How do you know when to pivot and follow a passion project? Can you align your work with a greater purpose? Erin Ganju did just this when she made a pivot from the for-profit sector to the nonprofit sector. She is a social entrepreneur that started out in the financial industry and then moved on to co-found Room to Read. It was here that she honed her social entrepreneur skills as she moved from CEO, COO, to Emeritus Board Member.

Erin is the author of Scaling Global Change which is a how to guide from start-up to scaling and driving impact. In this episode, we talk about finding ways to create change, being a leader, knowing when to pivot, building a team and collaboration, having great mentors and role models, and creating the change you want to see. Erin shares so much knowledge and wisdom in her own authentic way.

Show Notes

  • [03:37] Erin started out in the financial world at Goldman Sachs and now she’s the managing director of the Echidna Giving Fund and a Co-founder, former CEO, former COO and Emeritus Board Member of Room to Read, an organization that believes World Change Starts with Educated Children.
  • [03:55] The connecting line through her career is working internationally and finding ways to create change.
  • [04:43] It’s important to help people see how wonderful it is to invest across our borders and look at our world more holistically.
  • [05:36] It’s a common theme in many sectors to see women drop out as you move up the ranks.
  • [05:50] Erin enjoyed being in a dynamic group of men and women, but she decided to take another path.
  • [06:22] During Erin’s career change from the for-profit to the nonprofit sector included an aha moment where she questioned why she was working so hard for causes that she didn’t care deeply about.
  • [06:50] She decided that she wanted to align her work with her values. She decided to pivot into the social sector.
  • [06:59] Erin believes education is the great equalizer and wanted to provide education for children no matter where they were born.
  • [07:28] Scaling Social Change is the how to guide to turn something that you deeply believe in into something that can really scale.  The key behind the book is that it takes building a strong organizational foundation.
  • [09:06] You also have to focus on your operational excellence.
  • [10:17] Hiring top talent is a challenge for social entrepreneurs.
  • [11:04] Founder’s syndrome can be a huge issue. It can be hard to delegate.
  • [12:03] Erin stepped down as CEO of Room to Read last year and let the first non-founder CEO take over.
  • [12:57] You need to compellingly explain the problem and tell your story and how it connects with the world. Make it personal and connect it to the global.
  • [15:30] Organizational fit is very important.
  • [17:37] Understand what is and isn’t working using data.
  • [20:07] Interacting through social platforms helps connect conversations.
  • [24:51] Great leaders know when to step down, it’s about the bigger cause.
  • [26:20] For Erin, female mentors and role models were essential.
  • [28:06] Success for Erin has been about seeing her place in a dynamic team and creating impact.
  • [30:26] Collaboration is natural for people. Women sometimes need to take more credit for what they do.
  • [34:30] In the social sector, you can share emotions and be authentic. People trust the leader more when they are authentic about their cause.
  • [39:23] Tap into the positive such as focusing on education being about the future.
  • [40:23] Erin and her team are creating an open source database that is mapping around girls education. It’s amazing what technology can do when it comes to making connections.
  • [41:35] Social media can be important in terms of telling your story, but you need to cut through the noise.
  • [42:49] Take risks. You will never succeed if you don’t try. Take the less traveled path. You can also join forces with an established organization collaboration is important.

Links and Resources:

Room to Read Website
Room to Read on Twitter
Room to Read on Facebook
Echidna Giving Fund Website
Erin Ganju on LinkedIn
Scaling Global Change
Good to Great
Being Nice Can Be Your Superpower with Fran Hauser