Based on the methodology stated in the SBC 102 course 3, our value proposition has been transformed by taking into account the structure of the Differentiation Strategy:
In 2016, the last measurement of reading practices in Colombia was carried out by the National Administrative Department of Statistics – (DANE). Among its findings there is the:
“99.13% of women over 15 years old can read and write in Colombia, while 99.1% of men can do so.” (Global Data, June 2022)
Regarding reading comprehension, it is difficult to provide an exact figure. According to a report from the Ministry of Education of Colombia in 2016, only 35% of basic and secondary education students in the country achieved a satisfactory level in reading comprehension tests, and these figures have decreased not only in Colombia but worldwide following the pandemic.
“Literacy Rate demonstrates the overall performance of primary education and literacy programs, instills basic literacy skills in the population, applies these skills to everyday life, and enables them to learn the written language and continue to communicate. Literacy represents the potential for further intellectual growth and its contribution to the economic and socio-cultural development of society.” (Global Data, June 2022).
This issue has been a fundamental part of the development of Picnic de Palabras’ social initiative. We seek to recognize our readers; by sharing with them, based on our own experiences, which ones have positively or negatively influenced our reading journey, this is part of becoming a conscious reader. At Picnic, we invite children to discover and explore, and we encourage young people and adults to give reading and books a second chance through children’s literature.
The reading initiative Picnic de Palabras was born in June 2012 in response to a need identified over two years in Colombia: the lack of access to reading activities in unconventional spaces where families were present. Up until that point, reading was mainly focused on schools, within the framework of formal and pedagogical education. The role of school libraries was closely tied to specific guidelines provided by the Ministry of National Education of Colombia (MEN) to support reading processes in the classroom.
Next, we would like to present the initiatives that have been led by the government over the past 11 years and how the Picnic de Palabras reading project can enhance and complement these efforts.
Ministry of Culture – Public Library Network
“Leer es mi cuento” (Reading is My Story), reaching over 1400 public libraries. This project prioritized the strengthening and provision of collections of children’s literature, year after year, for public libraries throughout the country. Accompanied by training programs for librarians nationwide, aiming to provide them with tools to develop reading projects and activities for families, early childhood, and youth, transforming the library from being seen solely as a place for doing homework after school.
While these processes had an impact on the participants, we face a reality where the position of a public librarian is “political.” Mayors are the ones who appoint individuals to these positions, regardless of whether they have the necessary competencies or not.
In 2007, the city of Bogotá, was awarded for the construction and consolidation of a network of mega public libraries that became a reference for the country and the region. However, despite this milestone, cultural activities are concentrated in very specific locations, leaving out other areas that also need and require them.
The design and architecture of these mega-libraries are characterized by being conceived with the understanding of what a library can represent for the participating community, a place for reading, researching, consulting, and writing also a cultural center where the construction of citizenship is possible through expressions, performances, concerts, and theater plays. Additionally, there is a program that invites users to make the library part of their daily lives, offering author talks, illustrator sessions, book launches, and panel discussions, among others.
A national network of 21 libraries, 5 regional documentation centers, and 3 remote reference areas in 29 Colombian cities. The libraries of Banco de la República throughout the country offer services such as book consultation and lending from their extensive catalog, library services, and cultural programming that includes art exhibitions, concerts, conferences, workshops for all audiences, book clubs, and training spaces for mediators.
For over 60 years, Banco de la República, through the BLAA and its Library Network, has facilitated access to knowledge, cultural goods, and services for the entire population of the nation. It has also collaborated in the rescue, preservation, analysis, and dissemination of Colombian cultural heritage.
In addition, they have implemented the “traveling suitcases” project, which involves suitcases with a capacity to carry between 20 and 25 books on the backs of individuals, reaching communities located in remote areas away from urban centers. This material aims to strengthen access to books, and their circulation, and reach as many people as possible. However, to participate in this program, a commitment is required from the community, represented by a social leader, parent, or teacher, who takes responsibility for circulating this material among families, young people, and older adults in each community.
The value proposition of Picnic de Palabras
In the face of these multiple efforts made by the government, we recognize the importance of fostering encounters where families can come together to share high-quality children’s books. Through our methodology, we have designed meaningful reading experiences and validated that people can connect with and enjoy reading beyond the mere act itself.
It is crucial to consider both the national and local context because as we acknowledge the needs, opportunities also arise. In this case, it is essential to ensure access not only to reading but to significant experiences that connect readers with books.
It was in these parks that we found the families and young people we were seeking. In a place even more public than a library, we encountered diverse profiles, ages, needs, voices, and even migrants who felt embraced by a picnic blanket that invited them to read books they didn’t even know existed.
Resources and capabilities
Picnic de Palabras began with regular readings of children’s books in a park in Bogotá. This experience, which was shared through social media, was replicated in over 12 countries and 20 cities in Latin America, Europe, and the United States. Furthermore, different public and private institutions copied the concept, and reading became synonymous with picnic blankets and books.
This presented a challenge compared to the initial success of the initiative. It is common for an idea to succeed after several failures. However, in this case, it worked “on the first try,” and it also had an investor who provided us with the resources to acquire the most expensive part of the project: high-quality children’s books. It was crucial to update the collections and always have new books available so that our recurring readers could find their favorite books during each encounter and discover new titles to enrich their reading experience.
During the first five years, this experience became a meeting place for authors, illustrators, reading promoters, and children’s book publishers, who gathered with their readers to share their favorite stories. They no longer met in bookstores or libraries but in a park. Participants could even ask authors to sign their books without having to wait in line. It was another way to connect the work and voices of the artists with their target audience. It also provided parents with a space to firsthand experience and share what often remains in the classroom: their children’s stories, questions, and expressions in real-time when they become engaged with a story that resonates with them.
With the arrival of the pandemic, it was necessary to transform what we were doing. Thanks to all our experience, special guests, and funding, we have consolidated a collection of over 600 books, making us a reference for curating children’s books in Colombia. Additionally, in recent years, our whole experience has opened doors for us to create partnerships with Fondo de Cultura Económico – FCE, a Mexican publishing house, and independent Colombian publishers to promote their titles and authors.
Furthermore, we have had the opportunity to work with other social organizations such as the Museum of Modern Art in Bogotá – MAMBO. During the pandemic, we developed a reading project in which we proposed that children’s books are the readers’ first museum, an idea put forward by the Czech artist and children’s book writer Květa Pacovská. In 2021, we partnered with the Gratitude Foundation and organized Picnic de Palabras in Soacha, attending a vulnerable community where around 15 children participated, and one child fell in love with a book to the point of expressing a desire to buy it.
In 2022, inspired by this reading experience in Soacha, we began to establish guidelines for the creation of a collection of high-quality children’s books at an affordable cost. At the same time, we formed an alliance with the Construyendo Sonrisas Foundation, which focuses on the remodeling of schools in rural areas with the participation of volunteers and the community being served. We provide them with collections of books and bookshelves. In this space, we found an opportunity to support them. We participated by organizing Picnic de Palabras in three communities: San Francisco, Cundinamarca; San Vicente, Antioquia, and San José del Guaviare, Guaviare. We supported them by managing donations of children’s books from our Picnic community and publishers.
In 2023, thanks to the experience gained, we observed that there is a problem regarding access to quality books in rural areas. Therefore, we decided to launch our first collection, “Arribabajo,” which consists of four interactive books made in collaboration with the Corocoro collective, composed of four nationally and internationally recognized children’s literature authors. We aim to be part of the solution and reduce the gap in access, combining the Picnic de Palabras’ successful experience to strengthen reading habits that benefit cognitive development during early childhood.
Picnic de Palabras Business Model
Our customers are individuals and companies who have the purchasing power and interest to support projects with social impact. The distribution channel used is B2C through direct sales, leveraging our community, social media, influencers, and free press. However, we are implementing new marketing strategies to have a broader reach in sales through the B2B model, in order to guarantee and accelerate the growth, sustainability, and social impact of this project.
Our costs were calculated based on different print runs of the books, and for the MVP (Minimum Viable Product), it was more cost-effective to print 250 collections than 100 or 200, in terms of production. We had to establish a competitive price in the market to ensure the sale of the books and cover expenses, including payments to authors, printing, editing, design, marketing strategy, legal services, distribution, networking, delivery and implementation of donated collections in the territory, measurement, and evaluation.
While sales are being finalized, we have been working under a trust agreement. Once the 250 collections have been sold, the respective payments will be made to the production team. Meanwhile, we have already covered the expenses related to printing and the implementations carried out in four territories.
For the medium and long term, we plan to develop a platform to have access to reading methodologies to support parents and teachers and to create a social network where families and kids can upload their own stories to share with the community. This platform will also enable the sharing and even publishing of stories created among our picnic members. As an editorial company, we see a high value on intellectual property and we are keen on ensuring its maximum value.
Arribabajo Collection: Seed Libraries at Home
Our authors have taken great care in ensuring the narrative and visual quality of these books, which are characterized by being single-color. This serves as an invitation for readers to intervene in the books if they wish. Additionally, each book includes two infographics: one at the beginning that introduces the project and another at the end that encourages readers to create their own stories. This editorial proposal aims to nurture creativity, imagination, and the process of creation.
Implementation: Picnic de Palabras and Arribabajo collection
We start by using the Picnic de Palabras methodology to introduce the Arribabajo collection to the families benefiting from the project. Through collaboration with local organizations in the visited territories, we announce a call for participation and gather with the selected participants to present the project. We then organize ourselves into small groups to read aloud with them and facilitate a space for family storytelling. The experience concludes with a closing session, where we share reflections on how they felt and their thoughts on the experience. We collect their contact information and gather information about their reading habits to maintain ongoing communication. This allows us to monitor the impact of the experience and the books on their lives.
Focus on impact measurement
To measure our work and impact, we have established three indicators that align with our objectives based on the actions we have taken to date.
Actions: We published 250 collections in our first MVP to validate: The relevance and importance of the books. The competitive pricing in the market. The willingness of the Picnic de Palabras community to purchase books that generate social impact.
Objectives – Indicators:
Manage the support of individuals and organizations to join our reading community and support the purchase and promotion of the project.
Indicator: Number of new community members and organizations engaged in supporting the project.
Support the sale and distribution of 250 collections, with a minimum of 125 of them being delivered to families in rural areas of Colombia.
Indicator: Number of collections sold and distributed, specifically targeting rural families.
Facilitate spaces for engagement and awareness around reading the four books from the “Arribabajo” collection among the beneficiary families.
Indicator: Number of engagement sessions held and feedback from participating families.
By monitoring these indicators, we can assess the progress of our project and its impact on the community, ensuring that we are meeting our objectives and making a difference in promoting literacy and meaningful reading experiences.
Results from March 1st to June 15th:
– Thanks to this initiative, approximately 150 people have supported us by purchasing and promoting the project through their social networks.
– To date, we have sold 190 collections, out of which 110 have been donated and delivered to rural areas. The remaining 80 collections were purchased under the TOMS model, where individuals buying the books for their own families ensure that a second collection is delivered to rural areas.
– We have visited four territories in three departments of Colombia:
Boyaca: Duitama and Paipa, May 13th, 2023, Cundinamarca: Subachoque, May 20th, 2023, Valle del Cauca: Cali, June 3rd, 2023.
– With the delivery of 110 collections and 4 implementations, we have impacted an average of 4 people per rural family, totaling 440 people. Additionally, we have identified that the participating children have an average age between 5 and 8 years old and their reading level is lower compared to children of the same age living in the city.
During the evaluation of the implementation conducted by the beneficiaries, the participants agreed that the reading experience was excellent. Upon receiving these books, they committed to reading and creating new stories together as a family. They asked us when we will return, and expressed the importance of connecting these experiences with the school and teachers.
Three weeks after visiting Paipa, while following up with the families, Johana, a beneficiary mother in Paipa, wrote to us: “Our home is filled with dreams.”
Build strategic partnerships
– Throughout this process, we have had mentors who are advising and promoting us within their network of contacts to validate each phase of the project.
– Thanks to our efforts, we have submitted proposals to three organizations familiar with our trajectory and work: CERLALC, Colsubsidio, and Liceo Boston. Additionally, we have approached Bavaria and the Ministry of Education to present this project.
– Through SBC (Startup Business Challenge), we had a mentoring session with Daniel Caissy, who, upon learning that we are in Colombia, connected us with Laura Gómez, a Venture Capitalist in our country. During our meeting with her, she provided us with strategic ideas for financing, support management, sales, and strengthening the subsequent phases of this project through Cocrea, a platform that facilitates the management and support of private companies.
– The implementations have been made possible thanks to the support of local social leaders, community action boards, and the María Perlaza Corporation, who ensured the dissemination of the call for participation and the involvement of families.
What makes us different
Throughout these four months of project execution, we have engaged in conversations with individuals holding high positions in various companies in the education, sustainability, and social responsibility sectors. With each of them, we have validated the relevance of our proposal: creating seed collections of home libraries that are of excellent quality and affordable, making it possible to ensure their purchase and deliver them to rural areas in Colombia through the Picnic de Palabras methodology.
These conversations have revealed the necessity of what we are proposing. While acknowledging the educational level of caregivers (parents, guardians, relatives, grandparents) and the importance of involving them in the reading process of children through the Picnic de Palabras experience.
Through these meetings, we have learned that we are not simply “selling,” but rather adding value. This is crucial in designing our proposals and ensuring our sustainability. From our value proposition, we are addressing and supporting the reduction of the access gap to quality books, through reading practices that promote cognitive and emotional development in children, with the support of their families. (*Brochure)
Continuously evaluate and adapt
– Although we arrive with the same materials and methodology, it is necessary to have flexible logistics that adapts to each location.
– We are conducting follow-ups to measure the level of commitment after each implementation and to understand the dynamics within the beneficiary families in order to identify our weaknesses and strengths.
– After each implementation, we conduct an evaluation that helps us adjust the methodology to achieve the desired impact more effectively.
– In reviewing the projections made in December 2022 against the current operational costs, it is necessary to adjust the values and make projections based on the results and findings, as we overlooked including administrative costs and profits from the sale of each collection.
Possibilities for replication in other territories include:
Reviewing the execution and viability of this project with partners in Peru and Mexico to establish alliances, as they face similar needs.
Addressing the challenges faced by rural families who have been displaced by violence and are living in areas of urban encroachment.
Global Data. (2022) Female Literacy Rate in Colombia (2010 – 2021, %).
Global Data. (2022) Literacy Rate in Colombia (2010 – 2021, %).
Maguared. (2021) Leer es mi cuento.
Biblored. (2023). Red Distrital de Bibliotecas Públicas de Bogotá.
Naciones Unidas. (2006) UNESCO proclama a Bogotá “Capital Mundial del Libro 2007”.
Biblioteca Luis Angel Arango (2022) Banrepcultural
M. Escovar (2020) Picnic de Palabras blog https://picnicdepalabras.wordpress.com/