| June 3, 2011

Building the Awesome


Teacher Training in Kenya

My old boss Jeff talks passionately about how profoundly satisfying it is to build something important, and every day I understand that more.  At Worldreader we’re creating something new– a new culture of reading in the world’s poorest countries.  Soon we’ll write about what we’re learning: how Worldreader students spend up to 50% more time reading on their e-readers than they did before, how they’re downloading everything from Cinderella to The New Yorker. (Update: results are in!)  But what I’m thinking about now how is how much fun it is to build something from scratch, something bigger than we are.

Right now, Colin and Joseph are  in Ghana working with our students there, plus with the government to extend our iREAD program.  Tina’s in Kenya training teachers with The Kilgoris Project.   Publishers in Africa, the UK, Australia, New York, and London have all contributed books to Worldreader— we’re up to over 250 books in our program (thanks, Elizabeth!), and that number grows daily. Folks at Amazon help us send books to our students, and folks at M-Edge help students get lights.  Zev, fresh back from setting up our operation in Kenya with Betty (and simultaneously overseeing the results from our Ghana work), is taking a well-deserved mini-break in the US.  And I’m still on a high after returning from Cape Town at the World Economic Forum, where I spoke about technology in the developing world.   Back in Barcelona I had the good fortune to chat on the phone with Gordon Brown about our work, and meet with Didac Lee (thanks to Susan!) about a possible partnership with… well, a major partner.

The more I write, the more I realize I’m just scratching the surface. Jessica has applied for two new grants in the past two weeks; Barbara wrote a paper to extend our work in Kenya to another 1,000 students; Daoud did crackerjack analysis of the books our students are reading; Jennifer has written eloquently about teacher training and volunteer program in Kenya; Lisa has produced two new videos— an introduction to our work, and another on results; Noelle presented a plan to introduce our African books to US schools who want to make their curriculum more international; Heidi has completed a financial analysis of our organization so we understand our funding needs…. and truly, I have to stop here, or I’ll go on forever.

Why are we all working so hard?  Because we’re creating something that’s bigger than we are.  Thanks to our work, hundreds of teachers and students are being introduced to an enormous world of ideas… and it’s thanks to what we’re building together.

I know I’m sounding like a proud parent, but maybe that’s just it: building is like parenting.  And of course, as with parenting, you have to know it’s going to be exhausting, thrilling, impossible, and exhilarating all at once.  Satisfying doesn’t begin to describe it.  Let’s go with this: It’s Awesome.