“Do Good Well | Your Guide to Leadership, Action, and Social Innovation”
Authors: Nina Vasan & Jennifer Przybylo
This really is a book about doing good well. The authors are two women writing from the perspective of having been there, done that, and wanting to share their lessons learned.
This is the most unique How-To book in my collection now. Over an inch thick, and probably weighing 4 lbs, it can initially be off-putting. This is a big book. This is something–and the page layouts confirm–you would expect to find in the college bookstore.
An attractive book, it is indeed created to serve an educational purpose. The authors hope it may be used as the anchor text to a course. The generous white space in the margins support note taking; which I did plenty of. And, unlike most college texts I ever had, I didn’t find it boring to read. Almost every page has something worth underlining, highlighting, commenting about, or putting brackets around.
Let’s talk about the subject matter now…
This book focuses on solving largely humanitarian issues. The examples range from dealing with a dam that breaks, and the local issues; to national or global concerns, such as finding ways to reduce testing local water from $4,800 to $0.60.; and the Population Media Center, an international nongovernmental organization (NGO) promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment around the world.
Large, medium, or small, the content suits any size concern.
Their core strategy is straight-forward:
Do What Works
Make It Last
Broken into three core parts, each offers abundant guidance, thoughts, case studies, and suggestions. The book’s writing isn’t conversational yet nor is it academic. I found myself feeling as though I were listening to knowledgeable friends talking with me about a recent project they’d done. Plenty of insights, no fluff, puff, or BS, and in plain language.
A couple times I found myself chucking over how it looked like an academic text, yet didn’t feel like one.
Nina and Jennifer’s vision: “…to design a practical guide to help anyone with a desire to do good in this world not only do good, but do good well.”
In discussing Vision, the authors provide guidance (similar to what’s found in other books) about readers’ self-learning. Who are you, what are you really interested in, what are you strengths, and so on. It continues on from there, applying the same idea toward making sure you understand what is going on in your world. Identify problems. Understand the problems. And then brainstorming possible solutions.
Moving to part 2, the authors discuss the Method. Here they discuss, whether launching your own project or joining another, finding what works. Then building processes around them, reinforcing, scaling them.
Key to this is their discussion of focusing on what is working, measuring and analyzing, then repeating while building incrementally. Always focusing on what works, challenging assumptions, being creative, and moving forward.
While the first two parts of the book focus on analysis and discovery, then refining what works, a bit more than half of the book overall is in Part 3.
This is where a lot of so-called ‘how-to’ books fall down. They do part 1, part 2, and leave you to figure out execution (the meat of ‘how-to’) on your own. Instead, and this is what makes it worthy as a college text in my opinion: their focus on helping you figure out the execution side of things.
For instance, when was the last time you read a how-to, that spoke about strategies to increase your impact, and then got right down to discussing how to pick a good name for your effort, fund raising, marketing, advertising? They even spend some time about running for Office.
While Nina and Jennifer wait to formally discuss mentoring until pp.336 (of ~550pp), I thought it noteworthy that mentors and mentoring is woven throughout the book. Particularly in the United States, I think mentoring is a largely unmet need, almost poo-poo’d upon by a culture that espouses doing everything one’s self.
In a world where, regardless the name, no one can achieve anything alone. Everyone stands upon someone else’s shoulders, or is lifted up by another, at some point.
Note, this is not to diminish the greatness of individual achievement. It is simply to acknowledge no one does it alone. Andrew Stein, over at www.steinvox.com, speaks to this well in his piece, Leadership: It’s The Team: Not Just The Leader. And I think Nina and Jennifer have both done well to so-visibly emphasize mentoring’s value.
Nina and Jennifer have both done well to so-visibly emphasize mentoring’s value.
This book has a kicker. And, it’s a positive. Almost everything they speak about, while focused on humanitarian and global causes, can be directly applied in the for-profit world. If you are looking for some fresh thinking, to hear someone consciously walk through the processes, this is a book for you.
And, if you’re an educator looking for a text to anchor a course on the following topics, you should definitely take a good look at the book:
- Social Entrepreneurship
- Social Responsibility
- Identifying, Developing and Executing solutions to non-profit causes
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