Summer 2003

The CTCNet Conferences: A Look Back
by anonymous

CTCNet’s 2003 Conference in Washington, DC, “Creating Our Future: Shaping the Agenda of Community Technology,” is the twelfth annual affiliates’ get-together. Looking back at the conferences, we can trace the upward trajectory of the organization starting with small meetings of the first Playing To Win Network affiliates to broader-based gatherings over the past few years. The new millennium has seen us really take off. In 2000, the affiliates advanced on Atlanta for Digital Bridges: Under Construction. In 2001, CTCNet surfed into San Diego for Advancing Community Technology: The Next Wave. 2002 brought the members two-stepping down to Austin for Access and Beyond: Advancing a Community Technology Agenda.

We asked some of our colleagues for their memories of conferences past:

“I recall attending the 1995 CTCNet conference at the Capital Children's Museum in Washington, DC and meeting dozens of very wonderful people. Attendance at this conference was small, but it was exciting all the same. This was my first interaction with technology access activists from other cities. I see some of those same faces at current CTCNet conferences, and they seem like family to me. I love meeting new people at CTCNet conferences, but the old-timers have a special place in my heart. They're like childhood friends. We've been through so much together. To have seen CTCNet grow to its current size and stature has been amazing. And the journey has just yet begun.”—Phil Shapiro, Educator

”The Conference I have the most vivid memories of was the Pittsburgh Conference in 1997. The organization (now CTCNet) had grown. What was so great about that conference was that the energy of a growing grassroots organization was clearly evident. It was the last time CTCNet would have (at least for me) that feeling of being a very young baby almost able to walk, but not quite there yet. All wondrous and a bit unsettling at the same time. Contrast this with the Conference in Chicago, which was our first venture into the realm of upscale hotel venues. If Pittsburgh was CTCNet as a toddler, Chicago was our high school prom. We weren't accustomed to our new growth and the fancy duds, but we pulled it off. And Austin? It was so clear we had almost arrived. We were adults in the first real job with real responsibilities and a new family to take care of. The masses of people, the growing movement, and others were starting to look to us for guidance and support.”—Felicia Sullivan, Director, Lowell Community Technology Consortium

“I think the most significant year for conference growth was 1999 (Chicago), when the conference was moved from the college campus environment to a spacious hotel. The number of sessions and quality of presentations increased. By 2000 (Atlanta), presentations were made available online. I find the online materials from conferences to be VERY useful resources.”—Judy Hallman, Executive Director, RTPNet

“It was exciting and moving for me to observe the diversity present [at the] CTCNet conference in Atlanta. The racial and ethnic variety was impressive, and made a visible and dramatic statement about what is happening in CTCs around the country today. Just as exciting was the age diversity (at least one really cute baby was in attendance, and I know that Toni Stone was about to enter her eighth decade) and the "lifestyle" diversity. One friend commented that there were a surprising number of women in shoulder pads carrying big fat planners. (I was one of them, almost—this year I traded in my fat planner for a Palm Pilot that weighs about four ounces, which is a big win for the frequent traveler.) There were also representatives from city government, labor unions, religious organizations, corporations, and—of course—the Birkenstock crowd. I loved it. There aren't many opportunities for such a diverse group to come together in our society around something as positive as community technology centers. I am grateful to be part of what we are building.”—Laura Breeden, Director, America Connects Consortium

“At the 2002 CTCNet Conference, I was particularly amazed by the amount of local regional organizing occurring across the country. Folks were sharing information on why they had organized, what they planned to do with their coalitions and discussed the possibility of forming formal CTCNet chapters. To me, this is the beauty of CTCNet conferences. Regional organizing was not established as a priority for the 2002 CTCNet Conference but when we bring together grass roots CTCs, they define their own agenda, and end up sharing the information that is important to them, and at the same time, inform the CTCNet staff and board of the issues they are facing. And the best evidence of how the CTCNet Conferences have improved over the years is the quality of the snacks. At the 2002 CTCNet Conference we were treated to ice cream bars and warm pretzels. The attendees talked about it for days and even mentioned it on their evaluation forms. The importance of yummy snacks should not be underrated!”—Angela Stuber, Executive Director, Ohio Community Computing Center Network (OCCCN)

“I think the CTCNet national conference has evolved over the last five years into a wonderful community technology experience. In my opinion, there is not a venue like our conference that promotes genuine diversity in attendees and programs for our community initiative.”—Erroll Reese, President, CTCNet

This year, with over 1200 affiliate members, we are sure this gathering will be a source of community building, idea sharing, and organizing for our movement. We are all looking forward to this year’s conference being the best ever, and each year’s surpassing the last!

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