ACR GCD innovator Benetech advances as finalist for $10 million award to scale accessible reading platform

ACR GCD funding of Bookshare India project helps position edtech company for Macquarie Group award.

ACR GCD innovator Benetech advances as finalist for $10 million award to scale accessible reading platform

California-based inclusive edtech company Benetech is one of 12 finalists for a $10 million award that aims to address unmet social needs around the world.

The prize, launched by the Australia-based banking and advisory firm Macquarie Group as part of its 50th anniversary, will award a total of $50 million to five of 12 organizations selected as finalists. The five winning organizations will receive $10 million each to address global challenges related to education, healthcare, accessibility, human rights and social justice, impact investing and the environment. The finalists, selected from nearly 1,000 applications, were flagged as the most promising for providing lasting community benefit and a defined approach to measuring social impact.

“Benetech is honored to be a finalist for the Macquarie 50th Anniversary Award and excited about the opportunity to provide inclusive access to education and information for hundreds of thousands more people around the world,” said Brad Turner, vice president and general manager of global education and literacy at Benetech. “Through global support from All Children Reading and others that have helped our Bookshare platform deliver accessible ebooks in multiple mother tongue languages, we’re primed for further expansion to address up to 80 languages worldwide.”

From 2014-2017, the All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development funded Benetech’s Bookshare India project, which piloted the addition of human-narrated audio capabilities in Marathi language to the Bookshare platform, the world’s largest digital library of accessible books for people with disabilities. Students were given independent reading time at school each day to read large-print or braille materials and listen to audio stories and visited by a story uncle or auntie who hosted weekly literacy sessions. The project reached 131 students who have low vision or are blind in Grade 2 or 3 at four schools in Maharashtra, India, and achieved improved skills in pre-reading, foundational and comprehension subtasks among students in the intervention group.

If selected as a winner of the $10 million prize from the Macquarie Group, Benetech plans to scale its Bookshare library beyond its current reach of 650,000 people in more than 85 countries, with new regional digital libraries launched in Africa, Latin America, South Asia and Southeast Asia. Benetech’s project would be delivered over the next five years, with funding from Macquarie to be released according to an agreed project timeline and demonstration of a strong sustainability model following the funding period.

The Macquarie Group Foundation Committee plans to announce the five award recipients in August 2019.