When we asked our newest ambassador and acclaimed author and illustrator, Matt Shanks, to share a few words with us about why he joined ALNF, we had no idea how extraordinary his response would be.
Matt’s words move us, inspire us, and hit right at the heart of why ALNF exists.
Thank you, Matt. We are honoured to have you join us on this journey.
Why do I support the ALNF? In recent years, I’ve done a lot of work to understand privilege, both as a concept, but also my own privilege. I wrote about it some time ago here. Of all the ways to think about it, there’s one version of privilege that isn’t often talked about and that’s the fundamentals of literacy. Yes, there’s the idea of ‘education’ but that’s usually spoken about in terms of wealth and class (which are linked of course), but not necessarily the fundamentals of reading, writing, and numeracy. That’s where ALNF comes in.
It seems to me that our society is built on the underlying assumption that to participate in it in a meaningful way – ‘meaningful’ being in a way that benefits the community (by way of contributing to ‘the commons’ in various ways) as well as the individual (by way of agency) – one must be able to read, write, and count. There’s plenty of research to show that not everyone has equal (or sometimes any) access to what’s needed for them to learn those skills. So, if we don’t do anything about it, the marginalised become further marginalised and illiteracy becomes systemic. Not only do individuals suffer but so too does the community – all of us do. So, by partnering with the ALNF who provide access, training and support to those who struggle to get those things because of historical discrimination, we start to shift the system from the bottom up. It’s not fast work, but important work often isn’t. In a world that is mostly about quick returns and hockey-stick growth curves, it’s not something that anything but patient capital can solve. And, being privileged to have patient capital, the ALNF seems an obvious choice.
The problem with addressing the root cause of anything is that it can be difficult to measure effectiveness. How can you possibly put a number on unlocking the ability to read, write, and count in a single person let alone a whole community? It’s easy for an organisation to just leave it there; to trust in its donors to have faith that the world will right itself if you just keep donating ‘for the cause’. But, from my first interaction with the organisation, the ALNF showed that tracking efficacy (as best we can) was a top priority – both qualitatively and quantitatively. It’s wonderful to be a small part of a community using the exact thing we’re trying to provide access to to make the change we seek to make – a more equal, fair, and educated bunch of humans in this generation, and the ones to come.
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