Free Geek Toronto (FGT) originated in 2009 with the vision to make our city a place where e-waste is disposed of responsibly, safely and ethically, and where everyone has access to computers and the Internet.
FGT is a United Way supported not-for-profit, social enterprise dedicated to making computer technology accessible to all while reducing the environmental impact of electronic waste. This is done through two streams:
FGT accepts donations of electronic waste, rebuilds and repairs and subsequently re-sells computers, monitors and other equipment at a very low cost.
Free Geek Toronto also offers computer and Internet training for beginners and intermediate users at reasonable rates.
1. Community Background
Free Geek Toronto is located at 180 Sudbury Street, at the ground floor of an apartment building run by St. Clare’s Multifaith Housing, an organization that develops affordable housing where homeless and low income people can live. FGT is near Queen and Dufferin, just down the street from the Gladstone hotel and is excited to attract volunteers and trainees from the nearby Parkdale and the Liberty Village areas of Toronto as well as anyone else eager and interested.
2. Development History
Free Geek Toronto was first developed in the Junction and recently moved to our new location. The Free Geek movement started in Portland and has been successful in other cities such as Vancouver, Seattle and Chicago. We are currently part of the United Way’s Toronto Enterprise Fund program which supports the development and sustainability of social enterprises that result in improved community involvement, economic participation, and quality of life for people who are socially marginalized.
3. Organization Structure
Free Geek Toronto is incorporated as a not-for-profit organization under the name CyberEquality Inc. We have a Board of 7 directors and our Executive Director is Brian Sharwood.
- Free Geek Toronto’s partner organizations include the following:
- Trustee: CARC
- Funders (past and present): United Way, CIRA, Trillium and Alterna
- Housing: St. Clare’s Multifaith Housing
Free Geek Toronto makes between $50k and $100k from computer sales, recycling income, training and funding and hopes to pass the $100k mark going forward as we build at our new location.
6. Impacts & Outcomes Objectives
Free Geek looks re-build computers for people who need them in the community, offer training on how to use them, while taking in as much electronic waste as we can from the community to ensure they they get re-used or ethically recycled.
As a volunteer-run organization, getting experienced volunteers with a lot of available time has been challenging. We have built up a solid core group of committed volunteers and will continue to build up our talent.
8. Lessons Learned
Our biggest lesson learned has been that responsibilities for each volunteer need to be clear and deliverables need to be tracked in order to ensure a constant motion forward. Even though they are unpaid, volunteers need to meet defined expectations in order for them to be a real help to an organization.
9. Vision for the Future
Free Geek Toronto sees a lot of exciting opportunities to grow our training and our recycling operations.