SAN FRANCISCO, California — Fifty years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, acknowledged basic education as a fundamental human right. Yet today, upwards of 757 million people around the world are illiterate. In an effort to improve global literacy, Pearson is using its leverage as the world’s largest education company alongside the Unreasonable Group, a for-profit holding company for social-impact entrepreneurs, to close the global literacy gap once and for all.
Together, they created the Project Literacy Lab, a universal campaign to eradicate illiteracy in all corners of the earth by the year 2030.
However, the Project Literacy Lab is more than just a movement. The initiative, which began in July 2016 in San Francisco, looks to partner with startups to find innovative solutions to social issues connected to illiteracy.
The Lab supports these ventures by providing them the monetary, consulting and international networking resources in order to thrive as businesses. An important thing to note is that these businesses are getting positive results. The goal is to offer these companies the expertise and resources necessary to expand the effects and impact the most people possible.
The Project Literacy Lab brings mentors and specialists from far and wide that transact a variety of fields to tailor their unique approaches to ending global illiteracy in a way that best fits global patterns and the ever-changing educational landscape. Some advisers who participated in the first inaugural conference included Thomas Debass, Managing Director at the U.S. Department of State; Rafe Furst, Co-Founder of Crowdfunder and Serena Brown, Global Development Initiative Senior Manager at KPMG International.
Currently, Project Literacy Lab is collaborating with 16 companies that work in over 40 countries and average more than $3.7 million in operating costs. One of the Lab’s affiliates, AFRIpads, manufactures and delivers reusable sanitary pads for African schoolgirls, one in 10 of whom skip school because they cannot afford feminine hygiene products and lack access to proper sanitation.
Another Project Literacy Lab associate is Angaza, a company that delivers inexpensive solar technologies to off-grid clients on a pay-as-you-go basis. Guru-g is an app for teachers in India that can be used without the Internet and offers personalized lesson plans to help them teach better according to their students’ unique needs.
Based on the sheer ingenuity of some of these corporations, it is no wonder the founders of Project Literacy Lab believe that entrepreneurs are best suited to advance global literacy. Although the Lab’s project has just begun, the positive impact the business world can have on global development is clear.
– Kristina Evans