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Jim Fruchterman
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Jim Fruchterman is a leading social entrepreneur and CEO of Benetech, a nonprofit technology company based in Palo Alto, California. He is a former rocket scientist who creates technology social enterprises that target underserved communities. In 1989, Fruchterman founded Arkenstone, a nonprofit social enterprise, to produce reading machines for people who are blind. In 2000, the nonprofit changed its name to Benetech and began creating new technology for people with disabilities, the human rights and environmental conservation communities. Fruchterman has received a MacArthur Fellowship and the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. He believes that technology is the ultimate leveler, allowing disadvantaged people to achieve more equality in society.

Entries by Jim Fruchterman

Serendipity at TED

(0) Comments | Posted April 3, 2014 | 12:18 PM

I had one of those breakthrough moments at this year's TED conference. A moment where the idea avalanche suddenly starts cascading. A moment sparked by an unlikely confluence of two successive TEDTalks on topics that looked unrelated, but caused the metaphoric light bulb to go on for me!

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Human Rights and the Duty to Protect Sensitive Data

(0) Comments | Posted March 5, 2014 | 7:20 AM

Co-authored by Enrique Piracés, Benetech VP, Human Rights

Consider this: when you visit your doctor about a medical issue in the United States, you can be reasonably confident that it won't shortly be on the front page of the local newspaper. Privacy protections that ensure your doctor treats your...

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Doing the Right Stuff Right for Human Rights

(0) Comments | Posted November 19, 2013 | 3:26 PM

In December 1981 soldiers of the Salvadoran Army's Atlacatl Battalion entered the village of El Mozote, where they murdered hundreds of men, women and children. Although reports of the massacre appeared in the United States, Salvadoran army and government leaders denied them and, all too soon, El Mozote...

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Poisoning the Treaty for the Blind

(12) Comments | Posted May 7, 2013 | 1:54 PM

The Obama Administration is turning its back on people with disabilities--and I'm outraged. I'm an engineer and social entrepreneur, trying to make the world a better place for people with disabilities, and I rarely step into the role of vocal advocate. But when you see behavior that is so unjust,...

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Tech for Truth

(2) Comments | Posted January 9, 2013 | 9:23 AM

Last week's news that at least 60,000 named individuals have been killed in the Syrian conflict (between March 2011 and November 2012) has shocked and saddened the world. All of us here at Benetech, the nonprofit commissioned by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights' office to complete...

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Who's Against Blind People Reading? Nobody!

(9) Comments | Posted August 27, 2012 | 2:24 PM

So, why is it so hard to get an international treaty to help people with disabilities that affect reading print?  Welcome to the weird politics of intellectual property. Basically, we have approval of a policy, but are unable to get a treaty to implement that policy.

[Note: most of the...

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The Power of Failure, People and Karma Banking

(2) Comments | Posted May 29, 2012 | 9:56 AM

Commencement speech given at St. Mary's College, Moraga, California on May 20, 2012.

Six months after leaving grad school, I found myself at a rocket launchpad for one of the very first private enterprise rocket companies. Our business manager was doing the countdown. 5-4-3-2-1, oh, BLEEP. The rocket blew up!...

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Funding Innovation for Skoll Social Entrepreneurs

(2) Comments | Posted April 4, 2012 | 1:58 PM

I was just at the Skoll World Forum, probably the best conference in the world for meeting with top social entrepreneurs. As a longtime member of the Skoll community, I prize this week for the opportunity to talk frankly with peers about our biggest mutual challenges. Peer learning is the...

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Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference

(1) Comments | Posted October 27, 2011 | 6:04 PM

This week marked a first-ever gathering of human rights activists with Silicon Valley technology developers. The Silicon Valley Human Rights Conference hosted a series of discussions about how technology is used to expand and sometimes undermine essential freedoms around the world. Organized by the nonprofit group...

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Shooting Ourselves in the Foot: Paying Twice in Colombia to Grow and Kill Legal Crops

(2) Comments | Posted June 15, 2011 | 10:34 AM

Note to US taxpayers: when we pay to offer carrots, and also pay to hit people with sticks, perhaps we shouldn't hit the people who take our carrots with sticks?

One of the top social entrepreneurs working in the Amazon is Liliana Madrigal of Amazon Conservation Team....

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The New

(0) Comments | Posted February 7, 2011 | 2:45 PM

I recently had the chance to sit down with Ben Rattray, the founder of, just as the team there was putting the finishing touches on a major website upgrade. It was a great opportunity to get insight into a new phase of online activism.

When I first...

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'Science Friday' Radio Program Faces Funding Crisis

(9) Comments | Posted October 5, 2010 | 11:04 AM

I was just in touch with Ira Flatow of Science Friday, and heard that they were facing a funding crisis. According to Ira:

We at SciFri are facing severe financial difficulties, i.e. raising money. NSF [National Science Foundation] has turned us down for continuing funding, saying...
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Why I Love Open Educational Resources!

(3) Comments | Posted February 8, 2010 | 4:38 PM

The concept of Open Educational Resources (OERs) isn't new: we pass on to our kids what we learned from our parents or favorite teachers. Today, we are in a new world when it comes to the Internet and the ease of sharing information to help people learn. I love OERs...

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Going to Davos to Redesign the Planet

(0) Comments | Posted January 20, 2010 | 11:57 AM

How would you try to change the world if you had the chance? What would you propose to global leaders to make humanity better off? The Global Redesign Initiative is one of the core themes of next week's annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.


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Training Human Rights Defenders In The Democratic Republic Of Congo

(0) Comments | Posted November 10, 2009 | 11:49 AM

Human rights and social justice groups throughout the world gather and collect large amounts of data, yet these organizations often lack the resources to document human rights violations systematically and securely. Much of their information is stored in insecure formats that prevent it from being effectively shared. Critical documentation is...

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Disabled Students Need Accessible Books

(6) Comments | Posted October 12, 2009 | 2:27 PM

There was a time, not that long ago, when children who were blind, or had another kind of disability that prevented them from easily reading a printed book, were pretty much out of luck when it came to reading.

If a child with a print disability wanted to read a...

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