A story from inside Inclusive Planet
‘All you need is love, love, love is all you need…’
- The Beatles
The gap between the early idea phase of a venture and its successful realization is about as wide as the sahara and as deep as the grand canyon, or worse. Many a noble soul has disappeared in this great divide. And currently at Inclusive Planet we’re doing our damned best to not join that happy lot.
We believe that the best way to avoid that fate is to work closely with the community so as not to misunderstand their needs or substitute them with an approximation of ‘what we think are their needs’. Tricky business this can be.
Take for instance the challenges that our first project, Bookbole, is faced with. Now we know that access to books is a big problem in the visually impaired community since very few books are in Braille and community members by themselves are only able to convert a few books into accessible formats – usually by that good old scan-and-painstakingly-proof-read method. It follows logically that a designed-for-the-blind platform that enables the community to search for accessible books around the world AND share their personal libraries of such books with each other should fly.
But – and ‘but’ must be god’s favourite word in the English language – the success of the project depends on a largish volume of users taking to the platform and this comes down to how many visually impaired people ‘want’ to read – both for learning and leisure. You see, it’s not good enough that ‘some people’ say ‘Ah jolly! That takes care of my problem!’ We need a lot of people using the platform to call it a success. So a ‘need’ to be able to read has to be coupled with a strong ‘want’ to read (a.k.a. the love of reading). We know the need is there but how strong is the desire to read?
In a few months Bookbole should have a large number of college curriculum books to add to the collections of its partner databases, thanks to a Government grant that enables us to convert them, so we’ll have a number of books that the community ‘needs’ to read. But it’ll all come down to this – will the love of reading come visiting.
Only that will help Bookbole take wings.
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These last six months Rahul, Reuben and I have met a lot of remarkable people associated with disability in some way or the other. In this piece I’m going to talk about two such people – Javed Abidi and Shanti Raghavan.
Javed Abidi is to the disabled community in India what Gandhi was to the freedom movement, Martin Luther King to the black movement and Harvey Milk to the gay rights movement in the United States. Nothing less. He is India’s best known disability rights activist and deservedly so. I met him a couple of months back at his office in Delhi. I was the eager beaver inquirer (black book and pen in hand) and he the wealth of perspective and experience. It was a tremendous experience that we wish to enjoy on a more regular basis. The phenomenal thing about Javed is that he is willing to go that little bit further to get his point home. He has argued in the Supreme Court, squatted on sidewalks and pavements, protested outside homes of legistators and politicians. Yes, he is capable of throwing a tomato or two if that is the need of hour. Just kidding. He is sharp, incisive, blunt and cares deeply. RC can’t wait to meet him.
Imagine being so much in awe of someone that despite that person being just a few years elder you call her ‘ma’am’. Well – that is the situation with RCJ. He insists on calling Shanti ‘Shanti ma’am’. He’s going to kill me for this.
What makes Shanti Raghavan so special is not that she is the founder of Enable India, one of India’s best training and placement ngos for the disabled, or that she is an Ashoka Fellow, or that she is all this at a very young age – but, that she energises everything and everyone around her. A conversation with her is like a conversation with a very intelligent person after said person has consumed 10 black coffees and other stimulants. Only she achieves this energy without any of this. If Shanti Raghavan was in the corporate world she would have been a CEO, if she was in politics she would have won the election, if she was an athlete she’d have won a medal – you get it right? That she deeply cares (and is deeply interested) about the differently-abled is our good fortune.
Pssst! Inclusive Planet is collaborating with Shanti and Dipesh (EI co-founder, successful tech entrepreneur and Shanti’s hubby) on the community portal
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Posted in Chit-chat, WHAT'S UP? on March 14, 2009 |
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Met Pom and B last night for an adda session to discuss the community portal. The topic was simple – what makes some communities happen and others fail?
Now none of us are ‘gurus’ but we can ask the basic questions and that’s where we started. The root question that emerged was as follows – what brings people together and keeps them that way?
The consensus emerged in favour of – shared interests and a sense of gain from the experience. There is one other critical thing – conversation starters.
To break down the formula: First, special people armed with special issues; Second, a grove of issues / interests that keeps people interested; and Third, a shared perception that participation in the discussions/interactions is useful to the member.
So the apps / tech are useful but that’s just the ‘room”, however cosy it is. What gets people inside and keeps them there is the formula.
But that’s just us – any thoughts people?
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