Across North America, passionate people help out at their community Free Geek organization to refurbish discarded computers and make them useful tools again for people who need them. In the process, people build community, gain skills, and help the planet.
We are a technology reuse social enterprise. We provide low-cost computers, offer green solutions to unwanted and end-of-life technology, and work with partners to increase digital inclusion in our city.
Our vision is a city with options for access to technology that reflect people’s ability to pay, a collective commitment to digital inclusion, and the planet’s well-being.
Free Geek Toronto (CyberEquality Inc.) launched as a grassroots organization in 2009 out of the Junction neighbourhood in Toronto. In 2011, working in collaboration with the original Free Geek in Portland, we began running our own independent organization in Toronto under the Free Geek banner.
In 2014, we moved our shop to the heart of West Queen West, where we continue to operate today.
Free Geek Toronto is a not-for-profit organization incorporated under the federal NFP Act.
What We Do
Free Geek Toronto is a technology reuse organization in the heart of the city focusing on promoting a circular economy, extending the life of products and reducing our reliance on virgin materials. We seek out unwanted electronics for reuse and refurbishment, selling them at accessible prices. Only items that cannot be reused or refurbished are ethically recycled.
Without our commitment to environmental change, we would not have products that help create social change. We take pride in being an employment social enterprise, serving as a model for the circular economy, and moving towards a zero-waste society.
In collaboration with our many partners, we build digital inclusion by providing skills-building and employment opportunities to community members facing barriers to participation. Free Geek Toronto provides community members, including staff and volunteers, with economic, social, and community networking opportunities related to digital inclusion in the following ways:
- Provide meaningful employment to individuals facing multiple barriers to employment.
- Provide participants with skills and knowledge in all aspects of operations, including sales, refurbishment, reuse, customer service, and recycling warehousing to increase opportunities with an emphasis on technology.
- Provide opportunities to engage with the community and help the environment through hands-on training in e-waste and IT management.
Engaging people from diverse backgrounds is key to our growth and sustainability. The more people involved in technology reuse, the stronger our future looks!
What is an Employment Social Enterprise?
Free Geek Toronto (FGT) is a hybrid-model employment social enterprise (ESE). We use our technology reuse operation as the foundation of a digital skills-building program through which we offer an environment for people to gain tech industry experience, emphasizing computer repair and refurbishment. We uniquely offer the benefits of both linking employment and parallel employment as part of our program. We train employees to use open-source software, which provides critical skills for participating in today’s digital world.
ESEs are active in virtually every industry, including recycling, retail, food services, and more – and serve a variety of people facing barriers to the labour market, including people with disabilities, people with criminal records, newcomers, and more. ESEs vary widely in size, from small ventures of under $10,000 to multi-million dollar undertakings; they operate both in urban centres and rural communities.
Making a Difference
Free Geek Toronto addresses the needs of people living in or at risk of poverty in two ways: by employing people at risk of poverty and making refurbished technology available to lower-income people.
Since 2016, we have supported over 35 program participants, most of whom have earned wages while training and learning in various aspects of Free Geek Toronto’s operations. We have paid out over $325,000 in that time period.
More broadly, access to technology, including internet-enabled technology, is crucial to participating in today’s digital world. COVID-19 has only accelerated this shift. Free Geek Toronto’s digital skill-building operations directly support the refurbishment of technology that is sold at a low cost to low-income people. Of the 558 computers we refurbished in 2019-2020, approximately 65% were sold at an affordable price (under $200) to low-income households, people on social assistance or living in subsidized housing, and as part of our Hardware Grant program.
Free Geek Toronto would like to thank the Toronto Enterprise Fund, now part of the United Way Greater Toronto’s Inclusive Employment program, for its ongoing support.
The Ontario Trillium Foundation supports Free Geek Toronto through its Resilient Communities Fund.