IndiaSocial Case Challenge – edition 1
Category: Long-term Initiatives
Winner of Position #1
Title : Social Publishing Strategy at Pratham Books
Share a little about your organisation
Pratham Books was set up in 2004 as a response to a large need gap in India for good quality and affordable content for children.
There are a number of NGOs who are working with children in India to improve basic literacy skills of reading, writing and mathematics. As more and more children became readers, there was a need for good content and there were few publishing sources that were willing to supply this content at affordable costs and in multiple Indian languages. Pratham Books was established as a not-for-profit Public Charitable Trust to enable children whom the market ordinarily would not reach, and therefore to democratize the joy of reading. Pratham Books’ mission is “to see a book in every child’s hand”.
In it’s simplest, what we seek to do is create a social publishing strategy for Pratham Books. We began with content and context in the form of our published content and the cause which we used to initiate a conversation around the subject of reading and children. Over time, we have been able to establish some sort of authority, as it may be, in this space and with time, we hope to build trust within the little community we curate. And this, over time, translates to engagement and loyalty. Have we been successful? It’s too soon to tell but we’d like to think we’ll get there because we have an awesome community. We’d like to think that we spread the love, so to speak, but realistically, we’re going to have to build a platform sometime soon to engage our community to co-create and do so much more to contribute to the cause of a book in every child’s hand.
The background to this was to find a way to share our work, internally at first, and then externally. The need was to document and discuss internal and external strategies and later on, to create a community around the cause. The reason to do this is because we cannot put a book in every child’s hand alone – we needed help to locate, distribute and co-create content.
Please share details about the initiative stating clearly the strategy, objectives, goals, the duration, resources and budgets allocated.
We followed a very unstructured approach to our social media efforts. It really did begin as an internal experiment to document the work we do and highlight work that others do in the same space. It’s been far more successful than we imagined it would ever be.
The initiative had its roots in an internal need to highlight work done within the organization and work being done in this space externally. It has not been driven by a strategy or any clearly defined goals and objectives. However, we now have these in place.
The strategy is simple – it’s to be a clear, authentic and community voice for reading as a social good.
The objective is to catalyse the creation of content for children’s reading and to find and fill gaps in the current market structure.
The goal is ultimately to put a book in every child’s hand.
The duration is open ended – we’ll be doing this as long as we exist.
The resources and budgets are not formal – we all contribute to the efforts internally and we have one person who anchors this effort both internally and externally.
The technology resources are all free and as below:
- Blog: A resource which talks about publishing, reading, literacy, kidlit, learning, non-profits, events and more.
- Twitter: A space where we can engage with the community, share ideas, ask for help, get feedback, listen to complaints, participate and mobilize people to help us with our vision of ‘a book in every child’s hand’.
- Scribd: Uploading our books frequently so that they can be read by more people. Also, for our Creative Commons licensed books to be remixed/repurposed by the community in whatever way they wish to.
- Facebook: Updating information from the blog and infromation about the events we do and communicating with the community
- Flickr: Documentation of the work we do and also to upload our Creative Commons licensed illustrations so that they can be remixed/reused.
- YouTube: Documentation of our work and to inform people about some of the initiatives we are participating in. Also to inform people about our books through book trailers.
Which stakeholders did you engage through this initiative and how? How was/ has this initiative been received by them so far?
The stakeholders, when we began, were all internal. Now that we have a community being built, we are always listening as to how we can improve. It has, we hope, been received well and even enthusiastically.
About the initiative
Share details about your activities, touch-points that you created/ channels you used to reach the stakeholders.
- Skype reading sessions: This project started after a few tweets were exchanged between a librarian from Central Manor, Pennsylvania. We started off by people from our organization having Skype reading sessions with a few children and then moved onto having sessions with entire classes. On 20th March, 2009, we managed to hold a Skype storytelling session between kids from Akshara Foundation’s community library and a class from Central Manor.The purpose is to go beyond being just a publisher. Through these activities we are encouraging reading, learning and connecting children from different communities and backgrounds. Channels used: Twitter, Skype, Blog
- Inviting people to remix/repurpose our content: As a publisher, we have a lot of content available which we want people to access as easily as possible. In our attempt to do so, we have managed to license some of our books under Creative Commons licenses. Now, if we can’t publish a book in Assamese, but a teacher in Assam wants to do so, she doesn’t have to worry about copyright infringement. We have also put up some of the illustrations of our books so that people can remix or repurpose them. Channels used : Scribd, Blog, Flickr
- Facilitators/connecting organisations and people: @Anorakmagazine found us on Twitter and asked if they could send us some back issues of their magazines to share with kids in India. Once the books arrived, they were sent to the community libraries run by Akshara Foundation. We also helped coordinate a drawing project that Anorak Magazine wanted to involve the children with. Now, some of the kids have their work published in an international children’s magazine.Channels used: Twitter
- More access to our books : We frequently upload several of our books on Scribd so that they can be read and downloaded by people. Channels used : Scribd
- Audio books for the National Association of Blind : This project started off because of another blog post (on the Helen Keller Talking Library project) that got automatically updated to our Twitter account. @owos then messaged us to tell us about a similar intiative Radio Mirchi had started. Then another tweep (@barkhad) told us that she had registered with Radio Mirchi but they didn’t get back to her. So, we got in touch with Radio Mirchi to talk about a blog post and while we were talking, she asked if we would be interested in having our books recorded by Radio Mirchi for the National Association of the Blind. We also requested if @barkhad could record one of our books and they agreed. So, our Twitter friend went offline and recorded a book in their Delhi studio! Channels used: Blog, Twitter
- Passing it on – the book edition: We read about about a bunch of kids in Kolkata who went around with a van full of books to reach kids who didn’t have access to books and even went on to teach the kids how to read. After reading about this initiative, one of our trustees volunteered to sponsor some Bengali books if we could find these kids. We mailed the news bureau which published the article, but were unable to get a response. So, we decided to see if the Twitter community could help us. Within half an hour of sending out a tweet, we had a volunteer who said he would get us the information and by the next day we had an address and contact number. Within a few days, Bengali books were sent by us to these kids.From this story, we decided to start an initiative which would allow our online community to participate…to help these kids as well as other kids. Channels used: Twitter, Blog, Facebook
- Participatory community – Through our social media efforts, more people are aware of our work and several authors, illustrators and translators have offered to work with us.Channels used: Blog, Twitter, Facebook
Impact – Outcome
We measure our impact solely by points of serendipity catalysed.
- Skype Reading Sessions : Increased interest in reading. The Skype session held in the community library was even attended by some of the parents and they were very excited that their kids could chat with children in another continent. The project continues to evolve as we are now looking forward to more Skype sessions between the kids, creating learning projects which encourage creative thinking and writing amongst the children at an Akshara library and a group of children at Central Manor
- Inviting People to Remix/ Repurpose Our Content : It has taken some time for people to start experimenting with our content, but we are getting more queries about how people can help us translate/review books/create more content, etc.Microsoft approached us to repurpose our content into a DVD format. The project is currently being tested with two NGOs (Nanubhai Education Foundation and Akshara Foundation). OLPC (One Laptop per Child) has used our content in Nepal. An advertising agency in Brazil wanted to use one of our photographs and we’ve had another enquiry about using our photographs on a website. We’ve also seen a creative interpretation of our illustrations and our illustrations were also used by an organization as part of a fun activity of creating stories from the images
- Facilitators/ Connecting Organizations and People : We are trying to see if there are more activities that can involve children and Anorak Magazine. Anorak Magazine also wants to send more books to be reviewed by the kids which can then be kept in their library…thus adding to the reading culture we want to build
- More Access to Our Books : Measure impact through the number of reads and downloads registered for each book
- Audio Books for National Association of the Blind : Radio Mirchi has finished recording some of our CC books and have now offered to record more of our books (in multiple languages) for National Association of the Blind
- Passing it On – The Book Edition : The initiative is in its initial stages and we are still getting opinions from people, but as we gather more infromation about people who have books and people who need books, we are slowly and steadily building a useful resource which will ensure that books reach more kids.
What were the key learnings? Positive and things to do better; share any challenges you might have faced.
One of the key learnings is that one must be patient, authentic and transparent to see the results of social media. It takes time for people to listen, trust and engage with your cause. but once you manage to gain their trust, they are willing to be your spokesperson, recommend you to other people, help with initiatives you start, etc. One has to be frequent with their communication and reply to positive as well as negative comments. Transparency is key and people will always appreciate it.
Where is the programme/ initiative now? Where will it go from here?
We’ll keep at it – do more, attempt greater transparency and create more touch points. We’re also building a social publishing platform and hope to create more content to put a book in every child’s hand.
What in your opinion makes your programme/ initiative/ activity a case-study/ best practice case.
It’s not so much a case study in social media as a case study in karma – the more you give the more you get. Sharing really is what differentiates us from other publishers.
Credits – Strategy
The awesome community we have, the writings of Gaurav Mishra, and Gautam John (from Pratham Books)
Credits – Execution
Manisha Chaudhry, Mala Kumar, Sandhya Taksale, Purvi Shah, Gautam John and Maya Hemant
- Beth Kanter (slideshare deck)
Name of the company: Pratham Books
Number of Employees: 11-50
Category: Not-for-profit institution
Case submitted by: Maya Hemant