I've asked you (EngL 3741 students) to set up a blog and to post your initial and tentative ideas for your public project this semester. I thought I might just muse on what I would do if I was in your position. Maybe it will help seed some ideas. Maybe it's just my way of indulging in my own assignment.
Reading Kozol's chapter on oral histories reminds me of a project I began at the Jane Addams School for Democracy a few years ago. We designed an oral history project that gave youth the opportunity to collect oral histories from their parents, grandparents, or other community members they knew well. We tried a few in the summer of 2002, but the model needed adjustment and schedules fell apart before we could tinker. A great public project would be to work with one or two high school students who participate at Jane Addams and who are interested in oral histories. We could meet for a few minutes each week to check in. We could find transcribers and translators. We could make simple booklets first and then look for other publication opportunities.
Multipurpose Participant Narratives
Another great public project would be collecting anecdotes and narratives from the participants at my site. With permission from the contributors and the appropriate anonymity, those narratives could have lots of different uses. The organization could include them in their grants applications and annual reports to funders. Perhaps they could comprise a very personal orientation booklet to newcomers. Instead of reading just facts & figures and protocols & policies they could "meet the people" they'll be working with. To make it more accessible, I could also capture those anecdotes in audio format and make a CD. In any case, I could create a repository of such honest comments for the organization to use in a variety of ways.
I've noticed that a lot of literacy spaces have poor signage. Newcomers are quickly disoriented and disheartened. I've always been a wannabe graphic designer. A little well-designed signage could go a long way to welcoming and directing people, creating a stylish and appealing image, and dressing up otherwise drab spaces. Perhaps the organization has a modest budget for the signs—or perhaps I'd need to do a little fundraising. In any case, I'm not talking about magic marker on white posterboard. Nothing so ghetto as that. These need to be beautiful, professional quality signs that give respectability to a respectable organization. Thinking about issues of translation and literacy, I bet I could design iconic images to accompany the texts directing people to the different areas of the building and the different programs. These images could become part of the organization's "branding."
These are just a few project ideas that immediately struck me. They all need shaping and scaling to make them purposeful and feasible for the time and resources available. This is just one way you might start to describe possible projects. You might create longer lists with less detail. You might make a list elsewhere—offline—and elaborate on the most promising idea at length. Choose the format that helps you move towards a sound idea.