Fall 2005

On the CTC VISTA Project and the Corporation's Resource Center

In the heady days of the dot-com bubble at the end of the last century, the enthusiasm that fueled so much speculation in the private sector had its counterparts in the nonprofit sector, where corporations, foundations and government agencies collaborated to address inequities around access to technology in low-income and rural communities.

For example, the United Way and IBM established the Teaming for Technology program, AOL created the PowerUp initiative, and the Corporation for National and Community Service worked with the Community Technology Centers Network (CTCNet) to establish a national AmeriCorps*VISTA project.

Today, halfway into a new decade, only the CTC VISTA Project partnership survives. Projects that worked to bridge the “digital divide” between technology haves and have-nots have contributed to a largely successful national effort to make technology widely accessible. While access issues have not been completely solved, more people than ever can use computers and the Internet. CTC VISTA has moved beyond the access issue to address the question, “access to do what?”

While the digital divide is no longer an official priority area for the Corporation for National and Community Service, that doesn’t mean the Corporation has abandoned technology programs. In fact, an increasing number of the Corporation’s grantees in AmeriCorps, VISTA, Senior Corps, and Learn and Serve America make use of technology as part of their direct service and administrative operations. And the CTC VISTA project, which recently swore in its 200th member, continues to be the most popular program in AmeriCorps’ online recruitment system.

Those VISTAs, and the CTCs and related organizations where they are housed, focus now on building the capacity of community agencies in low-income and rural communities. And the Corporation is increasingly focusing its funding to programs that engage in capacity-building.

At the Corporation’s Resource Center, operated by ETR Associates, CTC VISTA projects have been important contributors to our Effective Practices Collection. The Effective Practices Collection is the most-used service of The Resource Center’s Web site, and the community technology practices housed there aim to help national service programs better integrate technology into their administrative and program operations.

The Technology area of our Effective Practices Collection features 38 practices, many of which were contributed by staff and VISTAs serving at CTCs across the country. You can view those effective practices on The Resource Center website. Among them are:

  • Sharing a model for community technology center (CTC) AmeriCorps*VISTA projects.
  • Sharing computer basics with seniors.
  • Bringing technology support to schools in low-income communities.
  • Making community technology centers accessible and welcoming.

The Effective Practices Collection now includes more than 660 practices covering a broad range of activities supporting service and volunteerism.

Now that the Corporation is emphasizing leveraging National Service members to support volunteer agencies, VISTAs can play an important role in building the capacity of their sponsoring agencies to recruit, train and place additional volunteers. A study by the Urban Institute, and funded by the UPS Foundation, noted that AmeriCorps, including VISTA, can play an important role in building the capacity of community organizations. Those organizations face key challenges in sustainability, effective programming, performance measurement, and demonstrating results.

CTC VISTA members and their sites can help with these capacity building efforts by leveraging their ideas, tools, resources and other efforts through contributions to The Resource Center. These contributions include:

Just as the economy is now emerging from the dot-com bust stronger and more creative, so has the CTC VISTA program. That creativity and talent can play a big part in the increasing importance of national service to the health of communities across the country.


Carlos Pedraza is the Director of National Service Projects, ETR Associates, in Scotts Valley/Santa Cruz, CA.





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