This is a book about social enterprise which is a really interesting and challenging read. I think it will be relevant to a lot of people involved in charities and not for profits as well as those looking to start one. There are a lot of concepts and thoughts in this book which align well with many of our social enterprise clients (even if many of our clients may not realise that is what they are). The traditional words for them have been “not for profit” or “charity” and they probably have never called themselves “social enterprises” but that is really what they are!
So turning to the book it is “different” in a few distinctive ways. For one, when I bought it the person at the store said, “How much do you want to pay?” It seems that you can choose the price. The money then goes towards funding “Thankyou” which is the organisation the author co-founded. On a communication from them when I joined their newsletter it says about this price: “It’s sold at a pay what you want price to fund the future of Thankyou and so far, has crowd-funded the launch of Thankyou New Zealand! WIN!”
The other distinctive is when you open the book all the text is opposite to the usual format for a book. It runs from left to right across the page so you have to turn it 90 degrees onto its side and read it almost like a flip chart. So from the outset you can tell that the author is trying to do something different. Trying to challenge the status quo. He acknowledges this a little later when talking about this format:
“Once you get out of your comfort zone, you begin to actually ask questions – and you start thinking and challenging what you’ve always accepted as the norm. The reality is that stepping out is uncomfortable. Even as you read this book ‘the wrong way around’ in airport lounges, on public transport, on you way to school or work or around friends, there’s a chance you’ll feel uncomfortable. Why? Because there is the possibility that people will notice your re doing something differently. We live in a world where we can blend in fairly easily, that is until the moment you take a risk and attempt something that perhaps no one has done before.”
The story itself centres on three young people who had an idea in Australia that has resulted in “Thankyou”. They started it when they were just 19 years old. The back cover describes what they did as beginning with the world water crisis and how to end it but that “has developed into award-winning consumer goods brand that empowers millions of people to fight poverty with every munch of muesli, sip of water or pump of hand wash”.
Essentially they brand around 35 products and then the funds raised from the sale of those products goes to support, for example, water projects in Africa (from sale of water), health projects (from sale of body care products) and food programs (from sale of food products). You can read more about them online at https://thankyou.co/. As noted above it looks like they will be launching in NZ soon.
The book is called Chapter One because the author acknowledges up front that their story is just beginning. He uses that as an encouragement to try and say that we can try things as well because they are just at the start of their journey. He plans to write a “Chapter 2” in a few years time when they are further down the road. The opening page makes this a call to be included on their journey as he writes, “Our world doesn’t need another book; it needs an idea that could change the course of history. Write with us.” He writes later:
“This book is written as we go, to show you that any one individual, any group of people, can make their ideas and dreams a reality. You may not have ‘made it’ yet (and neither have we), but everything we have learned along the way we want to share with you, In the hope that it will encourage you, inspire you and empower you.”
The 13 chapters have catchy headings like “Turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones”, and “Build a great team to achieve a great dream”. In each chapter anecdotes and stories are told about the experiences of the author. What I found helpful was the honesty about their journey – not trying to pretend that they have “made it” but instead writing in a way to try and encourage others to try something new. The book is full of challenges to the status quo and trying to do things differently. An example of this is the following quote:
“Some people don’t think the game will ever change. But it always does. And if you aren’t convinced the game will change, it’s probably best to keep those thoughts to yourself, otherwise years later you might find yourself mentioned in a quote like this: “the iPhone is nothing but a niche product” – then CEO of Nokia in 2008.”
There are many quotes like this and there are several direct reference to New Zealand as well. For example, when describing why they want to launch Thankyou in New Zealand he writes:
“We want to empower New Zealanders, the way we’ve empowered Australians, to show the world that consumers have the power to change stuff. Many of the biggest brands in the world trial ideas in New Zealand because it’s widely known that if a concept works in New Zealand, it will work globally. So we’ve invited New Zealand to help take this movement to the next level. The thing is, we’re not just launching Thankyou Australia into New Zealand. Instead, we’re launching Thankyou New Zealand from scratch. We’ll be setting up a local team, local suppliers and local impact partners. Coinciding with this book arriving on shelves, we launched our boldest and most ambitious campaign yet, inviting both Australians and New Zealanders to make a choice – to either help launch Thankyou New Zealand or not to. Will it work? We can’t guarantee that it will. But I love this thought: if it does, then together two of the smallest countries in the world (at times underestimated), who both bat above their weight globally in sport, entertainment and music, could go not to do something the likes of which the world has never seen before.”
Is this book a world changer? No. But that would be too much to ask of anything. What it does provide is a call to move in the right direction. What is needed is for many people to start questioning the way things have always been done and this book is good because it does that. It also is empowering because it shares a journey that the author is just starting which makes it seem more possible to join in some way. Perhaps the sentiment was best summed up in one of my favourite books as a child, “The Lorax”, where Dr Seuss ends with the following lines:
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
And that is really the theme of this book too. We need to care. We need to demand change. We need to be the change. I would recommend this book to people who are looking for an inspiring and ultimately challenging read. It will definitely be interesting to see how Thankyou goes in New Zealand since we will have a front row seat on their launch here.
Review by Steven Moe, Parry Field Lawyers