Three Books To Help You Think More Radically about Building a Business For Good

Published on
April 5, 2023

Being a founder requires you to learn and stretch your thinking in many ways. As I try to manage business growth that is driven by equity, I often feel more like a business philosopher than a designer or strategist. I need books that touch my mind, the most human part of me, but also challenge me. 

The books below will certainly do the same for you. 

But only read it if you are truly looking to escape the sea of sameness present in business content.

Ownership Economy by Marjorie Kelly

Marjorie Kelly's book The Ownership Economy examines a new economic theory that strongly emphasizes the value of widespread ownership and control over businesses. According to Kelly, a more equitable and sustainable economy can be created through ownership and control structures that prioritize the interests of employees, communities, and the environment. It shares what many of us know: the traditional model of capitalism based on shareholders has led to income inequality, environmental damage, and social instability.

The book presents a vision of an "Ownership Revolution" in which businesses are owned and governed by a wide range of stakeholders, including workers, consumers, and local communities. Kelly says this model would lead to a more democratic and participatory economy in which decisions about investments, governance, and the distribution of profits are made through open and fair processes that include everyone. This isn't just theory; inside, you’ll find examples of businesses that have already adopted this model, such as employee-owned enterprises, cooperatives, and community land trusts.

 Kelly also looks at how technology affects the ownership economy and how blockchain and other digital platforms could be used to create new kinds of decentralized ownership and government. Overall, The Ownership Economy paints a compelling picture of a more fair and sustainable economic system and tells businesses and communities how to move toward this model.

Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist, written by Kate Raworth

Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist, written by Kate Raworth, challenges traditional economic thinking and presents a new framework for sustainable development. The book isn’t saying anything about climate activists; native and indigenous people have been sharing for centuries. But she uses her experience as an economist to share frameworks that apply to our current systems.

The current economic model can't handle the complicated problems the world is facing right now, like climate change, inequality, and environmental damage. Raworth's "doughnut" framework is a picture of a safe and just place for people to live. The inner ring shows the basic needs of all people, and the outer ring depicts the limits of the planet's ecosystem. Raworth says that economic development's goal should be to ensure everyone has access to the resources and opportunities they need to succeed while staying within these ecological limits.

The book explores seven ways to think like a 21st-century economist, including:

* Challenging the obsession with GDP growth, 

* Embracing complexity and uncertainty ( you can read more about Embracing Complexity as a mindset here)

* Designing for distributive and regenerative outcomes 

Raworth also shows how this new economic model can be used in the real world, from small-scale projects to national policies.Throughout the book, you are shown a way to think outside the traditional boundaries of economics and how economic decisions affect society and the environment. By doing this, she paints a powerful picture of a more just and sustainable future. Doughnut Economics is a must-read for anyone who wants to change how our economy works and make the world more fair and sustainable.

Belonging by bell hooks

And a book that is incredibly close to my heart, Belonging: A Culture of Place, was written by bell hooks.

Belonging explores the concept of belonging and the role of place in our lives. The book says that a lack of connection to place causes the disconnection and fragmentation many people feel in modern society. We can rebuild these connections by emphasizing community and local culture more.Hooks brings you back to her childhood in rural Kentucky and her observations of modern culture to show how important place is in shaping who we are and how we relate to each other. 

She contends that a sense of place can serve as a springboard for one's development as a person, as a creative force, and as an activist for social justice.Belonging looks at how we can build a sense of place through things like education, the arts, and community-building projects. It emphasizes the importance of recognizing and valuing the diversity of experiences and perspectives within a particular place and cultivating relationships grounded in empathy and understanding.

One of the main points throughout the book is especially relevant for founders looking to build meaningful things in a meaningful way. Also challenges us to think critically about how social and economic systems can contribute to a sense of disconnection and rootlessness and to work towards creating a more sustainable and just society. 

Collective Courage by Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard

Since individualism is at the heart of capitalism, the movement toward a cooperative economy counterbalances and dismantles that ferocious individualism.

Collective Courage provides a thorough history of Black cooperative economic theory and practice in America. It examines the ways in which they have resisted oppression, used cooperatives for economic survival, and exercised their right to self-determination.

It serves as a reminder that Black people are innovators and that our innovations frequently provide the greatest possible benefit to the greatest number of people. Innovations include credit unions, housing cooperatives, agricultural cooperatives, and worker-owned cooperatives.

Subscribe to newsletter

Subscribe to receive the latest blog posts to your inbox every week.

By subscribing you agree to with our Privacy Policy.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Get our full
Workshop Catalog

From Design Justice Principles to Strategic Planning our workshops help you find your next opportunity for growth.
Arrange a
Virtual Coffee