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Continuous improvement toward a sustainable magazine literacy supply chain

The idea of recycling magazines to new readers is simple with few steps.   Sharing our magazines with others, especially  children and families who have little else in homeless and domestic violence shelters, and in bags of groceries from food pantries,  resonates well with consumers and puts reading materials into the homes and hands of new readers who need them most.

Achieving continuous magazine collection and distribution to community literacy programs is critical to success because, to invest their attention in a sea of other pressing demands, agencies need us to be a reliable partner with a steady supply of reading materials.  No matter how well-intentioned, sustaining grassroots leadership and operations can be very challenging with an all-volunteer workforce.  Moving magazines around is hard work.

We are continuously innovating – inventing and re-inventing our magazine literacy supply chain to learn new lessons and to apply new organizational methods and social networking that lead us to more efficient, effective, sustainable operations.  When something works – we do more of it; when it doesn’t, we boil a fresh pot of spaghetti and throw it in new directions on new walls until it sticks.

Today an office was asked to participate in a Magazine Harvest by placing their clean, gently read magazines in a bin by the water cooler.  The response was immediate and strong, with staff not only offering magazines, but volunteering to join a team to manage the project.  This happens to be a software project team assembled for about a year, so even if their collection and distribution goes on for many months, it’s likely to end.

So, we have a teachable moment – an example that demonstrates strong and compelling engagement of consumers enthusiastic about recycling their magazines to new readers and about serving on a Magazine Harvest team, but only for a temporary period of time.  One important prediction is that other workers in other businesses would likely be as enthusiastic about recycling their magazines and about serving on Magazine Harvest teams.  Teams are important because many hands make lighter work – spreading tasks among team members in a way that promotes sustainability.  The leap is whether individuals are interested enough to serve as representatives on teams that bridge many businesses.  This would be a true formula for a sustainable community project that even resolves the issue of temporary business members.  A Magazine Harvest team comprised of representatives from multiple businesses would weather the natural turnover exhibited by all-volunteer teams.

Today, place a bin by a water cooler to fill with magazines.  Tomorrow, walk around your building to recruit new business teams.  After that, go next door and down the street, and across town to put this theory to the test.  Let’s tie the pieces together with social networking and online collaboration tools and spread the idea far and wide – on a wing and a tweet.

As one astronaut said to another rocketing toward his first orbit around the globe – godspeed Magazine Harvest.

  • A New Leaf

    A New Leaf

    501(c)(3) Charity
    Mesa, Arizona, USA
    Serving girls and boys ages 12 to 17 with reading levels 6th grade and up
    Needs enough magazines for 10 girls and 16 boys
    Magazines Requested: Any sports magazines, any car magazines, any fashion magazines, and any entertainment magazines

  • Adult Literacy Plus Of Southwest Arizona

    501(c)(3) Charity, School or Library, Adult Education, GED
    Yuma, AZ
    Serving a minimum of 150 students a month ranging in ages from 16 to 70 years old. Reading levels range from third grade to first-year college levels. However, the most common age of students is between 19 and 35.
    Needs: Approximately 150 magazines per month
    Magazines Requested: Magazines showing places, people, and animals around the world. Any magazines about hobbies or sports. Magazines that open students’ eyes to the world around them.

  • Mile High Youth Corps


    501(c)(3) charity
    Needs: 30 to 100 magazines
    Magazines Requested:
    For Corps members to read to their children: -Kids -Kids Discover -Sports Illustrated Kids -Humpty Dumpty -Hop scotch for Girls -Chick-a-dee -Highlights -Hello -Turtle -Yum for Kids.
    For Corps members to read on their own: -Readers Digest -National Geographic -Sports Illustrated -Make -Men’s Health -Ebony -Kiplinger -Self -O -The New Yorker -Wired

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