Under the Influence: 4 Must-Read "Motivation" Books for Changemakers

It has never been more important for people passionate about creating a better world to pay attention to how and why people make the choices they do. What influences their decisions? Their buying and donating choices? The beliefs and values they have? What turns inspiration into positive action? The business world has spent significant time, money and effort to explore these issues, while changemakers are just starting to realize that good intentions don’t necessarily equal good results and that understanding these issues is essential. There are a slew of great books that have been published in the last several years about motivation, social psychology, and influence; here are just four that we recommend as must-reads:



Robin Hood Marketing: Stealing Corporate Savvy to Sell Just Causes

by Katya Andresen (2006)

Yes, this is a marketing book, but Andresen’s insights into what motivates audiences and how to shape messages and campaigns is essential reading for non-profits and lone changemakers alike.



Change of Heart: What Psychology Can Teach Us About Spreading Social Change

by Nick Cooney (2010)

One of the things we like best about Cooney’s book is that it synthesizes much of the social psychology research on motivation and decision making and filters it through the social change lens. Not every suggestion is worth supporting, but its core message is spot on. Read our blog post about it here. If you find this social psychology and behavior study intriguing, check out some of the books mentioned within Cooney's book, such as Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational.



The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

by Malcolm Gladwell (2002)

This is a classic and required reading for our graduate students. Even if you’ve read it, go back and give it another look. Big social change can come from small, important actions.



Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

by Chip and Dan Heath (2010)

I liked this one so much that I bought a copy (and I rarely buy books anymore). A great exploration of the psychology of change, why some “simple” changes are so hard, and strategies for easing the way to positive change. Read our blog post about it here, and also check out the Heath brothers’ earlier book, Made to Stick.



~ Marsha



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