| October 26, 2014

5 Million People Reading – What It Takes


Way back at the beginning of Worldreader, my friend Mike Sundermeyer told me a story about commitment that goes like this:

A pig and a chicken were walking down the road. They passed a church and notice that a potluck charity breakfast was under way. Inspired to help, the pig suggested to the chicken that they each make a contribution.

“Great idea!” the chicken cried. “Let’s offer them ham and eggs!”

“Hold on—not so fast,” said the pig. “For you, it’s a contribution. For me, it’s a commitment.”

I was reminded of this during my recent time at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, to which we were invited as a guest. As many of you know, CGI convenes global leaders “to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.”

Some of the power of their Annual Meeting comes simply from bringing people together and seeing what happens—this year attendees got to rub shoulders with Melinda Gates, Jordan’s King Abdullah, the New York Times’ Nick Kristof, and President Barack Obama. But perhaps even more powerful is the idea of a Commitment-with-a-capital-C: a promise to do something meaningful, usually in collaboration with others, to make the world a better place.

So inspired by this idea, Worldreader committed to the following at the CGI Annual Meeting:

  • To get 5 million people reading on digital devices in the next three years, in partnership with Microsoft Mobile, and
  • To increase the number of books in our digital library available for free or low-cost to 50,000, in collaboration with Pratham Books and other publishers.

For more information on our Worldreader’s Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action, watch David Risher, CEO and Co-Founder.

To be sure, these are ambitious goals, representing at least a 10-fold increase from our current levels of impact. But the truth is that with millions of children without access to books, we need to be working at these levels in order to inspire others to act to address the problem of global illiteracy.

And the good news is that we’re not acting alone. Coming into the CGI meeting we had lined up partners like Microsoft and Pratham Books, and we’re thrilled to be working with them. But one of the wonderful outcomes of a meeting like CGI are partnerships and friendships that get formed on-the-fly.

During the meeting I had the opportunity to meet with Wikimedia’s Executive Director Lila Tretikov and the Lwala Community Alliance (Kenya) Co-Founder Milton Ochieng; the three of us are working to figure out how we can further each other’s goals in the coming year. We don’t yet know how exactly it’ll happen, but we started with a selfie, figuring we’ll figure out the rest later!

Lila Tretikov with David Risher

Worldreader is creating a world where every child has the books she needs to improve her life. We’re grateful to our friends at CGI for helping us sharpen our goals and enlist strong partners. Now it’s just a matter of getting it done!