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|Focus||Sustainable technology reuse, digital access and technology education.|
Free Geek is a technology related non-profit organization based in Portland, Oregon launched on April 22, 2000. It started as a public event at Pioneer Courthouse Square. In September 2000, it opened a permanent facility as a drop off site for electronic waste. In January 2001, local newspaper The Oregonian ran an article advertising their free computer program for volunteers, which became so successful that they had to start a waiting list. They currently have over 2,000 active volunteers per year.
Free Geek provides free classes and work programs to its volunteers and the general public. These classes include basic computer use, advanced computer courses, digital arts creation, digital nativity/online safety, and workplace readiness. Free Geek also offers phone and drop-in technical support for the computers it produces.
This is a general list of programs Free Geek provided as of November 2019:
Volunteers are trained to build and refurbish computers using parts recovered from donations. These computers are then sold online or at a store, donated in many of Free Geek's programs, or given to volunteers completing 24 hours of service.
Recycling, reuse and resale
Raw materials, such as electronics, are processed by volunteers, approximately 40% of it is reused. Some of it is sold, either online or in their store, where the proceeds are used to support educational and outreach programs. Any materials which cannot be reused are recycled as safely and sustainably as possible, in order to prevent it from entering the waste stream and damaging the environment. Free Geek also donates refurbished computers and technology directly back into the community; in 2017, for example, Free Geek was able to give away six laptop computers for every ten sold in their Store. In 2016, Free Geek donated 4,400 items of technology to low-income individuals, schools, and nonprofits.
Hardware Grant Program
The Hardware Grant Program provides qualifying nonprofits and schools with refurbished desktop computers, laptops, printers, and other equipment. Since its inception, it has granted more than 10,500 items to over 2,000 nonprofits. 60% of grantees are based in the Portland Metro area.
Volunteers and internships
Volunteers do the majority of work at Free Geek. Since it's founding, over 20,500 people have volunteered. In 2016, over 2,000 active volunteers and interns volunteered over 47,500 hours.
The Volunteer Adoption Program offers a free computer to every volunteer after they have worked 24 hours of volunteer time. Each year Free Geek gives around 550 computers and necessary peripherals to volunteers who have completed 24 hours of service.
Free Geek also offers 3-6 month internship programs for skilled volunteers 16 years and up, designed to help develop job skills to help them pursue tech sector careers and make connections in the community.
Plug Into Portland
Plug Into Portland is a partnership between Free Geek and Portland Public Schools. It started in 2014, and expanded in 2017 to other school districts. It attempts to reduce the digital divide, which hinders low-income students’ learning because they do not have access to a computer at home. Students who volunteer for a total of 24 hours at any nonprofit organization in their community receive a free computer. It served approximately 100 low-income students and families in 2016.
Free Geek's refurbished computers run Linux Mint and other free and open-source software. The use of free software has several major benefits: Minimal need to manage software licenses, and they can install a wide range of software at no cost.
In addition to Portland, a number of other cities have started their own independent Free Geek organizations.
- Chicago, IL (Free Geek Chicago)
- Detroit, MI (Motor City Free Geek)
- Minneapolis-Saint Paul, MN (Free Geek Twin Cities.)
- Oslo, Norway
- Providence, RI
- Toronto, ON
- Vancouver, BC
- Empower Up
- World Computer Exchange
- Digital divide in the United States
- Global digital divide
- Computer recycling
- Electronic waste in the United States
- MacKinnon, Merry (March 2006). "Computer nerds, and proud of it". Lifestyles Northwest. Retrieved 2006-12-26.
- Forsyth, Pete (May 4, 2001). "Free software, older computers help group narrow digital divide". The Portland Tribune.
- Free Geek Build Program, Free Geek Website "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-04-14. Retrieved 2012-07-31.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Free Geek has been keeping the needy nerdy for seven full years". APCNews.
- Free Geek Intergalactic Archived 2009-10-14 at the Wayback Machine