Creating a Digital Peace Corps
I would have to agree with Jonathan on this one.
First, I think Netcorps may be a useful group to be aware of in this context. But more importantly I agree with Jonathan's concerns regarding the limitations of developing a cadre of technology workers that have the characteristics listed by Greg.
It may be that the Peace Corps, with its very high level of investment in each corps member, is the wrong model. There are many approaches that could deliver important technology skills, short of a full-time long-term commitment on the part of participating individuals.
NPowerNY is developing an important new approach that fuses workforce training and technology assistance to community groups. CompuMentor has been a leader in bringing technology expertise to community groups for over a dozen years, and the City Cares network of volunteers is just about to launch a program that connects technologists with community groups.
Under the leadership of New York Cares, the national network of City Cares organizations is developing a national Partners in Technology (PIT) program, an effort to replicate a three-year-old program operating in New York City. Representatives of City Cares affiliates around the nation are in NYC today to begin a three-day symposium on designing and operating PIT programs. The national replication project is being supported with substantial resources from AmeriCorps. This effort may prove to be a very useful source of manpower for the kinds of activities envisioned in Greg's email, just not in the same structure.
I don't know if this is directly relevant, but former President Clinton, in recent remarks about AmeriCorps, stated that AmeriCorps placed more volunteers in its first five years of operations than the Peace Corps placed in its first 20 years.
One general observation is that we may be better off by creating a cadre of technology workers that can reach a wider audience of groups than by focusing extraordinary attention in a sharply defined community or issue area. There are tradeoffs, I realize, but that is my view.
One further thought, there are other ways to tap technology talent that exist today. ImpactOnline's website, www.volunteermatch.org, serves as a broker for individuals and organizations seeking to make volunteer connections. Particularly in their virtual volunteer category, IOL serves as a venue where nonprofits can tap technology expertise at virtually no cost to their institution.
Naturally, all of this is directed at bringing technology assistance to the aid of organizations, rather than individuals. But I think that is an important part of the equation.
I hope this is useful and relevant.