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Tenacity, Determination & Leadership: John Wood's Lessons from the Front Lines of Social Change

By Olivia Allen

Each year in the Social Enterprise Institute’s introductory social entrepreneurship class, Professor Shaughnessy designates a handful of high-impact social entrepreneurs to the proverbial “Mount Rushmore” of social entrepreneurs — a group of innovative social disruptors that have pioneered a fundamental impact. This currently includes Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank, Govindappa Venkataswamy of Aravind Eye Care, Willy Foote of Root Capital, Paul Farmer of Partners in Health, and John Wood of Room to Read.

On Monday, October 21st, Mr. Wood lead his discussion entitled “Tenacity, Determination & Leadership: Lessons from the Front Lines of Social Change” at the Social Enterprise Institute’s October Lecture Series event.

Mr. Wood provided students with an analysis of ten business-driven principles that drive Room to Read’s staggering impact and sustainability. Room to Read’s sharp focus on fiscal efficiency, an unrelenting commitment to co-investment from the communities where libraries are established through challenge grants, stringent impact measurement, and close attention to market feedback.

Under his leadership, Room to Read has evolved from an English-language book donations for children in Nepal to a global organization that has reached seven million children in order to promote lifelong literacy and an improved livelihood that education can provide.

Demonstrative of their commitment to social impact and the needs of those they serve, Room to Read has identified local language publishing (over 50 titles have been published in areas where Room to Read operates) and expanded their Girls’ Education Program in order to close the gender gap in education.

Mr. Wood’s lecture not only coincided with the social entrepreneurship students’ analysis of Room to Read, but also with the establishment of a Room to Read Chapter at Northeastern, lead by students in Professor Dennis Shaughnessy’s freshman Honors Seminar. Their work will be supported with a generous $5,000 seed grant. Thus far, the Social Enterprise Institute has established three libraries with Room to Read and looks forward to creating more.