Southwest Solutions Partners with Libraries Without Borders to bring the Ideas Box to Mason Academy

December 1st, 2015
Barbara Schack (Libraries Without Borders), Sonya Vinson (Southwest Solutions), Allister Chang (Libraries Without Borders), and Richard Tao (City of Detroit)

This fall, students at Mason Academy – a Southwest Solutions Community School location – had the opportunity to work together and get creative with the Ideas Box.

The Ideas Box is a project of Libraries Without Borders (LWB). The portable toolkit is designed to equip vulnerable populations with customized technologies and programming to access critical information and produce culture in different media. The Ideas Box empowers communities to construct an informed society and pave the way for a self-reliant future.

Sonya Vinson, Community School Site Coordinator, represented Southwest Solutions at a press event held this morning at the Detroit Public Library Main Branch. Representatives from Libraries Without Borders, the City of Detroit and United Way of Southeastern Michigan also participated in the program. Ms. Vinson shared feedback she received from teachers and students who took part in the Ideas Box project, “Students from all grade levels stop me in the hall to tell me how much they enjoyed the opportunity to express themselves with the Ideas Box. Two young men told me that it inspired them to learn to program and create gaming systems. Another student said that if the Ideas Box existed in their community it would help bring people together and result in less violence.”

Read more about the Ideas Box and today’s media event below:


Philippe Starck-Designed Portable Library Now Available To Detroit Kids 

DETROIT – On December 1st, the Ideas Box will be unveiled at the central branch of the Detroit Public Library. Created by the non-profit organization Libraries Without Borders in partnership with the renowned French designer Philippe Starck, the Alexander Soros Foundation, and the Pierre Bellon Foundation, the Ideas Box is a portable media center and digital classroom that can be set up in under 20 minutes.

The Detroit Mayor’s Office is the first city government in the United States to develop an Ideas Box program. The current program will last through the month of December, providing access to educational content through the holidays. Local partners for the Ideas Box program in Detroit include the Mayor’s Office, the Knight Foundation Fund of the Community Foundation, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, the Detroit Public Library, and Southwest Solutions.

A press conference will be held on December 1st at the central branch of the Detroit Public Library from 10:30AM to 11:30AM. Prepared speeches have been scheduled from representatives of Libraries Without Borders, the Detroit Mayor’s Office, and United Way for Southeastern Michigan. Representatives will also be on site to answer questions about the project, followed by a demonstration of the Ideas Box.

“We designed the Ideas Box as a tool that could expand access to information in a variety of contexts,” said Allister Chang, the Executive Director of Libraries Without Borders US. “Following an invitation from the Detroit Mayor’s Office, Libraries Without Borders built partnerships with local organizations to customize the contents and programs of the Ideas Box for Detroit. Our specific aims for this project are to increase literacy, numeracy, and digital fluency, and to create new spaces in Detroit for information exchange and multi-media collaboration for all members of the community.”

“Libraries Without Borders advances an incredibly important agenda: increasing Detroit schoolchildren’s access to, and awareness of, educational materials,” said Rich Tao, Senior Advisor to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “That the organization does so in a creative, innovative manner only underscores the value of bringing the Ideas Box to our neighborhoods and schools. The City’s partnership with Libraries Without Borders, the organization’s generous sponsors, and our energetic community partners has been a natural, fruitful, and fulfilling one.”

“United Way for Southeastern Michigan is thrilled to be a part of this exciting initiative,” said Kristen Holt, Chief Operating Officer. “This is a great opportunity to make the tools to improve reading skills more accessible and fun for children throughout our region.”

“Strong community schools are vital to strong neighborhoods,” said John Van Camp, the President and CEO of Southwest Solutions. “At Southwest Solutions we are committed to building partnerships with organizations like Libraries without Borders to bring innovative and creative programs to students in order to inspire creativity and a love for learning. The Ideas Box is a great example of how simple solutions to big problems can help initiate lasting change.”

“Technology has changed the way public libraries meet the everyday needs of the communities we serve,” said Jo Anne G. Mondowney, DPL Executive Director. “The Detroit Public Library’s neighborhood presence means that people of all ages can learn, explore and create in new ways. We are excited about what the future holds.”

To date, Ideas Box programs have been developed in Burundi, Jordan, Australia, and France. The modular device consists of six pieces that fit squarely onto two shipping pallets and weighs approximately 1,800 lbs. The four main boxes include a component for laptops, a library, a cinema screen and a multimedia toolkit. The other two boxes unfold to become tables and chairs.

The standard Ideas Box contains:

  • 15 tablets and four laptops
  • 50 e-readers and 5000 e-books
  • 250 hard copy books
  • A cinema screen and projector with 100 films
  • Board and video games

The Ideas Box also contains its own power system including a generator and battery system. The net cost of producing the Ideas Box is approximately $60,000, not including the cost of deployment and the training program.

All are welcome to use the Ideas Box contents and participate in facilitated educational programming through the month of December. The Ideas Box will be moving through different public spaces and events in Detroit throughout the month. You can follow the Ideas Box’s schedule on Twitter @LWBontheweb.

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