Here’s what we’re reading at New Profit:

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas.

Anand Giridharadas raises an important question for philanthropists in Winners Take All that can be paraphrased as: “Are you giving to truly change the status quo?” He claims that many of today’s frameworks and tools for social change by and large perpetuate the status quo and makes a compelling case that some philanthropic approaches actually worsen the situation for the people they intend to help. While the New Profit team has a number of disagreements with Giridharadas’ argument, we also think his critique is on point in many cases and we believe that his core question is critical to ask. New Profit’s community is held together by the idea that systems thinking and approaches are needed to take on systemic challenges and we have to be willing to use that lens to think about core issues of inequality and the biases underpinning it, our own role in perpetuating it, and the ways we that we can push further to reduce it.

Social Startup Success: How the Best Nonprofits Launch, Scale Up, and Make a Difference by Kathleen Kelly Janus

Kathleen Kelly Janus is a social entrepreneur, author, and lecturer at Stanford University’s Program on Social Entrepreneurship who conducted a five-year research project interviewing hundreds of top-performing social innovators across the country – including many New Profit grantee-partners and community members – on the keys to nonprofit success. This book features the findings from that study and serves as a playbook for social entrepreneurs with insights on how to solve the problem of nonprofit scale, sustainability, and success. It presents five key strategies that are core to nonprofit breakthrough success: testing ideas; measuring impact; funding experimentation; leading collaboratively; and telling compelling stories. Philanthropists will benefit from learning about these strategies so that they can direct their funding to help the nonprofits they care about focus on investing in building these key competencies to enhance their impact.

Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A. by Danielle Allen

Danielle Allen’s family memoir provides a critical look at the harsh inequality in our society and criminal justice system through the lens of a family experience. Allen, a political theorist and professor at Harvard University, tells the story of her Cousin Michael who grew up in South Central L.A. – a community transformed by the availability of narcotics and the rise of street gangs – and at fifteen, was tried as an adult for attempted carjacking. Michael spent 11 years in the Los Angeles prison system and Allen visited and corresponded with him regularly during that time, and was devoted to supporting him when he was released. Despite this, Michael was never able to get a fresh start as a result of reentering a community where opportunity was low and gang violence was high. It is critically important for us all to better understand the effects of mass incarceration, which disproportionately impacts African American males like Michael, on individuals, families, and communities of color. New Profit’s Unlocked Futures accelerator program is seeking to open the opportunity equation to those impacted by mass incarceration and support social entrepreneurs who have been directly impacted by the criminal justice system who are working to create pathways out of recidivism for other formerly incarcerated individuals.