One evening in April 2021, a book club titled “Nanum Books Club” was held with John Carver’s 『Boards That Make A Difference』 (Korean translation). We asked three participants from the Hope Foundation For Grassroots – Lim Jae-Eun, Ahn Soo-Kyeong, and Lee Mi-Yeon – to share their thoughts and stories about their in-house study with this book. They sent us an interesting reply in the form of a soliloquy. [Nanum Books]

The Stories of the Hope Foundation For Grassroots about John Carver’s
『Boards That Make A Difference』


[Left] From the left: Secretary-General Lim Jae-Eun, Manager Ahn Soo-Kyeong, and Manager Lee Mi-Yeon / [Right] Logo of the Hope Foundation For Grassroots

Q. First, could you briefly introduce The Hope Foundation For Grassroots?

The Hope Foundation For Grassroots (hereinafter referred to as the HFG) is a community foundation in Cheonan City, Chungcheongnam-do, South Korea. The HFG began in August 2006 when Yoon Hye-ran, a welfare activist in Cheonan, donated $50,000 that was prize money she received from winning the “Emergent Leadership” category of the Ramon Maksaysay Award, dubbed Asia’s Nobel Prize. We are trying to create a warm and healthy community with the citizens by supporting the activities of everyone who works for public interest.

The projects currently carried out by the HFG can be largely divided into support for public interest activities, public interest activists, and vulnerable groups.

First, support for public interest activities and public interest activists includes

  • supporting new public interest organizations (Incubating ‘Clover Youth Orchestra’)
  • continuing hope of grassroots organizations (supporting vital project expenses and personnel expenses including education)
  • supporting public interest activists (hosting Cheonan Nonprofit Conference and supporting Korean-style Enneagram education)

Second, support for vulnerable groups includes

  • ‘Brace Scholarship’
  • ‘Dream Big’ national technical certificate education expenses
  • Asian environmental improvement
  • fresh fruit for starving children
  • children’s group home
  • sharing education for youth (‘Girls Smiling Bangle’ and ‘Bandi Activity’)

If you want to know more about the HFG’s work, please type “Hope Foundation For Grassroots(풀뿌리희망재단)” on the internet and visit the HFG’s website and SNS. (laughs)

Q. At the Nanum Books Club on April 2, 2021, you said that all the employees of the foundation read Boards That Make A Difference. I wonder if there is a voluntary learning culture within the HGF.

(laughs) Yes, all the HFG staff are reading books together at a weekly study. This culture has been going on naturally since all the staff joined the HFG, so we can say it’s a very familiar culture for all of us. We choose and read books about various fields related to our activities such as sociology, humanities, philosophy, and the liberal arts. It is also interesting to discuss what books to read, divide the parts, decide the presenter for the day and share our thoughts about the book with each other. (laughs) We have been reading books on a wide variety of fields.

When each staff member first joined the HFG, it was hard to talk about his or her thought, but we got used to it after a few times. As we share our thoughts and talk about current issues through the study, we get to know each other’s values, perspectives, and vision. There were several times when we forgot our lunch break while studying. (Lunch? Of course I had it today! (laughs)) To tell you the merits of a study, there are many ideas about fundraising and allocation related the HFG’s work. It also stimulates communication among staff members and the performance of the tasks. Of course, it takes time for each staff member to read and digest the books, but we also believe that, as time goes by, reading books together becomes an asset for each of us.

Q. Why did you choose Boards That Make A Difference as your study book this time?

We told you earlier that we choose a wide range of books to study. Of the 15 books published by Nanum Books, 12 have been our study books. First, when we receive the Philanthropy Knowledge Newsletter from The Beautiful Foundation, we read articles about books in great detail (laughs). They are very helpful books for organizations like the HFG. From its title, Boards That Make A Difference, gave us the impression, ‘This is the book! Shall we?‘ There was an internal change in the HFG earlier this year. Not only the new chairman, but also the new secretary general was appointed. so this might be the decisive reason for our selection of the book – the change in leadership made us seek a new leadership model. In addition, this year marks the 15th anniversary of the HFG, some of the board members have been with the HFG since it was established, and some have joined recently, so we wanted to study this book in advance and share it with the board later.

Q. Was there anything you could apply after reading Boards That Make A Difference? If yes, could you tell us how you plan to apply it?

We agreed that our board members should read this book, as many participants at the online Nanum Books Club said. We have got a lot of things to look back on in the beginning of the book, such as the role of board leadership and its values and perspectives, or policies. And we learned a lot about various forms, performance, and responsibilities of the board.

Thankfully, the board members of the HFG have played their roles and responsibilities well since its establishment. Each of them shows competence in fundraising because all of them are well aware of the importance of it. They also have a good influence by connecting the HFG with their own network resources as a leader in this regional community and various fields of their works.

In addition, they have steadily been discussing fundraising and business allocation of the HFG at the regular board meeting held every month. However, we think that the HFG board could positively consider writing the board’s job description to enhance the board’s sense of responsibility or investing in board training to enrich the board’s wisdom as we read in this book. In addition, each board member may have a different understanding about the HFG and its board work because they have different lengths of participation. To make up for that, we want to help the board develop a step-by-step “stairway” policy and make board meetings meaningful, harmonizing diverse opinions about HFG’s policies into one voice via heated discussions through an application of this book.

We gave them this book as a gift at this month’s board meeting. All the board members thanked us for that. We hope they will become a better leadership after they read this book and share their thoughts about it.

Q. Can you tell us how you feel about reading Boards That Make A Difference?

There’s a big difference in the working experience of our staff. Nevertheless, we had a good time reading this book together as we learned and understood a lot about the role and responsibility of board leadership from the youngest manager, having little experience in board of directors, to the secretary-general. There were some difficulties in the process, but it was an opportunity to recognize the importance of board leadership as a decision-making vehicle to do good things better and in a sustainable way. In addition, for me, Lim Jae-Eun, it was an opportunity to make a pledge to play the role of secretary-general. Once again, we learned that as our activities are created by people, the importance of relationships and motivation for each participation can be an important factor. Lastly, we would like to say thank you to all the people at Nanum Books who have worked long and hard for it. We wish you good luck, where you are!

Lim, Jae-Eun | Secretary-General, The Hope Foundation For Grassroots
I’m Lim Jae-Eun, and I have been growing up with the HFG for 13 years. I have studied hard thanks to Nanum Books and will continue to study. I want to be active in the field for a long time because I like people and sharing.

Ahn Soo-Kyeong | Manager, The Hope Foundation For Grassroots
I’m Ahn Soo-Kyeong, who has already been here for 3 years. I’m in charge of supporting the other two from behind, doing all the work at the foundation. I’m working with the pride of meeting good people and doing good things together after joining HFG. I hope that not only us, but everyone who works in the field will always be happy.

Lee, Mi-Yeon | Manager, The Hope Foundation For Grassroots
I am in charge of distributing, promoting, and managing donors, as the youngest member of HFG and only 2 months since I joined! I’m working together with the secretary-general and other manager who embrace my clumsy steps for regional change. I’m working in happiness, learning through conversations on many topics. I hope everyone will work in a learning and happy environment!