Posts

Showing posts from May, 2012

UpEnergy: cool for-profit social enterprise

The rise of for-profit social enterprises has been quite exciting. Although I'm firmly on the nonprofit side with Benetech (because we focus on big issues where the market is failing), it's definitely easier to get funded sustainably if you have an exciting and invest-able business plan.

Evan Haigler is a social entrepreneur I've known for years. He's made a big difference in the area of clean cook stoves and carbon credits, spinning his nonprofit group ImpactCarbon out of UC Berkeley years ago. Lately Evan's been talking about how to expand their impact even more. He's joined forces with other social entrepreneurs in the field to found UpEnergy, a new for-profit social enterprise that wants to scale the impact of their successful pilot projects. The founding team includes leaders from each of the first three Gold Standard clean cookstove projects (and these projects delivered more than half a million stoves). They are already active in Africa and Latin A…

Benetech’s New Image Description Tool Improves Accessibility of Graphical Content for Students with Print Disabilities

Benetech has long been a pioneer in providing innovative services to people with print disabilities. This week, Benetech’s DIAGRAM Center has announced the release of an open source web application for creating and editing crowdsourced image descriptions in books used by students with print disabilities. The Poet application developed by DIAGRAM helps level the playing field by making otherwise inaccessible graphic content available for students and other readers who cannot read traditional books. Poet supports image descriptions for electronic books created in the international DAISY standard for digital talking books and will be compatible with descriptions for ebooks in the EPUB3 format. The DIAGRAM Center team has also created an image data content model which will provide standards to define and enhance the efficacy and interoperability of accessible images as the project evolves.

DIAGRAM stands for Digital Image and Graphics Resources for Accessible Materials. Our DIAGRAM Cente…

Funding Innovation for Skoll Social Entrepreneurs

Image
I was recently at the Skoll World Forum, probably the best conference in the world for meeting with top social entrepreneurs. As a longtime member of the Skoll community, I prize this week for the opportunity to talk frankly with peers about our biggest mutual challenges. Peer learning is the most valuable opportunity for a field that has no operator's manual -- like social entrepreneurship!

The constant theme is raising money for our social enterprises. But not just any money -- we talk about the most difficult money to raise: the unrestricted funding that is the lifeblood for a social entrepreneur. This kind of funding is essential for innovation, for responding to time-critical opportunities, prototyping new ideas and getting them to the point where they are a saleable product to customers and/or issue-focused donors. But, unrestricted funding is far harder to raise, because the donor is investing in the leadership of the organization as opposed to a specific set of deliverabl…

Bookshare Celebrates Its 10th Anniversary at Google

Image
Bookshare, Benetech’s pioneering digital library for people with print disabilities, celebrated its 10th birthday last night with a terrific party that was attended by many of our long-time friends and supporters. The event was hosted by Google on its campus in Mountain View, California, which is home to some of the most cutting edge technologists in the world.
During the event, our Bookshare staff offered demos of our Bookshare library and our Go Read accessible ebook reader for Android. They also demoed Read2Go, the accessible ebook application for the Apple OS and Route 66 Literacy, Benetech’s online literacy instructional program.
During the party we had a surprise video message from Stevie Wonder, a long-time Bookshare member who told us that he is using Read2Go to read accessible books from the Bookshare library. “I can feel it all over, it’s a hit!” said Stevie. Thanks Stevie! We think so too.

T.V. Raman of Google Research, a long-time Bookshare member and advisor, was on hand…