Case Studies
4 min read

Digital donations: How a volunteer supplied schools with laptops

What’s the best way to recycle a laptop?  

E-waste collections, selling on TradeMe, gifting to a friend – there are many opportunities for passing on your tech when you upgrade to something new.  

But for Whangarei-based Fonterra Area Manager Neil Crowson, the option was something a little different – donating laptops to schools in need.  

Relationships and resources 

In 2019, Neil was a Capacity Partner in Springboard Trust’s Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme (SLPP). Working with Okaihau Primary’s principal Tim Couling, they spent 10 months of the year working together to build Tim’s strategic leadership in a schooling context.  

As the programme went on, conversations turned to issues specific to those rural and remote Northland schools. Issues like funding access, families’ digital resources, and improving the tech literacy of students in the regions.  

“The tech space can be a big challenge, as Northland isn’t as well-resourced a region as some other parts of the country,” Neil notes.

“It meant that when the laptop situation arose, working with these schools was the organic and clear thing to do.” 

It feels great to be Santa Claus

A timely donation delivery

Towards the end of 2019, a refresh of Fonterra’s hardware presented Neil with a fantastic opportunity.  

“We had 40 laptops that we wanted to recycle, and we suggested getting them out into schools instead.”  

“During the last workshop and celebration with the SLPP group, I put it to the cohort – and it went down really well.”  

From there, it was a simple case of logistics. Neil asked the principals to give him some direction on how to split the laptops, and together they decided to share the devices evenly between each school in the cohort.  

Carol Ashton (one of Springboard’s Programme Managers in Northland) and Neil then delivered the laptops to the schools, and work was done – as simple as that!  

“It was a pretty good feeling,” Neil adds, “especially at the end of the year – it feels great to be Santa Claus.”

“And on a professional level, it’s also nice to identify an opportunity and get those devices out. It’s having an impact in schools and communities who need it, without costing anyone anything.”  

The laptops were clearly welcomed at Okaihau Primary School!

How the laptops impacted Northland schools

Schools often operate on very fine margins – and while the gift of laptops may have been low effort and cost, Neil found the impact it has on the ground is profound.  

“The comments from principals were that this will have a big impact, particularly for struggling families who don’t have access to or the means to buy these laptops. Kids had been sharing laptops, and with roll increases that scarcity would only grow worse.”  

“It really filled the gap for low decile schools that needed more resources.” 

Additionally, the laptop gifting has led to more projects outside the realm of the principals’ and Capacity Partners’ interactions during SLPP.  

“I had conversations with some principals who suggested assigning the laptops to senior students at their school. From there, they could partner with people from Fonterra – bring that Springboard Trust framework into the school and foster some great coaching sessions.” 

While those conversations to set up the programme are ongoing, it is a testament to the power of connection that programmes like SLPP can develop.  

“You have a 10-month programme with these principals, but the benefits are far longer-lasting.”  

With six schools equipped with refurbished and recycled laptops and more work in the pipeline, Neil is thrilled with the way things have turned out – and what he’s learned in return.  

“When you work as a Capacity Partner, there’s an impression that you’re teaching the principal – but it’s a two-way street.” 

“I took a lot of learning out of my experience, things outside my industry that taught me new theories and ways of working. It’s a great thing to be a part of, and I can’t wait to come back for my third year!”  

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