ellohay! West Michigan

A Conversation with Andy Wolber

Last week I had the pleasure of talking with Andy Wolber from NPower Michigan. Andy is the Executive Director of NPower Michigan. Their mission:

We provide technology services to nonprofits in Michigan, ensuring that all organizations have access to the best technology resources and know-how and can apply these tools to help create healthy, vibrant, thriving communities

We talked for about 45 minutes. High level notes:

• Team up with Macatawa Media Center in Holland, they have a earn-a-laptop program (CARE) and would definitely be a good source of information

• Check out One Economy (I did, very interesting indeed)

• Make the Community Media Center in Grand Rapids a fiduciary parent

• Take a cue from the United Way, they work with many non-profit organizations, they are a good model

• Call NuSoft Solutions, they should be interested in teaming up in some way

• Engage college students with the project

• Work with job skill training centers

He was a great source of knowledge, and has been a very generous individual. He’s also emailed be several reports, introduced me to Barb Pyle at Macatawa Media Center, and has been kind enough to allow me to write about him here in our blog.

Thank you for your contacts, advice and contributions Andy. I hope to talk to you again soon.

A Conversation with Laurie from the Community Media Center

On Thursday, I had a brief but interesting lunch conversation with Laurie from the Community Media Center here in Grand Rapids.

We first discussed some of the CMC programs in place for area nonprofits and residents, http://www.grcmc.org/nposervices and then talked about a new program coming out once the city gets its WiMax working. It’s in charge of eventually processing and granting up to 5% of the area’s residents discounted rates on WiMax. They have also taken the task of traveling to local schools and talking about the available WiMax discount to schools.

So there will be education about our new wireless access, and discounted rates from an organization in the city. I’m not meaning for that to sound small, I mean for it to sound like a step in the right direction.

I explained to Laurie about our project idea. I talked about the pilot program, the gaps in the system, and some other stuff we’re working on. She seemed genuinely excited. She all but volunteered a venue for the pilot program when I explained some of our current stumbling blocks.

I’m pretty sure she also suggested that we piggyback the CMC for the pilot so that people and companies can get tax deductions on their donations, (but I might have dreamed that part…).

Laurie agreed with several statements that I made about the large number of residents and individuals that go unacknowledged in our community. We talked about the populations of under-served, and some potential programs that aid organizations might be struggling to launch, maintain or keep afloat.

I told my two most relevant stories, Red Cross Indian Village shelter story, and next door neighbor laptop story. The Red Cross story is the one that still makes me sad to think about. I’ll tell it soon here. When I’m ready.

Laurie’s questions about the pilot and the program were great, she asked things like “So how do you avoid people from doing bad things with their computers?” and “What happens if one is lost, broken or stolen?”. I liked that she answered that in the many years that her team has been loaning out equipment, that they have had only one problem with theft. People are respectful if they know that you are a good place, and that you can trust each other.

I feel like there’s some real similarities in thoughts, missions and intent between this infant project and the CMC. It makes sense to make them part of the project family.

So that meeting went well. She gave me all of her contact info, and then headed back to her office to prepare to leave on vacation to Italy for a few weeks. She said that I could call her anytime to talk.
When I got back home, I starting drawing a revised diagram, and listing groupings of our under-served neighbors. That one’s coming soon too.

Thanks for the meeting Laurie, hope to talk with you again soon.