The 26TEN Coalition currently brings the education, law, health, agriculture, community, training, state government and local government sectors together to work on adult literacy in Tasmania.  An Influential leader from within each sector works to raise awareness and ask organisations from within their sector to (a) take action to lift adult literacy levels in Tasmania and (b) build a culture where everyone openly seeks to improve their literacy and numeracy skills. Only by taking on the issue of adult literacy through a collective approach can we aspire to lift our adult literacy levels substantially.

The 2011-12 OECD Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIACC) survey showed 49.8% of adult Tasmanians had adequate literacy skills, a figure comparable with the mainland states.  As a result, the Tasmanian Government bravely opened up the issue of adult literacy. It recognised from the onset that government alone could not solve this problem and that the path would be long and slow but critical to the state’s future and that of many, many individual Tasmanians. The Government recognized that the changes in culture would only come through a grass roots movement.

The funding provided has allowed for a collective approach to be developed. Through this an organic collective of member organisations, communities and businesses has been built, each taking small and varied actions that will over time have big impacts. The appeal is also to individuals to get involved by volunteering time as tutors, mentors and advocates.

The 26TEN Coalition and the 26TEN Team are integral to the collective approach. They connect members, help share stories, raise awareness of services, help member organisations to take action, and support volunteers.

To date the collective has 139 member organizations, 683 supporters and 1,333 volunteer tutors. Member organisations are varied from Surf Lifesaving, Metro Tasmania, Break O’Day Council, Ravenswood Neighbourhood House, Tasmanian Aboriginal Legal Service, Houston’s to Service Tasmania. As well, 26TEN Communities have been established in Circular Head, Burnie, St Helens, Derwent Valley, Glenorchy and Huon Valley.

Though our foundations are now established we have much to do to extend the 26TEN network, get the message out further and wider and inspire everyone to get involved.

Through collective action everyone can help to deliver the 26TEN Vision: All Tasmanians have the literacy and numeracy skills they need for work and life.

Siobhan Gaskell is a former Director of the State Library of Tasmania. Since retiring in 2012 Siobhan has continued working with the Coalition in establishing 26TEN. Here she writes for the Communicating: The Heart of Literacy initiative. See more at chattermatters.com.au.

Something to think about: How can WE accelerate people taking action?  How can we increase awareness and action to ‘cult or viral’ levels?