to write: alum's memoir chronicles transition to social entrepreneurship
in 1999 people told me I was crazy to try to set up a library
in rural Nepal with 500 books," says Room To Read
Founder John Wood '89, one of the keynotes at the Net
Impact Conference in October.
Today, Wood's organization has helped build, staff
and stock more than 3,300 bilingual libraries throughout six
poor Asian nations. In August, Wood was on the road promoting
a new book — his own.
two years ago, I became overwhelmed with the number of people
asking me for advice on transitioning from the private sector
to the social sector," says Wood. With a stack of personal
journals he'd written to chronicle his transition from marketer
to social entrepreneur, Wood began work on Leaving Microsoft
to Change the World: An Entrepreneur's Odyssey to Educate
the World's Children (2006, HarperCollins).
first entertained leaving the corporate world after a visit
to a Nepalese village during which he learned that the village's
450 students had no books. But this dearth of reading material
did not strike the conventionally wise as a reason to abandon
a high-powered marketing career, and Wood faced resistance
from skeptical employers and friends. Fortunately for the
children now benefiting from Room To Read's thousands of libraries,
he saw that first village as one of many in need, and went
ahead with his plans.
are so many people willing to tell you why it can't be done,
and especially in the early years it can be tempting to listen
to the detractors," recalls Wood. But with Room To Read's
success, many in the business community have come out to help.
"hardcore, white-collar capitalists" are looking
for an outlet for their philanthropic impulses, he says, noting
that hundreds of volunteers — including Kellogg alums
— contribute worldwide. "One of them even sold
her second car, a Jaguar, because she realized that Room To
Read could build three preschools with the money," Wood
says. "One car, three schools — life can produce
interesting equations sometimes!" — AH