President’s Update: Fall 2013
Don’t get me wrong: I love writing my updates. However, technology is transforming innovation at its core and our team at Benetech does quite well in leveraging this “innovation at warp speed” for social good. In fact, we’re doing so well in that respect that I get to engage more and more in new opportunities to advance our nonprofit mission—but less in writing my updates.
In all seriousness, 2013 has been an incredibly busy and productive year for us. I’m excited to share highlights from our work and its significance for the multitudes we serve. Highlights of this Update:
Bookshare celebrated a double milestone this summer, reaching over 200,000 available titles in our collection and serving over 250,000 members with disabilities! While the majority of our members are U.S. students, we also serve adults, seniors, veterans, and international subscribers in over 40 countries.
We know, however, that we’ve only scratched the surface of meeting the global need for access to books and information. The sad truth is that millions of people with print disabilities around the world continue to be left behind.
|Delivering Benetech's statement to the|
WIPO diplomatic conference
We’re going to demonstrate what this could look like by piloting Bookshare International at scale in India. We just announced a Commitment to Action at the Clinton Global Initiative, to increase our impact in India by an order of magnitude. Through this project and the Treaty, we’re looking forward to realizing the potential of Bookshare International to eventually help millions of other people globally live fuller lives.
We’re also expanding our efforts to help more people in the U.S., especially veterans with disabilities. We just dedicated our first crowd-funding campaign, Bookshare for Veterans—part of the Skoll Foundation’s Social Entrepreneurs Challenge on CrowdRise—to this goal and are enhancing our outreach to veterans who need access to books and information. If giving disabled vets the gift of accessible reading resonates with you, I would definitely appreciate anything you can do to support our cause.
We also received our largest-ever award for human rights, a two-year, $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL). This grant will allow us to deliver a set of major enhancements and new language translations for Martus, as well as expanded development and broad deployment of Mobile Martus, our brand new Android-based mobile documentation app.
|Gerardo Capiel, our VP of Engineering,|
representing Benetech Labs at a
Fundación Avina conference
We’re also pulling our Silicon Valley brain trust into these new Labs projects by creating a new kind of nonprofit advisory board, the Benetech Labs Partners. We believe that there’s no better way to engage brilliant leaders from tech, business, and finance than in a brainstorm about early stage tech venture ideas. Not only does it raise risk capital for Benetech, but we also actually want the advice!
We already have many exciting ideas flow into the Labs. From helping clean water and sanitation groups in Latin America, assisting American farmers reduce greenhouse gases, helping labor rights groups track debt bondage or child labor, or conceiving innovative extensions to Benetech’s existing projects, we’re exploring ways that software can make lasting social impact.
Building a Strong Culture of Communications
This summer, we rolled out the updated Benetech brand identity and a new narrative platform, which are featured on our redesigned website. It’s part of our larger effort to build a strong, organization-wide culture of communications. We recognize that becoming effective communicators and storytellers is necessary in order to maximize our impact in the service of our beneficiaries, and we’re committed to improving in this area. To keep abreast of what’s new at Benetech, please regularly visit Benetech’s Blog that features voices from across our organization or sign up for our monthly updates.
Benetech continues to live up to its founding promise to be a different kind of tech company—a nonprofit with a pure focus on developing technology for the social good. As a result, my job as an engineer for good is a blast. I get to hang out with terrific people who all dream about technology making a bigger and better impact on the world. I hope you share our goal of seeing that technology actually benefits all of humanity, not just the richest and most able 5%!
President and CEO, Benetech