Today, Audible, the leading creator and provider of premium audio storytelling, marked the first anniversary of the launch of its Global Center for Urban Development. Created to bring together all of Audible’s equitable community aspirations under a single umbrella, the Center has expanded the company’s community and economic initiatives and launched new and measurable models focused on advancing equity.
“One of Audible’s core purposes is to commit meaningful support for the people of Newark by investing in civic and social change that redresses inequality in concert with the government, community organizations and philanthropies,” said Don Katz, founder and executive chairman. “The Global Center for Urban Development has drawn upon global best practices and analysis to amplify Audible’s impact in Newark while seeking to establish models for equitable development that companies and cities can adopt.”
To support its communities amidst a global pandemic, the Center has made several donations since its inception. In Codogno, Italy, Audible’s Per la Scuola program donated Kindle Fire tablets and free Audible accounts to students during school closures. In the UK, the Center initially provided three hospitals with access to Kindle Fire tablet devices and Audible books for COVID-positive patients in isolation. The program was so well-received that it was expanded to 30 additional UK hospitals. The Center also provided 30 Audible devices to the UK’s Feltham Young Offenders Institute for educational purposes, preloaded with 30 audiobooks for young people to listen to during education hours.
From existing community projects in Newark to new efforts on behalf of urban innovation in cities across the world, the Center has also launched and expanded new initiatives since its inception.
In May 2021, the Center announced the Newark Artist Collaboration, in partnership with The City of Newark’s Division of Arts and Cultural Affairs and local arts organizations, to elevate the work of Newark-based artists and encourage local investment in Newark’s creative community. The program kicks off this fall with fourteen commissions for Audible’s newly renovated headquarters at One Washington Park and the surrounding downtown neighborhood.
In June 2021, the Center-led Newark Working Kitchens (NWK) hit one million meals served to low-income seniors and families, reaching more than 10,000 Newark residents across 70 locations. Begun as a COVID-19 response, NWK has kept the lights on at 30 participating restaurants, more than half of which are minority- and women-owned establishments. The Center also supported efforts organized by the City of Cambridge, Mass. (where Audible has an office) to activate restaurants to provide food to a young adult shelter.
“With initiatives like Newark Working Kitchens and the Newark Artist Collaboration, the Global Center for Urban Innovation is helping to advance Audible’s economic and social impact,” Abhinav Mathur, SVP, Global Center for Urban Development, said in a statement. “These local initiatives can serve as replicable models for the private sector as we look to advance equity, racial justice and economic empowerment in cities around the world. Now more than ever companies have to go above and beyond as global corporate citizens to ensure our neighbors and communities are supported.”
The Center also shifted many of Audible’s local initiatives to become entirely virtual during the pandemic. In Newark, this included the People's Prep Listening Book Club, a monthly reading program that virtually brought together Audible employees and students at the People's Preparatory Charter School to listen to and discuss selected audiobooks. In Cambridge, Mass., Audible’s virtual High School Summer Workshop exposed secondary students to careers in tech through a hands-on learning program where participants strengthened their coding skills. Audible’s longstanding Future Leaders program, which provides paid internships to dozens of students each year, doubled in size while becoming fully remote, creating opportunities for students to intern in Audible’s U.S. locations as well as in London. Audible also deepened its engagement with Resilient Coders by launching an Apprentice Program that hires Resilient Coders graduates for a year-long internship with the goal of ultimately hiring them as full-time SDEs.
Audible’s content efforts underscored the Center’s mission to promote social justice and worldwide diversity, equity and inclusion. Audible Canada led the Indigenous Writers' Circle, a writing workshop from Audible Canada to boost the voices of emerging Indigenous authors. Corporate giving initiatives included donations to the Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAPJ) and the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE).
In the U.S., the Center guided the community-focused efforts of Audible’s distinctive Impact Groups throughout a year of great uncertainty. The Black Employee Network (BEN) worked with Audible interns to share networking guidance, Unidos@Audible collaborated with the Newark Public Library for Hispanic Heritage Month to provide recorded readings of children’s books in Spanish, and Women@Audible hosted workshops with the International Girls Academy.
The Center also supported Newark’s innovation economy, helping steer growth at Newark Venture Partners (NVP), the Audible-launched, internationally heralded early-stage social impact investment fund. In addition to the significant hiring of Newark-native Vaughn Crowe as Managing Partner in February, NVP portfolio companies received several honors, including Forbes naming MoCaFi to its Fintech 50 List and ABF Creative winning a 2021 Webby Award for its podcast series African Folktales.
As it moves into its second year, the Center will also increase its investments in neighborhood improvements in the cities in which Audible is based, continuing to drive local spend and create new jobs, as well as develop local talent and increase workplace diversity through scholarships, paid internships, and mentorships. Recently the Center was awarded a Sustain and Serve grant from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), which will allow Newark Working Kitchens to increase the number of restaurants it sustains. The Center will also continue to collaborate with NVP to attract tech and innovation start-ups in the city of Newark and incubate homegrown entrepreneurship.