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Benetech Labs

Photo of a SocialCoding4Good tech talk for VMware employeesPhoto of Benetech staff brainstorming at whiteboard.Photo of an event in which SocialCoding4Good worked with NASA to challenge software developers to leverage NASA's graphing tool MathTrax in order to improve the accessibility of science and math textbooks in Bookshare.

What is the Labs?

Logo for Benetech LabsBenetech Labs is where we bring people together to discuss today’s most pressing social needs. It’s where we dive into big challenges and identify big ideas and possible solutions. It’s where we begin to develop new technology—or enhancements to our existing technology—so that, ultimately, we can launch successful tools that help millions of people.

We encourage you to read more about how Benetech Labs fits into our approach to new projects. And if you’re interested in reading the latest news from the Labs, you can visit our blog.

Below you’ll find the latest projects we’re pursuing in our Labs. If you have an idea or a potential solution that would use technology to meet a pressing social need and want to share it with us (and the world!), please use this form to share your idea.

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SocialCoding4Good

There are many nonprofits and social good programs that could dramatically benefit from the help of professional technologists, but their resources just don’t allow for it. The causes they’re working on, from civic engagement and education to poverty alleviation and the environment, suffer as a result. At the same time, professional technologists are eager to work on these important social challenges, but often struggle to find the right match for both their passion and skills.

SC4G-VMware TechtalkSocialCoding4Good is a pilot project aimed at dramatically improving the tech volunteer landscape. Using a web-based platform to collect information on volunteer technologists and programs with need, our staff can connect professionals with opportunities that are a right fit for both. And this way volunteers use their time and talent to work on the humanitarian open-source software projects that would most benefit from it.

By working across the corporate, nonprofit and technology communities, SocialCoding4Good brings together the best and brightest to generate meaningful and sustainable collaborations for social good.

Launching in 2013, SocialCoding4Good works closely with organizations including Code for America, Community for Open Source Microfinance, FrontlineSMS, Mozilla, and Wikimedia Foundation. It counts companies such as VMware, HP, and Google among its charter partners, and is funded by generous support from HP, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation.

For more information, visit SocialCoding4Good.orgYou can also browse the media coverage of SocialCoding4Good.

Sustainability

Benetech Labs is exploring tech solutions to help communities address sustainability challenges. We are exploring different open-source tools to guide planning, deliver best practices, connect users who are tackling similar issues and collect data for better quantification and visualization of sustainability impact. One idea we’re exploring we call “CityOptions”—a potential tool that could assist local governments in addressing sustainability challenges.

The exploratory phase of these projects has been made possible by the generous support of the Hitz Family Foundation.

Accessibility Metadata Project

Imagine that you’re a teacher who is searching for educational content for your next class and that you’d like accessible formats of this content, so that all your students can benefit from it. This could include an audio version that students with learning differences can listen to, a version with captions to help English learners or a version with image descriptions to be used by students with low vision. Until now, it’s been very difficult to find such accessible content. What’s missing is metadata of accessible learning resources.

Metadata allows Internet search engines to effectively comb the vast array of information about online educational content and return narrower results based on defined categories. A group called the Learning Resources Metadata Initiative (LRMI) is in the process of developing metadata for online educational content, but its efforts to date haven’t included information about the content’s accessibility.

To fill this gap, Benetech is leading a working group comprised of experts in the field of educational resources and accessibility, whose goal is to develop specifications for accessibility metadata. This structured data, enabled by the participation of leading search engines such as Google and Bing, will make it possible to filter search results by information about the accessibility of online learning resources. Incorporating accessibility metadata into the LRMI will make it easy for users of accessible materials to discover, evaluate and use the educational resources that meet their specific learning needs.

The Accessibility Metadata Project has been made possible by the generous support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Visit the Accessibility Metadata Project website