Our Work Has Never Been More Necessary

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Reading Village, Learning Journey 2014 - 175

If I ever saw a justification for the work of Reading Village it was this.

Every year the Skoll Foundation publishes a ranking of countries by social indicators. Their goal is to create a common vocabulary among changemakers, to identify geographic areas of focus, and to celebrate successes made. This spring, the Skoll Foundation put out its 2016 Social Progress Index. They measured 133 countries in terms of Basic Human Needs, Opportunity, and Foundations of Wellbeing.

  • Basic Human Need includes nutrition, medical, water, sanitation, safety and shelter. Guatemala ranked 86th.
  • Opportunity includes personal rights, freedom and choice, tolerance, and access to higher education. Guatemala ranked 82nd.
  • Foundations of Wellbeing includes access to basic knowledge (education and literacy), access to information and communications, health and wellness, environmental quality. Guatemala ranked 100th.

I like the name of the category, Foundations of Wellbeing and that it includes Education and Literacy. It defines very clearly what Reading Village is doing — leveraging education and literacy to create a foundation for prosperity and a pathway out of poverty.

With Guatemala having hit roughly the 40th percentile in Basic Needs and Opportunity but only the 25th percentile in Foundations of Wellbeing, it makes sense that Reading Village is focused where it is. Education and Literacy are not only means in and of themselves but they are the means to other transformative ends such as improved nutrition and sanitation and a people knowing their history, their rights and giving them a voice in the political arena.

This data provides a useful framework for our program design, but it isn’t adequate by itself. An aspect of the Skoll Index that I think is missing is a measurement of local leadership. What makes Reading Village’s work distinct is that we don’t just invest in individual achievement but we leverage individual achievement by developing leadership capacity so individuals can impact their community at large. The Guatemalan government is so corrupt it’s not possible at this time to depend on it to provide Basic Human Needs and Opportunity for the populations Reading Village serves. It follows that the development of local leadership is critical for the development of Wellbeing, Opportunity and Basic Human Needs.

Upon graduating from our program, Julio and Carlos, decided to use their leadership skills to open a school that would provide a higher quality education than the government provides. This year they will complete their fellowship at the innovative Asturias Academy where they became master teachers, learned how to administer a school and gained the essential skills of social entrepreneurship. Because of their leadership, their wellbeing is translating into the wellbeing of many others.

By: Linda Smith, Founder & Executive Director of Reading Village

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