REDU at the Webby Awards

With equal parts irony, humility, and pride, last night I attended the 15th Annual Webby Awards in recognition of the REDU project receiving the Activism Webby Award for 2011.

The REDU team on the Bing side was comprised of Stefan Weitz, Aya Zook and myself. We worked with Creative Artists Agency, Rokkan and Good for content and site design, and in the process engaged via the CAA Foundation with multiple nonprofits: CityYear, Communities in Schools, Hands on Network, PS Arts, and Inner City Arts. We deepened partnerships with DonorsChoose.org and the folks who run TED and TEDActive, with the result of having a presence at the Rally for Sanity/Fear and an education project at TEDActive in the last 12 months. Working with Yosi Sergant’s Taskforce PR on REFORM:School and Jeff Staples for REDU Homeroom events in New York showed us what truly mobilized artistic and creative communities can do. But the core of all this was thousands of folks who participated in REDU, came to the site, researched problems and answers, and spread the articles far and wide. To those of you who helped make REDU a success, and those who continue to advance great work in your communities around education, this Webby award is dedicated to you.

When we (Stefan Weitz, Aya Zook, and myself) first started working on the REDU project over a year ago we had no idea where it would take us. We knew the fate of the U.S. school system was a critical issue; we knew there were no easy answers, and we wanted to do more than just present one side of the debate. More than anything, we wanted to inspire dialogue and connect with people who care about quality education.

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The REDU site at letsredu.com was a focal point for the program and served as a rallying point where people could engage directly with the educator community. From discovering ways to volunteer, avenues for donation like DonorsChoose.org, the site allowed people to come together to shape the future of U.S. education. Personally, I learned a lot working with the U.S. Dept. of Education on a map application to help teachers find training, certification and job. As we learned more, the site evolved and changed, including the incorporation of a simple infographic for folks pressed for time who wanted to know how they could help without leaving their day jobs. We expanded from the creative community to working directly with educators at TEDActive, hoping to give them the space and tools to come up with what they wanted to see happen in education. Even now we are sharing with other education teams at Microsoft what we have learned from the REDU project and hopefully giving them insights they can use for the future.

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As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in a post for Blogworld, on a personal level this was the first Microsoft project I’ve ever worked on where random people wrote in and wanted to volunteer to help us.. In my career, the biggest payoffs have been those moments where human beings show you they are more than just numbers, grumblers, or faceless parts of a massive crowd. The work to improve U.S. education will continue – it’s never done – and we thank you all for joining us as we tried to do our part.

– Betsy Aoki, Senior Program Manager, Bing

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