The story of the project
Today, Sustainable School Shop (www.sustainableschoolshop.com.au) has grown into Australia’s largest trading platform for the buying and selling of second-hand textbooks, uniforms, calculators, etc., and is used by thousands of families and students every year. It is a working example of sustainability, value and community – Our success has been built on providing real benefits to families and schools every day, by reducing the cost of education.
In any given school there are families who do trade their textbooks and those who don’t, and there can be many reasons why not. Often, these perfectly good texts end up in landfill, sit in cupboards or are mulched.
Textbook Muster together with participating schools will target and invite families to donate these unwanted texts that would otherwise go to waste.
Every day, Australian schools struggle to cope with the number of families and students who require meaningful but basic assistance. In turn, this increases the difficulty for these students to successfully complete their education, and potentially limits their aspirations and future opportunities, and their ability to contribute to a fair society.
Donated textbooks will be collected from each school, sorted, and made available to order by schools’ welfare officers/relevant charities to distribute to students and families experiencing disadvantage.
This simple support will make a significant difference to each school’s welfare officer but most of all to every student who receives these textbooks.
Textbook Muster is a large endeavour, it’s a non-commercial community project, so we are utilising crowd funding to raise the necessary seed funds to establish it, and we need your help.
Your assistance will:
– Create a national store of textbooks that schools’ welfare officers and relevant charities can access year round
– Significantly extend the ability of schools’ welfare officers and charities to deliver assistance
– Significantly increase the number of disadvantaged families and students receiving meaningful support
– Save schools’ welfare officers and charities considerable time and money
– Make a real difference to individual students, schools and their respective school communities
– Improve current recycling levels with less going to landfill
Once collected and sorted, these donated textbooks will be supplied upon order and free of charge to schools’ welfare officers and relevant charities. Trials show a large number of textbooks will be donated and a significant surplus of textbooks will occur beyond the needs of welfare officers and charities. These extra textbooks will be placed for sale on the Sustainable School Shop website.
Sale proceeds will be used to fund Textbook Muster running costs and the roll out into more schools in the second year. Surplus proceeds will be returned to the contributing school and charities. Once run and refined, the Textbook Muster will be systemised into a sustainable national programme and will be self-funding.
In the first year, we will approach Victorian secondary schools and run the Textbook Muster in approximately 40 schools. This will create a pool of around 20,000 donated second-hand textbooks.
After the first year, the service will be expanded to more schools, including interstate and developed to include schools that provide class sets or maintain a hire textbook system for students.
Donated texts will be:
– Sorted, graded and listed
– Able to be searched and ordered from the listings for free by schools’ welfare officers and charities
– Able to be ordered and purchased by families using the Sustainable School Shop website, in the case of surplus books
– Picked, packaged and dispatched when orders are received
To make this work:
– Participating schools will provide the donation points for aggregation, and promote the Textbook Muster to families
– The book manager will receive, sort, grade, list and dispatch ordered books
– Sustainable School Shop will provide administration, support and logistics while managing and maintaining the online listing and ordering facility, and related Textbook Muster online services.
Schools’ welfare officers and charities:
Each will be serving the specific textbook needs of clients, and they will be able to go online to search the Textbook Muster database and order the texts directly. Postage will be free and funded by the sale of surplus texts.
ForChildren (Australia) Inc. is a charity that provides educational support to students experiencing disadvantage, and supports the Textbook Muster project.
Sustainable School Shop is a commercial organisation that recognises success is achieved by working together to serve all stakeholder interests.
The Sustainable School Shop business model recognises that:
– Sustainability and longevity are best achieved via a successful commercial model
– Maintaining a genuine and strong social conscience is essential
– Providing additional support to disadvantaged schools and families is important
– Long-term behavioural change is best achieved through education and incentive
– Improved recycling levels and enduring behavioural change takes time
– Sustainable School Shop is a social enterprise
Textbook Muster performance and outcomes will be publically available via the SSS website. Currently, SSS reports annually to each participating school on service performance and recycling rates. Textbook Muster performance will be included in these reports.
How the funds will be used
Branding and media: $25K
– Design and construct Textbook Muster branding, artwork and media (includes in-school media)
– Construction and delivery of in-school merchandising and collection boxes
Programming: $42K (All programming is outsourced to Alliance Software P/L)
– Database creation
– Create interfaces for new user types
– Create ordering, tracking and reporting functionality
– Integrate Textbook Muster database and functionality into key SSS webpages
– Insert Textbook Muster branding within SSS website
Handling, transport and delivery of the Textbooks: $50K
– Sorting and grading
– Uploading individual textbook data
– Storage and maintenance
– Picking, packing and distribution
– Aggregation, storage and eventual shipping of unwanted textbooks to other destinations
Should the project be oversubscribed, the additional funds will be used to:
– Increase the number of participating schools in the first year
– Assist in establishing Textbook Muster in other Australian states
– Increase the number of participating schools in the second year
– Expand Textbook Muster to include schools maintaining class sets or a textbook hire system
Some of my other work
The idea for the Sustainable School Shop emerged from my own personal experience in 2007 with my daughter’s school, and the lack of a good service to recycle our second-hand school items. Over the next year, the project was scoped with feedback from principals, families and students. Many principals commented that there were enormous levels of waste that occur each year within the school community, and the decreasing level of volunteer help was better served in other school activities. Advice received was clear: any improvements would be of direct assistance to schools, be environmentally beneficial, and provide meaningful savings to both schools and families.
As a small family business owner, I have always been mindful of conservation issues, and prior to SSS our family business was significantly involved in a commercial fishing enterprise. In 2007 we suddenly found ourselves facing an environmental disaster not of our creation, but resulting in the end of our commercial fishing operations.
Simply devastating, it brought to the fore the fragility of our world and seriously questioned what constitutes one’s own sense of security, as what may be here today may so easily be gone tomorrow. Confronting uncertainty and the unexpected sometimes brings the most clarity – during and since 2007/2008, many global trends and ‘big messages’ have been necessary to comprehend. I have a very good friend who was a senior bureaucrat and has a favourite saying, “Don’t ask: ‘Why doesn’t somebody do something?’ What is wrong with you? You don’t need permission.” And he is right; so we didn’t wait for that somebody.
We spent 12 months researching, visiting many schools from the city through to rural and outback distance education providers, and home educators. In building SSS, we needed to understand the diversity within the school community, existing in-school second-hand trading arrangements, mechanically how an online service may be used, and what functionality was required to provide meaningful outcomes for schools, families and students. Importantly, we started with a ‘blank page’ and let our visitors describe the system they wanted rather than simply reinventing another generic type listing service, or imposing what we thought they should use.
During our research and travels across our great country I had the joy of catching up on some reading; my first book on the trip out of Melbourne was The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery. To Mr Flannery – my heartfelt thanks for your work; it provided a greater understanding and, coupled with our own experiences, has helped to shape the SSS project and our resolve.
In late 2009 four schools (three Victorian and one NSW) had given the go-ahead to use the service for Second-hand Textbook Trading – one school’s business manager commenting that he was adopting the service in a ‘leap of faith’. We are very grateful for his leap, and the results and feedback from this school gave us the momentum and confidence to take to further schools. In November 2010, thirty schools participated in a more extensive trial of the service. Since those small beginnings SSS has continued to develop, innovate, and deliver outstanding results, again all based on client feedback.
The Second-hand Uniform Trading System has been completed, tested, successfully trialled, and is being rolled out into schools. It includes interfaces to deal with online ordering for new uniforms. In addition to schools, this facility has been helpful to school uniform manufacturers by providing more successful ways of interacting online with their customers, as well as providing a welcome solution for second-hand uniforms.
Sustainable School Shop has proven that a commercial enterprise can achieve lasting social change, as well as individual and community benefits, by building successful community partnerships.
Sustainable School Shop is formally used in over 200 schools, with many other schools (200-300) using the website to source or sell secondhand textbooks and other items. It is Australia’s largest resource of second-hand secondary textbooks.
The SSS Second-hand Uniform Trading System is quickly gaining an excellent reputation of its own, and schools are requesting that we develop and provide other online services.
All the key components for the Textbook Muster now exist:
– Significant numbers of good quality unwanted second-hand textbooks
– Schools’ willingness to improve recycling levels and assist disadvantaged families
– Expertise in handling second-hand texts, including an ability to correctly identify the required second-hand textbook
– An efficient web-based marketplace capable of facilitating large volumes of second-hand textbooks sales.
The key challenge was to simply recognise how it fits together in an easily scalable model.
The second challenge is building the initial stock of donated textbooks in time for the commencement of the first trading period in November 2015. From experience we know this will only be an issue in the first year. The solution will be to do a ‘book drive’ in schools prior to September.
Thirdly, we needed to ensure adequate buyers were available to purchase the surplus Textbook Muster books. With SSS expanding quickly and demand for second-hand items sharply increasing, integrating the Textbook Muster into the SSS marketplace became a natural fit.
Discussions with schools, textbook suppliers, and relevant charities are well progressed.