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Al Etmanski has generously allowed us to reprint a post from his blog highlighting 12 awesome books focused on creating positive social change. 

Though, we would have added one more book to this list: Mr. Etmanski's own superb book: Impact: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation.

Impact profiles more than 50 Canadians who are achieving lasting social impact, looking past quick wins and surface-level victories, and paying attention to the deeper patterns of change.                                                      

Twelve Books Shaping the World We Want

Looking for a good read for yourself or someone else? Have a look at these titles. Links to reviews and where to purchase included.

  1. Spirit Bear and Children Make History! this beautifully illustrated book will appeal to the children in your life. It tells the story of First Nations and other children standing together for fairness. Published by Cindy Blackstock and the First Nations Caring Society who are resolute advocates for ensuring First Nations children receive the same level of educational support as other Canadian children. I recommend the package deal which includes a Spirit Bear calendar. Order by phone (613) 230-5885 or send them an e-mail: 
  2. The Long Walk by Jan Zwicky. Precious gems of wisdom for “ordinary hearts” who sense the “path unravelling” beneath them. She is my favourite poet, philosopher and essayist. An elegy for getting one’s souls in order in the face of a threatened planet. This is a book for the ages.
  3. Girl Positive – How Girls Are Shaping a New World by Tatiana Fraser and Caia Hagel. This book will either restore or enhance your faith in the future. It focuses on real-life stories of young girls making positive change and shaping a new world. Tatiana has been illuminating paths to empowerment for young girls for decades. With this book the world is taking notice of her brilliant work.
  4. Warrior Lawyers by Silver Donald Cameron. Stories of courageous and dedicated lawyers from nine countries whose true client is Mother Earth herself. Great examples of when and how to use the tool of law to achieve social change. Told by one of the best writers and storytellers around.
  5. Fighting for Space: How a Group of Drug Users Transformed One City’s Struggle with Addiction by Travis Lupick. The colourful and fast paced story of a grassroots group of drug addicts in Vancouver who waged a political street fight for two decades to bring dignity to addicts and save countless lives. Now they are teaching the rest of the world how to deal with the opioid crisis. If you think professional problem solvers need help then this book is for you.
  6. The Bees of Rainbow Falls: Finding Faith, Imagination and Delight in Your Neighbourhood by Preston Pouteaux. An unlikely journey into beekeeping changed how Preston, a pastor, syndicated columnist and community organizer developed a taste for neighbourhoods. Every so often a book arrives which is just perfect for the ordinary bees among us who just want to do good work and take care of their hive/neighbourhood. This book will be of interest to system changers who are daunted by bigness but not by hard work. 
  7. The Church of 80% Sincerity by David Roche. David has been delighting audiences and readers for decades, including the White House and Vickie and my “Thinking Like a Movement” retreats on the Sunshine Coast. A master storyteller, actor and comedian, David casts a warm light on the challenges and gifts of living with a facial difference. This book is an indispensable companion to the movie “Wonder” playing in theatres near you. It will serve as background and sequel. As David illustrates, the path to social change may be arduous but that doesn’t mean it can’t be funny and loving.
  8. An Army of Problem Solvers by Shaun Loney. There is an abundance of ingenious, creative problem solvers already hard at work that you seldom read about. Perhaps bigger than an army. Shaun is a successful, serial social entrepreneur who has worked inside government and with Indigenous Canadians. His book proves that  social entrepreneurs are better positioned than government or business to solve our toughest challenges, including Reconciliation and the development of local economies.
  9. A Disappearance in Damascus – Friendship and Survival in the Shadow of War by Deborah Campbell. This is a must read for anyone interested in the origins of the chaos that is now Syria. A true story that is part mystery, part history, it revolves around a deep friendship. This book deserves every literary non-fiction prize it has won. Thank heaven for foreign correspondents  like her. Every insight is based on being there, in sharp contrast to CBC journalists who must now report thousands of kilometres from the action.
  10. Make Housing Central – British Columbia and the Affordable Housing Crisis by Kishone Roy. Kishone is the person I am learning the most from these days about policy change. His bold sophistication knows no boundary and includes this book published during the last BC election. It appears the federal Liberals were paying attention judging by their recent affordable housing announcement.
  11. WE Can Do This! 10 Tools to Unleash Your Collective Genius by Kate Sutherland. Powerful tools to strengthen your ability to work together, collected by a practitioner at the height of her powers. Honoured to have written the foreword to this one.
  12. Social Innovation Generation – Fostering a Canadian Ecosystem for Systems Change by Geraldine Cahill and Kelsey Spitz. The story of three elephants and a mouse (McConnell Foundation, University of Waterloo, MaRS Discovery District, and the Plan Institute ) coming together to seed a culture of continuous social innovation in Canada. It will give you a sense of where I’ve been hanging out for the past ten years.

This blog is re-printed with permission from Al's blog page.

Al has been a proud member of the disability movement since the birth of his daughter Liz. He is a community organizer, social entrepreneur and author. He is a founding partner of Social Innovation Generation (SiG) and BC Partners for Social Impact. As co-founder of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN) he proposed and led the campaign to establish the world's only disability savings plan - the RDSP. Al is an Ashoka fellow, and a faculty member of John McKnight’s Asset Based Community Development Institute (ABCD). He was recently awarded the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia.  

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