Erin Keown Ganju

Erin is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Room to Read. From the early start-up days of Room to Read, she has been instrumental in the design and implementation of the Organization’s scalable, replicable model for improving the quality of education across Asia and Africa. Erin has been selected as one of the World Economic Forum’s Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneurs for 2014 and in 2012 was one of Fast Company’s Extraordinary Women. She has spent extensive time working and living in Asia, where she saw firsthand the need to enhance developing countries’ educational systems. Erin holds a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree in international relations and economics from The Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C.
Erin-Ganju-2I Am Driven By | The 10 million children Room to Read has impacted through our Literacy and Girls’ Education programs motivate me to continue working towards education for all children regardless of the circumstances they were born into. I am inspired by the successes of the children we have benefitted—young women from communities that did not previously support girls’ education are now pursuing a university education and primary school students are becoming the first in their families to break the cycle of illiteracy. I am driven to empower more children to shape their own futures through Room to Read’s programs and look forward to witnessing how communities and the world will be impacted.

My Highlights | When I think about my career highlights, there are a two that immediately come to mind. First, I think of the countless memories I’ve created with my daughter Julia while traveling around the world together for Room to Read. I’ve been fortunate enough to broaden her horizons and view of the world and also get the opportunity myself to experience our libraries, schools and the children we’ve impacted through her eyes. Secondly, I think of the milestones our team at Room to Read has reached over these past 15 years. I’ve been able to witness us establish more than 17,000 libraries and support over 31,000 girls to complete secondary school across Africa and Asia. I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve achieved as an organization and where we are going next (with Julia, of course, as my favorite travel companion).

The Difference Between good And Great | Truly loving what you do sets those who are great at what they do apart from those who are simply good at what they do. I am proud to lead a global team of over 1,000 staff at Room to Read that are passionate about education and embrace our organizational values. It is their commitment to our mission that has allowed us to achieve the incredible milestone of benefitting 10 million children.

A Key Talent | I urge others to embrace fear in order to find their personal path to success. Room to Read wouldn’t be where it is today if we didn’t accept the possibility of failure in our early years. We faced so many unknowns then: Would we be able to secure funding? Could we attract top talent to a startup? Would our program model lead to the kind of impact we were counting on? The risk was huge. And I often questioned my decision to leave the security I had in the corporate world,but every time I did I reminded myself of the enormous potential of Room to Read to change the world. By embracing my fears and stepping outside of my comfort zone, I realized abilities in myself and in Room to Read that I did not previously know existed.

Erin-Ganju-3Lessons I Have Learnt | One of the core principles of Room to Read is to be results oriented. No matter how small the goal is: set it, strive to reach it, figure out what works, and repeat the process. This principle can be applied to both business and personal goals. For us at Room to Read, this results-orientation approach and commitment to transparency and accountability has become embedded in our DNA. It has proven essential not only to establishing our credibility as a leading educational nonprofit, but also to ensuring that our programs are constantly improving.

Resources I Use To Stay Inspired | To keep myself inspired, informed and growing, I look to Room to Read’s impressive board of directors and regional development boards as well as our growing network of supporters who are leaders in their own communities and professional fields. Individuals such as Dr. Fernando Reimers, Ford Foundation Professor of International Education at Harvard University; and Dr. Philip Christensen, Room to Read’s Country Director for South Africa who previously has also acted as the Regional Project Director for a six-year adult education initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are individuals who motivate me on account of their absolute dedication to education. I seek insight and guidance from this network so that I can be the most effective champion for global literacy and gender equality in education. If you surround yourself by passionate, bright and driven people, I find you are challenged to reach for the stars as well.

Advice On Building Wealth | By letting go of wealth as a motivating factor, you open yourself up to a multitude of opportunities and experiences. Think about what you want your legacy to be and let that guide your actions. Most wise, older people I know tell me that what really matters in life is the depth of connections to the people around you and that the richness of your relationships is the most important factor in happiness.

Erin-Ganju-1I Am Inspired By | I continue to be inspired by women who work tirelessly to make life better for other women, no matter their age.Right now, I am inspired by Socheata and Sodanet, two girls from Cambodia who have excelled in the Life Skills component of Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program. They’ve channeled the communications skills they curated in our program not only to promote girls’ education and equality in their communities, but also to keep their peers in school and on the path to success. They are role models in their community and for women everywhere.

The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | I hope Room to Read’s legacy is a world in which illiteracy is eradicated, children everywhere have a love of reading, and all girls are able to realize their dreams and chart their own life’s course.

Useful Links |

Click on the video to watch Erin Ganju On Creating a Better World Through Education:

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