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There are very few charities I've come across that are as wide-ranging in their tech-for-good work as our French TechSoup Global partner, Ateliers du Bocage (ADB). It of course provides TechSoup product donations to French nonprofits.
But it's also among the top five mobile phone and computer refurbishers in France. And it is a significant supplier of IT equipment to the poorest countries on earth. Here is ADB's story.
Created in 1992, Ateliers du Bocage (the name roughly translates to forest workshop) was founded as a project of the Emmaus Social Movement, a postwar European humanitarian movement organized to nonviolently defend and support the most destitute members of society.
ADB is located in Le Pin, a rural village in central France in the Poitou-Charentes region. In alignment with the organization's Emmaus Social Movement roots, ADB started as and remains a major employer of chronically unemployed and disabled people.
ADB works in and around what the Europeans call the "Circular Economy." This is an emerging economic paradigm that promotes systems that help eradicate waste not just from manufacturing processes, but also throughout the life cycle of products and their components.
A recent World Economic Forum report estimates that shifting to this model could add more than $1 trillion every year to the global economy by 2025 and create 100,000 new jobs within the next five years.
ADB's work is in three main areas:
At a local level, ADB operates a workshop to manufacture and recycle wooden pallets, maintain parks and greenways, and collect packaging for recycling.
ADB supplies French charities with low-cost refurbished hardware and software product donations through its TechSoup Solidatech Program.
ADB also collects and sorts office waste, including ink cartridges and PCs, as well as mobile phones for recycling or reuse in its thrift stores. It reclaims IT components like capacitors, batteries, lamps, and so on.
The organization collects office waste discards nationally. Its mobile phone collection boxes are featured in the stores of the major French telecom companies.
ADB's Clic Vert Program fosters digital inclusion in French West Africa while contributing to a responsible end-of-life of computers and mobile phones.
Another very TechSoup-like thing that ADB does is to work with the three largest French telecom companies: Orange, SFR, and Bouygues Telecom. ADB is the charitable partner for these companies' mobile phone refurbishment efforts.
ADB's project with Orange France, for instance, includes a national collection program. ADB now collects approximately 180,000 mobile phones per year. The newer ones are refurbished by ADB and sold on the used cellphone market.
The proceeds of the mobile phone refurbishing and resale program are used to finance ADB's Clic Vert Program and its work to introduce electronics refurbishment and e-waste collection in West Africa.
Clic Vert is a significant international environmental and ICT for development project that is not well known outside of France and Africa. In partnership with Orange France and Emmaus International, Clic Vert has developed electronics recycling and refurbishment workshops in Burkina Faso, Benin, Ivory Coast, Niger, and Madagascar to organize the collection and recycling of used mobile phones.
Clic Vert collects defective phones, and dismantles broken ones. Sorted material is sent to recycling centers, while environmentally dangerous components which cannot be recycled locally are sent back to Europe for appropriate handling. To date, the project has collected and recycled over half a million phones.
The project is a great example of the social enterprise part of the circular economy.
In addition to the TechSoup Solidatech product donation program, which supplies donated software and hardware to French NGOs, ADB has a hotline, monthly newsletters, workshops, trainings, and web seminars on nonprofit technology to help charities optimally use their donations.
The term Solidatech, by the way, symbolizes solidarity through technology.
ADB also coordinates multi-stakeholder "Tech for Good" initiatives, including:
ADB has been a TechSoup Global partner for many years and has distributed tens of thousands of donated software packages to more than 10,000 French NGOs.
To quote Nesrine Dani, who runs the TechSoup Solidatech project, "Employment, environment and digital inclusion define our DNA"
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.
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