“Go for it! Stop at nothing, don’t take no for an answer and believe in your vision.” – Becky Morrison
When we think of helping others, we are conditioned to consider basic needs. Things like shelter, food, clothing and healthcare. Which are all important. But there are other things we take for granted that, when shared with others, can be a turning point. Not only in their lives, but in the community around them.
What began as a social experiment for Becky Morrison, quickly became a passion project that is creating opportunities for people working to better their communities. As this week’s #WCW Spotlight feature, the Globetops founder shares how a simple request has grown into something bigger than she imagined.
Me: How did Globetops come into existence? Was this a dream you’ve always had? Or one of those situations where you saw a need and knew you were the right person to fulfill this need?
Becky: It was definitely not a dream I’ve always had. It came to be when I had a friend in Guinea ask me to bring him a laptop the next time I returned. I thought that was a really bold request, to ask me for a laptop, because they’re so expensive, and I was shocked and outraged when he asked me! A year later, when I was getting ready to go back to Guinea, I thought, let me just post something on Facebook and see if anyone has an old laptop I can give to my friend. So I posted on Facebook, “Does anyone have a laptop I can give to my friend in Africa?” And within 2 hours I had 10 responses. People were like “I do! I have two!” and “I have a laptop, can you come get it right now?” And I thought, wow, there is something here! There are clearly people who have laptops they’re not using anymore and, from my travels, I know that there are people around the world who could really benefit from having a laptop. I thought, these people just need to be connected.
Me: Where did the name, Globetops, come from? Is there any kind of special significance?
Becky: It comes from a fusion of global and laptop. There’s not a particular significance other than I like playing with words and that one came to me.
Me: You are based in New York and have a great network of volunteer supporters who pick up laptops and deliver them to you tech partners, Best Buy and Tekserve, who generously refurbish and wipe the hard drives of the donated computers. How do people who are not fortunate enough to live in New York get their used computers to you?
Becky: If a donor lives outside of New York, they can send us their laptops in the mail. They need to cover the cost of shipping currently, but I’m working on getting a shipping partner so they won’t have to.
Me: You’ve been able to put together some amazing partnerships in just two short years. Why do you think these organizations have been so excited to help get laptops in the hands of people who need them?
Becky: I feel like people in general are very aware of the amount of waste that we produce, particularly electronic waste. 20-50 million tons of e-waste are disposed of every year, and only 12% is recycled. 88% of that e-waste ends up in landfills, and roughly 50% of that e-waste still works. That’s crazy! People are disposing of their electronics because they want the next best thing, but there’s still life in the one that they’re getting rid of. I think when it comes to our tech partners, they’re aware that that’s happening and Globetops provides them with an opportunity to do something about it.
Me: Once the laptops have been refurbished and wiped, how do you get them to all the various communities you support?
Becky: We are tapped into a network of people who are traveling over to those countries. We send them the laptops and they carry them over to the recipients. We don’t have Globetops people flying around the world that I’m paying to fly around the world. It’s people that are already traveling there that I hook up with to bring them over.
Me: How do you go about selecting the communities you support? Is there a process you have in place when it comes to selecting the people eligible to receive a laptop?
Becky: No, we don’t have a process. We look for people who have big ideas and who are doing things to serve their community, but who simply don’t have the resources that they need to fulfill their vision. We find those people in a myriad of ways. Oftentimes they find us, and sometimes people who are living and working in those communities will get in touch with us on behalf of a specific project or recipient. Once we’ve made contact with them, there is a questionnaire they need to fill out, and then we really consider whether it’s a project that matches Glopetops’ vision. If it is, oftentimes we need to work with them to get their profile in shape and then we post it up on the site. Our wonderful Recipient Coordinator Sukriti Yadava does that.
Me: Once someone has received a laptop, is there a program in place that trains them how to use and care for it?
Becky: As a matter of fact, there is! We have Globetops Hubs. We partner with an already existing computer center in the place where the laptops are going. The hubs offer 3 things: education, repair and recycling. Our recipients receive a golden ticket that entitles them to a free training course in how to use the laptop. If they have issues with the laptop, we offer a 30-day warranty. Beyond that if they need repair they can bring it to the hubs themselves. When the computer no longer works, they can bring it to the hub so we can ensure it is recycled responsibly instead of just being thrown in a pile and burned. We have several hubs currently and our main focus in 2015 is to get hubs set up in all the cities where we are based.
Me: You currently provide laptops for people in Kenya, India, Haiti, Guinea, Nepal, Uganda and also within the USA. What country/ countries do you hope to add to your quickly growing list?
Becky: We’re really looking to focus on the countries that we’re already in, in order to create the biggest impact. The goal is to eventually distribute laptops in all countries all over the world, but strategically looking at what will have the biggest impact, focusing on a smaller number of countries in a more focused way is going to create better results. Although, I did have a conference call with someone in Zanzibar, in Tanzania, so it looks like we are going to do something there!
Me: Obviously, supplying laptops is an important first step in your mission. What is the next step you envision for Globetops?
Becky: I really see Globetops as the infrastructure to redistribute unused goods around the world. So currently our focus is laptops, but in the future that could extend to cell phones and tablets, and even beyond electronics. We live in a world where there is simply an excess of resources in some places and a scarcity of resources in other places. And by moving some from point A to point B we can start to even out the playing field. And that’s what Globetops is about.
Me: In addition to all the round-the-clock work you do for Globetops, you also have a full time job in television production. How do you fit it all in while also keeping yourself motivated?
Becky: Passion gives us energy. And I’m passionate about Globetops and I’m passionate about film production! So while I definitely spend a lot of hours working, they are hours spent nourishing my soul because I am doing things I care about. So that’s what keeps me going at 3 am and I’m still on my computer sending emails.
Me: What has been the most inspiring part of your journey? The most surprising?
Becky: The most inspiring part of my journey is seeing the recipients’ reactions when they receive a laptop. There is nothing better than that. There is something that they wanted to do, something that they were passionate about but that they could not do. They were blocked, simply because they didn’t have the resources. And by giving them a laptop, that unlocks their potential. They’re so filled with gratitude and excitement for what lies ahead. Their joy is contagious!
The most surprising thing for me is how many people have laptops that they aren’t using anymore. Every time I tell someone about Globetops they say, ‘Hey I have a laptop in my apartment that i’m not using anymore.’ I didn’t expect that. Now the work is just getting those laptops into the hands of people who could use them.
Me: What is the one piece of advice you would want to share with someone who wants to follow in your footsteps of using their own unique voice to give back?
Becky: Go for it! Stop at nothing, don’t take no for an answer and believe in your vision.