ellohay! West Michigan

A Conversation with Dan Balfour

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting with Dan Balfour, professor in the School of Public and Nonprofit Administration and a faculty fellow of the Honors College at Grand Valley State University.

We discussed the organization, the program offering and our plan to run a pilot program in a GR public school classroom. We also talked about grant seeking classes offered at the SPNA at GVSU and how volunteer work is required in the curriculum at the SNPA (think “grant-writing”, or “research-assistance” for this project… yeah).

Biggest moment of the conversation:

Marie-Claire: “So, if there was one thing that would be a grave mistake if I didn’t do during this process, if there was one piece of advice you might give to me, what would that be?”

Dan: “Don’t stop”

Thank you so for your time, advice, and resources Dan. It was great meeting you, and I hope to talk to you again soon.

A few next steps, growth

Photo from flickr-user akaporn, for use under creative commons license

Photo from flickr-user akaporn, for use under creative commons license

1.) Finalize project name

2.) Get feedback on mission statement, problem statements, finalize mission statement

3.) Post draft of Executive Statement, get feedback

4.) Write out plans for involvement with community partners

5.) Finalize and Print out finished Executive Statement, supporting diagrams and materials

6.) Start writing grants

7.) Schedule time to meet with Comprenew to discuss pilot program

8.) Schedule time to meet with WMCAT to discuss pilot program

9.) Schedule time to meet with Community Media Center to discuss pilot program

10.) Schedule time to meet with Grand Rapids Public School representatives to discuss pilot program

11.) Schedule time to meet with other important community partners

12.) Write memorandums of understanding for potential partnerships

13.) Breathe.

14.) Determine next steps again

Pilot program initial planning (stages, players, events)

So among other things, there’s quite a bit to think about for a pilot program… And yes, we’re planning on a pilot program. Talking with John Helmholdt from the public school district was inspiring. And even if that connection ends up not panning out, there a many other groups that I’m sure would be receptive to the idea. With that in mind, I write this,

Some initial thoughts on serving a small group of individuals for pilot program,

1. Prep 2. Give 3. Support

Within these stages are potentially 8 or 9 groups that we would need to bring together for this program.
• Geeks (for computer gleaning, clean up, open source os installation etc. at the geek-a-thon)
• Audience/clients (who will receive the laptops, get support, orientation, education)
• Forgr staff (will organize, manage and execute the program pieces and parts, provide orientation to all)
• Educators or existing community education organizations (teachers, professors, instructors that will teach introductory level skills to audience in a group setting and/or one-on-one)
• Tech support staff (will be available for audience to trouble shoot any extreme cases)
• Audience administration (school board, program executive directors etc. that will need to determine goals and parameters, and then accept responsibility’s for supporting program within their institution)
• Facilities (venue for geek-a-thon event, temporary education and support workshop locations)
• Piggy-back organization (existing nonprofit organization that will host our initiative, allow donors to give their laptops and equipment with a tax deductible status)
• Potentially parents and teachers of audience/clients if it’s a classroom environment (these would be extended support system and will need to understand the program’s ins and outs as much as possible)

So, with that in mind, here’s a shot at planning for the first stage of the pilot program:

1. Prep

1a.) Establish a planning committee, meet and come up with plan of action for organizing three part program pieces and parts, who what when where why how. Discuss goals, determine how event might be sponsored, how to recruit volunteers etc. Set our success model for the program.

1b.) Secure a venue for geek-a-thon portion, secure a piggy-back organization, determine rough time-line, secure deductible donation status for donors/geeks, discuss process for client group, secure sponsor.

1c.) Prepare to meet with client group leader, write up targeted business plan and executive statement for client group and/or piggy-back organization.

1d.) Meet with client group leader or board, determine hopes, goals for their group, their anticipated trouble spots, stumbling blocks, determine best course of action to proceed, set rough time line for events.

1e.) Submit any agreement documents with group (if necessary), start building community of educators or participating education facilities for education and support base for client group, discuss plan of action for geek-a-thon event.

1f.) Create program around geek-a-thon. Explore ways spread the word about the geek-a-thon, explore call to action for geeks to glean computers, event details, computer tagging strategy. Collect list of participating educators or community education partners. Finalize time line for all events and launch.

1g.) Check in on sponsor, venue, status, dates, client agreement, piggyback organization, donor. Firm up time line and event schedule for geek-a-thon with all pieces and parts, collect email addresses for all educators, geeks, and volunteers. Draft literature for all groups, client instructions, support materials, feedback forms etc.

1h.) Arrange for entertainment, food, music, tables etc. for geek-a-thon. Design email invitations, posters, signs for geek-a-thon. Make sure everything is covered, on track with all groups. Find facilitator volunteers for geek-a-thon.

1i) Send out invitations to geek-a-thon, write press release for event and contact media for event coverage. Finalize all materials for literature for all audiences.

1j) Collect RSVPs from geeks, collect feedback on idea from geeks. Meet with audience administration (weekly?) and hold pre-orientation/round table with administration, (potentially teachers, parents) on upcoming event and program ins and outs.

1k.) Venue prep for geek-a-thon event day or two ahead. Set up, event dry run with committee, hold volunteer orientation, have FAQ sheet available for volunteers. Tie up loose ends before event. Send out press releases, check back in with press to make sure they are attending (if we want them).

1l.) Hold Geek-a-thon event. Hand out kits to geeks. Get volunteers in place. Answer questions, address immediate needs. Announcements. Register laptops and run through clean up, diagnostics, set up checklists. Determine what parts are missing, needs to bring all machines up to standards. During event solicit feedback, have temporary workshop volunteer sign up sheet/email list and sign up for continuing involvement in program. Enjoy ourselves and do something good together. Collect finished machines. Thank everyone for coming and explain next steps. Collect possible donations.

1m.) Send out thank yous and confirmation to geeks and volunteers from geek-a-thon event. Prep temporary workshop space, get wireless networks set up. Tools, parts, and/or the means to gain. Set up volunteer schedule, hotline for clients, tracking system for incoming machines maintenance. Confirm introductory level education schedule. Tie up any loose ends with groups.

2. Give

2150306305_4ec432b4c8.jpg

Photo from flickr-user elemenous for use under creative common license
2a.) If necessary, hold orientation for potential teachers, parents, administrators. Explain their roles, and provide support for them as extended support team. Collect phone numbers, names addresses of their children/our clients.

2b.) Hold client orientation. Introduce program origins, cover who what when why wheres, address, explain all questions. Tell them how it will work. Have all parties sign ‘promise’ agreement and ‘care and keeping of your new computer’ sheet.

2c.) Bring clients their laptops, literature, FAQs, how tos, what ifs, explain hotline. Hold first education session, set up email accounts, provide educational outlets outside program too. Explain feedback plan. Fill sign up sheet for future classes, sessions. Collect email addresses from all clients. Collect donations?

2d.) Let them take them home, and make sure they stay connected to the program by providing feedback.

3. Support

536550986_d6704b735a.jpg

Photo from flickr-user mugley for use under creative common license

3a.) Collect feedback, hold classes, collect donations, fix broken machines, address problems. Change, adapt, support, grow, learn.

3b.) Host lessons-learned session for geek-a-thon, hardware status, determine if program is on track

3c.) Collect and synthesize incoming feedback. Solicit feedback from parents, teachers. Update program if necessary.

3d.) Hold lessons-learned for orientations, education sessions, workshops, volunteers, facility, hotline, etc.

3e.) Scout for permanent workshop location if necessary, build client database, build website, find more volunteers, find donors, send out regular newsletters. Build, grow, learn, adapt, assist, have energy.

3f.) Reach pilot program success, continue to support clients through their growth and ours.

Phew, so what do we think here, too optimistic, would something like this work? We really want to know, what’s missing?Why do we need your help? Because I’m sitting on my couch, at home, in my pajamas with my headphones in and it’s impossible to coordinate something like this a bubble.

If you’re interesting in jumping in, joining us, and joining the pilot planning and execution committee, email me, or call me at (616) 446-3622, (mobile phone number).

If you’re thinking about helping in other ways, we’d love you for that too. Call, email, drive over to my house, send me a letter. Make contact. We want you.

Other related notes:

Determine next steps after pilot

Meet with committee weekly on progress

Have plan for addressing negative feedback at all stages of the game

Have google group for planning committee to post happenings

Have audience discussion group online, get ichat accounts, meet regularly for required education

Provide laptop to teachers?

Hold Fund-raising events simultaneously

A Conversation with Catherine Ettinger

Usually when I get to tell someone new about this project, initially there is skepticism. Then I explain the structure and the elements built in for sustainability, there is optimism.

My conversation with Catherine, president of Foxbright (here in Grand Rapids) was a little different. She wasn’t pessimistic per se, but she wasn’t exactly beaming. I contacted her after listening to her podcasts “Inside Grand Rapids”, and read her About page that expressed great interest in learning about new and existing projects making a difference in the city.

Her studio develops websites for schools, nonprofits, social organizations and regular profit businesses too. Hospice, Goodwill, Phoenix Society among other are some of her company’s clients.

So, we met and talked downtown on Friday during lunch.

Some condensed, paraphrased, versions of her statements, questions, comments:
• Internet access is essential to this programs’ success, the wiMax program will be important
• Relying on a third party to provide internet access (which is integral to the program) is not a great thing
• Education is going to be difficult, people don’t like learning past a certain age, it’s going to be a challenge to get people to be receptive
• You can solve data loss issues with thumb drives, people use those all the time
• You won’t be able to give 24 hour support, staffing that is going to be nearly impossible
• Laptops, not desktop computers. Portable, small, strong tech devices
• Getting technology will be no problem at all
• The pilot program sounds good, kids in the same neighborhood is an optimal situation
• Eventually you’re going to need storefronts or workshops all over the city, coverage similar to the public library and their branches
• People will need to be able to walk to your locations as transportation is a major issue
• You could probably use those rooms at the public for some of the classes
• Security is going to be a big issue for people, build in a strong base in the program, because in this day and age…
In short, it was great to talk with her, she had some fantastic feedback, and comments about logistics, practices.

It was also good to hear about her perspective as a parent, she has two young boys at home who she personally wants to educate about the internet and technology herself. It sounded like she wouldn’t need the program for her kids.

She acknowledged that while she and her children have the resources and skills to harness the power of those tools, that not everyone in our community has the same advantages.

If I understood her correctly, over-all she thinks this program is a good idea and it could really work.

She expressed that she’d like to stay in the conversation as well.

Catherine, you bring a unique perspective to the table, you’re a mom, a small business owner, and a strong, intelligent voice in the community.

Thank you for the conversation, and we hope to hear from you soon (and yes, once we get this pilot program off the ground, I’d like very much to be a guest on your podcast, thank you for the invitation).

For everyone reading here, please poke holes, and keep those comments coming. Thanks and cheers.

A Conversation with John Helmholdt

Posted in clients, conversations, education, meetings, organization, partners, pilot, players, programs by forgr on March 16, 2008

About a week and a half ago, I had a phone conversation with John Helmholdt, Communications Director for Grand Rapids Public Schools. I left a voicemail a day earlier for him, and he called back less than 24 hours later.

Lee Weber from Dyer-Ives suggested I call him a week prior. She said he might be interested in this project.

So, he called me, wanting to know more, and was interested in how something like this might impact students, teachers, parents, the board etc. We talked about the potential structure, the benefits, the pilot program. I mentioned several times that we were just starting out, still int he discovery stage of this project.

And still.. the conversation after that went something like this, not quotes, just the jest (except for the part in quotes, that’s real):

John: So this would cost money right? And the machines would be leased or machines on loan?

Me: “Nope, once we get going, the laptops would be free and belong to the students’

John: Ah, interesting. What’s the catch? What would you want from us?

Me: ‘You would be our test audience, so you’d need to bear with us, and we would like feedback, that’s it’

John: Huh

Me: ‘Seriously, that’s it’

John: “Well, it’s a no brainer.” Marie-Claire, we should find a classroom, the one with the greatest need, and test it out’

Me: ‘Really?’

John: Yeah, let me talk to the right people and get back to you.

Me: ‘Okay then, great’

John: You’ll have to be patient with us, there’s a lot of people to get through before we’d be able to get back to you with a yes or a no.

Me: That’s good, because we have a lot more work to do on our end, you’ll need to be patient with us as well.

John: Okay, this is great, thank you so much for calling me.

So, what does that conversation mean? We may have a local audience, one that potentially lives in the same neighborhood together. They are potentially a complicated group, with special needs, and English may not be their first language. They are under served in the community in more ways than one.

What else does it mean? The pilot program organization is a little higher on our list of to-dos.

A Conversation with Lynell Shooks

Posted in conversations, donations, hardware resources, meetings, partners, planning, players by forgr on March 9, 2008

So, last week I talked with Lynell Shooks from Comprenew Environmental in Grand Rapids, MI. Comprenew is the leading recycling and upcycling entity in the region. They’re mission is much different than ours, but still involves computers and assistance to the community.

“Last year, Comprenew Environmental kept approximately 1.5 million pounds of electronics out of landfills.”

“The mission of Comprenew Environmental is to inspire the local community to live and work in a sustainable manner. This mission is accomplished through the mentoring of community partners and inner-city youth who, along with committed staff and volunteers, provide corporations and the community with electronics recycling services that represent the best possible practice.”

I left a message but didn’t get a call back for about two weeks, I called back this week to see if I could catch her at a different time of day. Got her on the phone…

I took cruddy notes while talking with her:

General Information:
Offer discounted electronics at the store
Laptops for $380-400
Offer support
Two week warranty, No long term warranty provided
Geared towards regular users, but work with lower income
Build computers
Non-profits get discounts
(Gave Degagé Ministries monitors for $10 each)
(Sold to Schools for labs all over the county)
Machine comes with software and an OS, keep the OS with the machine
They make recommendations to their clients for upgrading their OS

Comprenew Academy:
Teaching sustainability practices
Offers agencies and non-profit sustainability education as well
Hope Network, retaining, and financial, taking apart computers, factory work
AARP, job retraining factory
Internships and volunteers at the center constantly

Computers 101?
Community, not really involved yet

Repair services, cheaper than Best Buy
Support offered at the facility

I asked if Comprenew would be interested in contributing to the conversation, Lynell was interested in contributing AND partnering in some way. She mentioned that we could call her anytime and that this sort of initiative is much needed in the community. I gave her my email, phone number, and the blog url too.

Check out the Comprenew website here.

recycle@comprenew.org
616.451.4400
629 Ionia Avenue SW
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503
U.S.A.