3 - 5 year plan

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This is a draft of a new or in-progress document, and is likely to have a few people specifically working on it. You may wish to check in on the discussion page to see what the purpose of the document is and who's working on it; then feel free to give this article love and attention if have extra of those things.

This page will describe what Free Geek wants to be like 3-5 years from now. People contributing to this page should read through the Meta Question and its associated documents, especially the scenarios listed there. Contributers should also look at Free Geek's General Priorities page and have a cursory understanding of the program planning sheets that it points to.

If we can describe a common vision that has the rough consensus of the Free Geek community behind it, then we can move on to a strategy to get from here to there.

What does should our Vision Statement look like?

It should address the following points. (Add to the list.)

  • Current programs:
    • shift coverage
    • staffed positions
  • New programs
    • description
    • shift coverage
    • staffed positions
    • substantial education program
  • General
    • hours open -- ten hours per day, six days per week (10-8, Mon-Sat)
    • 60 hours open to the public + 12 meeting hours (after hours)
    • work schedule
    • communication issues
    • decision making
    • what committees will exist?
  • Staffing
    • pay rate -- staff should be making a living wage, currently defined as twice the minimum wage. Currently that means an hourly wage of $15.60 per hour.
    • hours worked -- staff will likely be working up to 40 hours per week. I'd like to see no one having to work extra unpaid hours just to get their jobs done, and I'd like to see options for people to work less if they so choose. I imagine staff members would work between 20 and 40 hours per week.
    • benefits -- staff would get the same holidays as today, full health care (like today), the same PTO (sick and vacation) as today, but maybe as a reward to sticking around, those with greater seniority will get more PTO than new hires.
    • size of staff -- maybe 20 collective members, a dozen interns, with a half dozen substitutes on call?
  • Volunteers
    • numbers in each program
    • variety of programs / opportunties
  • Space usage
    • office space
    • production dedicated space
    • warehouse space
    • receiving space
    • thrift store
    • common space and community use space
    • classroom / educational space

Dollars and cents

Don't worry about inflation when writing your plans and predictions. We will use the current year's dollars when we project things. (But as we progress, we will adjust numbers for inflation.)

Trends to watch

Incomplete -- See Trends and Attributes for a more detailed list.

Free Geek is entering a period where uncertainty about our future is becoming a factor. This uncertainty is caused by primarily two external forces:

  • changes as a result of the eWaste legislation
  • changes in the neighborhood, especially longer term increases in property values

There are also external forces at work that we feel more confident in predicting, and these will play a larger and larger role in determining Free Geek's future:

  • more integrated devices will "dumb down" the educational potential of refurbishing systems (the build program)
  • more Free Geeks and more interest in eWaste recycling in general

Free Geek will need to plan to meet these challenges by making some changes:

  • an education program that becomes progressively more geared towards how to use the technology (coding, web design, best utilization of office type software, etc.)
  • more aggressive outreach to corporations for gizmo donations
    • Corporate partnerships, requiring a more communication, complexity, etc.
    • This will require more service to the partner (on business time not Free Geek time)
  • design our space to be more flexible so we can turn on a dime as needed

Work towards a move and/or building purchase at the end of the 3-5 year period.

  • assess our space needs
  • find funding
  • logistics / project management of potential move, etc.
  • if we're expanding, decide structural issues (which model? Sister Free Geek, Maximum Free Geek, Satellite Free Geek)
  • protect ourselves from overextension


  • increase the amount of hand holding and helping of startups without overwhelming the mothership
  • establish a separate legal entity (umbrella organization)
    • dependant on getting enough funding

More hours

  • develop a plan for staffing
    • get a grant to get to the next step on this
  • volunteer recruitment (where do they come from?)
  • thorough impact study (space needs, volunteer needs, etc.)

List of goals

We believe there's consensus

In recap, here is a list of goals and milestones we hope to achieve in the future. They have been categorized according to categories from the Vision Statement. There are other obvious goals not listed, mainly things we are already doing. There will also probably be new goals added in the future that do not yet have broad consensus.

Environmental reputation

outreach coordinator
An Outreach Coordinator would be a collective members responsible for overseeing and coordinating efforts among Fundraising, Grantwriting, and Media Outreach.
field trips to other related organizations for volunteers
Free Geek will arrange for volunteer field trips to its recycling partners and other organizations that would be of interest or educational value to our community.
vendor verification
We will require that our recycling partners verify what happens to the hazardous materials we give them. We will prioritize using vendors that have a higher level of verification.
BAN pledge if possible
If we can actually meet the BAN pledge requirements without an unreasonable negative impact on our income, 3-5 years from now we will have signed the BAN pledge and will be in compliance with it.

F/OSS Involvement

raising public's awareness of Linux's usability
We will strive to make the general public more comfortable with using Linux and open source software through simple FAQs on the computers we distribute and by providing more educational opportunities.
better integration of educational components of all programs
We provide a lot of hands on educational opportunities as it is, but we will create systems that enhance the existing options, making them more accessible to a wide range of volunteers of differing abilities. Our documentation will be more consistent and up to date.
better volunteer retention in tech support
better volunteer retention in teaching
More volunteers will be involved in tech support and teaching. There will be a small community of people who encourage each other in both these areas. Teaching and tech support will seem like "programs" for the volunteers, similar to how the build programs currently operate.

As a Community Technology Center

different and more classes that are integrated or enhance our program
(Related details pulled from Education Program#Potential Projects For An Education Coordinator)
  • Improve our core curriculum. Most of the learning at Free Geek happens "on the job", while volunteers work in Build Workshops, Recycling, Advanced Testing, etc. These areas can be investigated, their tasks organized as a series of steps progressing towards learning objectives, and documentation can be updated or created.
  • Both staff and volunteers teach our more formal classes as well as our workshops. Teaching our teachers to teach would standardize our methods and encourage a more investigative, empowered learning environment.
  • Further develop the Advanced Linux classes to include things like LTSP (theory and installation) and the differences between distributions. This would require volunteer teachers, as there are not enough staff hours to offer the current advanced Linux classes on a regular basis.
  • Develop a series of classes on basic computer topics (like the ones outlined on the Classes page of the wiki), which could relieve some pressure on tech support and give people more confidence and basic literacy.
  • Search for ways of reimbursing teachers, whether with a stipend or other rewards, in order to assure consistent and professional teaching. Yes, write grants!
open more hours per week
Free Geek will likely be open an extra day or two, or at least more hours per day in 3-5 years.
better routing of people to appropriate places and activities
When volunteers arrive at Free Geek, some are not matched to the proper program. Others have skill sets that don't match our standard two programs. In 3-5 years, we should have a noticeably better way to route these volunteers to their best fit. Additionally, Free Geek has many "faces". Some people come here to volunteer, others to recycle or shop. In 3-5 years it should be much more intuitive to end up in the right place.
figure out what to do with, for, and/or to people who walk around the building wanting stuff
yeah, we'll do that too.

As an employer

scheduling software (Richard/Dave quits if we don't get this within 5 years)
Better staff work shift scheduling software would allow us to be more flexible in our work schedule and would save on administrative time.

Sister/affiliate organizations

Infrastructural improvement

a vehicle or vehicles
the Vehicle (PPS) page has the bulk of the info. In short, we could pick up and drop off goods, making us more flexible(desirable) to our customers and clients.
getting more control over our space
(Related details pulled from Facility Plan)
Free Geek will continue to rent the 15,000 square feet that it currently rents. In the next 3 to 5 years we will have raised money through fund drives and securing grants so that we can purchase our own building. In the mean time Free Geek modularize our process in preparation in changes in technology, making it easer to move
accessible space
In the next 3-5 years Free Geek will make accessible as much of its space as possible. As we look into options for moving, expanding, or purchasing this or another space, we will rank accessibility as one of our highest priorities.
better flow of gizmos
Free Geek has put a lot of thought into where things should go. the current flow of gizmos zig-zags and crosses over many paths that its taken, to say the least - this is confusing.
expanding our geographical coverage in the Portland area
Make it easier for donors and volunteers to use our services and participate in our programs, regardless of their location in the greater Portland area.

Goals currently being met

Most of these things we currently do pretty well. We will continue to do them, likely in much the same way. Most of these will need further clarification and some may move to the above list if we expect major changes in the future.

more intergalactic Free Geeks
If we can get funding, there should be a paid position that coordinates communication between all the startups and develops a more formal organizational structure. (+)
travel expenses for pdx staff to go help (+)
travel expenses for other freegeeks' staff to come train (+)
GAP program growth
software to advertise our work and free software (RT - gapsters)
personal telco team-up (+)
active placement and administration with a paid position (-)
more community partnerships with non-profits, maybe adoption volunteers can volunteer elsewhere
team up with the city for some of their projects to get more computers in people's hands (RT - Outreach)
offer ways for other non-profits to attract/reward their volunteers (RT - Outreach)
more partnerships with businesses that donate large amounts of stuff
better recognition of FG -NEEDS TO BE MORE OUTREACH, we anticipate competition
get a PR/Outreach position to actively improve our image (+)
get funds for advertising (e.g. give away our stickers) (RT - Outreach - make into a budget item)
we could work on our building to make it clearer what we do (+)
make recycling more educational (what is this, where would it go if not recycled, etc?)
integrate with the master recycler program (+)
improve our signage and documentation (+)
offer an elective class on recycling practices (+)
more paid interns gaining actual job experience (can complement full floor staffing) within limits
find more places at freegeek that could use paid interns (e.g. prebuild) (+)
add more interns into our existing intern positions (+)
having staff time devoted to supervising and teaching interns, allowing for interns who have more to learn (+)
more variety of volunteer programs (especially real-life skills)
online sales will be growing (+)
coding/sysadmin work could become more of a program (+)
better separate our operations-critical work from our educational work (+)
certifications for what we do now
record and continue to support the classes/milestones people complete (e.g. builder certification, core pin, merit badges?)(+)
better clarity in FG's attitude towards free software - ?????????
standardize our tour guides' references to where we stand
keep our website accurate
clarify the 'community technology' aspect
create clear signage about what people can do with what and when (+)
define it in various contexts and advertise it appropriately (e.g. tell PLUG how they can interact with us)
cleaner, including clutter AND dirt
central vaccuuming for working on dusty systems
home-made roombas attached to a cron job
improved building layout to enhance our production and recycling flow
get a dishwasher
low-tech solutions before high-tech solutions
wash our dishes instead of getting a dishwasher
make store more accessible for non-geeks
make signage to target non-geeks
more store staff to be on the floor, answering questions
we want staff to be paid a solid living wage, including retirement planning (ability to live the rest of your life on your FG income) (see General Administration Plan
hire more (efficient) robots
outsource to staff collective countries with a lower cost of living
use prison day-labor programs instead of a staff collective
more coverage
more staff (inters or collective) could help
look to do more things with volunteers
more hours for our existing staff
provide better on-site daycare
lower dave's self-esteem
more programs for geeklets (kids)
educational growth will attract programs that focus on kids
day-care like programs
outreach at schools (e.g. teach classes, do seminars)
more volunteer rewards - fun stuff to retain volunteers (untraditional is better)
make shawn our "untradition" coordinator
blind dates between volunteers
gift certificates that are meaningful/useful
FG more accessible / reach broader audience
get more interpreters (e.g. spanish, ASL, russian)
advertise our accessibility
tours improve as a community and volunteer education tool
more documentation on tour-relevant information
add poignant signage (and keep it updated) to cue tour guides
adjust processes to new types of gizmos
foster our advanced testing culture and allow for more people to join it
keep expanding tech support hours
more tech support for money, once we have full-time coverage
keep adapting tech support to new hardware and software
integrate more with global tech support communities (e.g. ubuntu)

Areas needing more discussion

These are ideas with varying amounts of support for them. We will begin to assess those which have the most agreement behind them and attempt to clarify them, modify them as necessary, and build towards consensus on as many as possible.

Alternatives for getting more control over our space

  • buy a different building if we can't buy this building
  • buy this space if we can
  • expanding into north upstairs space
  • moving to a "better" space

Alternatives for expanding our geographical coverage in the Portland area

  • mobile, fly-by-night Free Geek in a truck
  • more sister Free Geeks locally
  • satellite thrift store(s) & drop-off locations
  • partner with local second-hand stores
  • Free Geek branches in PDX-area
  • Free Geek Thrift Store outlets in PDX-area
  • stay small scale and spread faster
  • scheduled neighborhood pickups


  • Free Geek stamp of approval for other businesses (particularly e-waste biz)
  • be more embracing of software replacing tasks please clarify
  • more artistic expression on boxes (i.e. FG stencil or paint option)
  • grant writer on staff

Related planning documents (July 2009)

Store Meta Question

Thrift Store (PPS)

Thoughts on Increasing Sales Income

Sales Plan

General Free Geek planning documents

Vision Statement

Long Term Strategy Process

General Priorities

Overview Time Line