WE BELIEVE THAT EDUCATION AND KNOWLEDGE ARE HUMAN RIGHTS. THAT'S WHY WE CREATED RACHEL.
It all started when Norberto Mujica, a Cisco Systems engineer, traveled to Ethiopia and taught classes at a university with a large number of computers, but no usable internet access. He had the idea to put together a collection of materials and store them on a server so that all students could access them. Later that year, Norberto went back to Ethiopia with three more Cisco colleagues. They saw so many kids who could benefit from educational content that they decided to found a non-profit.
Photo by Norberto Mujica
The group ran into quite a few technical challenges, but they were inspired by the help of the local Ethiopians who worked alongside them. At any suggestion the locals would say "Possible, possible," then get to work. To honor their optimism, the name "World Possible" was born.
Norberto and a handful of volunteers built the first large version of the offline educational server, which they named RACHEL: Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education & Learning. When the Raspberry Pi was released, they created a Raspberry Pi version called RACHEL-Pi that was even smaller and less expensive to build. The first RACHEL-Pis were deployed in Africa and India.
A group of volunteer Cisco Systems Engineers and Jeremy Schwartz, a volunteer director who worked in venture capital, traveled to Sierra Leone to pilot RACHEL. Unfortunately, the trip failed dramatically due to local issues on the ground, and most group members cancelled their trip. World Possible went dormant as an organization, but a handful of RACHEL servers continued to be used in Africa and India.
Three years after the failed Sierra Leone trip, a BBC news piece told the story of RACHEL's organic scaling in Uganda, which brought a lot of attention and demand for more RACHEL servers. Jeremy left his venture capital job to reboot World Possible.
Users in 26 countries around the world used RACHEL in English, including volunteer entrepreneurs in Namibia, Sierra Leone, and Guatemala. With a high demand for more languages, World Possible launched a Spanish version of RACHEL. A successful crowdfunding campaign on Indigogo helped raise funds to distribute an updated version of RACHEL to users around the world, reach new users who had been waiting for RACHEL, and also bring together a new community of generous donors.
A generous challenge grant from the Dalio Foundation matched by Raspberry Pi Foundation funded the salary of Jeremy Schwartz, who became World Possible's first paid employee and Executive Director, and supported the birth of our chapter program in Guatemala
World Possible opened an online store to sell RACHEL and discovered a strong market demand for RACHEL while providing a pathway for sustainable operations. New World Possible chapters opened in Sierra Leone, Kenya and Namibia. A user survey found that RACHEL had reached an estimated 521,609 offline learners in 39 countries, with 94 partner organizations using RACHEL for their offline education programs and projects.
A generous 3-year challenge grant from the Dalio Foundation secured World Possible's future through 2018. Our U.S. staff grew to include long-time volunteer Jonathan Field as VP of Technology to oversee RACHEL software development and curate content. During the year, partners and chapters brought RACHEL to a total of 47 countries and 14 state correctional facilities with World Possible's new U.S. Justice Chapter. RACHEL sales doubled--we shipped 648 RACHEL servers in one year. Our free content library of downloadable websites grew to over 100 modules, and users downloaded over 90 terabytes of content.
Our impact continued to grow as we reached an estimated 500,000 learners around the world. Our U.S. staff team grew to include Nicole Comforto as Director of Strategic Partnerships and Steve Bashford as Senior Director of Engineering. A generous grant from the Happel Foundation was awarded to launch two new World Possible chapters in 2018. We were also thrilled to win an award from Engineers for Change for "Connecting the Unconnected, " along with Inveneo and Google.
We have opened two new chapters in 2018, in Tanzania and Ghana and launched a new, upgraded version of RACHEL-Plus in May 2018.