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From:  Mick Presnell
 
Sharon Mayell requested suggestions for resources for a paper called "How to
Build a Viable, Self-Sustaining Community Network."  Gene Kleppinger
responded by saying that no blueprint or formula could be discovered to guide
the building of community nets and that most folks were adovcating a grass
roots approach that deals with the uniqueness of each community situation.
 
As someone who is both active in the development of our own regional network
and interested in how others are using networks to enhance their communities,
I find Gene's remarks a bit pessimistic.  I don't think there are formulas
for making community networks successful, but I do think we can learn from
each other and gain inspiration from the success of others.
 
I would suggest that there are some common values and strategies that various
community networks employ.  For instance, many people involved in community
networks are inspired by the potential of computer networks to foster
community participation and dialogue.  This vision of greater participation
is behind quite a lot of community net efforts and projects ranging from
professional discussion groups, to setting up access to city governments to
electronic voting projects.  Surely the potential for increasing community
involvement is one value that guides many of us, and networks that amplify
rather than attenuate this vision could surely be called exemplary.
 
On a different note, an exemplar in qualitative social science research is
not the same as a model or formula.  An exemplar is an example, rich with
meaning and implications, that can be interpreted through various strategies
to yield useful suggestions.  Perhaps Sharon's task could be better served by
looking for exemplars rather than models.  Then Gene's remarks are cautions
against only one way of discovering our common values and strategies rather
than a blanket rejection of the project as possible.
 
By the way, I agree with Gene that the Morino Institute is a great resource.
I emailed Mario Morino's wonderful paper, Assessment and Evolution of
Community Networking to Sharon.
 
Regards...
 
Mick Presnell
Northern California Regional Network
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