John Wood is a confident presence, a role model for public speaking seminars. His dogged conviction and meticulous work ethic have allowed him to transform Room to Read, the non-profit NGO he started after leaving Microsoft, from a simple educational idea into a wildly successful global organization with a budget of tens of millions of dollars in a matter of years. During yesterday’s meeting in the San Francisco headquarters of Room to Read, John Wood offered the GCY Fellows inspirational counsel on personal growth, community development, international philanthropy, and the myriad other issues with which we have wrestled during the US Training Institute. His most resonant piece of advice, or perhaps of caution, was the following:
Admit to yourself that we are forced to make this stuff up as we go along.
The US Training Institute has been an inundation of lectures, literature, and discussion with social entrepreneurs, university professors, professional investors, designers, health workers, and others. Our guests have conveyed devout belief in their respective causes and unique approaches to extraordinarily complex issues, often with the reminder to temper the romantic with the realistic, the absolute with the relative.
Speaking in recent days with donors, supporters, and high profile personalities such as Matt Flannery of Kiva and former US Senator Harris Wofford (who helped found the Peace Corps under JFK), I have been able to articulate my dedication to the GCY cause despite lacking many details of the coming seven months. As October 1 approaches, minute by minute, uncertainty looms like an ugly giant, challenged only by our faith that we are building a movement that can bring sustainable positive change to American education, international policy, and foreign development. For now each GCY Fellow waits and hopes for the moment of creative progress when, according to Senator Wofford, “idea and fate meet.”