2013 Winner: READ Global

Primary Area of Impact: Education
Geographic Areas Served: Rural communities throughout Bhutan, India, and Nepal
Year Founded: 1991
Website: www.readglobal.org


READ (Rural Education and Development) Global believes that empowering rural communities is critical to alleviating global poverty.  They envision a world where individuals, families and entire communities have access to the knowledge, resources, and opportunities necessary to build more prosperous futures.
READ Global brings together education, enterprise, and community development to create lasting social change in rural South Asia. The organization partners with villages to build Community Library and Resource Centers (READ Centers) that include a fully stocked library and computer room, as well as programs on topics ranging from literacy and women’s empowerment to livelihood skills and health education. Each READ Center is paired with a for-profit enterprise that generates income to sustain the center in the long run.

Social Challenge

READ (Rural Education and Development) Global focuses on economic growth and education in rural areas of the developing world. It is estimated that more than 70% of the world’s poor live in rural areas and a lack of educational, economic and social resources in rural villages is the root cause of poverty and political instability in many developing countries.

READ has chosen to work in three South Asian countries each grappling with significant challenges in literacy and gender equality. With a literacy rate of less than 60% – one of the lowest in South Asia – and more than 65% of citizens living on subsistence farming, Bhutan is addressing the effects of a half-century of self-imposed isolation. India has more illiterate people than any other country in the world. Nearly half of Indian women can’t read, and only 29% participate in the labor force. Nepal is one of the poorest nations in the world with 82% of the population living in rural areas, and more than 1/3 of the rural population is located four hours or more from an all-weather road, essentially isolating the population from information and resources. Some 37% of adults can’t read – and nearly half of all women (48%) are illiterate. Without addressing these most basic challenges, rural poverty will remain a destabilizing force across the developing world.

The inequities between genders and castes in these communities also limit opportunities, especially for women and girls. This inequity inhibits generations of women and their families from lifting themselves out of poverty. READ seeks to address these disparities by providing a safe haven for all community members, but especially women and other marginalized members to gather, share and learn.


  • READ Global has established 62 READ Centers across Bhutan, India and Nepal, serving over 1.8 million rural villagers in 128 villages across 45 districts/states. They have seeded 99 for-profit sustaining rural enterprises to generate operational income for the Centers.
  • In 2006, READ Nepal was awarded the Access to Learning Award from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in recognition of its sustainable and scalable approach. The Gates Foundation later provided funding to replicate the READ model in Bhutan and India and conduct the first impact assessment of READ’s work in Nepal.
  • In 2010, READ made a Commitment to Action at the Clinton Global Initiative in 2010 to establish 20 women’s centers reaching 16,000 women by the year 2014. READ Global began working earlier this year with LFA Group, a consulting group specializing in research, strategy and evaluation to create a formal monitoring and evaluation plan for all three READ countries.
  • Education has emerged as a key sector where READ Centers have made a substantial positive contribution, in both formal education (support to an average of 500 students per Center in 2010) and non-formal education (more than 1,910 individuals attended adult literacy classes and 822 participated in computer classes, since September 2010). Center usage trends show a substantial increase – often doubling or tripling over just a few years.
  • READ Centers also play a critical role in the increased empowerment of women and girls in rural villages. There are improved social norms around women’s rights and status in READ villages, as well as increased social inclusion and decreased discrimination against women and disadvantaged castes. These communities are also benefiting from increased health and hygiene knowledge (more than 1,677 individuals received health training since September 2010).

READ Global Case Study

An executive summary and case study were written by four student fellows of the Lipman Family Prize with faculty oversight as an effort to capture the field experiences of READ Global staff and stakeholders to provide a rich, clear, and thorough narrative of READ’s work in Bhutan, India, and Nepal.

READ Global Executive Summary

READ Global Case Study