Summer-Fall 2001

CTCNet in the Lead
by Karen Chandler and Sarah Petrin

Origin and History

2000 Leadership Institute
Portraits from the 2000 Leadership Institute: (top to bottom) Michael Roberts (United Neighborhood Houses, New York City) and Stephanie McIntyre (TechnoTots, Perth Amboy, NJ), Lorraine Treadwell (Civic Association Serving Harlems), Karen Chandler, Director CTCNet, Davis Park (Little Tokyo CTC, Los Angeles), Kris Smith (the Nonviolence Project, Miami, FL), Roger Holt (Parents, Let's United for Kids, Billings, MT).

The Community Technology Centers' Network Leadership Institute (LDI) was conceived with the mission of expediting start-up for new centers, building capacity for existing affiliate centers, and creating opportunities for more advanced centers to apply their expertise in building a stronger movement for community technology education. Begun in 1999 with a pilot collaboration program with the National Urban League, the initial three-day institute brought together twelve CTCNet affiliate center Directors from centers ranging from New Orleans, LA to Rocky Mount, NC. The focus was to link organizational planning and decision-making to their specified client needs and program objectives, identify appropriate community and professional collaborations, and develop achievable action plans for program and financial sustainability.

The Institute showcased the diversity of learning environments and types of CTCs that make up the Network by taking place at local centers in the Boston area. The Computer Clubhouse at the Computer Museum, the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center, La Alianza Hispana and the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts each highlighted their own learning models and program problems and successes.

In 2000, the LDI incorporated two key recommendations from the 1999 pilot evaluations - that future trainings would benefit from being longer and that the "action planning activity" should be emphasized. Thus the LDI was expanded to a six-month program, beginning with a three-day intensive workshop in Boston and including sponsored attendance at the CTCNet National Conference. Major topic areas included:

  • Leadership Competencies
  • Strategic Planning and SWOT (Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats) Analysis
  • Center Operations
  • Technology Integration Planning
  • Strategic Operations Plans (SOPs)

Another twelve participants from California, Montana, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New York, Florida, and Massachusetts were divided into four teams, each assigned a mentor who is an established leader within the CTCNet affiliate base. Mentors were chosen whose selection was based on experience, expertise, and regional proximity to facilitate face-to-face contact during the six-month follow through. Participants developed strategic operational plans, starting the process in March, presenting drafts in June at the CTCNet National Conference in Atlanta where they practiced taking a leadership roles by representing the LDI 2000 class to their colleagues, and completing final products at the end of the Institute in August.

Conclusions and Implications for LDI 2001

In addition to the specific challenges that center staff face in maintaining effective operations, center leaders can become drained as the stewards of these organizations that operate in a highly competitive, quick-changing environment. Six months after the 1999 LDI pilot, four of the original twelve participants had left their centers; after one year, another four were gone. Frequent burn out and brief tenures for leaders of non-profit organizations are not specific to community technology, but the problem is exacerbated at CTCs which are excellent training grounds from which talented, ambitious leaders spring into more lucrative for-profit sector positions, or into private consulting. In response, the LDI 2001 has built in sessions on succession planning so that current leaders can apply strategic thinking not only to immediate operations, but also to longer-range organizational support and changes.

The LDI has changed in number and format in 2001, too. Instead of bringing participants from around the country to Boston, numerous Institutes are taking place in different cities around the country with local participants. In March, 80 people from CTCs across the country attended Leadership Development Institutes (LDIs). With the support of AT&T and the America Connects Consortium (ACC), CTCNet conducted four programs in empowerment zones in Chicago, New York, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC.

Five "hot topics" in community technology leadership have been chosen as the focus of this year's LDI program: personal leadership and management skills, succession planning for leadership transitions, technical plans, innovative fundraising strategies, and community collaborations. Two-day programs have included speaker sessions, learning exercises with their mentor groups, case studies discussing how CTCNet members handle situations of succession, technical planning, and difficult community relationships, and planning individual follow-up projects. Organizations in the midst of leadership transitions are creating recruitment plans. CTCs desiring to branch into multimedia programs are revising technical plans, adjusting for the new hardware, software, training, and support requirements. Board members of smaller CTCs are dedicating themselves to working more closely with their executive directors and being actively engaged in comprehensive strategic planning.

Highlights from March 2001 LDIs

Chicago - Coordinated by Olomenji O'Connor at the Charles Hayes Family Investment Center, the program included a keynote presentation on leadership by Bob Schout from the Support Center of Chicago. Bob led the mentor groups in an exercise that discussed the skills and organizational challenges of good managers and good leaders. Carl Davidson claimed it gave him the "leadership fuzzies."

New York City - Coordinated by Gregory Mills at the Harlem Media Center, the program keynote by Stephanie Creaturo of NpowerNY gave a comprehensive overview of the funding process from the perspective of CTC development and program staff, board members, the Executive Director, and the funder. Leading the group in an exercise to develop a plan for how a CTC would match a grant one-to-one within a year's time for a new program idea, Stephanie highlighted key questions CTCs must answer before pursuing any new funding opportunity.

Pittsburgh - LDI participants had a unique opportunity to tour the Community House with Director Wayne Peck and Technology Director Janet Leo. Wayne demonstrated how young people are learning interview and presentation skills with video technology in their new Mac lab, and participants viewed several short videos of "best practice" projects on how young people have demonstrated what they learn.

Washington DC - Coordinated by Evelyn Frazier at the Marshall Heights Community Development Organization, this LDI included a focus on partnerships with Todd Endo of Urban Alternatives discussing how the diverse population growth of Arlington, VA is giving Urban Alternatives many new, creative opportunities in this arena. Todd discussed the stages of a partnership with examples of how to orchestrate their development, especially with local schools. According to one evaluation, Todd's presentation was "beyond awesome." Another said, "This could be a major help in building better relationships."

CTCNet plans to place all the resource tools from the March LDIs on-line. Educational Development Center (EDC), a principle partner of ACC, is now working on compiling the materials and creating an on-line institute. CTCNet plans to hold six more LDIs between August and next April in the empowerment zones of Boston, Oakland, Rio Grande Valley, the Mississippi Delta, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. Keep posted to the CTCNet and ACC web sites and e-mail lists for details.

Karen Chandler is CTCNet Executive Director; Sarah Petrin was the LDI Coordinator for the March sessions.

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