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Room to Read: Winner's Statement

Social Capitalists

Room to Read

San Francisco, California

Executive director: John Wood

Previous winner: 2004, 2005

What it does: Education is the quickest path out of poverty--so Room to Read joins with villages in Southeast Asia to build schools, libraries, and computer language labs. It matches villagers' contributions of land, labor, and cash with donations, then advises on the actual construction. It also provides scholarships for young girls to further their education.

Results: Room to Read has improved education for more than 800,000 Asian children. It has initiated over 180 new school projects, opened over 2,000 libraries, and donated more than 1 million books.

Social impact: B+
Aspiration and growth: A-
Entrepreneurship: A
Innovation: B
Sustainability: A-

Winner's Statement

Room to Read's mission is to provide underprivileged children with an opportunity to gain the lifelong gift of education. It was founded on the belief that education is crucial to breaking the cycle of poverty and taking control of one's life. Room to Read seeks to intervene early in the lives of children and help provide them with an education and pave the road to literacy. We currently focus our efforts on Cambodia, Laos, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and Vietnam--countries with a desperate lack of resources with which to educate their children.

John Wood, Founder and CEO, launched Room to Read after a trek through in Nepal. While there, he visited several local schools and was amazed by the warmth and enthusiasm of the students and teachers, but also saddened by the shocking lack of resources. Driven to help, John quit his senior position with Microsoft and built a global team to work with rural villages to create a sustainable solution to their educational challenges.

Room to Read has a strong track record of success. During its first six years, Room to Read has accomplished the following:

  • Built 140 schools in partnership with local communities;
  • Established over 2,200 libraries;
  • Published 58 local language children's books;
  • Donated over 1.2 million children's books;
  • Established 77 computer and language labs; and,
  • Funded over 1,750 long-term girls' scholarships.

To increase the likelihood for success and long-term sustainability, Room to Read enlists community involvement and co-investment. Our challenge grants require villages to raise a significant portion of the overall expenditure for building a new school, thereby allowing our cash donations to go further. We also establish libraries, computer labs and language labs in conjunction with schools whereby they contribute shelves, desk, and chairs. Our challenge grants act as catalysts for community building while also maximizing the local participation and expertise brought to our programs to ensure they are run efficiently and effectively.

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The above Winner's Statement was provided by the profiled organization.