Free Geek

November 9, 2022

Amount Requested$10,000.00


1731 SE 10th Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97214

Dwindell Feeley

Development Manager

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  • Engender Dignity, Respect and Equality
Proposal Information

Funds are Being Requested for:

Program Support

Mission Statement

Free Geek is committed to including everyone in our digital future. We sustainably reuse technology, enable digital access and provide education to create a community that empowers people to realize their potential.

Amount Requested


Program Budget


Organizational Budget


Relationship to the Olseth Family Foundation


Summarize Your Request

Nearly half of all American households with an annual income below $30,000 per year lack a computer in the home or access to broadband internet. 27% of low-income adults are forced to rely on smartphones for all their technology needs. This “digital gap” is sharply stratified along lines of race, education, language barriers and socioeconomic status, meaning that it predominantly affects those already most impacted by structural society inequity. The role of our Digital Navigators is to help us expand and deepen our bilingual offerings to marginalized and underserved members of our community, primarily focusing on those with the lowest digital skills and experience who are in need of more personalized support.

Free Geek’s mission is to include everyone in our digital future. Our Digital Navigator programs fit the Olseth Foundation’s stated goal to “engender dignity, respect and equality” by offering a wide range of community programs designed to put affordable technology - along with the skills required to use it - in the hands of the marginalized populations who need it most. We are committed to using our resources to connect individuals with the devices, education and community support needed to fully participate in our increasingly technology-dependent world.

Overview of the Grant Request

Population Served

Spanish speakers; low-income populations; SNAP recipients; unemployed or under-employed people; K-12 students; immigrants & refugees; seniors

Geographic Area Served

Portland Metro area

List Three Measurable Goals That This Funding Will Help You Achieve.

–To serve 250+ members of the community through a diverse range of programming, including the partnerships and classes, broadband education events, and other opportunities as they arise. This includes one-on-one, in-person support appointments through our Community Center, for individuals who require more hands-on assistance (particularly in Spanish) in basic topics, such as how to set up a computer they have just received from us.

–To distribute 70 laptops to Digital Navigation program participants who are actively participating in digital skills-building and meet our income eligibility requirements (below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level).

–To implement a new series of assessments (draft documents available upon request) in order to begin tracking both demographic information for Digital Navigation participants, and to test/assess their digital literacy skills over time. These documents will be honed and refined over the course of the grant period with help from our City of Portland-funded research process, including focus groups of constituents.

How Will You Accomplish These Goals?

After the pandemic shone a light on the increasingly-severe digital access gap which disproportionately affects marginalized communities, Free Geek converted the area in our building which was once our retail store into a Community Center staffed by our Digital Navigators, in order to allow us a space to provide members of our service population with access to computers and the internet in order to take advantage of our educational opportunities, learn more about the resources available to them, and access the internet for their basic needs. Examples of how the Community Center serves our population include people who use the computer library to access the internet and apply for jobs (one even applied for an open position at Free Geek), and seniors who buy refurbished technology from us but need some support with the process of setting it up, connecting the cables, and walking them through the basic components of the device. So far, the majority of community members we have helped are seniors and Spanish speakers. Seniors tend to have overall lower digital literacy rates than younger populations and therefore have been disproportionately isolated during the past two years of the pandemic. They also often experience anxiety around technology, whether because of fears of digital safety (identity theft, etc.), or that they will use the device wrong and break it. Much of our work involves teaching them the basics, such as how to use a trackpad or keyboard and how to navigate the internet.

Another crucial role our Digital Navigators fill is to help educate the community about free and low-cost broadband access, such as the Affordable Connectivity Program (more on this below.) They are also working to develop a robust platform of classes and educational programming to offer through partner organizations in order to ensure we are reaching more diverse populations; currently we have three curricula on offer, two which cover basic foundational digital skills, and one that teaches Google Suite in order to improve employment opportunities.

Looking Forward, How Will You Measure These Goals?

Our recent grant from the City of Portland will help us fund research and focus groups in order to help us better assess the true needs of this community, what programs and offerings are most beneficial, and what measurable outcomes will prove most effective in evaluating whether these programs are successful and how they could be strengthened in the future. These are relatively new positions, and we do not have a full year’s worth of information yet on the impacts or populations served by this program. We have recently developed a process for gathering demographic information from Community Center visitors and others for whom we provide navigational services (currently we do not track this data).

We have created a Digital Navigator Call Log (to track information from community members who are served over the phone, such as preferred language, what devices they own, how many children live in their home, what help they need and/or which programs they are interested in, etc.) and a Digital Skills Assessment, which uses screencaps of web and email programs to test basic skills such as “which of these programs is a web browser?”, “does this email look safe?”, “which button would you use to attach a file to this email?”, etc. Administering this assessment at both the beginning and the end of every in-person session will allow us to gauge whether scores have improved.

Metrics we are already tracking, and will continue to track, include:
–number of in-person clients
–number of remote clients
–number of total engagements (in-person/phone/email)
–number of referrals
–Spanish-speaking clients
–hours of appointments/time spent with clients

Overall, our goal is to create more spaces where seniors, adults and kids are able to learn and create a sense of belonging. As we survey the people we serve, we want to ask questions that assess whether receiving a device along with the education necessary to use it has helped increase their digital resilience - confidence in using technology, whether they feel more connected and less isolated, etc. By developing a tracking system which allows us to retain and share the stories we receive about the impacts of our work, we can reach out to participants to offer continuing education, update them on new classes, and track the progress of of their learning curve over time.

Implementation Plan

Start Date


End Date


Describe Most Significant Collaborations With Other Organizations And Efforts.

We recently received an $87,500 grant from the City of Portland, through a fund specifically designed to support emerging Digital Navigator pilot programs, to expand our work over the coming year, reflecting the city’s understanding of this critical need in our community.

Over the course of this year we will partner with Hacienda CDC to offer our Google Suite curriculum in Spanish to their community members once per week (the class consists of three 2-hour sessions). Other partners who have expressed interest in this or other similarly customized curricula include Brown Hope/Solidarity Squad (formerly Black United Fund, one of our ongoing Gift a Geek Box partners), The Oregon Community Alliance of Tenants, Open Signal, and Cairo Portland, an organization which provides resources and advocacy for African immigrants who were introduced to our work via our partners at Multnomah County Library. New Avenues For Youth has also offered to make their space available for Digital Navigator appointments, Affordable Connectivity Program events, classes, etc. for their service population of ages 15-25.

We are partnering with IRCO, SW Works and Job Corps to onboard paid interns more and more at Free Geek, focusing on career and workforce development as well as basic training in various departments. The Digital Navigation team plans to hire an intern who can be paid through this partnership and then hired officially as additional staff later in the year if funds are available.

We are working on developing partnerships to help us serve seniors more effectively; for example, our recent partnership with the City of Fairview, who have purchased machines through our Community Center for people without access to technology, has primarily served this population. Digital Navigator Ashley Martinez will be teaching our Google Suite class to their community members.

While Free Geek has multiple programs in place designed to put free technology into the hands of low-income and marginalized communities, access to free or low-cost broadband remains a prohibitive barrier to full digital equity for many of the people we serve. Though we are unable to directly meet this need ourselves, we partner with organizations who serve marginalized communities in order to share information and educate constituents about programs such as the Affordable Connectivity Program (formerly known as the Emergency Broadband Benefit). We recently collaborated with our partners at Project LEDO (a nonprofit which provides STEM learning opportunities for BIPOC youth), Louisa Flowers (a low-income housing community we serve through Gift a Geek Box) and Hacienda CDC to offer a series of bilingual events educating families about this program and their options for affordable internet. Overall, we offered eight of these events, serving 34 Spanish-speaking households, 25 English-speaking households, 11 Somali, 1 Maya, and 1 Omoro. We are still working on new options to educate our community members on this program and help overcome these barriers to ensure that we are helping make affordable internet accessible for all.

What Is The Projected Timeline For The Proposed Activities?

These programs are offered year-round.

We have recently completed our new data collection and ticket tracking system. This will aid the Digital Navigators in taking notes on curriculum, topics completed, and future potential topics of interest for community members so we can track their progress over time and better tailor the experience to their needs and interests.

Research and focus groups will be ongoing over the course of the year to allow us to refine programming and gather data about community need.

Over the winter we will provide remote DN support services in both English and Spanish. In-person events, Community Center appointments, and classes developed through partnerships will be offered year-round. We anticipate a significant increase in services by summer 2023, when we will have all our tools in place, all staff hired and trained, and reduced risk of new COVID variants.

Supplemental Information

Current Year Organizational Budget


Program Budget For Proposed Funding Period


Audited Financials (if applicable)


Other Entries
Approval Status