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What SEI is Reading

By: Shelby Longland 06 Sep 2019
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 our reading. When we do, our book choices often align with our social enterprise interests. Here’s what each of us is diving into…

Sarah Appleby, Assistant Director
The landscape of social movements has changed since I participated in my first protest at age eight, a small march for nuclear disarmament in 1988. Today using the internet massive numbers of people are able to rapidly coordinate and convene for social change – what Tufekci calls the power of networked protests. But with this power to quickly mobilize leaderless movements, Tufekci argues, come vulnerabilities from relying on the weak ties of social networks, such as the “tactical freeze” some movements face when an unexpected challenge arises. Tufekci is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina and faculty associate at the Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. Her book analyzes the role the internet has played in recent social movements and the implications for grassroots activists in this new era. The insights and frameworks of the book are bolstered by Tufekci’s own firsthand experiences in protests around the globe, including Occupy in the U.S. and Tahrir Square in Egypt. A must read!
Margot Dushin, Director of Programs
My recent reading came from another part of the Harvard campus – a book by Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Tony Jack. While diversity is increasing in colleges and universities, many less privileged students still struggle once they arrive at elite colleges. Through personal narratives and examples, Jack shows the challenges students might face, and gives specific guidance on what schools can do to help students feel included and succeed. As an example: Why do you think students have varied understandings of office hours, how do you think this affects their experiences, and what simple steps could faculty members take for students to understand this “hidden curriculum”? This is an interesting read that could shape how you see and make decisions in your own work.
Shelby Longland, Community Manager
Bryan Stevenson was a Harvard Law School student when he first visited a prisoner on death row. That experience revealed to him the vast inequities that exist in the way we treat people in our judicial system. After graduating from HLS, Stevenson worked as a lawyer representing poor clients in the South, where he co-founded the Equal Justice Initiative. Just Mercy tells the story of this work, focused mostly on one case – that of Walter McMillian, a man who was convicted and sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit. This book is a powerful argument for the importance of compassion, mercy, and equality in the pursuit of justice. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in social equity or the United States justice system. The movie version of Just Mercy will be released this winter, featuring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx. 
Matt Segneri, Director
The Second Mountain, by David Brooks
At heart, The Second Mountain is a book about how to lead a life of greater meaning and purpose. Brooks provides a compelling overview of the four commitments that guide our lives: vocation; family; faith; and community. The book resonated deeply me with me because I see first-hand what he’s describing in prospective students, our MBAs and executive education students, and alumni of all ages. High achievers are eager to excel and be successful. But doing so usually involves a highly personal and individualized definition of success. There’s a danger in that hyper-individualism, in thinking that “if it is to me, it’s up to me.” It’s easy to get stuck on Brooks’ so-called first mountain. What the world needs is for more of us to train our gaze on the second mountain, on living a life for others and working in concert with our community to effect change. We need talented leaders across the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to solve our most challenging problems. No one—and no one sector—can do it alone.