Hi Sylvie,
We are also in a situation where there is a local giveaway that we are frequently confused with. They have been around for about 10 years and we have been operating for 5. They have a bigger marketing budget and use it to promote their 1-day, 1,000-bike hand out. We operate year round and spend as much time as needed to help people get bikes. That means we redistribute fewer bikes but we feel we deliver a better service.

Although it's a tired cliche (which I acknowledge in conversation) people who ask "do you give away bikes?" always understand when I say that we follow more or less a "teach a person to fish" approach. They also understand when I explain why we sell bikes in addition to offering earn-a-bike. I tell them that we believe everyone should have some skin in the game and therefore it would be incongruous to our mission if we asked for handouts form organizations. We do enjoy and appreciate the financial support we've received on a few occasions from grantmaking organizations but we rely on revenue that we generate through hardwork, just like we ask our customers to do. 

I've had this conversation enough times now that I have it polished pretty well. I can't recall a single instance where someone has left the conversation feeling as if we're doing it wrong, in fact it's usually an eye-opening experience for them. My theory on why this is the case is because I think many people out there are still unfamiliar with the social enterprise concept and seem to still think that non-profit means "no money". 

I applaud the passion and caring of the many bike giveaway programs out there. I know several of them that do excellent refurbishing and provide free bikes to people who truly need and appreciate them. My experience locally has been different and that's why we stick to our guns.

I hope this helps. I'm willing to chat more on the phone if you'd like. Feel free to call me if you want.


Matt VanSlyke
Executive Director

On Mon, Jul 2, 2018 at 2:04 PM, Paul Fitzgerald <paul@workingbikes.org> wrote:
Sylvie and all,

I don't believe I understand the nature of your meeting. Are you attempting to steer the "Second Change" mission or figuring out some type of strategic partnership with a different org? 

I would like to solicit more opinions or discussion on the 'earn-a-bike' model, though. I've worked for and with organizations which heavily used it, particularly in working with young people. I've been at Working Bikes for about 8 years now, and while we invite all community members to volunteer and earn timeshare 'credits' towards parts for their bike, we also give away more than 1,000 bikes a year locally through our Cycle of Power and Cycle of Peace programs. We've used these donations to make powerful partnerships with many different types of organizations, many of which do not use bicycles as a primary focus of their mission. Adult recipients are invited to volunteer or pay a 'co-pay' or $20 towards the bike, helmet and lock we provide, but most decline. 

At a certain point, it may be a question of volume, it feels paternalistic to me to tell someone they have to "earn" a resource an organization has the ability to redistribute. I take the question of service vs. charity seriously, but I also believe in the radical redistribution of resources. I don't think it is sustainable for everyone who would benefit from a service to have to learn how that service operates to receive it. There definitely are strong arguments for earn-a-bike, as well as super "CHARITY" bike orgs starting up.

I've been pondering this discussion as a possible B!B! workshop or roundtable of sorts. I hope you don't feel I've hijacked your thread with hypotheticals, Sylvie, and wish you luck with your meeting. 

peace n bike grease,

On Mon, Jul 2, 2018 at 11:58 AM, Therese Kilpatrick <therese@projectbiketech.org> wrote:
Hi Sylvie,
I don't know your specific circumstances but perhaps your group can coexist with this gentleman's targeting different recipients. If the earn-a-bike model is what you want to invest in with your time and resources and someone else is "giving away" bikes - how do they pay for the parts/consumables necessary to restore bikes? Are they also working in a non-profit or are they paying for everything themselves? Could they be brought into your model if it were explained how there is more than a bike that is being "given". I hope that he will be able to listen to why the earn-a-bike model has much more social impact through teaching and the recipients "owning" the bike through work and how it is a shared experience. There is also the parable of giving fish versus teaching someone how to fish...
Good luck and let me know how it went,
Therese Kilpatrick
Project Bike Tech Teacher - Aptos High School

On Mon, Jul 2, 2018 at 8:13 AM, Sylvie Baele <sylvgrb@gmail.com> wrote:
Alright friends, I am reaching out for some resources.. I have a meeting soon with a guy who has an organization which gives away bikes. "Second Chance Bikes"

Now, I don't disagree with giving people bikes... but I think the bike collective model (like earn-a-bike) is more empowering and sustainable long-term. And of course encourages safer riding, all while building community... 

Got any resources  (or data) that can help support my/our position? I am a bit nervous as my meeting is with an older white male and I'm a younger female. He's already mansplained me once before.


Sylvie Baele

"I am more and more convinced that our happiness or unhappiness depends more on the way we meet the events of life than on the nature of those events themselves." - Alexander von Humbolt


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Paul Fitzgerald
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