Byte Back is Brookland’s local non-profit that addresses the growing digital divide between low-income, disadvantaged people and those with the benefit of higher education. In August 2015 Elizabeth Lindsey took over the Executive Director position at the organization, and now that she is settled in, we thought we would catch up with her and ask some questions.
Tell our readers a little bit about yourself. What is your professional background?
I’ve always wanted to be involved with organizations and programs that help low-income families thrive and become financially self-sustaining. Before Byte Back, I worked at
Groundswell, an environmental organization in DC. I focused on building the organization from a start-up to an established, well-run organization. I’m passionate about making nonprofits work better to enhance the potential impact.
I also worked in state and local government, including the DC Department of Employment Services. It helped me understand the complexities of the workforce development system, learning about what worked and what didn’t in terms of moving people towards living-wage jobs. I received my Master’s in Public Affairs and Urban Planning from Princeton and I apply it every day, looking at issues through economic, microeconomic, and policy lenses.
How have you liked working in Brookland so far?
I really like it. I live in SE Capitol Hill so this is a different community. I go out to the local businesses a lot. I had lunch at Brookland Pint today. Brookland’s a great location with a diverse group of people living and working here, including the people who come to Byte Back. We have students who come from Ward Five as well as other parts of the District. I love that Brookland is accessible via public transportation. I’m really enjoying being here.
The last time we did a story on Byte Back was 2013. What has changed since then?
A lot has changed for Byte Back since 2013. Byte Back was founded in 1997 to move people into careers in technology before people were even talking about the digital divide. We spent most of our time as a small, neighborhood organization. Six or seven years ago we began to grow in scale and we’ve continued to grow since 2013. We offer classes not only in Brookland, but across the District. This trimester we’re offering classes in five DC Public Library sites, at Skyland Workforce Development Center, and in Spanish at several community organizations. We try to reach all of DC.
I’ve been at Byte Back for seven months. I’m focused on continuing to make Byte Back a well-functioning organization. We’ve overhauled our data collection systems, completely changed and updated our website and logo, and are becoming more sophisticated with our operations.
What are your plans for Byte Back going forward?
Going forward we’ll continue to focus on moving our students along our career pathway from beginning, digital literacy classes into advanced, certification classes and into living-wage jobs. In the past, people saw Byte Back as a place to go and learn how to use a computer. We are that, but we’re also much more than that. We offer an opportunity for people to come in at any level and work through our classes and get employment that actually changes their lives. These positions will help them support their families, pay their bills, and have a career, not just a job. We’ve renewed our focus on that and we’ll continue to do so.
How can the Brookland community get involved to further your mission?
Great question! We have a lot of volunteer opportunities. All of our beginner and intermediate level classes are taught by volunteers. We can’t afford to teach over 900 students a year without volunteers. Members of the Brookland community can volunteer to teach or serve as mentors for our students. We’re also looking for organizations that will hire Byte Back students as full-time employees or interns. Our students receive support and rigorous training on how to succeed in a career. I think a lot of organizations could really benefit from hiring a Byte Back student.
And, of course, we’re a non-profit. We don’t make money and are dependent on foundation and individual supporters and government contracts. If any Brookland residents are looking for an organization to support financially we are always appreciative. Financial support is extremely helpful in enabling us to make an impact. You can also check out Byte Back through an upcoming Digital Access Tour.
Anything else you would like our readers to know?
We have an annual Community Computer Day which we’d love for the Brookland community to attend. We haven’t chosen a date yet, but we’ll let Brookland Bridge know when we do. It’s a fun event with workshops where people can come and learn about subjects like how to use social media or LinkedIn. There is food and there are games for the kids. It’s a really nice way that we are looking forward to giving back to the Brookland community.
Thanks to Ms. Lindsey for answering our questions. For those interested, the next Digital Access Tour will be on Wednesday April 13th from 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm. Byte Back is located at 815 Monroe Street NE.