Monday, February 22, 2010

India Nonprofit Uses Twitter to Get Books to Calcutta Kids

There has been a lot of talk about how Twitter is being used to help raise funds to help those in need around the world, but Pratham Books, a Mumbai-based nonprofit in India, recently used Twitter in a different way—to track down the young volunteers behind a mobile library project that was using a cycle-van to deliver free, second-hand books to poor children and teaching them to read.

Upon reading a story about the project earlier this month in Newstrack India, Pratham Books, a nonprofit trust that publishes high-quality children’s books, decided it wanted to help. Trouble was, nobody knew how to make contact with the mobile library service, including the news bureau that picked up the story. Undeterred, PB trustee Kanchan Bannerjee offered to sponsor the contribution of some Bengali books for the project, but only if PB could find the children involved.

PB volunteer Gautam John (@gkjohn) jumped on the challenge, turning to Twitter in an effort to crowdsource the contact information. He sent out the following tweet: “Anybody in Calcutta who can help @prathambooks get in touch with these kids please? He attached a link to the Newstrack India story—and a half-hour later, people started retweeting the message, and within a day, Pratham Books had the information it needed.

The result? According to the nonprofit’s blog, Pratham Books “will be sending out a set of Bengali books to these kids, who every Wednesday drive their mobile library, aptly named Boi Gari (Books Van) so they can distribute the books to children in rural areas. A huge thank-you to all the Tweeple who helped us connect.”

Pratham Books (@prathambooks) says the Twitter experiment has inspired them to find other such projects all over India—proof positive that there’s not only wisdom in a crowd, but also generosity.

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