Brand Development Marketing Marketing Communications Not-For-Profit PR & Corporate Communication

I’m looking for brainpower

A call for help from the corporate world for a Corporate Social Responsibility project.

I’m taking a break from writing about retail marketing this week and instead I’m going to focus on a charity project. Please don’t stop reading just yet; I’m not planning to ask for donations or for anyone to sponsor my first marathon run. All I need is some smart ideas.


Let me quickly start by giving you the background so this posting makes sense. A few months ago, we decided that we should get rid of all the old PC’s that were starting to build up in the office. Without looking too hard, we found six or seven that weren’t needed. Rather than sending them away to be recycled, I knew of a charity that supported school children in Sri Lanka, helping them to graduate and providing extra tuition where they needed it. ‘Fine’ said the charity and gave us contact details for a courier who agreed to ship the PC’s to Sri Lanka at practically no cost

Enter Microsoft.

After a chance meeting with someone from Corporate Social Responsibility at BlackBerry, I was introduced to a team within Microsoft who agreed to provide us with free copies of Microsoft Office and MS Windows to load onto our donated machines. Only thing is; they gave us 1000 copies, so the project suddenly multiplied in size and ambition. With access to so much quality software, the Strand team thought it would be crazy to stop where we did. So Project Colombo (or PC – gedit?) was born and we put together a poster to promote it.

Enter our buddies.

Project Colombo

Apr 2011-
Ping Pong offered to send us their old computers.
The Supper Club agreed to mention us to the members of their entrepreneurial network.

Dee at Telltale Travel offered to mention us in her newsletter.
We received the first call from a Supper Club member who wanted to send us some of his old PC’s.

So this is where you come in.

How do we make this project more successful? If you have old PC’s (or Macs) that you don’t need, please send them our way and we’ll load them with new software and despatch them to schools in Sri Lanka.  If you’re based near London and have more than a couple to spare, we might be able to arrange collection.

However, you might be able to have an impact in other ways. If you have any great ideas to grow this project, please share them by commenting on this post, so it can inspire others to do the same. Anything would be appreciated- publicity, introductions, tweets, really anything that could help this grow. There’s an idea or an introduction out there somewhere to give us the boost we are looking for.

We’ve shipped the first six PC’s and would love to increase that number significantly.

Thanks, so far, to:

  • The Rahula Trust– the charity behind the project
  • Microsoft Authorised Refurbishers Programme 
  • Junk Junk – for organising collection in some areas
  • For publicity: Tell Tale Travel, The Supper Club

I’ll update this list with any further contributions of expertise or equipment we receive.

21st April 2011: We’ve just sent our first shipment of PC’s to Sri Lanka:

First batch of PC's sent to Rahula

27th May 2011: The Project Colombo page goes live on Facebook.

17th August 2011: We’ve just received a delivery of over 130 PCs from Touchdown Holidays and Mitsubishi!

27th August 2011: We received some photos from the school selected for our first shipment.

If you have any PC’s to donate, please let us know.

Project Colombo first delivery 6
Project Colombo first delivery 4
Project Colombo first delivery 1
Project colombo first delivery 2
Project Colombo first delivery 3

(Featured Photo by Lorenzo Herrera on Unsplash)


  1. Hi Johnny… sounds great !!

    Can you set up a FB page so we can ‘like’ that way, and also a twitter page so again this can be sent word of mouth by RT to spread the word. Can the poster be hosted somewhere as a url to link to to help spread the word ?

    Also, while thinking, it’s all very well to ask for PC’s to be sent, but do you have any helpful hints for people on how to get the PC’s to you ? Not every company has carrier contracts and to be honest they wont be cheap to send pc’s and may damage easily when not packed in the original pc-polystyrene-packed-box ?! I’m thinking my old pc’s might be the size of a pallet each !!! Do you have any super-cheap-charity-UK contracts that will collect or send within the UK ?

    Any thoughts on what to do about data security – eg would be great if when you re-load the software you can securely make sure that any data on the pcs will be securely wiped ?!

    Lastly I promise, do you want the HUGE old screens that come with some of the older pc’s ?!!

    Oh the questions, the questions !lol

    1. Hi Mike,
      Thanks for the feedback. I’ll provide answers where I can:
      – All data is cleared when we load a new operating system. Remember your PC’s will be in schools in Sri Lanka so unlikely to be a risk to your data security…
      – We don’t want the traditional VDU’s (monitors) as you’re right- they would be too costly to send. Flat screens only please.
      – Great idea re couriers and packaging. We’ll ask ours and see where we get to.
      – Watch this space for the Facebook page and Twitter…

  2. Johnny,

    Great to see this moving forward, well done. To make more impact some pictures of the school children and ideally a short video of what impact the extra pcs are having.

    Good luck, should be able to help with 1 or 2 pcs


  3. Hi Johnny
    Great initiative and one that we’d love to help with – Would it be possible to have a newsletter format post that we can distribute by e-mail please?

  4. We’ve been looking into postage and courier prices. Parcel2Go is the cheapest we’ve found and they’ll pick up.

    Seems it is only £4 + VAT for up to 15kg (so impressed with that, we’re covering it for our customers/people on our newsletter database), £6 + VAT for up to 25kg or £9 + VAT for up to 50kg. If you have a lot of machines, you may have to check restrictions on package sizes, but definitely fine for that lone or handful of laptops!

    However, if you have a lot and you’re not far from central London/Johnny’s new office, to save trouble of packing, you could just put them in a back of a minicab?

  5. Hi Johnny,
    This sounds great. I’d echo David’s comment about impact, but add to it by suggesting that you gather case studies to bring it to life. Can you add another dimension to the project and monitor the impact for an anniversary campaign ‘Project Columbo: one year on’?

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