now (ASAE: American Society of Association Executives)

The Solution Revolution shows how entrepreneurs all over the world are stepping forward to innovate for the public good.” — T+D magazine (American Society for Training & Development)

The Solution Revolution provides a useful and thought-provoking method map, examples, and inspiration for this journey.” — Research-Technology Management

ADVANCE PRAISE for The Solution Revolution:

Walter Isaacson, President and CEO, Aspen Institute; author, Steve Jobs
“Citizens and businesses are creating a ‘solution economy’ that blends market forces and altruism to get good things done . . . Watch out. This book may inspire you to join the revolution!”

Peter H. Diamandis, Chairman and CEO, XPRIZE Foundation; Chairman, Singularity University; coauthor, Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think
“Today the world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest market opportunities. Want to become a billionaire? Solve a billion-person problem. The Solution Revolution shows you how.”

Jennifer Pahlka, Deputy US CTO; founder and Executive Director, Code for America—
The Solution Revolution explores how the intersections of the sectors can unlock the potential we’ll need to face the realities of the twenty-first century.”

John Mackey, co-CEO and cofounder, Whole Foods Market; coauthor, Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business
The Solution Revolution is a wise reminder that global problems shouldn’t be left to government alone to solve . . . Read this book and join today’s ‘solution economy.’”

The Right Honourable Paul Martin, former Prime Minister of Canada—
“With a global population approaching nine billion and governments so indebted that their only answer is to beggar succeeding generations, the current path is clearly unsustainable. Eggers and Macmillan seek a better way.”

Geoff Mulgan, CEO, Nesta; author, The Locust and the Bee: Predators and Creators in Capitalism’s Future
“Eggers and Macmillan vividly describe creative solutions that break the boundaries between the public and private sectors and civil society.”

Rachel Botsman, coauthor, What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption
“Read this book if you want to understand how the ‘solution revolution’ will create a trillion-dollar market for social good by unlocking the value of underutilized resources in ways and on a scale never possible before.”

Product Details

Harvard Business Review Press
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6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

William D. Eggers is the Global Research Director for Deloitte’s Public Sector practice, columnist, and author or coauthor of seven books, including the Washington Post bestseller If We Can Put a Man on the Moon.

Paul Macmillan is the Global Industry Leader for the Public Sector practice for Deloitte. He is a founder of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC)–Deloitte Public Sector Leadership Awards, and is also a member of the board of directors of Bridgepoint Active Healthcare in Toronto.

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The Solution Revolution: How Business, Government, and Social Enterprises Are Teaming Up to Solve Society's Toughest Problems 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
plappen More than 1 year ago
Government, by itself, can no longer fix all of society's problems. Perhaps it is time for a partnership between government, business and new organizations that that are shrinking the gap between what citizens need and what government can provide. Does your town have a rather dismal home recycling rate? Instead of spending tax money on a recycling PR campaign, visit a site called Recyclebank. They have helped towns to double or triple their recycling rate in just a few months. Is downtown clogged with traffic? Instead of imposing some sort of downtown driving fee, consider a car-sharing service like ZipCar. It is now possible to mobilize huge amounts of resources around societal problems, while the costs plummet. In this new solution economy, the exchange and creation of value (currencies) are happening in new ways. The new currency could be data, credits, reputation or social outcomes (like reduced sickness). There are also new ways to trade these new currencies. They range from prizes and challenges, to crowdfunding platforms, to two-sided markets (with no middleman), to arrangements that pay for success. Can the same system work for international issues, like human trafficking or providing inexpensive housing for India's poor? How can government or business help to bring about a solution economy? Government can use their purchasing power to create demand, be open to other avenues to reach a desired outcome, open up public data, avoid over-regulating the solution economy and recognize social enterprises as a new kind of business. Business can help by looking at their operating procedures against social criteria, make a bold commitment, change their sourcing practices, and find a way to leverage that open data. This is a really interesting book. Perhaps it will inspire others to find social needs that are not yet being met, and do something about it. The only bad part of this book is the lack of a list in the back of the websites mentioned in the book (there are quite a number of them). Aside from that, this book is very much worth reading, for businesses and individuals.
popscipopulizer More than 1 year ago
*A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com. The main argument: Prior to the 19th century, public goods and social goals such as sanitation, health, affordable housing, education, and environmental protection were largely left up to individuals to sort out for themselves. Beginning in the 19th century, though, more and more governments—particularly in the industrialized, democratized world—began taking these responsibilities on themselves. In the latter half of the 20th century, the promotion of public goods and social goals expanded as governments in the developed world intensified their efforts at home and began spreading their attention to the developing parts of the planet, and large non-profits and NGOs started cropping up to help with the issues both domestically and abroad. Recently, we have seen a new trend develop, as in the past two decades businesses and corporations have themselves increasingly entered the fray. Now, this may seem odd, given that business is often seen as indifferent—if not downright hostile—to public goods and social goals. However, several developments have occurred in recent years that have flipped this logic on its head. As you might expect, many of the developments spoken of here have been made possible by recent innovations—everything from social networking, to crowd-funding, to crowd-sourcing, to micro-financing, to prize and pay-for-success exchanges, to socially-responsible and impact investing etc.—and the author is sure to touch on all these as well. On the bright side, it is certainly nice to see a book-length discussion about a very timely and important topic. On the not-so-bright-side, the reading experience of the book leaves much to be desired. The biggest issue here is with the examples. Many of the examples are touched on only briefly, and in passing—some of them receiving but a single sentence in a paragraph. It would have been much better to see fewer examples explored in greater detail. Still, there is much to be learned here, and the book is a valuable read. A full executive summary of the book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com; a podcast discussion of the book will be available shortly.
Ivy_So More than 1 year ago
Social innovation is an exciting but messy space. While there's been a growing dialogue on it - that is, on how we can tackle some of the world's most intractable problems using new strategies and approaches - over the last decade or so, there have been so many moving parts that it's not easy to understand the landscape of this emerging movement. We hear about interesting business models (e.g. zipcar) or new concepts (e.g. microfinance) here and there - but how do they interrelate with each other, and what is the bigger picture within which these innovations operate? What are the components of the larger landscape, and how do the different pieces fit with each other? These questions are of great interest to me - as a citizen, and as a business professional looking to examine where I can apply my skills for the most impact - and I know I'm not the only one. Eggers and Macmillan's Solution Revolution presents a comprehensive mapping of the players in the current landscape, and provides frameworks to think about this sometimes seemingly-nebulous concept of how social challenges are being tackled in new and innovative ways. This is a field that has grown quickly and organically, and mapping it out is a huge undertaking - and the book has done a fantastic job with it. I'm impressed by the breadth of concrete examples that the book provides, from bigger organizations to more local models; the discussion and case studies span globally, looking at the progress in different countries and what we may be able to learn from them. The book is provocative in challenging the traditional paradigms of business, non-profits, and governments, and what new models can do to solve our society's challenges. The Solution Revolution effectively captures a vast breadth of emerging ideas and trends - from impact investing to base of the pyramid - and cuts through the jargon to break down what the movement really means. In addition, the discussion on ecosystems allow us to understand the solution revolution in the bigger picture, how this movement can be further enabled by different players (including ourselves as citizens and contributors), and how to think about scaling beyond getting an idea off the ground. While Solution Revolution is much more than a collection of inspiring stories - I would argue the frameworks and understanding of the ecosystem that it offers are some of its most valuable aspects - the book is filled with inspiring stories of social innovators and how they've been able to take their idea to action. I finished the book buzzing with ideas and inspiration, and I could barely contain my excitement in recommending it to friends and colleagues. Business professionals, non-profit practitioners, public servants, politicians, students, and citizens can all benefit from the thinking and ideas offered in the Solution Revolution. Highly recommended.