The Power of Unreasonable People

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The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World is a 2008 non-fiction book written by John Elkington and Pamela Hartigan and published by Harvard Business School Publishing. The title of the book is based on a quote from Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw: "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man." The book focuses on two groups of "unreasonable people": social entrepreneurs and environmental entrepreneurs.[1]:3


The book is divided into three sections:[1]:toc

Building Innovative Enterprises[edit]

The first section of the book discusses in depth the process of creating successful business models and tapping financial resources.[1] Examples discussed include Barefoot College, Aravind Eye Hospital, and Whole Foods Market. The authors also briefly cover different methods of obtaining finances.[1]:29-82

Creating the Markets of the Future[edit]

The second section of the book discusses some of the steps necessary to create successful markets. It discusses the identification of market opportunities and raising expectations. Poverty is also discussed, specifically why many of the new social businesses and NGOs are focusing on the bottom of the pyramid markets.[1]:85-133

Creating Sustainable and Scalable Change[edit]

The third section of the book focuses on leadership and sustainable and scalable change. The chapter topics include democratizing technology, changing the system, and scaling solutions.[1]:137-195


In a Stanford Social Innovation Review article, Rick Aubry writes, "Pamela Hartigan and John Elkington have written an essential book for anyone interested in understanding the phenomenon of social entrepreneurship. Their comprehensive and thoughtful book offers a great single source for understanding the amazing variety of social entrepreneurs throughout the world."[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Elkington, John; Hartigan, Pamela (2008). The Power of Unreasonable People. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing.
  2. ^ Aubrey, Rick. "Review: The Power of Unreasonable People". Stanford Social Innovation Review (Spring 2008). Retrieved 23 June 2016.