Founder, Open Books; Co-founder, Chicago Literacy Alliance
Fortysomething years ago, Stacy Ratner learned to read. This life-changing experience led to degrees in law and literature, allowed her to help take three for-profit startup companies from idea through national rollout and a combined total of $30 million in committed venture funding, and finally brought her to the cause of literacy.
She began by founding Open Books, a nonprofit social venture that funds its programs for 5,000 students annually through sales of donated books in its two award-winning stores. Three years later, inspired by the power of collaboration for change, she co-founded the Chicago Literacy Alliance (CLA), an association of organizations helping to meet literacy needs for people of all ages and backgrounds.
In 2015, with the participation of 18 member groups, the CLA opened the country’s first shared nonprofit workspace dedicated to literacy: the Literacenter. Today, the Literacenter is the home and gathering place of more than 90 member organizations, who use the space to share ideas, programs, and partnership opportunities relevant to their collective work with more than 3.6 million people across the city.
Recent recognition for Stacy’s work includes Chicago Magazine’s Chicagoan of the Year award, the Social Enterprise Alliance’s national Innovation award, repeated placement on NewCity’s Lit50 list of Who Really Books In Chicago, and a feature on the White House’s official blog for “spreading the infinite and awesome power of books.”
She is a proud alumna of Brandeis University and Boston College Law School who writes a novel every year, eats ice cream every day, and is always starting something.