It wasn’t until I did the final check and paperwork for the batch of laptops I was about to take to the Bristol Somali Resource Centre, that I realised we were about to deliver our 1000th laptop (and our 1001st) as part of the re-purposing activity that we launched in 2020!
No achievement like this is the result of any one individual. From a friend-of-a-friend connection back in July 2020, we were introduced to Cllr Cleo Lake and her initiative #GiveNTech. She had already secured a batch of laptops, and negotiated with the Avon Fire & Rescue Service to use their permanent Stations as public collection points. Vaughn Jenkins and the extended team at Avon Fire & Rescue have been amazing partners ever since; collecting, storing, transporting, and promoting the initiative.
Cleo was looking for a partner to help setup the laptops suitable for young people and that was where we joined in. Having run coding clubs for young people over the past 5 years, I like to think we have some experience of that topic.
We already had our own smaller initiative where we had loaned out our 30 club laptops to young people impacted by COVID and the digital divide. However, this was a slightly different operation, significant in that we were accepting public donations and onward gifting their ownership. We needed to make sure this was conducted in a legal manner.
One of our Patron’s at DigiLocal is Dr John Manley, at the time High Sheriff of Bristol. He was launching a new initiative of his own, Asking Bristol, to pair small charities with the wealth of experience across the city. We put a request together an received some fantastic advice and draft documents from Nick Williams (DAC Beachcroft). We’ve used those forms on all +1000 laptops that have gone out to ensure a proper legal chain of ownership.
The initial donation that Cleo secured was a fantastic start, but we knew from the outset the challenge was larger than any one donor could address. Since then we’ve received laptops from over 500 individual and corporate donors. The people of Bristol responded amazingly to the need of those in their city, with generosity and enthusiasm. In addition to the Fire Stations, we’ve had a fantastic engagement with a number of churches that have included laptop collections as part of their community response activities.
The business community has also rallied round the initiative. With strategic support from Business West and James Durie, several regional firms are now planning their IT refresh policies to include re-purposing through DigiLocal, rather then disposal.
We also knew that no one organisation is working with every young person suffering from digital poverty. Through the amazing community networks of Bristol, we’ve gifted laptops through over 40 charities and community partners across Bristol. Each one is directly connected to their immediate community and knows the individuals and families that are in need of digital equipment for their young people. This has allowed us to quickly and confidently distribute laptops.
Thank you for the beautifil(sic) precious laptop, its really helping me doing my home school.Saad BS1
Perhaps unseen, but very much a vital part of the story are the nearly 40 volunteers that give their time over the past year to re-purpose the laptop for young people. Several were already volunteering for DigiLocal as Ambassadors for our coding clubs, but many were new to volunteering. They are still giving their time and I am personally hugely grateful to them.
Getting the word out is a vital part of this kind of operation and I’m no expert in media comms! Fortunately we started working with the team at Bristol 24/7 who ran several articles about the initiative. In January we picked up some interest from the BBC as part of their #MakeADifference campaign and that was my first real experience of what national media coverage can do! We quickly grew the number of repurposed laptops distributed to over 650!
The story isn’t over yet. Digital poverty didn’t start with COVID-19, and isn’t going to end in the summer ’21.
We still have communities and young people without home access to a laptop for their education. There are great plans for catch up tuition and provision, but they all rely on digital connectivity and access. Digital inclusion has been recognised by Bristol City Council as a strategic imperative within their One City Plan.
We’re still re-purposing laptops and onward gifting them through our community partners.
If you have a laptop that could be reused by a young people, please do consider our re-purposing. If your business is refreshing your IT provision and thinking about disposing of ‘old’ kit, please have a chat with us.
It really could transform a young person’s life opportunities.