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COMMUNET Home

COMMUNET Home

COMMUNET  July 1995, Week 1

COMMUNET July 1995, Week 1

Subject:

Re: Why are community nets failing to thrive?

From:

Vigdor Schreibman - FINS <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Communet: Community and Civic Network Discussion List

Date:

Tue, 4 Jul 1995 14:36:04 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (89 lines)

On Tue, 4 Jul 1995, Hannah King wrote:
 
....
  Community networks are uniquely purposeful organizations, the purposes of
which include: 1) the purposes of the organization; 2) the purposes of the
insiders who are the managers of the organization; and 3) the purposes of
the outsiders who make up the environment that must be served.
 
> One schism that often occurs is that between the "techies" and the
> content-providers.  If either group takes over, the community net may not die
> but it loses a leg.
 
  When this occurs it is likely to be the result of a lack of sufficient
involvement of the outsiders to make their purposes dominant.  Instead,
you have the dominance of the insiders who are technically proficient and
the content providers who have something they want to sell, both of which
tend to see the world predominantly in their own narrow image.
 
>
> Another schism often occurs between the capitalists and the socialists.
> Community nets want to attract money.  One group wants to sell network
> services and products.  Another group wants to provide these same services
> and products as community services and products -- belonging to everyone in
> the community.  THE INABILITY TO HEAL THE SCHISM BETWEEN THE "FOR A FEE"
> GROUP AND THE "FOR FREE" GROUP RENDERS A CIVIC NET IMPOTENT.
 
  This schism is less likely to occur if everyone that is invited to
participate in the network is an owner of its multiple purposes, with
accent on serving the paramount purposes of the outsiders
 
>
> If the people who want to make enough money off a civic net to support a
> full-time coordinator, support staff, technical staff, office space, and to
> purchase telecomputing equipment and software cannot keep their voluntary
> work force, the community net will die.  If the volunteers working at the
> grass roots level who want to serve community members and organizations that
> typically lack the resources to "buy into" a community network cannot find
> ways to cooperate with the "money-makers," the community net will die.
 
  This is the most dangerous compromise.  I believe that the issue here is
not cooperation with the money-makers but emphasis on the non-profit
purposes to be fulfilled.  If this is not true the enterprise has no
rationale.  Libraries are a good example of the nonprofit purpose, rather
than the moneymakers, which have sustained their existence.  The Net
itself was an excellent example of the nonprofit purpose that spawned
stupendous response, both of money, technology, and user benefits. This
enterprise was a great achievement until business interests decided to
take it over and kill the original purpose. Moreover, for a community
network, if the accent is not on the nonprofit purposes of the outsiders
eventually the money making purpose comes into direct competition with
commercial enterprises and the community Net dies for lack of distinction,
which is the very case at hand.
 
>
> If lack of resources, lack of management, lack of a reward system to keep
> volunteers, and schisms between feebies and freebies and techies and content
> specialists don't kill a community network, EGOISM will.  To some, community
> networks are a chance to promote themselves or their companies.
> Self-promotion, corporate pr, and public recognition are NECESSARY COMPONENTS
> of a REWARD SYSTEM.  Good mangement will use these motivators to stengthen a
> community effort.  But without good management and coordination, these rewards
> are often taken without putting in the expected "blood, sweat, and tears."
> When egos ride on the backs of nameless laborers, egos will fall when the
> laborers realize they're being taken for a ride and up and quit.
>
> These obstacles -- lack of resources, lack of management, lack of volunteer
> support, disagreements on ends or means, and egoism -- challenge any community
> organization.  Time and energy must be applied to overcome them.  It is
> impossible to overcome obstacles by ignoring them.  Communtiy nets cannot be
> managed "remotely."  Organizers must set aside time to communicate --
> motivate-- their rank and file membership.  A schedule of events that promote
> not only the community net to the public but the community networkers should
> be established and followed.   And the people and businesses who are in it
> for the money must be willing to give money initially.  It's hard to adver-
> tise or sell a product on a "vapor net."
 
  If a powerful set of community purposes are clearly defined, recognized
by the insiders and outsiders in control, and effectively served, the glue
to holding the organ together is at hand.  This may not be possible in a
materialist society focused on the old self-interest, which is why our
communities are so pervasively disintegrating or so lacking in substance.
And without the crucial glue of explicit community purpose, all the
so-called "resources"  "management [ability]" and "volunteer support" will
be largely incompetent and ineffective, or converted into another
commercial enterprise that disregards the public goods that are the
essence of genuine community.
 
Vigdor Schreibman - FINS <[log in to unmask]>

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