Carsten Rubsaamen doesn't want your money.

Author:Weldon, Roby
Position:People: interview of the month - Interview
 
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The founder of awardwinning social enterprise Bookbridge has already changed the lives of thousands with learning centres in Mongolia and Cambodia--and, sure, donations are always welcome. But his vision goes beyond this: he wants to change the hearts and minds of future business leaders.

Carsten Rubsaamen is young (just 32), and in his typical T-shirt and scruffy stubble, looks younger. With his casual demeanour and earnest, optimistic, do-gooding attitude, he could be an overgrown Boy Scout--which he is.

Rubsaamen is also a hardheaded, highly motivated PhD with years of business consultancy work behind him and an eye for opportunity. He's confident in dealing with people at the highest level and speaks the corporate language fluently (four languages, actually--English, German, French and Spanish). And he thinks big.

So while scouting took him on a Mongolian adventure and his commitment to helping others started a book donation drive, it's business acumen that turned Bookbridge into a successful social enterprise. And it's his very personal genius, the combination of these two aspects, that underpins the long-term goal: inspiring the managers of tomorrow to understand what a difference they can make, and so, changing the world even beyond the thousands reached by Bookbridge's existing learning centres.

How it started: scouts' honour

By 2005, at age 23--having just finished his MBA--Rubsaamen should have long since quit scouting. Instead, he took a scout group on an improvisational tour of Mongolia, guided by local scouts, where they visited a school and discovered children with great curiosity about the world, working knowledge of English, a dedicated teacher and a hunger to learn ... but with an empty library.

On returning to Germany, as well as initiating an exchange programme with some of the Mongolians they had met, the scouts started to collect books and sent them back to the school. Three months later, Rubsaamen heard from the teacher, Uuganaa Gantumur, that her class had doubled in size--all thanks to the 40 picture books she had received! Since Rubsaamen was planning to visit again in the summer, Gantumur suggested he might bring some more books.

So in January 2009 he contacted the Bavarian minister for education, who put out a call to all schools in the province and collected 7,000 books. A radio station joined the campaign, bringing in another 6,000, and he got a sponsored van to collect them all.

With a container of books on the...

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