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John Wood    

Founder & Board Co-Chair of Room to Read; Former Microsoft Marketing Executive

John Wood is the Founder and Board Co-Chair of Room to Read, one of the fastest-growing and award-winning charities founded during this century. A former Microsoft marketing executive, Wood left the company in 1999 to start the organization. To date, Room to Read has opened over 1,500 schools and 13,600 libraries, distributed over 11 million books including 707 self-published original local language titles, and supported over 17,000 girls to succeed in secondary school and beyond. Due to the work of Room to Read, over six million children in 10 countries across Asia and Africa benefit via the lifelong gift of education and literacy. John has emulated his hero, Andrew Carnegie, by opening over five times as many libraries. He describes his efforts thus far as “total tip of the iceberg” and aspires to reach 10 million children by 2015.

John is a member of the Advisory Board of the Clinton Global Initiative. He was the first-ever Microsoft Alumni of the Year, an award bestowed by Bill and Melinda Gates. He is a five-time winner of Fast Company Magazine’s Social Capitalist Award, a three-time speaker at the Clinton Global Initiative, and was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. He is a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute and was given a Presidential Citation by the American Library Association. The local language children’s publishing program he catalyzed at Room to Read was awarded with UNESCO’s Confucius Prize for Literacy in 2011. He has twice been named by Barron’s magazine as one of the world’s 25 Most Effective Philanthropists and was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

John teaches at the graduate level at the Wagner School of Public Policy at NYU and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His degrees include a Masters in Science in Business Administration, awarded magna cum laude (University of Colorado), a Masters in Business Administration from the Kellogg School of Northwestern University and three honorary PhDs. When not traveling the world for Room to Read, he makes his home in New York City.

Creating Room to Read is John Wood’s idealistic dream turned into practical reality, the inside story of how a sensible businessman reached for the impossible—and seized it.

Speech Topics

Re-Imagining Leadership

As our world faces an unprecedented crisis of leadership, a "war for talent" rages, with the most visionary leaders building the most effective global teams. In this keynote, Wood inspires audiences to think differently and more boldly about what they can accomplish as leaders, talking candidly about his evolution as a leader, mistakes he's made along the way, and the lessons he's learned during two decades as a fast-rising Microsoft executive and as Founder of Room to Read.

Leaving Microsoft To Change The World

John Wood's first-person account of following his passion and the lessons learned in doing so. It is a popular "inspiring close" or "bring people to their feet" dinner speech at corporate, industry, and education conferences.

Purpose: The New Competitive Advantage

In this keynote, Wood discusses how corporate social responsibility represents the new competitive advantage; a way to re-engage customers and employees and improve the bottom line. He recalls his experiences using the ‘power of purpose’ to onboard resistant communities, motivate volunteers and enlist high-profile investors, while pointing to the growing number of corporations—like IBM and GE—that have begun building a ‘higher calling’ into their products and services. Wood demonstrates that “cause” is now the key to commercialism and inspires audiences to re-think old assumptions, dream big and take steps to align with the business world’s often-overlooked competitive advantage: purpose.

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