Erin Ganju

Managing Director of Echidna Giving | Co-Founder & former CEO of Room to Read

“Education Leadership through Crisis” is a multi-week video series featuring wisdom from a diverse group of education leaders.

Below, watch highlights from host Mubuso Zamchiya’s interview with Erin Ganju exploring the role of philanthropists and foundations in the education sector during the COVID-19 crisis, the importance of collaboration, and strategically evaluating your organization’s unique strengths.

Scroll down to watch the full interview.

“From the crises I managed Room to Read through, so much of it is about communication and transparency at the beginning… No one is expecting any single person be a hero through this… I think we have to be really open about where we’re succeeding and where we need help.”

Erin Ganju

Managing Director of Echidna Giving; Co-Founder & former CEO of Room to Read

Meet Erin Ganju

Erin Ganju is a Managing Director at Echidna Giving, one of the largest private funders in girls’ education in lower-income countries where girls are most disadvantaged. Erin joined Echidna Giving from Room to Read, the internationally lauded NGO she co-founded to advance literacy and gender equality. During her tenures as COO and CEO, Room to Read helped over 12 million children in 15 countries pursue a quality education. Erin was instrumental in the design and implementation of the organization’s scalable, replicable model. Erin captured her experiences and insights as co-author of Scaling Global Change: A Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Surviving the Start-up Phase and Driving Impact. The book is a how-to guide for social entrepreneurs who have a vision to change the world and need a strong organizational foundation to do it, utilizing Room to Read as an organizational case study.

Erin’s has been recognized as a World Economic Forum’s Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur (2014), a Global Impact Featured Member for 2017 by the Young Presidents’ Organization, and was named one of Fast Company’s Extraordinary Women (2012). Before co-founding Room to Read, Erin worked at Goldman Sachs & Co, Unilever and several technology start-ups. Erin holds a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree in international relations and economics from The Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C. 

View the Full Interview

Question Breakdown:

1. (01:00) Can you tell us about your background?

2. (02:43) What’s the difference between creating education opportunities during moments of normalcy versus crisis?

3. (04:32) How should educators and policy leaders be thinking about the needs of marginalized groups, like girls?

4. (08:11) What do you think needs to be done in terms of relief, recovery, resilience (in education)?

5. (14:22) What would you say is the role of philanthropy in times like these?

6. (17:02) What advice might you have today for a minister of education dealing with this COVID-19 crisis?

7. (19:48) Should we be thinking about higher education placement testing (allow them to progress) and access to primary school (kids just entering school) differently in a time of crisis?

8. (22:38) What’s keeping you up at night? [related to managing through the COVID-19 pandemic]

9. (26:14) What are you seeing now in the funding community regarding designated and undesignated funding?

10. (29:27) What would you apply from your book Scaling Global Change, in today’s world?

11. (33:59) Do you think the lessons you learned from Room to Read translate to the government side of social change?

12. (36:42) What cost and risks do you see as a result of the digital divide during the pandemic?

13. (40:50) How do we create learning that allows kids to be rooted in their own culture?

14. (44:05) What was your favorite book as a child? What books inspire you today?

15. (45:37) Any parting advice?

“The biggest concern I have is how many nonprofits will be able to see through this crisis. Having been a CEO of a fast-growing educational nonprofit, it is a really challenging job. We as private philanthropy need to be as supportive and as constructive in our support as possible to see through what is a really stressful situation to be in as a leader.”

Erin Ganju

Managing Director of Echidna Giving; Co-Founder & former CEO of Room to Read

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