Anyone who regularly reads this blog knows what a big fan I am of Social Venture Partners – a worldwide organization dedicated to strengthening the non-profits of the world through investment and coaching. Paul Shoemaker, the Founding President of SVP recently penned a booked called Can’t Not Do which promises to be about the “compelling social drive that changes our world.”
The title comes from Shoemaker’s belief that great changes in the world comes from the drive of dedicated leaders that believe they can translate their impulses into action. Leaders that say things like:
“I can’t not do this.”
“It’s not that I can do this, it’s that I can’t not.”
“I don’t have time not to make an impact.”
“I could not imagine not.”
Throughout the book Shoemaker introduces us to dedicated changemakers that have found a way to be the most effective catalysts to create greater social impact. He organizes his interviews and lessons into three parts:
Finding your focus. Featuring interviews with David Risher, the founder of Worldreader, Lisa Chin, who leads Year Up, and Eleuthera Lisch, who has done outstanding work in Seattle on youth violence issues, the first part, according to Shoemaker, is discovering what defines you. He writes, “Please spend some time thinking about what is meaningful versus what makes you happy. They aren’t necessarily contradictory, but think about what will guide the direction you take.”
How you do this work well. Part two highlights the work of Jeff Tollefson who left a career in investment banking to lead a non-profit and Suzi Levine who helped build a small organization called I-LABS into a “world leader in early childhood brain research.” Through their stories Shoemaker highlights the importance of being an active listener and building relationships to building a successful enterprise.
Bringing it all together. Through stories from Heidi Breeze-Harries, who raised over $3 million to fight fistula, despite not being a prominent philanthropist or even having non-profit experience Shoemaker writes, “Don’t get stuck thinking that you need to be someone who goes to the ends of the earth like Heidi or is famous like Martin Luther King Jr. or Mother Theresa to help create real change in this world.”
And that’s the true lesson of this book – if you find that thing that you “can’t not do” you will do it and much more.