Spring 2003

CTCNet Update
by Daniel Schackman

CTCNet in 2002: An Eventful Year

2002 presented CTCNet with many new opportunities and challenges. All in all, it was a banner year for the growth of the organization. Highlights include:

  • In October, CTCNet, together with its national partners, the Alliance for Technology Access (ATA) and the Association of Christian Community Computer Centers (AC4), received a $1.5 million award from the Department of Health and Human Services' Compassion Capital Fund to provide technical assistance and sub-awards to community and faith-based organizations.
  • Upon discontinuing its services, PowerUP offered its centers a one-year paid membership in CTCNet. Over 500 centers took advantage of this offer, boosting CTCNet's membership to over 1200 centers, with a presence in all 50 states.
  • Pursuant to one of CTCNet's strategic visions outlined by its affiliate-based Board of Directors, CTCNet created a Director of Programs and Policy position, located in Washington, DC.  In October, John Zoltner assumed the position and officially opened CTCNet's first Washington, DC office.
  • As a result of the newly funded Connections for Tomorrow, CTCNet has opened three regional offices: Chicago, IL, San Diego, CA and San Francisco, CA. One full-time CTCNet staff person runs each office. Ben Cain relocated from Cambridge, MA to open the San Francisco office, currently subletting from CompuMentor, Ellen Garza opened the Chicago office, and Anne Neville Davis opened the San Diego office, housed by the Pangea Foundation.
  • In September, Executive Director, Karen Chandler tendered her resignation from CTCNet, effective at the end of the year. Since that time, a Transition Committee from the Board of Directors, and including Stephen Ronan, Managing Director, has managed the search for a new Executive Director.  An original pool of 60+ applicants was narrowed down to the 12 and then four, who came to Boston for in-person interviews. In January 2003, Kavita Singh accepted the post.
  • In November, CTCNet published "From Policy to Action: Profiles of Washington Area Programs Making Progress on the Digital Divide"for the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments. The report was presented at the Council's annual meeting. See below for a summary of this report.
  • In December, CTCNet released its Regional Consortia Directory, a first-ever guide to community technology networks around the country.

CTCNet Toolkit V 1.0 Arrives!

Thanks to the work of consultant Paul Pitcher, along with the CTCNet staff, the revised Toolkit is now available online.

The toolkit was created to share resources that can be used by CTCs getting started as well as those organizations that have long-established centers. The includes such resources as sample budget forms, policy documents, intake and evaluation procedures, technology plans, and curriculum materials, just to name a few.We see this is a continuing work-in-progress, so please let us know what you think of it, and if you have additional content to add.

CTCNet Completes ACC Regional Development Project

The America Connects Consortium has concluded a two-year project administered through CTCNet, to document and support the work of regional networks of CTCs and other organizations aiming to eliminate the digital divide.  By bringing together these community technology leaders, the intention is to create added value to the work that each individual organization is doing by mutual support, resource sharing, fundraising, and a focus on regional interests. 

One component of the regional development portion of ACC is the seed-funding grants. In early 2002, CTCNet selected 10 consortia to support at a critical stage of their development. Grants of $2,000 were provided to each of these networks. In some cases, the $2,000 meant the difference between getting off the ground and remaining in the idea-phase of a network. Examples of projects undertaken with the seed grant included securing an AmeriCorps*VISTA member through the CTC VISTA Project as a full-time regional coordinator and conducting the first-ever needs assessments of CTCs in a given area.

In all cases of the regional consortia, the impetus for development comes from the field. The activity and leadership is present and striving to institutionalize the network in some way. CTCNet aims to facilitate this growth while allowing specific objectives and project work to be defined by the regional network.

Though there are differences in the history of the development of each of these networks, almost all of the ten grantees are non-incorporated networks and collaboratives, rather than structured 501(c)3 organizations. The benefits of collaboration among those in the field doing the work in specific communities, without the strictures of a new level of bureaucracy, are strong and have great promise for building the field. That being said, there are some challenges that all of these regional networks share in the development phase that need to be addressed in order for them to run smoothly and maximize their potential.

Major challenges include:

Financial Resources: Funding for the work of the networks, tapping into regional funding opportunities without detracting from individual funding for organizations.

Human Resources: Staff to do the work of the networks. Right now most of these networks are operating with volunteers and VISTA members, with leadership provided by key members of the community technology field in their regions both individually (for example, as unpaid Executive Directors) and collectively (for example, as Steering Committees). 

Another issue in that regard is the availability of people to do this work on top of their full-time job responsibilities.

Organizational Structure: Defining a structure that can support the work that needs to be done and that provides continuity, sustainability, institutional memory, and the ability to create long-term goals.

Outreach: Making sure that the networks include a critical mass of community technology and digital empowerment organizations in their respective regions, so that their knowledge base is being drawn upon for the benefit of all, and that they in turn can benefit from access to and participation in the regional networks.

Collaboration with other regional and national groups: To draw on the strengths of these groups and not duplicate services.

Setting up regional work: Some of the networks cover vast regions that require a commitment of time and money to bring members together in a central location.

It appears that these networks are well aware of these challenges and are planning strategically to meet them, either through steering committees or outside consultants.

The profiles document the regional consortia as they existed at the end of the seed funding program (September 2002). Each network was asked to capture its work in categories reflecting all aspects of the consortia, such as: Mission/Goals, Stage of Development Funding, Project Work and Impact, and Membership.

For more information, see the full report.

Digital Empowerment in the Washington, DC Area

In December 2002, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) commissioned a report by the Washington, DC office of CTCNet. The report, entitled "From Policy to Action: Profiles of Washington Area Programs Making Progress on the Digital Divide,"seeks to identify and profile model programs and services in the Washington, DC area whose policies and actions attest to an effort to eliminate the gap that exists between our nation's technology users and non-users. In November 2000, COG had established a Digital Divide Task Force to examine technology issues in the Washington metropolitan region. The CTCNet report is a major component of that work. "Our 'From Policy to Action' report is a testament to the amazing wealth of programs in DC, Maryland and Virginia that provide our communities with access to technology tools, content and skills," says John Zoltner, editor of the Report and Director of CTCNet's DC Office.

Best Practices

The report features organizations that, on the whole, demonstrate the degree to which the metropolitan Washington area is working to eliminate the digital divide for residents in recent years. For example, the District of Columbia Public Library provides more than 225 computers for public use, free of charge, and offers a customer training program. Fairfax County Public Schools enable an ethnically and economically diverse population of Kindergarten-6th Graders to have access to the computer lab as part of the regular curriculum and after-school programs. And in business, Community IT Innovators (CITI) and Confluence Corporation provide technology consulting to nonprofit organizations in the DC Metro area, as well as technology planning and assessment, Web development, software and network design, implementation and support.


Significant barriers still exist to achieving universal access for individuals and communities and eliminating the digital divide. In response, CTCNet interviewed a wide spectrum of influential people and organizations, analyzed statistics from the past decade, reviewed national reports on the topic and studied successful programs throughout the country. Through these exercises, CTCNet developed 12 recommendations for organizational change, which fall within three key areas:

1) Leveraging Relationships for Fundraising and Support

a. Require cable operator investment in local digital empowerment programs
b. Make media mergers work for communities
c. Leverage vendor relations on behalf of nonprofits working to close the digital divide
d.Consider nonprofits when building out government data rings
e. Make the Internet ubiquitous in affordable housing

2) Mapping Technology Resources and eGovernment

a. Map and make available to the public community technology access points
b. Make eGovernment information and services available online

3) Innovative Community Program and Partnership Suggestions

a. Facilitate technology assistance/support for community-based organizations and faith-based centers
b. Engage Federal agencies/Maximize Federal funding dollars
c. Recycle and distribute technology equipment
d. Sponsor family technology training initiatives
e. Fund CTCs
f. Support business partnerships

CTCNet and the COG Digital Divide Taskforce will continue to convene the stakeholders and decision makers in the region so that they can establish the Washington metropolitan area as a successful example of how a region can effectively make progress against the digital divide. From policy to action, they will make it happen. For more information, read the full report.

Dan Schackman is a CTC VISTA working in the CTCNet national office in Cambridge, MA.

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