Free Geek as a Community Resource
Free Geek is a non-profit organization. We benefit our communities in numerous ways.
And by community, we don't just mean Portland - we are also part of many more dispersed communities. Open Source programmers, environmental organizations, workers' collectives.
We get computers into the hands of the "have-nots;" we keep lead out of the drinking water of third-world villages; and perhaps most importantly, we stay relevant by bringing our volunteers in a consensus-driven decision making process.
In the Information Age, technology is becoming an increasingly important tool. Computers and the Internet have become central to many of our lives. Gadgets that only "geeks" used to use have become indispensible for many day-to-day tasks, like:
- staying in touch with family & friends
- searching and applying for jobs, housing, government services
- shopping more effectively for better prices, greater convenience, or wider selection
- finding answers to innumerable questions, from minor curiosity to serious research
But many lack the most basic access to these resources. The barriers are many: cost, education, and reliable help with basic problems are among the most significant.
Free Geek effectively meets all three of these needs for our volunteers, for our thrift store customers, and even for other non-profit organizations.
Many initially come for the free PC, but the reasons they stay are even more compelling:
- learning - and gaining résumé-ready experience - in many areas:
- installing and using software (word processor, web browser, email, spreadsheet, data entry)
- writing software (aka programming or coding)
- repairing, sorting, diagnosing computer hardware
- planning and teaching classes
- providing technical support by phone, email
- customer service: answering questions, matching people with internal resources
- hands-on environmental education, e-scrap disposal
- opportunity to "make a difference" in our society
- sense of community, shared accomplishment
- opportunity to participate in significant decisions (consensus-driven policies)
Free Geek volunteers can earn a free PC after 24 hours' work. Those who need a computer right away can buy one for about $50 at our thrift store. And non-profit organizations can apply for grants of higher-end computers and other hardware.
We offer a free class, with a printed manual, with each computer we give away. The classes are 2.5 hours (CHECK THIS), and cover basic computer use. We offer more advanced classes as well, whenever possible. Topics have included photo editing, advanced system configuration.
Volunteers may get free technical support over the phone or email for a year after earning their PC. They can also bring in the PC for repair or replacement if it stops working.
Our volunteers can use our computers to get online. They check their email, browse job and event listings, share photos. And if they need to get online at home, we refer them to an inexpensive dial-up Internet Service Provider.
- synergy with open source
- gets people involved, demonstrating a healthy and inclusive democratic process
- guarantees relevance of FG going forward