Contributors program

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Our Contributors Program

OLPC Volunteers manage the Contributors Program. Volunteer, Adam Holt directs the CP with the assistance of Nancie Severs and others. We continue to collect XO laptops, repair, refurbish and redistribute them in small quantities to projects with a good likelihood of success. Donate your unused XOs here: Usually, 5 XO-1s are the maximum number that will be awarded per project. In unusual cases, up to 10 may be available. These working XO-1's laptops are free to approved projects but the recipient must pay the shipping costs. We ship only within the USA.

The mission of the Contributors Program is to cultivate grassroots efforts and mentoring enhancing the XO Laptop as an exceptional learning platform through engineering, environmental and education Projects—that open new opportunities to children the world over. Everyone is encouraged to contribute: students, technologists, educators, social workers, environmentalists, research scientists and doctors—all the way to NGO's, companies, churches and governments. Like a Science Fair, great ideas can come from anyone, limited only by your imagination.

We encourage you to borrow free XO laptops if you or your group demonstrate committed volunteerism and ongoing support of our mission and principles.

Examples of good projects

Help our OLPC/Sugar community help others:

  • develop speech-to-text applications for deaf children
  • use the XO as a highly portable disaster response solution
  • use the XO as a low cost sensor to detect pathogens and contaminants in food, water and soil (I don't think it'll be possible, how to do it? -A.Indoria --Reply This could be achieved by using simple USB sensor. David Smith)
  • create an Internet-enabled, real-time citizen journalism tool used in the developing world to help earn a livelihood
  • improve, port, or develop math and science activities for students and teachers
  • start a laptop-lending library with in-person tech, educator and/or deployment experts like in Washington, DC

I.E. an incredible spectrum of ideas. In other words, the possibilities are limited only by Your Creativity!

See the evolving list of projects as inspiration for your creative ideas.

No idea is too small, or too big to make a difference: share your thoughts, apply to the Contributors Program, let's explore the options together, refine project details, and support efforts to change the world!

Drafting a stellar project proposal

OLPC's community approval process tries to ensure that every project has clear and achievable goals, complete with detailed plan of action, timelines, and deliverables so your project can get going as soon as possible. Approval of your project depends on the quality and completeness of your proposal and how it advances OLPC's mission and principles.

What does a stellar project proposal look like?

OLPC requires each project to complete a Project Proposal Form. Remember, the focus of this program is to fertilize and Give Back to our community. A compelling proposal should outline your project's full life-cycle, so peer reviewers understand its detailed potential & possibilities. Strongly Encouraged: novel and creative ideas that are fun, break the mold, demonstrate your talents and inspire others!

Example detail from stellar ongoing projects:

Submitting your project proposal, getting it approved & receiving XO Laptops

1. Copy the Project Proposal Form into an email, and complete all 8 fields--brevity is OK!

2. Include your project title, and all countries connected to your project, within the subject line of your email.

3. Email this project proposal to:

Projects undergo Community Review at an online meeting, which you are invited to attend. If approved by a Community Mentor (slight modifications may be requested of you!), then your XO Laptops will be shipped within a few weeks. If you plan to attend the meeting when your project is reviewed, click here for instructions for doing so.


Q: How many XO laptops should I apply for?

A: Usually, one or two XO-1 laptops for new projects. Five (5) XO-1s is usually the maximum number that will be awarded per project further along in their development. In unusual cases, up to 10 may be available. Remember that you MUST have a US shipping address, post summary details to, linking to your preliminary (if not yet mature, that's OK) live blog. We regret that we cannot consider other proposals.

Q: Are ARM-based XO-4 Touch prototypes available?

A: A very small number of XO-4 Touch prototypes are available directly from OLPC on loan, to serious developers helping us fine-tune. You should be subscribed to, and/or You must include [XO-4], your full name and country in your email's subject line -- then double-check your complete shipping address (this cannot be a PO Box) and PHONE NUMBER on this quick form. Mention your past/related work and hardware/low-level experience. Units come with mechanical rather than membrane keyboards typically. Responses to all 8-parts of the form are NOT required, but (short) responses are most welcome, helping others get to know you. OLPC welcomes broad community involvement, from strong and eager contributors worldwide, but must also sincerely apologize: not all requests can be fulfilled, or responded to.

Q: Why should I apply?

A: To move forward your personal goals and ideas by contributing alongside a community of XO users and contributors that is growing worldwide, making a difference in improving the lives of children everywhere. Need inspiration? Sugar Labs has some great ideas you might want to work on, as does Teaching Open Source, Google Summer of Code and our School Server page -- among many other ongoing projects.

Q: Are new XO-1.5 and XO-1.75 laptops available?

A: Production units are available in VERY limited quantities for software developers, QA testers and other dedicated volunteers.

Q: What software comes with the laptops?

A: Starting late 2013 / early 2014, Contributors Program laptops will ship with HaitiOS 0.6 which includes a richer set of Sugar Activities for quick/fun exploration, as compared to the stock OLPC Release 12.1.0 that it is based on.

Q: Which projects raise red flags, failing to Give Back?

A: People attempting "small/pilot deployments" or "demoing cool laptops in my area" will most likely be denied, unless they very strictly meet our criteria demonstrating valuable ongoing deliverables. Conversely, very strong proposals around (small deployments, outreach) will be assigned a Community Mentor connecting you with the best people doing similar work, enabling you to Publish not Perish :-)

Q: What sort of review process does my proposal undergo?

A: Community reviewers (that you could join as well, or feel free to nominate a thoughtful advocate for your project) try to meet to review current proposals and develop consensus on their relative strengths and weaknesses. We aim to find a Community Mentor who will volunteer to help the submitter of the proposal refine, reshape and discuss their project, to guide it towards acceptance. NOTE: strong proposals for older XO-1 hardware will often be approved on the spot by experienced community volunteers, without waiting for a meeting. LIKEWISE: newer hardware (eg. XO-1.75 / XO-4 etc) is generally limited in quantity; in these cases your request will undergo a case-by-case offline review by lead OLPC engineers.

Q: Who can help refine my proposal, and promote my work?

A: OLPC volunteers will work with you to mentor and provide an open-minded sounding board for your idea!

Q: Can I complete the Project Proposal Form in Spanish?

A: Si!

Q: What time frame is expected to receive hardware & all from OLPC?

A: This depends on the thoroughness of the proposal, and any further revisions or concerns arising during Community Review, in order to clarify goals and purposes of your project. Usually, upon approval, your hardware will ship out within about two weeks.

Q: How does the shipping work?

A: At the present time, a US shipping address is required. While the Contributors Program does not charge for the XOs awarded,the Requestor/Recipient must pay shipping costs. In most cases we ask for a pre-paid FedEx form.

Q: What is expected of me or my organization in giving back to the OLPC/Sugar community?

A: Try to contribute as much as possible in time and talents back to the community, on a quasimonthly basis:

Q: Can I do a project alone?

A: Yes, but XO collaboration can greatly enhance your work! Definitely apply for 2 XO Laptops if you can recruit a nearby ally to help incorporate mesh networking into your project.

Q: How many XO laptops may I apply for?

A: Usually, 5 XO-1s are the maximum number that will be awarded per project. In unusual cases, up to 10 may be available. These working XO-1's laptops are free to approved projects but the recipient must pay the shipping costs. We ship only within the USA. Proposals for 5+ XOs will undergo far more stringent review, but yes, solidly-supported projects that demonstrate outstanding community Give Back might be approved.

The Contributors Program seeks to "seed" a variety of projects around the world with small numbers of XOs. We are hopeful that successful projects will use their own resources for expansion; e.g., Ebay, Craigs List, etc. A portfolio and strong references can help in Questions 6 & 7 on your Project Proposal Form. In all cases, you might be asked to consider a smaller machine count, given limited resources.

Q: Can I start a Local Laptop Library?

A: Yes! If you have a good location and idea for creating a new community of XO users anywhere in the world, please submit a proposal. Locations where you believe you can build a local community of contributors have the best chance of success.

Q: Is Tech Support available to non-technical Project Leaders? Repair?

A: Yes, if you read the manual our community wrote and are still stuck, community volunteers will definitely help you. Likewise, grassroots repair centers exist in quite a growing number of countries, offering many basic repairs for a very low price. Please thank community volunteers whose service often astonishes.

Q: Can I pay for the XO Laptops I receive?

A: We are most grateful for donations that make this possible. However borrowed Contributors Program machines and shipment costs are provided free, not tied to donations. The best way to "pay" is to active sharing of your results with our global community!

Q: Can I Mentor others projects?

A: Yes, talented Community Mentors are already making world of difference today, and we would love your help, particularly if you specialize in the environment, health, pedagogy, libraries, advocacy, writing/documentation, art/design/photography, support, translation, SW or HW. The social contract we expect en route is simple: any kind of monthly conversation and web-published milestone or blog. Push project leaders to their highest calling: there's no higher honor than teaching a community to grow. Reach inside your own self by joining our Grassroots mailing list and contact "holt AT" if you can help!

Q: Can I look at the old Contributors Program page?

A: Yes! Gracias for helping us fine-tune our many service improvements, beginning March 3rd 2009, and ongoing through 2010, now that XO-1.5 hardware and certain other hardware is available to those immersed in advanced experimentation. Please note that Serial Adapters and certain XO-1.5 wifi cards previously distributed through the Contributors Program are now available at:

Blog and News Coverage

  1. Start a Laptop Project to Change Kids’ Lives Worldwide! March 5th, 2009
  2. Empower Kids = Get a Free Laptop! July 2nd, 2009
  3. XO 1.5: Create, Collaborate, Contribute September 28th, 2009
  4. Get Your XO-1.5 Laptop via OLPC's Contributors Program September 28th, 2009
  5. One Laptop per Child XO-1.5 early production laptops – free to contributors worldwide! February 25th, 2010