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Showing posts from March, 2009

New Orleans here I come! The Social Enterprise Summit 2009

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I'm getting ready to head to the Social Enterprise Summit 2009 next month in New Orleans. I'm especially excited about the significant focus on public policy and advocacy for social entrepreneurship. We were lucky to have the support of the Surdna Foundation for a policy-specific conference track.


Experienced practitioners tend to engage at levels above their specific organization. For me, it's about advancing the movement. It's crystal clear to me that the creativity of social enterprisers is essential to bringing us out of this current economic and social hole we're in.

With President Obama expected to launch a new White House Office of Social Innovation, this seems like an opportune moment to get together with leaders from the social enterprise movement to help influence the national and international agenda!

If this gets you interested, I hope to see you in New Orleans!

Hachette Book Group Partners with Bookshare

Bookshare looks for publishers to partner with us to make books more available to people with disabilities. It's very exciting that we can announce that one of the largest book groups in the United States has just made the commitment: Hachette Book Group Partners with Bookshare To Make Thousands of Books Available to People with Print Disabilities.

Hachette Book Group publishes under quite a number of famous imprints, such as Little Brown and Company and Grand Central. According to the company, they had a record 107 books on the New York Times bestseller list in 2008, with 35 of them ranked #1. By gaining access to these books directly from Hachette, we don't have to go through our typical time-consuming process of chopping, scanning and proofreading the books. They will be sending the books to us in high quality XML formats that we can turn into DAISY and Braille digital files. We're really excited about the social responsibility that Hachette has demonstrated throug…

Notes from The Inauguration

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A Guest Beneblog by Ann Harrison (Benetech Communications Director)

I watched a person in a wheelchair the other day navigate a tricky curb cut while crossing the street. The young man moved along skillfully without the need for assistance, but the scene brought back memories of a day in January when I accompanied a friend in a wheelchair to inauguration of President Barack Obama. As Benetech’s Communications Director, I support the team that maintains Benetech’s Bookshare library for readers with print disabilities. But our adventure at the inauguration gave me an even greater appreciation for the challenges that people with disabilities encounter and the support that exists to meet these needs.

Ignoring recommendations by organizers that disabled people not venture into the dense crowds and frigid weather expected on inauguration day, my friend Steph summoned me and three other girlfriends to Washington D.C. to make sure that she could attend the event. We knew it would be a long day…

Exciting Benetech Leadership News!

We have a great addition to our leadership team at Benetech. Betsy Beaumon, formerly of BEA Systems and numerous other high tech roles (including founding her own social enterprise in the 1990s), has joined us as our new Vice President and General Manager of Literacy Programs. The press release on the appointment has much more detail.

I'm particularly excited about Benetech's continued strengthening of our management team. Over the past couple of years, the growth of Bookshare has enabled us to bring on managers like Lisa Friendly, John Crossman, Reuben Firmin and Betsy Burgess. That's in addition to longer term Benetech leaders like Patrick Ball, Barbara Morrison, Jane Simchuk and Teresa Throckmorton. Having this kind of managerial bench allows us to take on new enterprises, and deepen and extend the reach of our current projects.

For me, this means I can invest more of my time in imagining the future of Benetech. We're in an unusual position this year to still …

Guatemalan Police Archive Finds Evidence in Disappearance Case

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A Guest Beneblog by Tamy Guberek (Benetech HRDAG team member from Colombia)

There is important news this month from our partners at the Guatemalan National Police Archive, which has worked since 2006 with Benetech’s Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG). Workers at the archive discovered documents that led to the arrest of two active duty police officers suspected in the 1984 disappearance of university professor and labor leader Édgar Fernando Garcia. Garcia disappeared after being placed in police detention in Guatemala City.

While there is no public information about exactly what evidence these documents contain, prosecutors ordered the arrest of officer Abraham Lancerio Gomez on charges of illegal arrest, forced disappearance, kidnapping, abuse of office and breach of humanitarian duties. According to the Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre, Officer Ramirez Rivers, a former officer in the Guatemalan National Police, was also arrested.

The National Police, which was implicated in w…

The Struggle for Book Access: Amazon (Blog Post #2)

Why You Shouldn't Depend on a For-Profit Business to Defend Your Civil Rights

The Kindle2 is a hot topic in the disability field right now. Many print-disabled people (people who are blind, severely dyslexic or a have a physical disability that keeps them from reading regular print books) see electronic books as a dream come true. But, it's a dream that the commercial ebook vendors keep dashing. The Kindle2's text-to-speech feature wasn't something that actually worked for blind people, but you could imagine how a software update could make this into an incredible product. But, we just saw Amazon fold when the Authors Guild pushed them to turn off the voice of these books: Amazon to flip on Kindle. And that is setting back the cause of people with disabilities who need that kind of access. We have an action by Amazon that sets back years of work to make ebooks accessible.

Print-disabled people of the world shouldn't be surprised that Amazon isn't going out o…

Jimmy Fencing

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My wife Virginia and I were able to squeeze in a quick trip to Boston to see our son Jimmy fence in the Intercollegiate Fencing Championships, his last fencing tournament in college. I'm between speaking four times in Illinois on Friday (will blog about that soon) and heading to Washington DC today (Sunday) for three days of meetings around Bookshare and social entrepreneurship.

Somebody captured a great picture of Jimmy (which I asked him to send me) in full fencing gear during the tourney. It was great for us to be able to spend the time with him as he gets ready to finish up college and head on to his next adventure.

Longtime Beneblog followers will know Jimmy as the author of one of the most popular Beneblog posts Jimmy Does Davos about his experiences at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos a couple of years back. Fencing has been a lifelong passion for Jimmy and it sounds like it will continue past college: we hope so!