November 27, 2012
I had the opportunity to visit three READ centers in Nepal in November 2012 and was very impressed by what I experienced and observed. At the strategic level, the READ model of self-sustaining enterprise makes a lot of much needed sense in a world of historically well-intentioned giving with unintended consequences. The READ model, which emphasizes community and stakeholder engagement and ownership, is also highly replicable and does not rely on any one single charismatic individual to succeed. At the operational level, I was able to witness the positive impact READ centers have had on individual lives as well as on entire communities. It was, for example, inspiring to hear the stories of women who, through READ programs, learned to read and write late in their lives or those of the young women who learned technical skills and opened profitable, successful businesses providing valuable and needed services to their communities, or those of the women who formed a successful farming cooperative in their village. It was a moving experience to witness these women articulating how they felt empowered and were now able to contribute to the economic situation of and decision-making processes in their families and communities, rather than feeling marginalized as invisible, second class citizens in a society characterized by ethnic, gender, caste, political and socio-economic divisions. I believe READ has already achieved much and has further potential to do still more. I was also impressed by the READ team's commitment to understand its development impacts through a rigorous monitoring and evaluation process that they are implementing - it is not easy for organizations to take a hard look in the mirror and be honest about what is working versus what is not achieving desired results. READ's monitoring and evaluation program will also achieve accountability for results and give the team the tools and data to substantiate and evidence results, which is critical for ongoing reporting to donors and the public. All in all, I was very impressed with the quality and caliber of the READ Nepal staff that I met as well as with the vision and leadership of the Executive Director of READ Global. Well done everyone and I wish you much continued success!
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