Book Review: 4th Sector Entrepreneurship – How to grow sustainable, social impact… without losing your mind

Can you learn how to be a great social enterprise leader? Tim West got stuck into a new guide on good leadership from Ben Freedman and Craig Carey – read on to find out his verdict.

When someone starts talking about “sectors” my hackles tend to go up. So a book about “4th Sector Entrepreneurship” was immediately at a disadvantage before I had opened it. 

Personally, I don’t even want to separate myself off into a “third sector” of the business and societal playground. Surely social entrepreneurship is so compelling because you can do it (i.e. the verb) pan-sectorally, in public, private and civil society arenas?

4th sector entrepreneurshipHowever, once I’d got over myself and swallowed, this turned into a great read. The wizened Ben Freedman and Craig Carey (50 years of doing social impact between them, running social impact consultancy Bubble Chamber – they really know their stuff) are, thankfully, not trying to drag us down another definitional rabbit hole. Their introduction makes clear that they are less focused on what this so-called fourth sector is and more interested in the qualities and actions of the leaders and organisations “where the enterprise of business mixes with the sense of service of government and the compassion of not-for-profit”.

This is essentially a book about good leaders: an exploration of who they are and how they do it, and a toolkit for effective self-development and organisational management for people who are trying to do all the things that successful business growth requires whilst also delivering a positive social impact.

It’s hard to find books about leadership that are also both unpretentious and highly practical. This is one of them

The first part sets the scene, highlighting some of the key qualities, characteristics and motivations of social impact leaders, not just theoretically but with a whole range of quotes taken from personal interviews with leaders who must have notched up hundreds of years of experience between them.

Part two looks at the foundations of successful leadership, covering everything from confidence and courage to personal productivity and creating ‘effective habits’. There are lots of really practical tips here with a range of useful processes and exercises.

Part three builds on the qualities of a being good leader and explores how to turn these into leading a good organisation. The authors help us to look at purpose, vision, values and market positioning, including some excellent exercises on creating ‘customer avatars’ and defining your USPs.

Then parts four and five looks at building a strategy for success, including important discussions around subjects such as recruiting and developing talented employees, building the right culture and understanding how to measure your success. There’s also advice (and even a game of bingo) on areas such as managing conflict and holding effective meetings.

I think it’s hard to find books about leadership that are also both unpretentious and highly practical. This is one of them and I enjoyed it. My only disappointment (aside from my “sector-phobia”) was that the important area of mental wellbeing that the strapline hints at (“…without losing your mind”) is only really dealt with in passing at the end. Mental wellbeing is, thankfully, increasingly being acknowledged as something that human beings – and therefore business leaders – should heed, both for themselves and for their teams. So I was hoping there would be more in this volume on the challenges and support-mechanisms for running a successful, impacful enterprise and maintaining your mental well-being. But perhaps volume 2 will go into that…

Overall, this is a practical, insightful and enjoyable book, with a wide range of quotes, tools and exercises designed to sharpen the execution of good quality social business leadership, in barely 250 pages.

For startup social entrepreneurs, this book is an excellent route map for both your own and your organisation’s development. For those who are more long-in-the tooth, it will serve as an important reference and support tool to jump into for advice, clarity and inspiration when key issues arise – or you are just trying to remind yourself why you still love being in the social impact game.



Four out of five hearts

4th Sector Entrepreneurship: How to grow sustainable impact without losing your mind, by Ben Freedman & Craig Carey: £12 in paperback / £3.99 Kindle edition. Pioneers Post readers can claim a half-price discount at this link.

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