Working Through the Community
I apologize for not having been very active on the list in recent weeks - January seems to be the busiest time of the year for me. At any rate, I wanted to say a little something about this community planning suggestion and the questions in Kit's 2/05 e-mail re: community planning.
I think that a community's ability to come together and ultimately execute these kinds of initiatives is a function of: A) leadership capable of bringing people with diverse interests to the table.
Aside: I personally don't think that the conveners have to be from the community. Indeed, convening meetings is one of the few things that program officers do well. The trouble is that givers are often uncomfortable marshalling their resources in an activist manner. As such, they miss opportunities to convene meetings IN THE COMMUNITY for interests that extend beyond a small pool of grantees. (Sorry, I am prone to extended rants about my former colleagues in the philanthropic sector.)
Getting back to things needed for effective community planning, there should be...
B) a network of community institutions/organizations that can:
1) get the word out & get word back (from residents)
2) represent community concerns and lend their expertise to the problem at hand
3) identify needs and resources that articulate with a broad technology initiative
4) serve as intermediaries between residents and larger well-heeled or better organized interests (e.g. employers, developers, local government) to carry through on broader IT advocacy initiatives
5) serve as fiscal agents for community IT investment projects
c) sufficient resources to bring people to the table and keep them engaged (cause if it ain't about dollars, than it makes no cents/sense) and...
d) people engaged in the planning will require a great deal of information to produce thoughtful, strategic plans. An initial list of things needed might include:
1) information/update sessions on the present and future uses of IT in low-income communities (goes to the issue of relevance)
2) testimonials from individuals from other communities who have experience organizing around this issue... (no reason why we can't get evangelical here)
3) inventories of existing IT resources for the community in question (displayed in an manner that is easily digestible - such as GIS maps plotting resources vis-à-vis schools or ratios of public access computers to school age children, etc.)
4) a catalogue of possible community IT solutions - best practice examples from other communities
5) a trained outside facilitator to move the process forward
In sum, I believe that planning is possible in any community given the right constellation of will and resources. You may not be able to affect the former but the latter is something I think the Morino Institute is in a position to do something about.
Warm regards to everyone on the list,