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Adam Braun        

Founder & Executive Director, Pencils of Promise

Adam Braun is the Founder and CEO of Pencils of Promise, an award-winning nonprofit organization that has opened more than 150 schools across Africa, Asia, and Latin America and delivered more than 10 million educational hours in its first five years. PoP was founded with just $25 using what Adam coined as a “For-Purpose” approach to blending nonprofit idealism with for-profit business principles. In 2012, he was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 List. Pencils of Promise has been identified as one of the world’s most impactful new nonprofits by luminaries such as Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Bill Clinton, Richard Branson, and Barbara Walters.

Adam began working at hedge funds at the age of sixteen, hurdling towards a career on Wall Street, until he met a young boy begging on the streets of India and asked him what he wanted most in the world. The answer—”A pencil.” Adam eventually left a dream job at Bain & Company to launch Pencils of Promise, which in 2013 was awarded “Education Organization of the Year” through the Empact 100 showcase held in the United Nations General Assembly Hall.

Adam graduated magna cum laude with a triple major from Brown University and has been featured at Clinton Global Initiative, Google Zeitgeist and Wired magazine’s “2012 Smart List of 50 People Changing the World.” He was selected as one of the first ten World Economic Forum Global Shapers and now speaks often on leadership, innovations in education, managing millennials, and the rise of purpose-driven lives and careers.

He is a leader in social media as well, having amassed over 300,000 personal followers. His blogs are regularly shared by thousands of readers, and his debut book, The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change, was released in March 2014.

Alternate Bio: Adam Braun is a New York Times bestselling author and the Founder of Pencils of Promise, an award-winning organization that has broken ground on more than 200 schools around the world. In recent years he has been named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 List, Wired Magazine's "50 People Who Are Changing the World," and was selected as one of the World Economic Forum's first ten Global Shapers. He has also been a featured speaker at The White House, United Nations and Clinton Global Initiative.

Braun began working summers at hedge funds when he was just sixteen years old, sprinting down the path to a successful Wall Street career. He started his college career as a Division 1 basketball player, but while traveling abroad he met a young boy begging on the streets of India. When Braun asked him what he wanted most in the world, he simply answered, "a pencil."

This small request became the inspiration for Pencils of Promise, the organization Braun would leave Bain & Company several years later to start with just $25 on his twenty-fifth birthday. Using his unique "for-purpose" approach, he meshed for-profit business acumen with non-profit idealism and in doing so created a leading organization in the global education space, proving that anyone can start a movement that matters.

Braun graduated from Brown University and is now a frequent speaker at conferences, colleges and Fortune 1000 companies. He avidly engages with his social media following of over 500,000 people and currently resides in New York City. His book The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change debuted at #2 on the New York Times Bestseller list

Speech Topics

Venture Philanthropy & Impact Investing

At an early age when other kids were dreaming of being astronauts or actors, Adam Braun, was fascinated by the world of economics and finance. He single-mindedly worked toward a career on Wall Street and found success at Bain & Company. However, after a life-changing trip abroad, Adam was inspired to leave Bain and found Pencils of Promise. Despite altering his long-term plan, Adam’s organization has been profoundly more successful than other nonprofits because of that background in business. Having keynoted for companies such as Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Charles Schwab, and Microsoft, Adam is a thought leader in helping major corporations affect change—and their bottom line—through venture philanthropy and impact investing. In this talk, Adam explains how major corporations can maximize both their philanthropic and monetary success using “for-purpose” business strategies.

From Sign Language To Social Media: What The U.S. Education System Can Learn From The Developing World

In the land of so many choices, how can we make our U.S. education system even better? Adam explores that question and proposes some surprising solutions for some of the toughest problems we face today in education. In this talk, Adam shares some of PoP’s innovative learning strategies—utilizing sign language to teach young children phonetics, usage of innovative technology in the classroom, and low-fi solutions that are accessible to every household around the world. Most look to the halls of elite universities for the finest methods of teaching, but what if the answers are actually hidden in the world’s most remote, rural villages?

For-Profit, For-Purpose: New Currency In A Borderless World

Huffington Post deemed the phrase Adam coined—”profitable purpose”—as the #2 trend of 2012. Adam merged two traditional and disparate industries into an intersecting space—one in which individuals, families, and companies further their own well-being, all while creating social good. His “For-Purpose” approach has since taken off like wildfire, and it’s now commonly cited by organizations across the world and featured in publications such as Fast Company, Mashable and Entrepreneur. In this talk, Adam explains the chance he took early on in his entrepreneurial journey, placing his bets on what he foresaw as an upcoming significant rise in the “profitable purpose.” Adam shares with audiences how his risks later paid off in many ways—and how that same success is possible for you, too.

Ordinary Person, Extraordinary Change: How to Affect the Masses

Just before his 25th birthday, Adam Braun went to the bank to ask how much it would take to open a new account for a “nonprofit organization” called Pencils of Promise, with hopes of building just one school. The teller responded, “Well, you have to start with at least $25.” His initial $25 deposit catalyzed a movement that has now raised millions and built more than 150 schools; yet, it remains framed in the PoP office as a constant reminder that one small step can lead to massive impact. Adam’s story is one of an ordinary person creating extraordinary change—something he believes everyone can do. Using short, pithy mantras that anyone can adopt, in this talk Adam shares his experience as a model for how to get “unstuck,” outlining 10 key steps that can actively transform even the smallest ideas into a big reality.


Adam Braun, 29, Founder and CEO, Pencils of Promise - In Photos ...
Pencils of Promise builds schools and trains teachers in the developing world with a focus on Ghana, Laos, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Founded in 2008 and ...

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