ellohay! West Michigan

A Conversation with the Macatawa Media Center

Posted in benchmarks, conversations, players, research, sustainability by forgr on December 13, 2008

I hadn’t forgotten about my conversation with Barb Pyle from the Macatawa Media Center, honestly. I met with her back in early May in their office on E 19th Street in Holland. We discussed their current computer refurbishing program, their television and production programs, and outreach programs.

Barb was very interested in what we are starting here in the Grand Rapids area, and wanted to know how we planned on cultivating and maintaining a genuinely sustainable “business”.

If by sustainable, she’s asking if we might have the capacity to preserve a complex set of programs (earn-a-laptop, digital literacy, technical support) indefinitely, then we’re on the right path.

If being sustainable means promoting stable and healthy communities, restoring environmental quality, and increasing long-term profitability, then yes we’re pointed in the right direction.

We have a lot of planning to do, but if we at least if know what we want and what’s important to us, that brings us closer to determining how we plan on getting it, and knowing once we have it.

Thank you Barb.

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Posting on Craig’s List

Posted in hardware resources, pilot, players by forgr on July 21, 2008

Wanted: Gently-used laptop computers (Grand Rapids)

http://grandrapids.craigslist.org/wan/764569789.html

The Grand Rapids Digital Inclusion Project is running a pilot program and we’re looking for gently-used laptop computers. Your contributions will be given to individuals in need, looking to learn computer skills, and improve their lives with technology.

We’re looking for gently-used modern laptop computers that are wireless capable, preferably with a wifi card included. Any parts that you have to offer would also be appreciated. Please email us with a description.

We will wipe your computer’s data clean, uninstall the operating system, and all applications (we will be running Ubuntu Linux and open-source software).

Since we aren’t a 501c3 organization (yet), your contribution will not be tax deductible, (but know that it is going directly to a person in need in your community).

For more information, visit https://forgr.wordpress.com.

Let’s see what happens…

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

Vacation, writing.

Posted in organization, pilot, planning, players, writing by forgr on April 7, 2008

I’m actually on vacation this week. I’m traveling with my husband to visit friends and family in Albany NY, Groveland and Boston MA.

As I type I am sitting quietly downstairs in our friends’ house in Albany, NY, with delicious food in my stomach, and kitties at my feet, drafting simultaneous Memorandums of Understanding for the Community Media Center, and Comprenew Environmental to begin our pilot project.

I’m acting on some advice that our friend Allison gave me last night. Allison has a masters in social work and is an employee of the United Way of New York, and is an all around stellar gal. She suggested: that I should focus on writing strong documents, write out the necessary MOU’s for the organizations I wish to partner with, and ask for some start-up money. Conversations are helpful, but probably not completely necessary to continue at this point. She thinks that perhaps conversations are keeping me from advancing at this point.

So I agree with her obviously, and am taking a break from thinking about logistics, and use cases and am shifting to MOU’s, Executive Statements, and short and sweet business plans. Then grants.

Thank you again for staying tuned, and for contributing your hard earned dollars to help make this program a success. As a reminder, you have 12 more days to contribute, tell your friends and get us to our goal of $240 to assist in printing these lovingly crafted documents for our potential partners.

I’ll get back here soon, write about Lynell, part 2 of our main use case, and some new naming thoughts soon.

Thanks and cheers,

Marie-Claire

A Conversation with Bill Hill, veteran librarian, Grand Rapids Public Library

Posted in conversations, feedback, planning, players by forgr on March 31, 2008

On Friday, March 21st, I caught a quick lunch with Bill Hill from the Grand Rapids Public Library. I had contacted him about a week or so ago prior inquiring about the Public Library’s computer usage. I asked really specific questions in an email:

• Who are your internet station patrons? And if you were to speculate, why are they there?
• What are your hopes for the community and each citizen’s involvement with the technology?
• What are the library’s largest technological pain points?
• How many people log on to internet stations per day?
• What are your peak usage times during the week, the weekend?
• What is your itrain class attendance like for each session?
• If there was one thing that would boost your class attendance, (if that’s what you want) what would it be?
• What’s missing in the community, what’s the largest need?

So, when I finally met with Bill, he expressed that answers to most of these questions are not available. They keep the program moving, and continue to upgrade their machines because their mission is to provide the means for the community to learn about themselves and their world. The internet, like books, magazines, and movies is another tool to aid in this goal. They dont track usage, they don’t have any real analytics programs keeping track of things.

They only count the number of sessions and unique page visits.

Bill also told he about himself, his involvement with the library and various programs he’s involved with there, this one, this one, this one among others. I initially wanted to talk with him because he’s lived in this city for quite some time, he’s worked at the library for years, and he’s actively engaged in the community at many levels.

I told him about our project, about the parts, pieces, people and plans. He listened, soaked it all in, asked a few questions.

He then gave some of the first negative feedback our project has received. He described many efforts that the community had tried to start up, and subsequently failed at, namely open computer labs. He expressed that it was likely than individuals would steal machines, sell them and then come back for more. He warned that I might be too optimistic, and to keep a realistic head on my shoulders throughout the project.

But it didn’t get me down. I knew going in that it was going to be rough. I know that there are going to be problems. All the more reason to try it, give it a genuine run, and see what happens. We’ll never know until we try.

As we wrapped up our lunch, I had asked him if he would be willing to stay in the conversation, and he said sure, but might better be able to help me by assisting with initial grant writing exercises.

A little bit ago, Bill emailed me following up afterwards,

>     I enjoyed meeting you very much, but I fear I left you with more of a
>     negative reaction than I felt or intended. Your mission to help less
>     advantaged folks gain more independence is sacred stuff.  I admire
>     your passion for this work, and hope I will be able to contribute something
>     from the library.

And then in another email said this,

>     We share much the same goal, to empower people by giving them free
>     access to information, and we do offer classes on using the internet and
>     word processing, although our next round of those wont arrive till
>     Fall.  You take it a step further than we ever will be able to, by
>     wanting to provide your clients with their own laptops. But our goals
>     have much in common overall.

Very nice conversation and correspondence, and just the right touch of reality to keep me fighting for this project.

Thank you Bill for the conversation, and I hope to talk with you soon about grants, and the future.

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