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Showing posts from February, 2013

Benetech’s Framework for Developing New Social Enterprises

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I was delighted when Ron Schultz invited me to collaborate with him on his latest bookCreating Good Work – The World’s Leading Social Entrepreneurs Show How to Build a Healthy Economy. What I liked most was the idea to create a body of knowledge that’s truly helpful to prospective and emerging social entrepreneurs. I’m honored to join my fellow contributors in sharing practical lessons we’ve learned throughout our journeys towards actualizing positive social change. I look forward to continuing the conversation the book has opened.


Creating Good Work arrives at a critical time for the social entrepreneurial movement. We see tremendous innovations in social enterprise, but these are merely part of larger, global changes in the ways in which society organizes itself to create public goods. Digital and mobile communications are changing the rules about social networks, intellectual property, and the availability of big data, with an overall blurring of the boundaries between state, for-p…

Big Meeting on the Treaty this Week!

This week in Geneva is a major meeting on the path to the expected Diplomatic Conference on the Treaty for the Visually Impaired. The goal of the Treaty is to make a copyright exception for the blind and other people with disabilities that stop them from reading print, and to make import and export of accessible content legal. As the operators of Bookshare in the USA, which was made possible through a great exception in our copyright law here, we would love to make all of our books available to people with qualifying disabilities around the world.

We expect that many of the big issues with the current text will get ironed out this week. After the last WIPO session in November, the World Blind Union convened a group of experts to review the current Treaty draft and make recommendations to the WBU on the most important issues for WBU to work on in this next session. I wrote a post at the time
with the detailed suggestions from the expert group about the text of the draft. This post is …

Benetech Spins Off Human Rights Data Analysis Group

From a Project to an Organization: Benetech Successfully Spins Off the Human Rights Data Analysis Group Benetech is celebrating a major milestone: On February 1, the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG)—which focuses on the statistical and analytical side of Benetech’s human rights work—spun out from being a project within our organization to become its own, independent group. Dr. Patrick Ball, who has led our Human Rights Program since 2003, now heads HRDAG as its Executive Director and Dr. Megan Price, formerly a senior statistician at Benetech, has joined Patrick as the organization’s Co-Founder.

Spinning off projects when they reach sustainability, and when doing so would allow them to better achieve their mission, is all part of the Benetech model. As a matter of fact, the funding for Benetech to start Bookshare and our Martus human rights software project came from a successful spinoff of  our first social enterprise, the Arkenstone reading machines, which we sold to a for…

A Bookshare Valentine’s Day Love Story

This true story was written by two Bookshare volunteers, Evan Reese and Lissi Deren.

She was a proofreader in Ohio who saw a new Welsh name, Evan Reese, on the Bookshare volunteer list. His messages were articulate, optimistic, technically sound, sometimes funny, and always courteous. He was a scanner who saw happy messages from Lissi, noticed she loved animals, and better yet, she was a fan of The Lord of the Rings, proofreading a book, One Ring to Bind Them All. On May 20, 2006, he emailed her off list asking her to hurry because he wanted to read it. Ten days later the book was added to the collection and they’d agreed to tackle Tolkien’s 12 volume history of Middle Earth together.

It was all work between them, figuring out how to prepare accented elvish and format footnotes until the day he wrote, “Not to get too personal, but I really like ketchup,” and she impulsively bought a half gallon bottle of Ketchup at Super K-Mart. A week after one of his best friends died,…

Increasing Accessible Publishing Globally

Plenary Talk at the Eighth General Assembly of the World Blind Union  Access to published information is an essential requirement for education, employment and full social inclusion. People with vision impairments and other print disabilities deserve equal access to that treasure of information. These are exciting times for everyone who’s been working to meet the accessibility imperative, as we are witnessing global movements that will increase accessible publishing and create new and better opportunities for people with disabilities. This last November, I had the honor of giving a plenary talk at the Eighth General Assembly of the World Blind Union (WBU), in which I addressed these opportunities and the challenges ahead.

WBU is the global organization representing the estimated 285 million people worldwide with vision impairments. The organization’s priorities are decided upon at the WBU General Assembly, which is held every four years. The November 2012 General Assembly took place…

Betsy Beaumon on Benetech's Literacy Program

The Year That Was and the New Year Ahead  Guest Beneblog by Betsy Beaumon, Benetech's VP and General Manager of the Literacy Program

2012 was a year of titanic shifts in the fields of consumer technology, education, and publishing, along with the requisite challenges brought about by such rapid change. At Benetech, where innovation is the engine behind our mission, we did our best to make the most of it and help lead the charge into the future. Bookshare and our other Access to Literacy initiatives, including the DIAGRAM Center and Route 66 Literacy, all made big strides this year through the significant dedication of the community that makes it all happen.

We celebrated the tenth anniversary of Bookshare—both online and with in real life—with gatherings of users, volunteers, partners, employees, and friends throughout the year. As we get older, some of us like to increase the length and number of celebrations for our own birthdays, so why not apply this to Bookshare too? After al…

MagnaFlyer: New Tech Helping People with Central Vision Loss

For more than 20 years I’ve worked to harness the power of technology to do social good. One area I’ve had the pleasure to focus a great deal of time and energy on is helping to improve the lives of people with vision impairments. So for me, it was incredibly cool to be introduced to a new piece of technology that has a clever and (as far as I know) new approach to making information accessible to people with vision impairments. It’s called MagnaFlyer.

MagnaFlyer was developed with a large and specific audience in mind—individuals suffering from Macular Degeneration. Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of permanent impairment of fine or close-up vision among the elderly population. It is often called age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), though it also affects younger people in smaller numbers. The disease damages the light-sensitive nerve cells located in the center of the retina, resulting in sharp and central vision loss. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention esti…