Communities Thrive: An IREX-READ Global Partnership

Communities Thrive: An IREX-READ Global Partnership

IREX and READ Global have joined forces to improve the lives of 2 million people by making international development more enduring, locally driven, and impactful.

At the heart of our partnership is READ’s scalable, low-cost approach. The approach enables community members to establish community centers that offer education, employment, and health services—and incubate new businesses that generate revenue to cover the cost of operating each center. With IREX’s decades of experience in strengthening and scaling grassroots initiatives, this model has the potential to reach millions more.

IREX and READ Global logos with a photo of women at a community center

IREX and READ Global have joined forces to improve the lives of 2 million people by making international development more enduring, locally driven, and impactful.

At the heart of our partnership is READ’s scalable, low-cost approach. The approach enables community members to establish community centers that offer education, employment, and health services—and incubate new businesses that generate revenue to cover the cost of operating each center. With IREX’s decades of experience in strengthening and scaling grassroots initiatives, this model has the potential to reach millions more.

Donate to Communities Thrive

Help us start 100 self-sustaining community centers in Nepal, India, and Bhutan. Donate to Communities Thrive.

About the Partnership

READ Global has already reached 2.3 million people by establishing 100 community centers and 195 for-profit enterprises that support the centers. Over the next five years, IREX and READ Global seek to strengthen and scale READ’s financially self-sufficient and locally driven model for community development:

  • 100 new community centers will open and serve communities throughout Nepal, India, and Bhutan.
  • 100 new businesses will generate revenue to support the ongoing costs of the centers.
  • 2 million more lives will be touched and transformed through innovative programming that responds to pressing community needs.

To respond to the critical development needs of communities across South Asia and against the backdrop of shrinking aid budgets, Communities Thrive offers:

  • Exceptional return on investment: Because READ Centers become financially self-sufficient over time, relatively small investments impact hundreds of thousands of people.
  • A proven approach for building and leveraging social trust: READ has demonstrated a locally driven model that works and built unparalleled social trust in the rural communities where it operates.
  • Scale: IREX—with 50 years of development expertise and operations in 100 countries—has the potential to bring this model to scale.
  • An innovative partnership: At a time when many nonprofits implement duplicative efforts, we’re joining together to increase our impact

Download the Communities Thrive case statement (PDF, 983 KB)

Community members celebrate opening a new READ Center in Bhutan
Community members celebrate opening a new READ Center in Bhutan.

How the Community Centers Work

Communities Thrive establishes community library and resource centers (READ Centers) by partnering with rural communities in southern Asia, where a majority of women are illiterate and most families live below the poverty line. All READ Centers are owned and operated by the local community. Each center has a library, computer room, women's section, children's room, and training hall. We connect with local partners to offer training in education, economic empowerment, technology, and women's empowerment.

Each READ Center includes a for-profit "sustaining enterprise"—a small business that creates local jobs and generates profit to support the ongoing costs of the center. Sustaining enterprises range from tractor rental services and agricultural cooperatives to community radio stations and sewing cooperatives.

Advisory Council

Alyssa Ayres

Alyssa AyresAlyssa Ayres is senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, where her work focuses on Iundia’s role in the world and on US relations with South Asia. In 2015, she served as the project director for the CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force on US–India Relations. Her book about India’s rise on the world stage, Our Time Has Come: How India Is Making Its Place in the World, is forthcoming in 2017.

Ayres served previously as deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia from 2010 to 2013, covering all issues across a dynamic region of 1.3 billion people (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka) and providing policy direction for four US embassies and four consulates. Prior to serving in the Obama administration, Ayres was founding director of the India and South Asia practice at McLarty Associates, the Washington-based international strategic advisory firm, from 2008 to 2010. Immediately prior, she served in the US Department of State as special assistant to the undersecretary for political affairs as a CFR international affairs fellow. Prior to that she worked in the nonprofit sector at the Center for the Advanced Study of India at the University of Pennsylvania, and at the Asia Society in New York.

Her book on nationalism, culture, and politics in Pakistan, Speaking Like a State, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2009, and received the American Institute of Pakistan Studies book prize for 2011–2012. She has coedited three books on India and Indian foreign policy: Power Realignments in Asia; India Briefing: Takeoff at Last?; and India Briefing: Quickening the Pace of Change. She received an AB magna cum laude from Harvard College, and an MA and PhD from the University of Chicago. She is a former term member of CFR, and a life member since 2010.

Carolyn Brehm

Carolyn BrehmCarolyn Brehm leads P&G’s team of sixty government relations practitioners based in key markets in the US, Asia, Europe, Middle East & Africa, and Latin America. She is responsible for public policy and legislative advocacy to protect and grow P&G’s business, advising three company CEOs over her sixteen years at P&G. She also oversees the $24 million P&G Fund that supports clean drinking water, maternal and child health, disaster relief, and gender equality initiatives in the communities where P&G operates globally.

During a 13-year stint with General Motors Corporation, Ms. Brehm served as director of international trade and investment policy, supporting GM’s international operations. During two overseas assignments with GM, she established an office in Shanghai in 1984 and returned to the region in 1996 as director of Asia-Pacific trade policies and strategy.

In other roles, Carolyn served as vice president-Asia for ORBIS International based in Hong Kong, a global humanitarian organization working to eliminate avoidable blindness in the developing world. She began her career at the US-China Business Council, a nonprofit organization promoting trade and investment with China.

Ms. Brehm is a 1977 graduate of Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. She completed an MBA at the University of New Haven’s international program at Cyprus College, Nicosia, in 1996. She studied Mandarin and French. She serves on a number of nonprofit boards including the Georgetown University Institute for the Study of Diplomacy Policy Council, the Executive Council on Diplomacy, and US-Pakistan and US-Russia Business Councils.

Tara Giunta

Tara GiuntaTara Giunta is a partner in the Washington, DC, office of Paul Hastings LLP and is a vice chair of the Investigations and White Collar Defense Practice. She advises clients and their officers and directors, in high-risk regulated industries, on global compliance, focusing on anticorruption, data privacy, and national security. Ms. Giunta performs risk assessments for global enterprises, develops comprehensive compliance programs, conducts internal investigations, and represents clients before US enforcement agencies. She was recognized by Global Investigations Review in its “Women in Investigations” list, which recognized 100 women across the globe who are “achieving great things in a competitive and notoriously tough area of law.” She is also editor of the report Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Women in the Boardroom. Ms. Giunta received her JD from Columbus School of Law, Catholic University, and her BA, cum laude, from Tufts University.

Shyam Lal

Shyam LalShyam Lal is an independent advisor and board member to privately held (family owned, private equity, and venture-backed) businesses. He is also senior partner emeritus with McKinsey & Company, where he worked for almost thirty years with leading public companies in the industrial, travel & logistics, and consumer sectors. At McKinsey, Shyam led a number of global practices, including those in operations, business technology, and travel & logistics. Earlier in his career, he was in engineering positions at Kodak, at (US Navy affiliated) Applied Research Labs and at Indian Airlines. Shyam has been a board member at the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, the MMM Program at the Kellogg School at Northwestern University, and the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. He is chair of the board of trustees at the Bay School of San Francisco. Shyam holds an MBA from the University of Chicago, an MS in mechanical engineering from Penn State and a BS in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi.

Nirav Patel

Nirav PatelNirav S. Patel is president of The Asia Group, LLC (TAG), vice chairman of the board of The Asia Group Capital Advisory Partners, and cofounder and director of The Asia Group Foundation.

As president, Nirav leads TAG’s day-to-day operations, business development, and strategic growth, while managing a diverse portfolio of industry-leading corporate clients. Prior to his current position, Nirav served as TAG’s first chief operating officer, leading the firm’s growth from a small start-up to a vibrant and dynamic industry-leading strategic advisory firm. Today, TAG has over 30 employees, business engagements in over 18 countries across the Asia-Pacific and select markets in the Middle East and Latin America, and is proud to represent leading Fortune 500 and private companies. Nirav is proud to serve as cofounder and director of The Asia Group Foundationthe firm’s philanthropic arm, which seeks to change lives with high-impact commitments of employee time, resources, and passion.

Widely regarded as an influential voice on strategic trends in the Asia-Pacific, US foreign policy, and national security policy, Nirav served at the US Department of State from 2009 to 2013, first as senior adviser to the assistant secretary and then as deputy assistant secretary of State (DAS) in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP). Prior to serving in the State Department, Nirav was a fellow and director of the Asia-Pacific Strategy Program at the bipartisan Center for a New American Security (CNAS) and an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Nirav has authored numerous journal articles, op-eds, and reports, including The Power of Balance: America in Asia (with Dr. Kurt M. Campbell); Going Global: The Future of the US-ROK Alliance (with Victor Cha, Randy Schriver, and Dr. Kurt M. Campbell); China’s Arrival (with Abraham Denmark); and Asia-Pacific Strategy for the Obama Administration (with Ralph Cossa, et al.). He holds a master’s degree in international security studies from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and a bachelor’s in philosophy and political science from the University of North Texas, where he was a finalist in the national cross-examination policy debate tournament. Nirav lives with his wife and two sons in McLean, Virginia.

Abraham Smith

Abraham SmithAbraham Smith is currently the Mobile Strategy Advisor for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a worldwide religious nonprofit with 15 million members in over 150 countries. As the key advocate for mobile in the organization, he leads mobile strategy and provides mobile insights to Church leadership.

Before joining the LDS Church, Abraham was the CEO of Smart Telecom in Nepal. There, he worked to transform a small, regional telecom company into a national operator. Before going to Nepal, he was a partner at Catalyst Partners, a DC-based government relations firm. His work at Catalyst took him to East Africa and the Middle East, where he helped clients develop and execute their strategies for international growth.

Prior to joining Catalyst Partners, Abraham was employed by Qatar Telecom to lead their telecommunication enterprises in the Maldives Islands. While in the Maldives, he served as the chief operating officer for Qtel’s subsidiary, Wataniya Telecom Maldives, a mobile communications and enterprise data business. He also served as the managing director and board member of WARF Telecom—a joint venture with Reliance Globalcom (India) that provided undersea fiber data connectivity in and out of the Maldives.

Before going to the Maldives, Abraham worked for MCT Corp, a DC-area investment firm that specialized in telecommunication investments in Russia and Central Asia. During the seven years that Abraham worked for MCT, he established many key business and government relationships throughout Central Asia. He also served as the CEO for MCT’s mobile communications company in Uzbekistan, Coscom. He served as a director of the US Chamber of Commerce in Uzbekistan, and was a key supporter in creating the ICT Incubator in the Maldives. Abraham has a degree from Georgetown University in international business.

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