Creative Commons. The length and breadth of it.

‘Every single use of a creative piece of work from the culture around us requires permission. Without permission, you are a tresspasser.’ Larry Lessig’s words from his speech on Laws That Choke Creativity back in 2007 made such an impact on us, that we were left reviewing our level of ‘common’ sense too.

Common sense towards? Sharing a piece of ‘original creative work’ with anyone who may need it, in part or whole, to use as intended, without being bound by copyright laws.

ted talk
Image Source: www.ted.com 

The increasing revolt on the laws prohibiting the use of an existing piece of work led to the rise of one of the most revolutionary organisations – Creative Commons.

cc logo
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Creative Commons (CC) is an American non-profit organisation founded by Larry Lessig himself and is devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share.

It does away away with the ‘all rights reserved’ copyright act to make way for the ‘some rights reserved’ policy. In other words, artists or creators are free to use an existing piece of work, as long as they follow the request/ask by the original creator using it. The conditions vary from being able to use it freely for non-commercial purposes, to a simple Attribution request.

This school of thought has since then, found so much popularity among the creators and users that according to Wikipedia, as of January 2016 there were an estimated 1.1 billion works licensed under the various Creative Commons licenses.

Akshara Foundation is one such creator that whole-heartedly subscribes to this train of thought. It’s a fact that all Akshara Foundation works are licensed to a Creative Commons Attribution. Which simply means, we love sharing our work with anyone and everyone.

Akshara_In-School Programme_013

As our chairman Mr. Ashok Kamath puts it, “If a successful method/model exists, why not just use that and scale it up? What’s the need to start from scratch and go through the list of trials and errors all over again?”

Be it our learning material, training manuals or even research, all our resources for each and every programme we have designed so far (Pre-Primary, Math, English and Library) is all free for anyone to use. All one has to do is log on to the Akshara Foundation website and download. If we may say so, it’s simpler done than said. Seriously.

Feel free to then chew on our resources, modify them and use them to best suit your needs. Wait a minute, all this, for free? All we ask for in return, is that Akshara Foundation be duly acknowledged wherever our intellectual property has been used, in any form. Curious to know more on how we have adopted the laws of Creative Commons? Just click here.

1

Not every NGO has the luxury of resources that they can use to do all the ground work from scratch. Thus it helps to have access to the learnings/works from a like-minded organisation at such a time.

Mr. Venkatesh Malur, the then Director and Head of Education at Sampark Foundation’s mail, saying, “Sampark is very comfortable working with Akshara and partnering to take initiatives forward like the English program. We will acknowledge the efforts of Akshara and also would like you to support us in building capacities of the state teams where this will be helpful.” is proof of this concept actually helping others out, specially in fields like ours.

Others who have followed suit in working towards the betterment of our education system are CherYshAgastya International Foundation (for The Classroom Library) and IIMPACT, to name a few.

One of our most recent visitors could not help but exclaim, “So you’re actually telling me I am free to use your programme, be it English or Math or Library, as is? This is so convenient, I wonder why everyone can’t share their data?” Guess it’s just not everyone’s cup of tea.

Since August 2016, we have had over 378 downloads from NGOs, Government agencies, Private schools and preschools, Companies and individuals who are using it in their own area of work. We are excited to see our work reaching out to many more beneficiaries and hoping that this will multiply in the months to come.

So the next time you hear of an organisation looking to make some headway in their programmes, do tell them about Akshara Foundation’s Creative Commons Attribution policy. We’re an overly-excited-to-help bunch that’s all about working towards impacting over 2 million children by 2020, and always looking for partners, on the way.

Thoughts on Children’s Day 2016

The road through Cubbon Park to Bal Bhavan was festooned, flower-bedecked and lined with children in folk costumes. A floral replica of the Eiffel Tower looked askance at a capsicum-studded map of India. It was a vociferous, multi-hued declaration of Childrens’ Day 2016. The Karnataka Government had selected Akshara Foundation as an NGO which has contributed to the cause of education in the State. And I was there to receive it.

The past 16 years of Akshara’s striving flashed before my eyes as I settled down in my seat for the Award distribution function to commence in Bal Bhavan. The image of Akshara office in the antiquated, crumbling building on Kamaraj Road was in sepia tones. Our own learning curve was sometimes steep, sometimes gradual but always a worthwhile journey. The early days of encouraging home-based Balwadis in underserved communities ….intensive and extensive training sessions for these young women…transitioning to working with the Department of Women and Child and nearly 1,700 Anganwadi workers…..bravely trying out a few pilot Balwadi centers in city outskirts where migrant families huddled in shanty homes. Our journey with the primary school teachers from Gulbarga to Gadag and Bengaluru to Bidar has been rewarding for the trust and faith reposed in Akshara’s solutions for teaching Maths, language and English…..the challenge of setting up 1450 libraries in Government schools in Bengaluru and many more in rural schools…… the experience of meeting a gamut of children and community elders in interior Karnataka…..the feisty team of students from Government Primary schools who conquered hearts and reached all the way up to the finals in the International Robotics Competition in Germany ….so many warm memories.

And this is when I noticed the time mentioned on the banner on the stage – the organisers had summoned the guests a good 2 hours in advance! That’s when I decided to chat with the other Awardees. Among the Bravery Award winners for Exemplary Courage, seated on my left were two schoolboys from Mysore who had broken open the emergency door of their school bus and helped all the children out to safety. I was surprised to learn that these smartly turned out boys were in the 10th std – they looked considerably younger. Next to them was a shy boy from Kodagu who seemed a little lost, and contributed just a few words to the conversation. He rescued his friend from drowning in a marshy pond during a game of football.

An elderly man was patiently sitting by himself till I spoke to him. A retired school teacher, he has started a school which provides modern facilities to rural children and today benefits nearly 3000 students. The elderly man sitting next to him joined in the conversation and I learnt that he has been training children in Udupi in the traditional theatre form of Yakshagana. He has been doing it outside school hours with the aim to balance extra-curricular activities with education for holistic development. A young woman who runs a service for HIV infected persons had a most charming smile which belied the fact that she herself was HIV + when she started her work. A confident 11th std girl from Udupi had excelled in Javelin throw and a boy from Shivamogga who was a winning athlete were right behind me.

On my right was a lady from Mysore who is a founder member of the Parents’ Association of Deaf Children which started pre-primary centers which impart speech and hearing training to Mothers, since they affirm that mothers are the best teachers in the early years of a deaf child. After this training, the children are ready to join normal schools. And there were other Award winners with whom I could not get into a conversation. Each story that I heard touched me and made me feel privileged to be sitting and talking to these wonderful people from diverse parts of the State. Perhaps that long interregnum was destined for this human interaction, and I was no longer chaffing at the two-hour wait.

This Award is dedicated to every child who is in school, and whose life Akshara has touched in some way – big or small.

Akshara Foundation Award (1)

– Kanchan Bannerjee
Managing Trustee, Akshara Foundation

Come Rain or Shine

Samridhdhi Bridge School, Kariyammana Agrahara
Samridhdhi Bridge School in Kariyammana Agrahara in Bellandur, by weekday, is place of learning to more than a hundred children, taught and nurtured by volunteers and teachers of the Samridhdhi Trust. Born to construction workers and people who collect plastic for recycling, these children live their daily lives without even adequate water, to say nothing of electricity and computer access. As Samridhdhi is relentlessly taking care of these children’s regular education, the Together We Can coalition offered to lend them a helping hand. Five NGOs came together last Sunday, 02 March 2014, to give these children a fun and fulfilling morning.

Dolu kunitha/ Huli vesha
conducted and performed by Avas
Oh, did the children love it! At the second ‘Sunday Camp’ at Bellandur, more than 100 children – some also from the neighbourhood schools – spent half the day playing and learning. Five NGOs – Baale Mane Gopalapura, Akshara Foundation, Sunaad, Avas and Dream a Dream, with great support from the hosts Samridhdhi Trust – put together a fun-filled morning helping children learn some lessons, improve concentration, kindle creativity, and pick up some life skills.

The day began at 930 AM with Baale Mane conducting a refreshing song-and-dance session, not only breaking the ice if any, but also raising the energy levels of the children for the rest of the day. Then came Avas/ Jeevanotsava‘s session with huli vesha and dolu kunitha culminating in the run and huddle of ‘fire in the mountain’. With or without footwear, come rain or shine, the children enthusiastically ran, laughed, huddled and saved themselves from the fire in the mountain.

Children and their Lego constructions
While the day was getting warmer, making it rather unsuitable to play in the sun, they split in groups to go away and spend their time playing indoor games, learning music and singing as a party. Akshara Foundation entertained the younger kids – of the age group of four till ten – with Lego bricks, which children formed groups and engineered with. Sometimes in groups, some in lonely pursuit, children built structures ranging from skyscrapers to airplanes.

In parallel, the Kannada-speaking children, spent their time with Avas singing ‘yaarige beku bale hannu’ (who wants a banana), warming up for a great session of musical learning. Singing songs and clapping hands, children learnt a bit of geology and a bit of Kannada, perhaps without even knowing the fun they are having is in fact making them smarter.
Ellarige beku baale hannu

Sunaad, after a shaky start with distracted children (and distracting onlookers), caught up with the day’s activity in no time. After all, using Indian classical music to learn life skills was what this session was all about. In chorus, in melody and in absolute harmony, the children closed their eyes and sang sa re ga ma, displaying surprising ability to discipline themselves and learn a thing or two.

Just about then did Dream a Dream start their session of sports and games, a little rowing and a little dancing didn’t hurt the children at all!

One of the many Sunday Camps to be conducted by various NGOs this year, we’d like to believe that this was indeed a grand success. But don’t take our word for it. You are welcome to join us at one of our camps and spend some time with the children and some of us; we only expect you to let us know a couple of days in advance.

For more about how we started, watch this video of our creative dialogue.
To keep in touch, do join us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
For anything else, feel free to email us at volunteer@akshara.org.in

Volunteers required for Storytelling sessions

Image source: www.patrickranchmuseum.org
Would you like to read stories in Kannada to children? Now, here’s your chance !
Akshara Foundation had pioneered a major coalition involving Dream A Dream, Magic Bus and other leading NGOs, to improve the lives and life chances of children in Bangalore. As part of the initiative, we are organzing a camp for children from the slum in Ambedkar Nagar (Mysore Road) on Sunday, the 11th of August. Many exciting events including LEGO will be organized for children between 3 and 14 years of age.
We are looking for around 10 volunteers who could conduct book reading sessions for children. If you think that you conduct an interesting story telling session for children, do write to volunteer@akshara.org.in

Details of the event is as below:

Date: 25th August 2013

Venue: Ambedkar Nagar ( near the Pepsi Factory, Mysore Road)

Time: 9.30 am to 12.30pm

Languages: Should know to read Kannada