ellohay! West Michigan

A Conversation with Patrick Shaffner, 826 CHI Outreach Coordinator

Posted in benchmarks, conversations, physical presence, planning by forgr on March 30, 2008

I spent the weekend in Chicago with some friends (taking a break from writing, but not from thinking). I dragged all five of my friends into “The Boring Store” which is a store front for the nonprofit writing workshop 826 CHI. You guessed it, it’s part of the 826 network of workshops started by Dave Eggers and friends.

The front is a spy supply store (disguises, gadgets) and the back is the one on one tutoring and writing workshop.

I was fortunate enough to catch Patrick, the Outreach Coordinator for the local 826 CHI program. He gave me, and my educator friend Wendy, a tour of the store, the writing workshop, and the back offices.

There are four full time employees, and over 600 volunteers. They offer a suite of programs to the community youth, you can find out more about them here.

I actually called Patrick about a month ago, asked him to tell me a little more about the program’s day to day workings and organization, and told him about the project that we were starting here in Grand Rapids. He remembered us when I mentioned the digital inclusion project and jumped up and down.

He said, “No, don’t start it in Grand Rapids, move here and start it here in Chicago!” I laughed, but he meant it, he said computer literacy is a huge issue in Chicago schools, and in the community at large. We agreed that it’s really a big problem across the nation, there’s no real way to get the guided tour through the whole experience.

There are those who:
know what a computer can do
know what they want to do with it
know what questions to ask at a store
can afford the computer
can get one-on-one attention to learn new tools
can get the computer fixed if it breaks
know how to get the right upgrades, new software
can excel on their own terms with the right tools
can expand their reach

And then there are those who have limited access, are behind the curve, under-served, poor, embarrassed, limited, left behind, scared or intimidated. We should serve that second set of individuals.

Talking with Patrick (who works with a similar set of children) made me realize that there is a large set of individuals who actually want to be served. There is a thirst and it can be quenched.

In 826’s experience 35 to 40 hours a year of one-on-one attention, can raise student’s grades up one level.

Dave Eggers talks about starting 826 Valencia in this TED video.

Initially they started the workshop and pirate supply store and no one came in. An obvious trust issue. So they talked with a teacher friend and make her the executive director, and started going directly into the schools and talking with teachers about their needs.

The program was then a success, now they serve in classrooms and in the workshop. They are an anchor in their community. They have volunteers and employees who have flexible hours available during the school day and just after. They created their network of volunteers out of graduate students, writers, educators, and thinkers. All of these people are able to give just a few hours a month, and make a huge difference being able to shine a light on a child and their work.

So, brilliant. Yes. I got a serious boost from talking with Patrick. And now I know, we need to keep up the conversation with teachers, we’re headed in the right direction.

Wendy, my educator friend who toured with me yesterday, wants to volunteer there now. She’s got the Summer off and wants to do something other than graduate school, and beach lounging. 826 CHI will also help her students next semester too. She’s pumped about it.

Patrick, the Outreach Coordinator, wants to be kept up to date on when our program is coming to Chicago :-)

It’s great having existing programs nearby, and being able to visit and talk with them is absolutely wonderful. Thank you Patrick for your time and encouragement.

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Printed information, established workshop vs. pilot program

Established workshop printed information for volunteers, clients and inter-organization use:

Introductory information for clients:
• basic introductory information, testimonials
• application

Introductory and support information for staff and lead-volunteers:
• About the program
• About the workshop
• Opportunities for involvement (volunteer task options)
• Clean and installation checklist (software)
• Condition status/checklist (hardware)
• Feedback forms
• Thank you postcards
• Time-sheets, check in, check out
• Task lists (daily and event workshop duties)

In a folder to new clients:
• FAQ sheet
• Free wifi location map
• Available volunteer tasks list
• Volunteer skills check off, to be returned to workshop
• Recommend this project to a friend card
• Check off sheet (for clients to track their progress in the program)
• Feedback sheet
• Login and password keeper list
• Spiral bound notebook, for notes and reference
• Class list, calendar, registration sheet
• Community event announcement calendar

Other resource’s printed materials for clients:
• Bus schedule
• City event calendar
• City map
• Form to apply for the discounted municipal wiMax access (from Community Media Center)

Pilot program printed information for volunteers, clients and inter-organization use:

Introductory information for clients:
• basic introductory information, testimonials
• application

Introductory and support information for staff and lead-volunteers:
• About the program
• Opportunities for involvement (volunteer task options)
• Clean and installation checklist (software)
• Condition status/checklist (hardware)
• Feedback forms

In a folder to new clients:
• FAQ sheet
• Free wifi location map
• Feedback sheet
• Login and password keeper list

What else would be needed here? This is just the printed information, what could be digital?

Application process, thoughts

So for this workshop/project/program. How does someone join? The application process should be easy right?

A.) How to become a community member:

* Explain the project

* Name

* Address

* Phone number or best way to contact you

Other:

Why do you want to participate in this project? What would you do with your computer? How do you hope that a computer will help you?

Can you volunteer? (If no, how do you hope to give back to the community?)

Volunteer explanation, how would you like to help here? What are your strengths?

Take a photo

Get them an ID

Get them an email account

Give them reading materials, (information to think about while we process the application, 24 hours?)

B.) Once the application is accepted:

Come in to the workshop, with ID, meet with a volunteer for orientation

Register for classes (required?)

Start volunteer hours at the workshop (sorting hardware, stuff envelopes, clean, paint, install software, learn about their computers, how to fix, run and use their computer and our community effectively?)

C.) Get a laptop

What next? What’s missing?