ellohay! West Michigan

ellohay! west michigan video update, episode 1

The first rough-n-tumble installment of our video update for ellohay! west michigan. ellohay! west michigan is dedicated to making positive differences in the lives of under-served individuals within the West Michigan area through healthy, sustainable, meaningful, connections with technology.

http://www.twitter.com/ellohay

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.

Article: Was EarthLink’s failed citywide Wi-Fi a blessing in disguise?

Posted in benchmarks, potential problems, wifi by forgr on September 7, 2008

A recent article from Tirana Magazine on Philadelphia’s wi-fi network, the Wireless Philadelphia organization and doing a really solid job on…

Defining the digital divide

There’s been a lot of chatter over the years about the digital divide or the idea that there is a great chasm between people who have access to technology such as computers and the Internet, and those who do not. While some 68 percent of the U.S. population has access to the Internet via broadband or dial-up connections, there are still millions of people across the country who do not have any access at all.

Overwhelmingly, these unconnected individuals tend to be minorities and people with low education levels. A recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that only 57 percent of African Americans and 37 percent of Hispanics have Internet access. And only 29 percent of people who have not graduated from high school are connected to the Internet.

It’s difficult to gauge what the impact of this exclusion means. In the past, Internet access was viewed as an unnecessary luxury, a tool used to send e-mail and casually surf Web sites. But increasingly, the Internet has become an important tool for getting information about and access to just about everything from health care to social services. It’s used as a tool to engage parents in their children’s education. And as newspapers shed their classified listings, it’s become an important tool for looking for jobs.

“Digital inclusion has traditionally been seen as a charity initiative,” The Knight Foundation’s Perry said. “But that is rapidly changing. Increasingly, cities of all types–urban, suburban, and rural–are linking universal digital access to economic development imperatives.”

From the beginning, Wireless Philadelphia’s goal has been to provide broadband service to families who have never owned a computer and have little or no online experience. The group believes that getting these families online will increase their access to educational, employment, and life opportunities.

But it will also have big benefits for the city, such as reducing crime and unemployment, improving public health and social service efficiency, and increasing educational excellence.

“It’s nearly impossible to apply for an entry-level job today without having basic digital skills and Internet access,” Greg Goldman, CEO of Wireless Philadelphia said. “And there have been studies that show patients who access information online about HIV AIDS, hypertension, or diabetes have better health outcomes.”

We’ll find out what happens next quite soon…

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 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 Ashima Saigal

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting with Ashima Saigal, Director of Technology at Dorothy A. Johnson Center of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership at Grand Valley State University.

I explained the project, the few programs that we have planned, the thinking behind it all. She had some really good suggestions and encouraging feedback as well.

• We should definitely get the OLPC (One Laptop per Child) Organization in on it, get them to set up a buy one get one program for the citizens of the city of Grand Rapids.

• She also expressed that we need to build in a give/get aspect to the donation process. Donors give something and they get something in return.

• She expressed that getting clients involved in their community would be wildly important. For example, 10 hours of community service with Mixed Greens gets you one laptop computer. This will help our clients realize the value of the tools we’re providing to the community.

• Open Office may not be compatible with MicroSoft word file formats, the file format that most educator’s machines, school computers or workplaces use. That may cause some annoying problems for our clients.

Also,
While I was laying out all of the elements of the program, (the lack of connectivity between the hardware and education and support and wireless connectivity) I mentioned that there were only a few resources for getting ones computer repaired, i.e. the “smart kid next door” or the “tech-saavy nephew / co-worker / acquaintance or Best Buy’s Geek Squad.

She misheard me, perhaps thinking that I had mentioned that there was an organization of smart kids that fixed people’s computers for them, smart kids next door. I clarified, adding that something like that would be really cool. She said something to the tune of, ‘that would be so cool if that existed for real’. A troop of friendly nerds that could roam the streets providing tech support for a simple trade of homebaked cookies or iced tea.

So I’ve been chewing on that, writing a new draft of the mission statement without my head up my rear, drafting program outlines, and memorandums of understanding.

I’ve got some more to write about this meeting, but nights seem to be getting shorter, so I need to stop if I’m ever going to get anything else out of my head.

Thank you for meeting with me Ashima, hope to talk with you again soon.