This year, Act to Rise for Innovation in Special Education Impact (ARISE Impact) was one of the few nonprofits that were handpicked to showcase their highly innovative educational technology at the prestigious Collaborative conference presented by Classy. The three day event held from June 14-16 in Boston, Massachusetts was an immense networking opportunity for the major global change makers, giving them the opportunity to meet, share ideas and collaborate.
Abhishek Syal, founder of ARISE Impact, was part of the edtech panel on the panel stage, at the biggest and best known philanthropic conference, to speak about how his organization is empowering self-learning for the visually challenged. Since its birth in 2010, ARISE Impact has impacted over 1000 visually challenged children with over 300 Special Education Modules (SEMs). The SEMs are bilingual and cover coursework, short stories, selected audio encyclopedia and an audio dictionary. Impact studies in pilot tests have demonstrated an increase in the engagement levels for audio-based SEMs to 95-98%, covering the entire spectrum of blindness, against traditional audio resources which are around 30-40%. This higher engagement levels have led to better English fluency among visually challenged students. Moreover, the self-learning process has increased self confidence among these children and has empowered them to seek employment in a variety of fields. Syal stressed on his organization's focus on creating educational modules that focus on the entire spectrum of blindness. Furthermore, the modules contain thoroughly tested material that has been created through feedback and learning from the end users, making the modules highly user-centered.
For Syal and ARISE Impact, the Collaborative conference and the Classy Awards was a phenomenal learning experience that brought much insight and inspiration for their future endeavors. Syal noted that one of the key learnings for him was the way that different innovations were taking feedback in a constructive manner to create a user-centered solution. By observing user needs, interactions and the user environment, they are able to create a significantly prominent impact.
Furthermore, the conference showcased how effective marketing campaigns can be used to scale up impact and awareness for nonprofit organizations. By conducting events to test out what successful campaigns should be like, measuring responsiveness and then scaling up such efforts were identified as being key to effective marketing campaigns. Some of the most interesting attendees that Syal had the opportunity to rub shoulders with included but was not limited to: UN Foundation, Open IDEO (a nonprofit that is focusing on refugee camp education), GRIT (a nonprofit that has reinvented the wheelchair for increased accessibility), Barbells for Boobs (a nonprofit focusing on breast cancer awareness), Playworks (a nonprofit that focuses on learning and physical health by providing safe and inclusive play to low-income students in urban schools), Charity: Water (a nonprofit that aims to bring safe and clean drinking water to people across the world), Air Shepherd (a drone-based anti-poaching initiative) and the Social Innovation Forum which helps organizations and leaders develop networks and thus strengthens organizations.
During his presentation, one of the most notable questions that Syal was asked was why he did not think about making audio resources available online.'The end users in India have limited access to the internet and some of them do not have mobile phones. So this would have restricted their access to these resources, had they been presented online', explained Syal. Furthermore, awareness about the availability of such transformative resources was endorsed by teachers. Through these endorsements, visually challenged children would learn about them in class and choose to explore them as a learning tool.
The conference was a great stepping stone for ARISE Impact on its journey to enter the U.S. market. Syal notes that his presentation and the networking event that followed, helped his organization get exposure on a world stage, listen to other peoples' innovative ideas and learn more about other innovative solutions that exist in the U.S.
For the rest of the year and beyond, it is full steam ahead with initiating the U.S. operations for ARISE Impact. They will be focusing their efforts on establishing fruitful connections and working with partners to develop and disseminate solutions for increasing employability among the visually challenged. Having had tremendous success with their self-learning solutions for special education, ARISE Impact will now be focusing on self-learning products that have a direct impact on employability outcomes. Syal explains that the reason for this is because he believes that education alone is not enough to create a change in the lives of the visually challenged and that actionable outcomes such as employability is what truly transforms their lives in a sustainable way. Find out more about ARISE and how you can partner with them.