I met with Eric Jackson founder of Boulder Community Computers a non-profit that is addressing the digital divide starting in Boulder. Eric got the idea for starting Boulder Community Computers while working at Community Cycles in Boulder and his idea is based loosely on the same spirit – education, volunteerism and community. Boulder Community Computers not only provides training but also gives individuals an opportunity to work towards “earning” their own computer. Individuals can “earn” through their volunteer hours. They also refurbish old computer equipment, including iPhones. This serves two purposes:
- provides a way for individuals to earn their own computer by learning how to install an OS or refurbishing a machine
- keeps these items out of the landfill
One of the principles of the organization is to provide individuals with real world skills, which they can market about themselves today. It is also serving to provide an alternative to people spending $500 on a new computer; they can come and volunteer, get trained, meet experts, join a community and get involved. The value of the community aspect is worth more than the $500 some may spend on a new PC.
Eric wants to blend the best of the for-profit and non-profit worlds. Boulder Community Computers has the soul and heart of a non-profit but is operated like any for-profit business. They use proceeds from their store to help fund this effort. Eric is a strong believer in creating a sustainable, working business model that isn’t simply a charity.
I asked Eric what has been one of the biggest accomplishments and he said, “We are building a community here, which I think is synonymous with the idea of family. We have people come in and express a need and we feel great knowing that we are an organization that can help or we have others dropping in, who don’t need a computer or training but want to help out because they want to see this idea succeed”. But Eric admits they still need help developing their business model. If you have an interest in helping out, applying your business expertise to help build an organization with a soul, contact Eric. But if you are in need of a computer, or training stop by the shop and volunteer.
2232 Pearl St, Suite 200