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Wednesday, 29th November 2023


'Leaving Microsoft to Change the World' by John Wood is an apt title of a fascinating positive story of the founding and establishment of the global charity 'Room to Read'. The idea is very simple - use the huge hunger for learning and education in the developing world to do something positive and practical - share our book resources and redistribute some of our surplus wealth to create opportunity and enable children to enjoy reading and learning.

John Wood had a very successful executive career at Microsoft and was flying all over the world and really developing and growing the business exponentially, but somehow, he wanted more meaning and purpose. He discovered this in Nepal, where on a trekking holiday he found that a small village library had no books! From a simple practical desire to do something, he ended up leaving his job and working on this full time. Using his networks and amazing sales and marketing skills, he was able to fund-raise and build this charity into a global organisation today. The website is very informative and revealing about the range of work and countries in which the charity operates. The most beautiful part of this story is that it is a simple practical initiative, which has led to hugely sustainable results. The story is written so beautifully and compellingly that I recommend you to read it for yourself. It will encourage you and inspire you.

What I liked most about the book was the way in which the Nepali parents and children embraced the projects from day one - even though they had to make sacrifices to match the gifts by building the school themselves or collecting the cement from the bottom of the mountain. A partnership approach was undertaken from day one and local communities were encouraged to get involved in the projects. What the book also shows is the huge thirst and hunger for learning in the developing countries, something which we in the West are losing very fast, and taking our education and resources totally for granted. In Wood's stories, we see children reading books several times, being mesmerised by the stories, facts and pictures. Books are a huge window to the world, but nowadays, we rarely visit our public libraries in the West.

The book shows that business principles are relevant to charity and can take it to new levels of achievement and effectiveness. What a social enterprise does which business often fails to do is to provide meaning and purpose on top of success. Today, John Wood is flying all over the world opening new skills, being garlanded by children and their parents with beaming smiles and deep gratitude for his work. This is not something even a huge profit can match. It is intangible success which is priceless and timeless.

Social Enterprises are a half-way between business and charity and enable people to earn a modest living and do something good at the same time. They require leadership and creativity, and a passion for the cause. Diverse Ethics is modelled on this basis and is very passionate about transforming the workplace, and enabling inclusion and diversity. John Wood's books has shown me how vital the creativity of marginalised people's and communities is to making our work and business fulfilling and successful. We ignore this energy at our peril.

Article added on 27th July 2011 at 8:41am