In between our work to educate, support, and inspire leaders across all sectors to tackle society’s toughest challenges and make a difference in the world, the staff of the Social Enterprise Initiative tries to catch up on some of the best new books, articles, and podcasts. When we do, our reading and listening often aligns with our social enterprise interests. Here’s what each of us is diving into…

Sarah Appleby, Assistant Director
  • Uncivil, a podcast hosted by journalists Jack Hitt and Chenjerai Kumanyika. Uncivil brings to light stories of the Civil War that were left out of the history books and connects them to today’s headlines and the deep divisions that continue in the U.S. today. 
  • Hidden Brain, a podcast hosted by journalist Shankar Vedantam. Hidden Brain explores unconscious drivers of human behavior, from the life-saving power of checklists, to strategies for coping with chaos, to why it’s hard to change someone’s mind with facts. 
  • Maeve in America: Immigration IRL, a podcast hosted by comedian Maeve Higgins. Maeve travels across the U.S. to share immigration stories from people from around the world, including an octogenarian activist from China, an aquaponics farmer from Nigeria, and a Syrian asylum seeker.

Margaret Busse, Associate Director
Margaret is planning an alumni event focused on future of work issues, and so has been reading up a lot on the topic. Below are two articles that provide a sampling.
  • The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone. Bryan Caplan, an economics professor at George Mason, makes the provocative argument that we, as a society, may be wasting a lot of time and money in emphasizing college education. Caplan calls it “education signaling”— the fact that you got a college degree shows that you have certain traits that are necessary for a job—and believes this accounts for at least half of college’s financial reward. So the question is, what does this mean for skills training to prepare for tomorrow’s workplace? 
  • Will Robots Take Our Children’s Jobs? Journalist Alex Williams describes a world in the very near future where robots will be not just taking the jobs of the unskilled workers, but of the very skilled: law firm associates, journalists, airline pilots, and even surgeons. The fundamental question at the heart of the future of work debate is not how much jobs will change, but rather will robots automate so much of our work that there simply will not be enough jobs in the future to keep us all occupied?

Margot Dushin, Director of Programs

  • Born on Third Base, by Chuck Collins. As a great grandson of Oscar Mayer, Collins was born into wealth, but at age 26 he gave away his inheritance. Through his personal reflections, examples from public policy, and narratives of others, he brings a new perspective to recognizing privilege and to the role of individuals and communities in tackling inequality. This book was recommended by a few friends, and has spawned interesting conversations about our own community and organizations we work with.
  • Refugee, by Alan Gratz. This historical novel interweaves poignant stories of three young refugees in different time periods: 1938 in Berlin, 1994 in Cuba, and 2015 in Syria. Written for young adults (I’m reading it before passing it on to my son), it’s been an important reminder of how much we can learn from history.

Shelby Longland, Coordinator

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance. Vance’s memoir is a story of class mobility. He grew up in poverty-stricken Appalachia and transcended disadvantages to attend Ohio State University and Yale Law School and achieve a successful career. In telling his own story, he also attempts to describe the broader “hillbilly” culture (that of poor, rural, white America). The timeliness of the book is interesting—it was released in June 2016, and many readers felt that it helped explain the results of the 2016 presidential election. The memoir provides a glimpse into a culture that is not often talked about or portrayed in the media, but only through the lens of one person’s experience and perspective.

Matt Segneri, Director

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond. I can’t remember a book in recent memory recommended more frequently. It absolutely delivered on the hype. Evicted is a deeply affecting set of stories that sticks with you. Desmond, a Harvard sociologist and MacArthur “genius grant” winner, shares an enlightening and devastating look into the lives of eight families in Milwaukee facing eviction and grappling with its aftermath. He spent nine months living in the community—and he offers an incredibly humanizing portrayal of their circumstances and choices. The key takeaway: “eviction is a cause, not just a condition, of poverty.” Desmond makes an evidence-based call to action to re-think a policy that creates a ripple effect of negative repercussions that hurts families and communities alike. Real change is needed because everyone deserves a safe, affordable, and stable place to live.