Sunday, August 31, 2014

Looking for input/help on further developing a charity/non-profit

I'm looking for help on getting input on the following proposal. I have recently come into more time to continue moving this idea forward.

What I'm looking for is advice on getting this into the hands of someone who might be interested in assisting/funding this. I've looked at the crowd-funding sites and none of them seem to be appropriate for something of this type and scale. I shopped it directly to Richard Branson's charitable org since he's deeply involved in the Caribbean, but, as they explained, they really only fund going-concerns.

I might be able to crowd-fund the  Cost Analysis for Phase 1, but it seems for most of these sites I'll be on the hook for a percentage nevertheless. Maybe it is yet another idea, but there should be a site "Billionaires Looking for Good Charities to Fund". I feel pretty passionate about this idea, but I'm open to handing the idea off to anyone who can make it work; i.e., get the money and get it off the ground. 

Feel free to comment/criticize, too, on the actual proposal substance. 


    Document Control Information

Amended By
Reviewed By
Initial version
Joseph Sadove

Revisions, additions
Joseph Sadove

Revisions, additions
Joseph Sadove

Revisions, additions
Joseph Sadove


This document outlines the proposal to create “MOOC-Centers” (see Section 2 for complete definition and overview) on the island of Saint Lucia in the city of Soufriere and other locations throughout the Caribbean and elsewhere to enable greater educational opportunity in developing countries.
The scope of the document is to provide background and reasoning on Saint Lucia as a starter MOOC-Center and the basic outline of the design a MOOC-Center in the town of Soufriere Lucia and a basic plan for implementation.
The document covers
-          Concept and Overview of a MOOC-Center
-          Motivation, Context and Purpose for the Soufriere, St. Lucia location
-          Initial Design Proposal
-          Funding and Organizational Support
-          Detailed Requirements Inventory (This is the working part of the document)
A MOOC is a “Massively Open Online Course”. The term was coined in 2008, but online instructionals and training began earlier. However, by 2008 the term and the current widely understood reference is to websites that provide online courses and courseware that offer presumed substitutes for university lectures and, in many cases, university accreditation for successful completion. Many prominent American universities are participating in the sites or hosting their own and are expanding the breadth of offerings. The nature of these online offerings is no longer limited to university level courses and subjects. There is a large and growing K-12 participation, in addition to various specialized subject areas and vocational/professional types of training.

The MOOC-Center is proposed to be a physical building that would provide:
1. An indoor air-conditioned facility with shared work/study spaces equipped with modern, powerful workstations (multi-OS: Windows/Linux/Mac) with high speed internet connections
2. The MOOC-Center would be staffed with individuals trained to support the operation and use of the facility and would be augmented by a volunteer corps (local and visitors). Some of the trained staff and volunteers would be educators and/or professionals capable of guiding not only the general learning experience, but would also be specialized in highly desirable subject areas. The sourcing of experienced teaching personnel could be extended to include a volunteer tourism component.
3. The MOOC-Center would be made accessible to individuals of all ages and backgrounds, but would primarily be targeted at those with little or no prospect of furthering their education on their own or little opportunity of reaching their potential for successful study with the existing resources outside of the center.
4. The MOOC-Center would use screening methods to evaluate and select participants in an open fashion to assure that access to the limited space and resources would be given to those both most in need and those most motivated.

Wikipedia offers a good history, overview and listing of additional resources: 

The location of a MOOC-Center in Soufriere, St. Lucia would be a prototype and model for providing access and assistance to local residents who would like to:
1. Supplement the courses and learning at the secondary level
2. Extend their education beyond the public secondary system
3. Acquire skillsets that would be immediately useful (so-called vocational training)
4. Build out skillsets that could be part of integrating St. Lucia into the world's information economy

The MOOC-Center prototype in Soufriere would be founded as the first of many MOOC-Centers that would be opened in further locations in St. Lucia and throughout the Caribbean and later, beyond, to bring educational opportunities unavailable through a given country’s existing systems or capacities.

The basic set of assumptions regarding the need for MOOC-Centers is:
1. Access to higher or advanced education or paths to higher or advanced education is restricted most by cost and convenience. Traditional formal centers of learning are inherently expensive and inconvenient because they are centralized and can only serve those able to live on campus or nearby.
2. Access to technology and online resources is far too limited in the target countries and territories and the centers will provide it to those unable to afford it.
3. A MOOC-Center will provide not just the technology, but the expertise and training to learn how to use the technology and the capability to assist and augment the MOOC experience with trained educators and subject area experts.
4. A MOOC-Center provides not just the technology and on-ramp expertise and training, but also an environment of comfort and shared experience with other learners. This shared experience is an undeniable success feature of a college or university setting and or other conventional learning environment.

The MOOC-Centers will be designed and operated by a non-profit that will seek funding from charitable private and government institutions and individual sponsors. The centers will be designed and set up to be run locally.

3.1.  Overview
In many ways, the profile of Saint Lucia is a reflection of the challenges to development and integration with the wider world that other island countries in the Caribbean face and in many ways those of other developing countries in general. Nearly all of these countries and territories are dependent on companies and consultancies from the developed countries of North America and Europe to plan, design, build and maintain their basic infrastructure. There are few to no practical educational paths to the engineering, science and technology disciplines that would permit these countries to assume greater responsibility and ownership of their basic infrastructure. In addition, the dependency on the aforementioned companies and consultancies present too many opportunities for corruption of government and other administrative authorities in approving and overseeing infrastructure and development efforts. This can, in turn, evolve into a pattern that has the effect of reinforcing the dependency on these services and discouraging efforts to become more self-sufficient.
Another major challenge is expanding Saint Lucia’s and other similarly situated countries’ participation in the global information and innovation economy. Without the base of a reasonably accessible and results-oriented system of higher/advanced learning for a sizable segment of the population, the ability to staff first stage development platforms such as offshore call centers, offshore support operations or offshore development centers is completely precluded.
The choice of location for the MOOC-Center prototype in Soufriere, St. Lucia is based on a number of factors that make it both an ideal place to test the model and an ideal place to experiment and improve on and adapt the model for use in other locations in St. Lucia, in the Caribbean and other locations in the world. These factors are addressed in summary in the following subsections but details will be supplied in Appendices to the document.
Saint Lucia is located in the east Caribbean just north of Barbados and Saint Vincent and just south of Martinique. It is one of 13 independent countries in the Caribbean. Saint Lucia is among the smaller countries by size and population (616 sq. km., ~165,000), but its population density is in the middle of this set of smaller countries (around or less than 600 sq. mi., 804 sq. km.).
Saint Lucia can be reached from New York direct in just over 4 hours, from London in just over 8 hours and from Frankfurt in just over 9 hours.
The island is almost entirely dependent on tourism. Previous to the current political administration, agriculture also had a prominent role in the economy, but internal and external political developments have diminished its role to the point of near economic irrelevance.
Soufriere is a mid-sized Saint Lucian town that is, like the country, almost wholly dependent on tourism. It is also the largest tourist destination on the island. To support the resorts and the local tourist industry, agriculture that serves this industry still holds on and even manages to modestly participate in remaining export markets.
Saint Lucia has an official unemployment rate of 24%, but is likely upwards of 30%. Even with a lion’s share of tourism, Soufriere almost certainly has the same proportion of its population out-of-work. With such a high number of unemployed, of which a large proportion have good secondary education (see next section), the opportunity to funnel talent toward technical and engineering disciplines and, in addition, develop the basic skills to staff offshore call centers and support centers is very considerable. In many ways, this circumstance is what has enabled countries such as India and the Philippines to drive their development.
Like many of the former colonies of the United Kingdom, Saint Lucia has a relatively good primary and secondary education system with 73 primary schools and 23 secondary schools. Although attendance rates have been declining for secondary school (particularly among male students), they are around 80% for females and 60% for males, there is a high completion rate, approximately 96%, among the attendees. This means there is a quite large cohort of students who would likely be capable of continuing their education beyond public secondary school. [UNICEF, Division of Policy and Practice, Statistics and Monitoring Section,, May 2008].
However, the island has only one institution of higher learning, the University of the West Indies Open Campus (UWIOC). This is an outpost of the public university system that serves 18 English-speaking countries and territories in the Caribbean. The campus is located in Castries, the capitol and largest city in Saint Lucia. Although the tuition fees are relatively modest, the cost and convenience (travel, room and board, etc.) of the institution is way beyond the capabilities of the overwhelming majority of Saint Lucians.
The “Open Campus” concept of the University of the West Indies was launched in 2007 to expand educational access. At the time, only between 3-7% of the population of the 18 English-speaking countries and territories in the Caribbean achieved a tertiary level of education and the “Open Campus” was part of a 10 year plan by The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Education Reform Unit (OERU) targeting 17% of the population completing a tertiary degree. Current actuals on this for Saint Lucia are hard to come by, but the 2010 census ( reported that 4.4% of males and 5.7% of females had pursued university education. There are no recent figures that say anything about completion rates. These figures point to a significant failure of the effort behind the Open Campus and its mission.
Apart from this shortcoming, even the fortunate few who make up this small percentage of higher education enrolees are offered only study in liberal arts, business and social services. They are offered no programs in engineering, in information technology, computer science, or basic science.  In short, no programs that would provide Saint Lucia with home-grown capability to build, maintain, and run its own infrastructure and no educational avenues to integrate with the global economy at a higher level.
The educational disadvantages that Saint Lucia suffers are common to many other developing countries. There are also great similarities to many other Caribbean states in its relative advantages in possessing a reasonably well-functioning primary and secondary education system that turns out a sizeable number of graduate candidates for university-level study. It is very much this confluence of educational advantages and disadvantages that, among the other features of the country and economy, make Saint Lucia a perfect laboratory for the proposed MOOC-Centers.
Unlike the capital Castries where the UWIOC is located and Vieux Fort where the international airport and the island’s secondary location for industry are located, the town of Soufriere is like much of the rest of the island in its almost exclusive dependence on tourism and thereby the absence of virtually any other source of training for employment other than unskilled service positions. This circumstance is therefore a reflection of those in the vast majority of other towns in the Caribbean and makes Soufriere thus, at the local level, the perfect location within Saint Lucia for a prototype MOOC-Center.
For a small island country in the Caribbean, in all relevant categories (transportation, power, telecommunication) Saint Lucia has very high quality infrastructure and it is comparatively well maintained. By far, the most important components of Saint Lucia’s infrastructure for the purpose of the MOOC-Centers are telecommunication and power.

Saint Lucia’s power system is a well distributed system of 6 power stations with 3 substations that distribute power both via overhead lines and underground cables. The commercial cost of power was approximately USD 1.00 per KwH as of August 2012. The system has a good reputation for reliability and many measures have been taken to render it less vulnerable to extended outages.

Telephone, land and mobile, and internet service is available from three regional providers: LIME, Digicel and Karib Cable.
[More info here:
1.       Commercial rates, speeds, terms
2.       Service size/speed to island to island

There are two airports on the island. The one main international airport, Hewanorra International Airport, is served by medium-size jets from North America and Europe. 
The road system for a small and hilly island is well built out. Similar to many Caribbean countries and territories, the public transportation system is a system of minibuses that have specific routes and schedules in and between the major towns and additional less regular service. These are supplemented by a regulated taxi system along with enterprising single owners who offer rides.

The MOOC-Center prototype has to have available to it minimum infrastructure requirements to operate to test its basic prospects for success as model. Saint Lucia and, in particular Soufriere, meet these requirements and possibly exceed them in comparison to other locations on Saint Lucia or in the general target locations in the developing world. This may suggest that the transferability of the MOOC-Center model is limited to locations where these conditions match those in Soufriere, Saint Lucia. To be able to establish the basic feasibility and success of the model, the proposal is that all disadvantages to operating a MOOC-Center not be present. The answer to the presumed non-transferability of the model is, as with any prototype, that the full resiliency in all conditions is better left to further evolutions or specific implementations adapted to specific conditions.

One of the basic ideas of the MOOC center is that it must be accessible to as large a number of people as possible in its region. There has to be a reasonable concentration of people and access to a central location for the surrounding communities via public transportation.
The location should also be safe and located where students and participants can shop for food other supplies so as to be able to ease participation in the MOOC center in a way that permits them to carry out many of their regular life’s chores.
The location has to have the required infrastructure in the form of physical plant, power, air conditioning and required telecom capabilities to support the high-speed access to the internet.  
The MOOC center should provide a setting of comfort and convenience for all types of learners. Since Soufriere, St. Lucia is in a tropical setting, air-conditioning when needed should be provided. As many learners may be engaged in outdoor physical labor, having access to restrooms, showers and changing facilities should also be provided. And, lastly, the center should have a “social” area where it is possible to store, prepare and eat brought-in food and small areas to rest comfortably.
The learning pods will be similar to those found in most internet cafes. These will be partitioned workspaces set up on rows of tables, with learners sitting side-by-side. The workspaces will divided among those that share (eg. via Citrix, KVM, etc.) computing resources and those with dedicated hardware. All will have headphones and 24” flat panel monitors to assure the learner experience is not hindered by distraction or low quality displays.
There will also be a semi-enclosed lecture space and seats (configuration and size dependent on overall facility size), in addition to ample whiteboards throughout the facility.
Finally, the center will need administrative office space for staff and operations.
The initial startup period will be overseen and partially run by personnel and staff supplied out of the central administrative organization (see Section 5). Once up and running, the MOOC Center should, eventually, be entirely locally staffed, along with visiting staff from the central administrative organization, volunteer educators and other experts and lecturers.
During the start-up period, hiring and training of local personnel for assuming all key functions to run the center is the first priority. After training and initial trial periods, all key functions will be handed off from any non-local staff.
Key staffing will include the following functions. Full job descriptions are supplied in the appendix:
·         Head administrator/Executive Director to manage finances, operations and oversee all other staff
·         Other administrative staff as needed
·         Basic infrastructure staff to maintain all basic plant from HVAC, plumbing, electrical, building services (dual function as trainer/educator)
·         Basic and advanced IT support – desktop, networking, telecom, etc. (dual function as trainer/educator)
·         MOOC functional/technical expertise (dual function as trainer/educator)
·         Software and software support specialist (dual function as trainer/educator)
·         Local and visiting volunteers and subject matter experts

The hiring and structuring of MOOC staff will assume and target the intention of dual-purposing the staff. Part of the means of keeping costs to a minimum and creating a community around the MOOC-Center is using staff not only in assigned to specific functions, but also taking advantage of their skills to enhance and extend the learning mission. This will also be served by constant recruitment of mentors from the learner population and involving them in maximizing the flow of information and the benefits of their experience.
Once the MOOC-Center is fully operational and self-sustaining, forming and using a volunteer corps similar to Saint Lucia Project at Anse La Raye ( will become a priority objective.

The MOOC center will operate on a selective and semi-open participation model.
The selective participation will be administered by guidelines for determining the capability of the candidate participant. The capability will be assessed by looking at the academic background of the candidate, formal and free-form testing, and interviews. Most candidates will be selected outright from the results of the assessments and some will be given a trial period.
The semi-open participation model will permit candidates with some existing background in the use of technology and/or education in or knowledge of a specific area of study. The existing background will have to be proven and demonstrable by the candidate.
An ad hoc committee of staff will be charged with judging and accepting all types of candidates on a consensus basis.
The full detail on the guidelines, methods and mechanisms for candidacy are described in the APPENDIX.

The MOOC center will mix regular sessions along with free-form access. All first time learners have to go through an initial training session and these will be run on a scheduled basis. Learners who commit to regular sessions that conform to time requirements determined by the MOOC and the course will benefit by having assigned and reserved workspaces for preset times. The free-form access will be used by those whose life’s circumstances don’t permit them to access the center on a fixed schedule or those who are working with online resources that permit them the freedom to access and complete their course of study more flexibly.
The scheduling and management of access will try to be flexible from a first principle basis, but this will nevertheless have to be administered in a way that keeps abuse and complexity of administration at a minimum.

The will be a charitable non-profit based in New York (?). The organization will oversee the initial design, funding and staffing of the Soufriere, St. Lucia prototype and the evolution of the prototype and adaptation to and establishment at additional locations.
The will seek out and engage as instructors, advisors and/or board members experts in computer science, infrastructure engineering disciplines such as electrical, civil, mechanical and related basic sciences.
In addition, the will require advice and board membership from entrepreneurs, economists and government expertise to provide input on operating within the region and business context of St. Lucia and assist in the evolution of the prototype and extension to other locations and regions.
Finally, will require legal assistance in designing the initial setup and, later, supporting the establishment and operation.
Each MOOC-Center in its given location will aim to be as autonomous as possible. A basic staff will be hired and trained to run the day-to-day functioning of the Center and an Executive Director will oversee this staff and be responsible for maintaining and expanding local funding and support. This responsibility will require getting local business and government institutions to be involved as much as possible. This involvement can be through a variety of support avenues: the provision of funds, land and/or real estate (free or discounted) for the center, assistance with skilled personnel to build or operate the center or through ancillary services such as internships and/or apprenticeships.
For the prototype in St. Lucia and any subsequent location, the executive committee will oversee the initial selection of the first set of sponsors and service participants and, with the local Executive Directory, carry out a semi-annual review in order to assure the MOOC-Center does not become subject to commercial or political exploitation.