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Showing posts from June, 2011

Our WIPO Statement on the Treaty for Access for People with Disabilities

Statement of Benetech to the
22nd Session of the
Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights

at the World Intellectual Property Organization
June 15, 2011, Geneva, Switzerland

• Greetings from California’s Silicon Valley! I’m a high tech engineer and the founder of Benetech, one of Silicon Valley’s leading nonprofit technology companies, dedicated to seeing that the benefits of technology help all of humanity, not just the richest 10%
• As a nonprofit charity, we focus on areas of market failure, where regular for-profit companies have decided that the market opportunity for a given product is not large enough
• One of our best-known programs is the Bookshare library, the largest online library of accessible books in the world, a library dedicated to serving the one or two percent of the population with a severe print disability
• Since I last spoke to this body less than one year ago at SCCR20, the Bookshare library has grown from serving 100,000 people with print disabilities, to ov…

New Benetech board member, Robert Wexler

Our Nonprofit Legal Expert Continues to Offer Wise Advice My last post mentioned our recent Benetech board meeting. This seemed like a great moment to introduce our newest board member, Robert Wexler.

Rob has a deep understanding of what makes nonprofits successful. He’s a principal at Adler & Colvin, San Francisco's top law firm specializing in nonprofit law. His practice focuses on tax and corporate matters for nonprofits and their donors. Rob is also a lecturer at Stanford Law School where he teaches the Law of Nonprofit Organizations.

Rob has helped Benetech navigate important transitions over the years including providing critical legal advice during the sale of the Arkenstone product line in 2000, including expanding our charter from just working on disability issues to a wider range of social issues (now including human rights and the environment). Proceeds from the sale of the Arkenstone reading machine for the blind provided the capital to fund Benetech and launch man…

Human Rights at the Benetech Board Meeting

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The centerpiece of our Benetech board of directors meeting this week was the Benetech Human Rights Program. Each of our quarterly meetings tends to focus on big strategic issues facing Benetech. Last quarter Betsy Beaumon presented the future of our Literacy program including Bookshare. Next quarter will be our new projects meeting, where we talk about the pipeline of new ideas for Benetech social enterprises. But this week, human rights was front and center.

Patrick Ball, our Chief Scientist and VP of the Human Rights Program, spent a couple of hours with our board talking about the big strategic questions for the HRP. He talked about the opportunities and challenges he sees ahead, especially as technology tools continue to be adopted by more of the human rights community, from cell phones to Facebook.

Our human rights program has many important moving parts:
Improving the science of human rights statisticsDoing major projects to help a country figure out what happened in the last …

George Hara: Public Interest Venture Capitalist

Longtime Beneblog readers may remember my visit five years ago to Bangladesh, where I was able to visit and write about a cool tech social enterprise, bracNet. They were going to bring Bangladesh better wireless internet than exists in California, and they’ve done it.

I recently had the opportunity to visit with one of their main funders, George Hara, in San Francisco. George is a financial mastermind with one foot in Asia and the other in California. Public Interest Capitalism is his personal brand of social change. A longtime venture capitalist with his DEFTA Partners firm, he wants to help solve social problems using hybrid capital structures that meld nonprofit and for-profit partners. He uses the Alliance Forum Foundation as one of his vehicles for making deals along these lines in Asia and Africa. He's written several papers on his approach, including this one entitled Retooling Capitalism.

bracNet is one of these hybrid ventures, joining a majority for-profit ownership led by…