ellohay! West Michigan

It’s so much, but the thing is… it feels right.

Posted in organization, physical presence, pilot, planning, programs, strategy, volunteers by forgr on March 8, 2009

As it turns out, the more work that I do behind the scenes, the less time I have to share cool stuff with the outside.

I always wanted to make sure that if I was involved with an organization, it would be a priority to keep things as transparent and honest as possible. And it’s not that I’m not being honest, I just can’t do everything that needs to get done all by myself.

Right now, I’m learning so much new stuff, and all at the same time to boot:

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Nonprofit administration
Building a board of directors
Fundraising
Mission-based for-profit ventures
Building a budget
Incorporation
The details of becoming a tax exempt nonprofit organization
Special needs education methods
Grant writing

Familiarizing myself with Ubuntu, Open Office, Picassa
Donor management systems
Commercial real estate jargon

And easily 100 other new, exciting, things.

Natasha, Tom, and I have been meeting weekly to get programs fleshed out, and get a plan for the months ahead hashed out, visiting potential workshop spaces.

I have my Friday afternoons (my new dedicated ellohay! West Michigan time) jam jacked with meetings, visits, tours and conversations.

It’s so much, and it’s everywhere, but the thing is, it feels right.

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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.

Hey. Hi. Hello.

Posted in breakthrough by forgr on July 20, 2008

My name is Marie-Claire. I started writing here, back in February of this year, about people’s lives and how they are (and could be) impacted by technology (computers, access) and community.

There were several meaningful conversations with community leaders, there were great stories, there were genuine successes.

Then I took a break in engaging with it. I originally took a break to write independently and get the ducks in a row, but then life happened. There were health problems, there was bad timing, there were a lot of crummy things that made things complicated for me personally. Life happened.

But now that I’m ready to give my time back to this project, I can see that IT never really stopped at all, the thoughts here never took a break, this project kept going without me pushing it. That’s how I know that it’s meaningful, and that caring about other people’s connectivity is not something that I hold by writing in a blog, it’s something that belongs to the community. I has legs, it’s bigger than I am.

Kimberly

Kimberly and the laptop.

While I was writing and planning, then dealing with the unexpected, people were still being touched. I got four emails, a phone call and several personal inquiries during the time that I was away. People were not only engaged, but concerned. People were worried that the project was going to stop.

“What’s going on with that project?” or, “What’s the next step?” and, “How is it working so far?”

To answer your questions in front of everyone: It’s not stopping. It’s going to keep going. It’s bigger than a single person. And you can help.

In one person’s opinion, all I’ve been is a lot of talk and little action. I’d like to change.

Stay tuned for a new leaf, and some fresh faces.

Mission and programs, draft

Alright. I’m going to throw this out there onto the interwebs. It’s the newest mission statement along with some of the latest program ideas. I haven’t been sitting on it for long. I’m trying to get some feedback and perhaps fail fast instead of a long, slow death.

Please note, I’m using the placeholder name, “The Tomorrow Project”, it’s not a serious name or anything, just a placeholder until we can come up with something really good.

Here goes nothin’:

The Tomorrow Project utilizes existing resources in the community to provide opportunities for individuals and communities through individualized and focused interactions with technology.

Some of our programs include:

Tomorrow Box
Earn-a-laptop program, 10 hours of community service gets you a laptop computer, orientation classes and general education

Student Tomorrow Box
Earn-a-laptop program, collective of 50 hours of community service from your class at your school or in your community, gets you, your classmates and your teacher, laptop computers, training, education, and tech support

Tomorrow Box Tech Support
10 hours of community service gets you and your Tomorrow Box life-time tech support from a certified Geek Next Door

Tech Support Mentoring
Hands-on mentoring program that matches technology professionals and underserved individuals to teach, understand, and implement basic tech support skills

Geek Next Door Training and Certification
Tech support training for young volunteers and students of the geeky persuasion. Graduates get their own laptop, office hours, a tech manual, business cards, and the opportunity to engage in one-on-one tech support with people in the community

Tech Education
100-Level classes, centralizing and providing a schedule for free introductory classes and workshops from existing community resources.

Thoughts?

msnbc Nightly News, ‘Magic school bus’ of learning

Posted in benchmarks by forgr on March 8, 2008
“March 7: One Arkansas man is leading the drive to get more school children interested in math and science. NBC’s Ron Mott reports on the high-tech classroom on the move.
Check it out the msnbc news segment here. Learn more about the Aspirnaut Initiative. (Thanks for the tip Mom and Dad)

Client personas and potential use cases, thoughts

Client scenario 1 (a wordy part one):

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

Kim, 35, single mother of two, works five days a week as a physical therapist’s assistant from 8 am until 2, English is her second language. She has one 5 year old child in school from 7:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., one 3 year old in daycare (at the same time) five days a week.

She wants to advance in her job and become a full physical therapist. If she makes the wage of a physical therapist she will be able to put her youngest in a better day care, afford an apartment in a better neighborhood, and a more reliable car.

She walks inside the daycare center with her oldest child to pick up her youngest and sees a flier on the community board in the lobby that says “Grand Rapids Laptop Program, earn a free computer, learn new skills, connect” there’s a phone number to call to find out more information. She grabs one of the tabs from the flier and puts it in her wallet, she grabs her kids and heads home.

The next day on her lunch break, she pulls out the tab from the flier to ask a co-worker if she knows anything about the program. Her co-worker hasn’t heard anything, but she decides to call anyway to see if it’s legitimate or a scam. After talking to the receptionist, she decides to make an appointment to get a tour and talk with a membership volunteer that Friday after she picks the kids up.

Friday afternoon, she drives with the kids to the workshop, parks the car in the parking ramp (one free hour is promised on the sign) and walks with them into the storefront. She gets an introduction to the program in her native language, and a tour of the space. She is impressed with the people and the environment. She can tell by the attitudes of the people that this is a unique project and is really empowering.

She sees that there are group classes with instructors that speak her language, and one on one sessions with mentors too. She’s happy that there are classes to learn more about technology. She’s used the computers to get onto the internet, type up papers, and create her resumé at the library, but other than that she’s not very familiar with any other programs. She’s never been able to afford her own computer, and knows that learning new skills and having access to the internet could help her move towards getting more training to advance in her job.

The application takes about 20 minutes, she learns that everything in the workshop is free. The volunteer asks her what she plans on doing with the computer. Her two kids are entertained with a basket full of toys, the volunteer tells her that they are welcome to stay as long as they want.

She learns that after 5 hours of volunteer time, and one orientation class, she can get her own, free laptop. She gets a folder with more information, a map of free wifi hotspots, a form to apply for the discounted municipal wiMax access, a sheet with other people’s experiences with the project, a list of volunteer positions to review and select, the operating hours of workshop, alternate education locations, and some more information about the history of the program. Before she leaves they take her picture, print it out, paste it on to a yellow card, laminate it, and put into a lanyard for her. She gets a free t-shirt to wear when she comes in to volunteer. The whole process takes about 45 minutes.

She’s able to complete her volunteer hours in just two Saturdays while her kids are at her sister’s house.

Both times that she comes into the workshop to volunteer, she checks in at the front desk by scanning her yellow photo id and meets with the head volunteer. Her tasks include photocopying forms, putting kits together for future applicants, and shadowing another volunteer while he explains the program to two new applicants. She meets several other volunteers, applicants, and staff members. They are people that live in her neighborhood, she even recognizes a few others as parents from her son’s school too.

She follows her new member checklist from her membership folder, and halfway through her volunteer time, she signs up for her required orientation class, in her native language, on a Saturday that works into her schedule. Each time she leaves, she checks out at the front desk and writes down when she’s planning on coming in next. She also gets her parking card validated, making her parking free for the duration.

She attends the one hour orientation class with a group of other applicants from the neighborhood. The instructor introduces himself and welcomes everyone to the program, he asks everyone in the group to introduce themselves.

Everyone goes around the room, there are 9 others that each say their name and why they came to the workshop, and how they heard about it. The instructor thanks everyone for their participation and then begins to talk about the mission of the program, the people, and the organizations and volunteers that help it function everyday.

He passes out lists of free introductory level computer and internet classes and asks everyone to think about which ones they are interested in taking. The classes are located both at the workshop and in schools and community venues in areas near her house. There are even places within walking distance of her home, and in her native language. She circles three that she finds interesting.

He asks that if they are interested in taking any of these classes soon, that they should sign up at the front desk as soon as they can.

Then he talks about their computers and next steps. He explains that on the day they finish their last volunteer time, that they should plan to stay one hour later to receive their computer, get an introduction to their new system, sign up for classes and get their new ID cards. People in the orientation class ask some questions, “Is the computer ours? Do we really own it?” and and “What if we don’t know anything about computers?” and “Do we have to take classes?” and “What if the computer breaks or gets stolen?”… The teacher answers each one, and talks to the whole group about each answer.

Q: “Is the computer ours? Do we really own it?”
Yes, you own it. That means that you are responsible for it’s care, it’s safe-keeping, and its safe return when you’re ready to upgrade to a different machine. It’s yours. On that day you’ll be asked to sign an agreement that basically says that you agree to use the machine for constructive purposes and practice appropriate behavior.

Q: “What if we don’t know anything about computers?”
You’re among friends. Most of the individuals that come through our doors are just like yourself. Some people have never even touched a computer before, don’t know what the Internet does, or why a computer might be a valuable tool for them. We have group classes available, and one on one classes too. We’ll go as slow or as fast as you need us too, and you can take as long as you want to explore your new machine. We’re here to help you, we’ll try as hard as we can to be there for you every step of the way.

Q: “Do we have to take classes?”
It’s not required, but recommended. If you feel like you know everything about computers and the internet, then don’t worry, but if you think that you might want to learn something new, take a look at the class offering, there are high level classes as well.

Q: “What if the computer breaks, gets lost or gets stolen?”
If the computer breaks, we have a network of support technicians available to help repair the hardware or reinstall programs. If it gets lost, it’s up to you to replace it. If it gets stolen, bring in your police report and we’ll discussion options for a earning a new computer. We keep a log here at the center of every program, component, and visit to our shop, that way we can make sure that each machine is running properly and is being taken care of.

Kim goes home and after dinner she looks at her new class schedule and finds one more class that she thinks she wants to take. She has four total circled, Word Processing tips a tricks (a 101 level class), Social networks (a 100 level class), Email (a 100 level class), and Database tips and tricks (a 101 level class). She calls the registration phone number and secures a spot in all of the classes.

Her final Saturday arrives and she drops off the kids at her sister’s for the afternoon. She drives to the workshop to finish up her final hours volunteering. She makes copies and helps two other volunteers put up workshop posters in a few coffee shops nearby. As she heads back to the workshop, people ask her about the program, and she gives them a postcard from the workshop and tells them to stop in anytime. She gets back to the workshop and signs out as a volunteer and tells the head volunteer that she’s completed her time. He smiles, signs her sheet, and says to wait at the blue table for him, while he goes upstairs to get her machine. When he comes back down, he’s carrying a laptop bag, a new white id card, and a folder.

To be continued. So… once she gets her laptop, what will she do?