Showing posts from August, 2009

Foo Camp 2009

I just got back from Foo Camp 2009, which was a blast as usual. I think this is my third or fourth Foo Camp, and the energy around public uses of technology was palpable. It's structured as an unconference, where the 300 or so folks showing up design the conference program of roughly 70 sessions in about an hour the first night. The picture above has the schedule for just one half of the rooms/tents on Saturday! If you don't move fast and claim a conference room, your session will be in a row of tents in the parking lot. This actually works out fine, but don't expect to be doing PowerPoint out there! Many cool people attend, and the quality of the conversations is terrific. These are all folks who believe in technology and have a certain level of common language and understanding (even though the range of people is pretty amazing). That's why conversations can cut right to the issue that people are debating. As one attendee put it to me, he can always go to everyone

Braille Silver Dollars

Sometimes you come across something cool and relevant to your work. I couldn't resist getting a couple of the new Louis Braille silver dollars. They have an image of Louis Braille (this is his bicentennial year) and actual raised dots (for the letters BRL which is the code for Braille) on the back of the coin. The National Federation of the Blind convinced the federal government to have the U.S. Mint strike and sell these Louis Braille Silver Dollars , and some of the money goes to supporting Braille literacy. I've been using a Morgan silver dollar from the 19th century when I referee soccer games each fall: this September I plan to surprise the kids with a Braille silver dollar!

The Reckoning

We had an all-company movie, The Reckoning during lunch this last week. One of the top issues that came out during our recent strategy meeting was the team's eagerness to hear about other projects. This was an opportunity to hear about human rights: The Reckoning is about the International Criminal Court. The movie is excellent: it does a good job of covering the issues around the establishment of the court and its early years including its earliest cases. John Bolton, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN during the Bush Administration, is quite direct about why he opposes the court today as he did then. The ICC is still in its infancy: one of the challenges the movie brings up is the inability to get most of its indictees into the court. The current president of Sudan is a good example of the challenge. After the movie, Patrick answered questions of the team about his experiences working at the court and his take on some of the issues raised in the movie. Patrick believes strong

A shining example of quality (and fast!) Volunteer work

I get great emails all the time, but this one needed to be posted right away! Jim From: Rick Costa Sent: Thursday, August 20, 2009 3:26 PM To: Bookshare Team Subject: A shining example of quality (and fast!) Volunteer work Hello Bookshare Team, "The Adventures Of Eddy And Teddy Too Teff" by Lorraine Wooding was given to Robin Seaman by the author was very eager to have it in our collection. Well it is -- thanks to Carrie, who approved it this afternoon! And a very special thanks to one of our new Volunteers: Laurie Bechtler For those who missed Pavi's Volunteer Appreciation Event on Tuesday, Laurie attended as one of the volunteers. When speaking about her, I forgot to give her this book, which earlier that day she'd agreed to proof next. [I gave it to her and then] She took the book home Tuesday afternoon. (She'd just finished proofing a priority book: a B4E high school textbook requested by a teacher!). This afternoon Laurie uploaded the book to the Approval Qu

Big Benetech Day: All Company and Volunteer Meetings

Yesterday was emotionally exhausting here at Benetech for many of us in the most positive way possible, with a couple of rare events. We are working on a new strategic plan, our first in years (we've been working off of the original Benetech plan with minor updates for 8 years). We're doing the planning by starting with our team: we did an all-company survey and then yesterday we did a two hour meeting to go over the survey results and discuss them. Our meeting facilitator, Bob Glavin (longtime advisor to Benetech, teaches at USF and helps many other nonprofits and foundations), told me and the senior managers to not talk and to simply listen. It was hard to keep my mouth buttoned up, but it was essential to hearing from the team instead of from the CEO! And we did. We attract incredible people to Benetech, and it showed. We heard about how much our commitment to transparency was valued, among other aspects of our culture. There was much food for thought, as our manageme

Benetech and the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Benetech Analyzes Human Rights Data for the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission A Guest Beneblog post by Kristen Cibelli Our team at the Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG) has recently concluded a three-year project with Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission to help clarify Liberia's violent history. I managed the project in which we analyzed more than 17,000 victim and witness statements collected by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in Liberia and compiled the data into a report entitled "Descriptive Statistics From Statements to the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission." The report is included as an annex to the TRC’s Final Report released on July 1 in Monrovia, Liberia. As a non-profit organization, our work with the TRC and our statistical report was made possible through the support of United States Department of State Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) and several other donors, which are listed

Helen Keller Archives

Spotted this photo of Benetech's Robin Seaman visiting the Helen Keller archive at the American Foundation for the Blind and holding an Oscar. Helen Keller received this Oscar for the documentary about her life in 1955, as mentioned in the online Helen Keller Kids Museum . One of the great things about working for Benetech is being able to see all the cool things going on around the world. Looking at the 17 volumes of Helen's Braille Bible, I remember why Bookshare members love having a thousand times more content on a two pound Braille electronic display!

University Presses Cooperate with Bookshare

We have been very lucky to continue to partner more closely with the publishing industry, as a major segment of educational publishers come on board with Bookshare: the university presses. We recently announced partnerships with The University of Chicago Press, the University of California Press and New York University Press, where they will be sending digital files of their books to Bookshare to be made available to people with print disabilities. As the debate rages about the accessibility of ebooks, it's good to know that most publishers are committed to seeing their works reach people with print disabilities. We're delighted to be working with these top university presses to meet this crucial need through Bookshare.

I just made an educational microloan!

As someone with three kids in college, I'm used to the idea of educational loans. My kids are borrowing money; I'm borrowing money. It's the American way of higher education! Outside the U.S., educational loans are not so common. And, education is the way out of poverty. This weekend, I made my first educational microloan, to Claudia Belén García Royz of Nicaragua, who is studying to be an industrial engineer. This loan was the result of a conversation I had with Kushal Chakrabarti, the founder of the Vittana Foundation . Multiple people had connected me with Kushal, including my brother Tom, who worked at Amazon with Kushal. Kushal described Vittana as "Kiva for educational loans." It makes a lot of sense to me. I'm not alone. Every student so far that has posted a loan need has had willing lenders snap up the offering quickly (in under 30 hours over the weekend). Kushal's challenge is actually finding more microcredit institutions in the deve