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Working Through the Community




Dec 4, 2000


Kit Collins

The term "community infrastructure" works fine for me at the moment, although I recognize that for many people it carries a sense of rigidity that may work against the very concept that you are trying to articulate. Perhaps we will find something better as we move along, but for now, just some thoughts...

The premises as they are presently written reinforce a somewhat static approach to the revitalization and transformation of whole communities of people - especially those where the human divide is greatest. A "systems" approach might capture the meaning better than a "structural" one.

It is important, I believe, to "find the vein" of strength and vitality in the community "system"- the networking and convergence points of its socially positive organizations (e.g. schools, nonprofits, business and community partnerships, religious institutions) - as the critical entry point for the kind of intervention we are proposing. That is where the force of technology can be most productively infused for economic mobility, personal advancement and quality of life. Such a strategic approach requires a "close to the ground" experience of the targeted communities and associated infrastructures, as they are not all identical. I am not certain where or how that fits into the premises but somehow I think it should.

I am less enthusiastic about the phrase "layers of intermediaries" as it is not clear what role the intermediary has, and who is the beneficiary. It might behoove us to look at a) the kinds of organizations that energize and empower the community while being actually a part of the community itself... and b) those which are actually outside of the community but play a major role in supporting, initiating and investing in key social outcomes for the community. (e.g. those to which John Middleton refers in his interesting commentary.) Both are key to the development of a dynamic community infrastructure but may have very different functions. Investing in and binding the power of technology to the growth and effectiveness of a dynamic infrastructure does have the promise of transforming a fast growing civic movement into a true social force that works to the favor of what is becoming the permanent underclass.

On another note, I appreciate Carlos' suggestion about identifying the beneficiaries of what is being proposed. The ever present bumper sticker should be: "In whose interest?" for remaining on target in this singularly important effort to bridge the human divide, tapping the enormous benefits of technology.

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