Posts

Showing posts from September, 2014

Team-Up for Textbooks: Volunteer to Help Students with Disabilities

Image
The new school year is in full swing, yet across the U.S., all too many students with print disabilities might not have the textbooks they need for class. To meet that need, the Benetech Volunteer Program is piloting a new initiative—and we’re inviting you to join us!

When a Bookshare student member with a print disability needs a book for school that is not yet in the Bookshare collection, the member submits a request and Bookshare creates an accessible digital version of that book. However, students often don’t know what books they need until the first days of school—a hectic time when Bookshare receives thousands of book requests. During this time, the process of making a textbook accessible can take from 8-12 weeks, with proofreading being the most time-intensive and costly component. Meanwhile, students with print disabilities risk falling behind in school as they wait for the books they need.

Volunteers can now help fulfill students’ book requests faster during periods of peak d…

Advancing Reading Equality with Bookshare’s Exponential Growth

Image
At Benetech, we always ask ourselves how our existing successful programs can reach more people who need our services and how we can apply technology in new ways to enrich and improve more lives. I’m thrilled to share with you some of the recent amazing impact of Bookshare, a Benetech Global Literacy initiative and the largest accessible online library of copyrighted content for people with print disabilities.

Recently Bookshare has reached two major milestones in its efforts to bring reading equality to disadvantaged populations around the world. First, Bookshare’s collection has surpassed a quarter of a million titles and, in fact, is growing so rapidly that at the time of writing this post it is almost at 300,000 titles! Thousands of ebooks are pouring into the collection each month thanks to the dedication of our volunteers around the world and partnerships with more than 500 socially responsible publishers who donate their digital files. Bookshare titles range from vocational to…

Open Source and the Promise of Sustainable Nutrition Security

Image
Recently I had the opportunity to get introduced to Gerald Nelson, senior climate change researcher and Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Jerry and I had a great conversation about open sourcing of agricultural scientific models, such as those used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in their climate change reports.

An expert on agricultural economics and spatial analysis, Jerry most recently served as a Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, DC, where he led major projects on food security and climate change issues. He was also the principal author of a recent report you may have heard of: “Advancing Global Food Security in the Face of a Changing Climate,” which was released by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in May 2014, calling on the United States government to integrate climate change adaptation into its global food security strategy.

Jerry is involved in collective eff…

Unlocking Technology-for-Good Innovation

Image
At Benetech, we advance technology applications that empower and protect underprivileged populations, and that also have the potential to become financially self-sustaining enterprises. This keeps us focused on projects that offer the greatest social impact for the resources invested. Benetech Labs is where the Benetech team and our social impact partners incubate new software-for-good applications. Within the arena of startup incubators, however, Benetech’s social enterprise business model and Benetech Labs’ approach are unique. Let me explain how this is so.

The typical incubator model works well where a team has formed around a technology innovation and is looking to graduate a for-profit company. The entrepreneurial team explains how its product can be monetized, and angel and venture capital funders then invest in the hottest teams coming out of the top incubators. What happens, however, with technology applications that could provide great social benefit but that won’t generate…

Master Class on Creating Startup Tech Social Enterprises

I'm looking forward to teaching a Master Class at San Francisco's Presidio Graduate School on September 18th. Current Presidio MBA student and Benetech team member Julie Noblitt wrote a generous blog post about the master class last week.  Julie is not our only connection to Presidio: alum Kristina Pappas runs International Bookshare for Benetech.  Should be exciting to interact with more Presidio students!

My goal is to give attendees (in addition to Presidio students and alums, this class is also open to the public) an inside look at how Benetech analyzes new tech social enterprises.  Julie and Aaron Firestone, our Director of Business Development, will be helping take attendees through key questions about a new tech social enterprise.  We'll be using one of the projects in our current Benetech Labs pipeline, or perhaps a project proposed by one of the students (the deadline to suggest something is this Friday, September 5th).

I've been thinking about this class for…