How to Build Sustainable Communities?

A couple years back I had the chance to attend *Spark, an Acumen Fund event in NYC, I was extremely moved by Jawad Aslam’s talk. I had a chance to talk with him a bit after and I wrote up a couple slides to capture the key takeaways.

*spark! – Jawad Aslam on building sustainable communities in Pakistan

How do you co-create learning in the most challenging of places?

What problem did he solve?

+ Most people are well aware of the lack of books in impoverished areas across the world; however, Room to Read has been successful in growing and bringing books to the poor across the world.

What was the paradigm through which he viewed the problem?

+ Simplicity and Visualization: John’s goals are so simple that all donors can easily comprehend the results of their labor and donations.

+ Self-Empowered Individuals: Room to Read empowered individuals to create their own results. The causal link between dollars and creating a library or school is very compelling to people.

“The Andrew Carnegie of the 21st Century will not be a rich white male. It will be a network of concerned global citzens, and we will create it.” ~ J. Wood

What drove him?

John Wood was a big-time Microsoft Executive, world traveler, etc. and he jumped ship to help others. A fundamental question that arises is: What is that driving force or will power that pushes an individual in that direction? How do each of us tap that power?

The moment his life changed, he was visiting a library in Nepal: “The books were noticable only in their absence. I phrased my question in the most polite way possible: “This is a beautiful library room. Thank you for showing to me. I have only one question. Where, exactly, are your books?” ~ J. Wood

How did he do it?

+ Adopt a Project” Model: Visualization and hitting at the core of understanding. Creating a library gives people an opportunity to build off of a already created image in their minds

Co-Ownership: Room to Read provides the financial resources and management, and the community provides the labor and material resources. The type of relationship creates a long-term relationship with the community, but also ownership.

+ Action and Results: The culture of Room to Read is all about RESULTS: How many schools have been built? How many books have been distributed? Milestones along the path to a goal are not results, results are tangible and complete.
Create-The-Demand: They created the demand for Room to Read’s services and then found the funds to match it. Demand-driven organizations are far more invigorating for investment