"My name is Gwendolene Mugodi and I am a writer and the founder of Paivapo Storytellers, a movement that aims to provide better access to local, good quality literature to the children in Zimbabwe--and eventually beyond. Our work would not be complete without the help of local artists like Abel Zvorufura who I met through the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. As two different artists we spent about a month and a half going back and forth on this book until we got to a place we were both happy with. I look forward to sharing that full book in a few months, but for now here's a little bit about Abel and why he does what he does."
The Importance of Accessibility
Thaya Uthayophas '15 is a Starr Fellow living in Hartford, Connecticut working on iTeachCommunity.
I have four main responsibilities as a Starr Fellow for iTeachCommunity: 1) organize a database that is reachable worldwide for iTeach and its partners, 2) come up with a vision statement and guiding values for iTeach that is resonant to the general public, 3) denote the roles of each members of iTeach, and 4) forge a clear understanding between ITeach and its partner schools through the form of written contracts. In other words, I was tasked with making iTeachCommunity as accessible a program as possible for both our partners and volunteers.
My problem was that I was obsessed with an idea. I wanted to transfer iTeachCommunity out of its base program of Skype into Google. For those of you who do not know, Google has recently installed a “Google Hangout” feature that allows its users to video chat with each other from across the world in a manner similar to how Skype operates. Unlike Skype, however, Google Hangout is fully integrated onto Google’s own platform, which allows the program to have more features than Skype does. I believed these features would benefit iTeach’s operation as a whole (for example, Google Hangout allows for instantaneous access to YouTube videos during the video-chatting lesson—a feature that would surely benefit iTeach’s English learning curriculum.), and vehemently argued for iTeach to change its base platform during one of our board meetings.
Initially, iTeach’s board was convinced of changing the program’s platform to Google. As time went by, however, the board and eventually I learned the hard way that there was one big flaw regarding the change to Google; there was a flaw in accessibility. You see, the name “Skype” conveys a certain meaning that is not quite captured as well by “Google Hangout,” and Google with its complex integrated system looks impossible to use next to Skype. I first addressed the problem of naming by cutting out the name “Google Hangout” entirely and replacing it with “video-chatting technology.” The name problem remained, however, due to the fact that most people do not know exactly what “video-chatting technology” is, especially when “Skype” denotes exactly the same thing. I did not fare any better with my solution to the problem of complexity. I argued that our partners would in time learn to use Google well. The problem, though, was that using Internet technology was already so complex that adding another layer to it would not do our partners any favor. In the end, I had to relent, and iTeach now remains on the platform of Skype for good.
I learned a big lesson on the importance of accessibility through this episode. I realized that all those great features that Google offers iTeach would not matter at all if we cannot get people to be interested in iTeach in the first place. And I wanted people to be interested in iTeach; I saw with my own eyes the enormous impacts an iTeach lesson can have on someone’s life, and I wanted more. Now I am working to make this vision and program as accessible as possible to everyone.
August 11, 2016
June 13, 2016
Lauren Maunus '19 is starting a bold new venture.
Its goal: To help eliminate food waste and bring healthy, affordable food to "food swamps" in Rhode Island and beyond.
March 15, 2016"If little girls like me were saying Barbie is the pretty one and the brown one is the ugly one, that's a problem."
Yelitsa Jean-Charles studies Illustration at RISD with a a concentration in Gender, Race & Sexuality. She identifies as a visual activist, and believes that artists have a responsibility as society’s image-makers. Her doll company and book series, Healthy Roots, combats internalized racism and colorism by getting to the root of the problem: altering beauty standards and cultviating self-love for young girls through education, diversity, and positive representation.
March 12, 2016An Excerpt
Mina is a Brown-RISD Social Innovation Fellow. She traveled to her home in Iran last summer and brought back a cultural souvenir: the book she wrote, Taste of Culture. She explores Iranian families, streets, stores and the stories and spirit embedded in the recipes of Iranian food. She hopes to start a conversation about the benefit of knowing cuisines of different cultures to connect societies.
This year's class of Brown-RISD Social Innovation Fellows have just begun their yearlong foray into the world of social entrepenuership. Check out their projects here.
December 16, 2015
Ria is a 2015 Social Innovation Fellow and co-founder of No Country for Women (NCFW), an internationally-recognized gender education initiative that aims to combat systemic gender-based discrimination in India. Ria and her co-founder, Shreena Thakore ’16, who grew up in India, were awarded the Projects for Peace fellowship and used this grant to launch the project in May of 2014. NCFW was set up to educate the people in India on gender, rape culture, and misogyny through a series of workshops and initiate informed discussions about social change.
I was inspired by Ria’s story because she was determined to start a conversation about an issue in a country that fights hard to keep such issues silent and hidden. We reflected on Ria’s experiences, her interactions with young people, most of whom had never thought about this obvious form of discrimination before, and her moments of self-doubt and extreme conviction.
October 2, 2015