How selling old hardware became #hardwareforgood

Thursday, 8 October 2015

As Friday for Good approaches on Oct. 16, we’re reminded of how special the last one (in April) was for those of us on the Hardware Engineering team. At that time we discovered how far extra inventory and a willingness to put it to good use could go to support students’ access to technology.

When our team accumulated a large number of SSD (solid state drives), HHD (hybrid hard drives), and proto-server systems — none of which had much resale value — we thought getting them into the hands of coworkers who loved to tinker was worth exploring. And we thought these tinkerers might like to give to a larger cause when they bought used gear. So we decided to auction it off, with the proceeds going to a worthy community organization that would benefit from the proceeds. Joining forces with our Twitter for Good team, we set out to identify such a community partner. In addition, we got a crash course in creating an auction, organizing inventory, and managing the whole process so that employees got a shot at getting hardware they wanted. We called the campaign #hardwareforgood.

We had no idea on what to expect, and the results were both surprising and impressive. We would have been happy with raising $5,000 or even $500 — but we were absolutely floored when over a week’s time we ended up raising $23,000.

As an added bonus, in the process we made new friends with colleagues we hadn’t met, and learned about various initiatives Twitter is supporting in the Tenderloin and mid-Market neighborhoods, including the Tenderloin Community School’s (TCS) Technology Program. Naturally, our team gravitated towards what we’re passionate about: getting technology in the hands of eager-to-learn students. So, we elected to support the school’s purchase of additional iPads.

And now, the best part of #hardwareforgood is knowing that the iPads are already in the hands of students. We learned from Midge Wilson, the Executive Director of Bay Area Women’s and Children’s Center (which founded TCS), that a large percentage of TCS students are English-language learners who are behind in reading levels. The technology support TCS received with this purchase will help these students reach their reading potential and prepare them for the standardized tests next spring. Since many of these students have limited access to computers, our team is humbled to have been able to make a difference for them — and it’s a good reminder about what we’re fortunate to have ourselves.

Based on what we learned this year, the Hardware Engineering team is looking forward to making the #hardwareforgood auction an annual event. And we’re all excited to get out and work in the community at next week’s Friday for Good event too.