Room to Read by John Wood Case Study
Room to Read
This is a Case Study for my Social Entrepreneurship class based on the book, Room to Read by John Wood. YOU MUST HAVE READ THE BOOK TO COMPLETE THIS ASSIGNMENT! I will upload many files to assist you in properly writing this case and include a list at the end of this description of every file uploaded and how it should be used. I will upload a separate file called “Room to Read_Case Study” which contains a brief summary of what the enterprise has done and it includes useful statistics for the write-up but please don’t base the write-up solely on this file as you must demonstrate that the book has been read. This same file, “Room to Read_Case Study”, also includes the 5 questions that must be answered throughout the write-up but not in a simple question answer form. I will upload a sample case study to guide you, “Sample Case Study_different subject”. Question 1 deals with 2 parts of a 6 part Social Enterprise Analytical Framework. I will upload the file, “Social Enterprises Analytical Framework”, where you must read parts 4 and 5 (measure and evaluate/ sustainable) and apply this to the social enterprise in the book and its relative question in the Case Study. Question 2 is at your discretion, just have good points to back it up. ie: Reduce illiteracy the most. For question 3, please do a financial analysis of the Social Enterprise. Question 4, relates highly with the sustainable portion of question 1, it is simply to come up with an innovative idea to generate income and I will upload a file called,”Financial Sustainability for Social Enterprises”. Please relate highly to this file for this question. Question 5 asks to compare John Wood, the writer of the book and the creator of the Enterprise, with Dr. V, another social entrepreneur. I will upload a previous case study I have written to familiarize you with who Dr. V is. The file is called, “Aravind Case_Dr. V”. I will finally upload 2 files to help you understand how the case is to be written: “Case Writings Do’s and Dont’s” and “Tips on Writing a Case” Please refer to these to properly complete the write-up.
“The ability to read translates into the ability to communicate, to build and to dream”
It is 2010 in the Matale district in Sri Lanka, and a young boy takes a few timid steps into a small impeccable room that contains several second-hand books. The library’s owner, an 11-year-old girl, greets him and quickly encourages him to borrow a book. The young boy shyly accepts the worn but still colorful book while Dulanjali carefully marks the book’s title in a detailed ledger. Dulanjali is a young participant in Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program who decided to start up her own community library to spread her love for reading. “I was lucky Room to Read works with my school and gives us books. Books opened a new world for me, but there are many children in my village who do not go to my school and are not so lucky, and I want to help them. I want to become a lawyer and fight for our rights.” She turns around, walks towards her bed and reaches under her pillow for a small hand-stitched book: “One day I will publish this book,” she says, smiling at the book’s title How Room to Read Changed My Life.
“Our goal is both simple and bold: to forever end the day when a child can be told she or he was born in the wrong place, at the wrong time, to the wrong parents. The hunger to learn, that element that defines our species, is present in every child” John Woods
“World Change Starts with Educated Children”
Back in 2000 Microsoft executive, John Woods decided to take a restoring and energizing break by trekking two hundred miles in the Himalayas. On his first day in Nepal, he ran into an education resource officer who invited him to visit a school. Sitting on the dirt floor of the school’s library were four hundred children with no chairs, shelves, desks or books. Fearing the response he would get to his question, Woods turned around and asked the headmaster where the books were. The headmaster looked at him for a minute and then pointed to locked cabinet at the end of the room, which he proceeded to unlock to show him the precious twenty books. As he showed him the books, he turned around and said, “We are too poor to afford education. But until we have education, we will always be poor. Perhaps one day you can come back with books.” And so, a recreational trip suddenly transformed into a life-changing experience. A year later, John Woods would re-visit the school accompanied by six or seven yaks laden with several hundred children’s books, and a mission: to transform the lives of children through the power of education.
“Literacy is a human right, a tool of personal empowerment, a means for social and human development.” In an effort to promote awareness towards this issue, UNESCO declared 2003-2012 the Literacy Decade, yet, there are over 776 million illiterate adults in the world, 80% of which live in only twenty countries. One in four adult women lack basic literacy skills, a figure that has remained unchanged for more than twenty years. Illiteracy receives minimal political attention endangering the UNESCO’s goal of halving illiteracy by 2015 and obstructing the right to universal public education, with many countries facing situations similar to that of Bangladesh, where close to half of the children will not finish their primary education. It is in face of this daunting task that John Woods’ mindset (brought over from his time at Microsoft) of “Go Big, or Go Home” is crucial.
Room to Read is an international organization that seeks to “transform the lives of millions of children in developing countries by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education,” using basic business principles to produce the best results. Operating in some of the most remote and impoverished regions of nine different countries (Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka, Laos, South Africa, Zambia and Bangladesh), the organization has encountered many challenges, and problems. However, as part of its result-oriented structure, Room to Read reiterated in their 2010 Annual Report that their focus is exclusively on the issue of children and their education, seeing children as their primary beneficiaries.
Room to Read partners with local communities, the government and other NGOs to help develop literacy skills as well as support girls education through secondary school. The organization aims to create flexible programs that can be adapted locally and demonstrate effectiveness and cost-efficiency so they may be adopted by the government and other organizations, to achieve greater scalability. Although headquartered in San Francisco, each country has its own management team comprised of local talent that engages in constant monitoring and evaluation of project sites and creation of new ones. Crucial to achieving long-term sustainability and commitment, Room to Read begins program development only after the given community has requested their presence and agreed to the Challenge Grant model. Although the Challenge Grant contract implemented by Room to Read is tailored to the specific needs and abilities of each community, all contracts have three main components: Community Participation in the planning and managing of the project, Community Contribution with cash, labor and/or construction materials, and Community Maintenance of the program. The Challenge Grant contract’s main objective is to foster community building, participation and trust in the organization, as the bulk of the project’s funding comes from Room to Read’s diverse donor base. Room to Read aims to keep overhead costs as low as possible, with approximately 90% of donations going directly into the programs.
All schools and libraries established by Room to Read are owned and operated by the community or local government, and run like public schools. Room to Read aims to complement and improve public education rather than compete against it. Room to Read’s main approach consists of four programs:
Reading Roomscome in all shapes and sizes (from shared classroom libraries to mobile carts to newly constructed libraries) in an effort to create a sustainable, literate, child-friendly environment that both encourages reading and supports classroom activities. Room to Read helps train local capacity to establish simple classification and book checkout systems, and integrate library resources into classroom learning. Over 11,246 Reading Rooms have been established since the organization’s foundation.
School Roomsseek to replace dilapidated, overcrowded, unsanitary and unsafe schools with either brand new buildings (four to fourteen rooms with light, ventilation and toilet facilities) or additional classrooms. Toilet facilities have been one of the biggest successes of this program, especially in secondary schools, as they have helped improve girls’ pattern of attendance, which often miss school for fear of ridicule during their menstruation. Part of this program also constructs preschools that include age-appropriate furniture, a playground and a teacher-training component. Within the first decade of its existence, Room to Read had built and improved over 1,142 schools.
Local Language PublishingProgramemerged in response to the lack of children’s books in local language. By the end of 2010, over 533 original titles had been published in 23 different languages, and more than 4.1 million distributed at a cost of approximately $1 USD per book. The idea is to produce books that are high quality, age-appropriate, culturally relevant and gender-sensitive children’s books. The books are generally created by local authors and illustrators or by the winners of Room to Read’s local writing competitions and printed within the respective country.
Girls’ Education Programprovides both materials (tuition, uniform, school supplies and often transportation) along with supplementary activities (tutoring, life skills training, mentoring) to close the educational gender gap. Each package is tailored to suit the needs of the community, but more importantly those of the more than 10,400 girls in the program.
Room to Read has also started several pilot programs such as the Qualcomm Wireless Reach Initiative in Vietnam and Nepal to provide computers and Internet wireless connection to rural schools, and the Accelerated Reading Ability Enhancement Program in Sri Lanka that targets children from second to fifth grade to provide basic literacy remediation during the school day. Room to Read seeks to distinguish between education and quality education, and is in the midst of implementing a new literacy programs to help build and sustain the habit of reading and improve the utilization of the infrastructure created. This new literacy program provides teacher and professional development along with creating supplementary reading instruction material in the official language(s) of the respective countries.
Room to Read has included as one of its major goals for the next five years the development of evaluation tools to measure impact on children and children’s education, shifting the focus from the number of libraries, books and schools built. Room to Read has begun both a country-specific and a cross-national longitudinal study to analyze its impact on children’s learning and performance. Room to Read plans to expand its operations to two more countries in East or Southern Africa by 2012 and to either Latin America or the Middle East by 2014. By combining these programs and expanding its donor base (both by type and geography) , Room to Read has established as its goal to reach more than ten million children in over a dozen developing countries by 2015.
The interrelatedness of education with other developmental issues has seeped into Room to Read’s mission and shown that despite earnest efforts to focus on only two of the problems (i.e. literacy and gender equality), it is impossible to leave others unresolved.
The Case Questions
In writing your analysis, please consider the following five questions and directives.
1. Apply the Impact Measurement/Evaluation and Financial Sustainability elements of the framework to Room to Read considering other similar social enterprises focused on literacy in the developing world.
2. Where and in what ways do you think Room to Read should grow and expand in order to have the greatest possible impact on their target populations?
3. Provide a thoughtful financial analysis of Room to Read, including indicators such as revenue, growth, margin, and compensation practice.
4. How might John Wood include a profit-making or income generating component to the Room to Read model in order to insure financial sustainability?
5. Briefly compare and contrast John Wood with Dr. V and other leading social entrepreneurs that we have studied. What are John Wood’s strengths, and where were they derived?
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