This profile was prepared when Dieudonné Paré was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Dieudonné is building a society of engaged citizens in Burkina Faso through access to quality books, reading materials and libraries. Mindful that few Burkinabes have access to and gain knowledge through reading, he believes that books are the gateway to higher levels of learning, reflection and personal growth. Once communities are exposed to a wider range of information and ideas, they will be able to innovate and develop from within, moving towards a “new Africa” that is less dependent on external support. Dieudonné first focused on the most basic barrier to reading—the lack of quality books. Books sold in markets and used at school are often overused and discarded, providing little use to both children and adults that have an interest in reading. In the absence of a solution for the neglect and poor condition of books, he identified a market for their rehabilitation. Using low-cost, local materials such as glue and cardboard, Dieudonné devised a system for collecting and fixing these books, restoring them to working condition. After accumulating several hundred refurbished books, Dieudonné used his motorcycle to bring them to nearby communities and villages as a type of traveling library. Without access to working libraries either in town or in school, this latent market of potential readers rented books from Dieudonné’s business. Through face-to-face contact, he was able to build a customer base from which he could expand his business and encourage reading within the communities he reached. With an increasing number of customers, Dieudonné needed to diversity his products and services to meet client needs. So he designed internships in book binding and rehabilitation, established photocopy and print services, began selling notebooks and other writing materials, and opened a stationary resource center and local printing press. With affordable, high quality products that are both accessible and simple, people are increasingly turning to books as a leisure activity and to discover new knowledge. His business, due to its popularity and social impact, is fully sustainable. He is now expanding it to other small and medium-sized towns first in his region, and then across Burkina Faso.