On April 1, 2009, John Wood, founder of Room to Read, an award-winning global non-profit organization, spoke at an event hosted jointly by the Social Enterprise Club at Columbia Business School and SIPA Net Impact at the School of International and Public Affairs. Mr. Wood discussed his trekking trip to Nepal that eventually inspired him to leave Microsoft and create Room to Read, as well as his vision and business model for the organization that has established 7,000 libraries and 765 schools, provided long-term scholarships for over 6,800 young girls, and published more than 3 million children's books in local languages. He is the author of Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur's Odyssey to Educate the World's Children, an inspiring memoir that talks about his journey to create Room to Read.
Raymond D. Horton, Frank R. Lautenberg Professor of Ethics and Corporate Governance and director of the Social Enterprise Program at Columbia Business School, introduced Mr. Wood, whom Professor Horton described as one of the "people who are changing the world."
Accidental Social Entrepreneur
Nepal, located in the Himalayas, is a country of hardships and poverty, but mostly with what Mr. Wood calls "poverty of opportunity" in which children are deprived of means to move out of the vicious cycle of poverty. The country has 57 percent literacy rate, and the rate is even lower for women and girls. While trekking in Nepal on vacation, Mr. Wood came across a school head master -- an encounter that changed his life forever. The head master took him to visit a school that included what was supposed to be a library -- an empty room with no books in sight. Books were so precious for the school that they were locked up in a shelf. There were only about twenty books available for 250 students, and most of them were not even appropriate for kids as they were left by tourists.