Winter 2004-2005

CTCs Throughout Illinois Gather in Chicago for the 1st Annual Community Technology Conference
by Debra Johnson

Over 100 representatives from the Illinois community technology community came together in Chicago on September 23 and 24, 2004 to participate in the Illinois Community Technology Consortium’s (ilCTC) 1st annual Community Technology Conference, “Building Connected Communities in Illinois: The Power of Collaboration.”

ilCTC Management Team

ilCTC Management Team: front row, l-r, Paul Adams, Debra Walker Johnson, Rep. Constance Howard, Deborah Strauss. Back row, l-r, Mike Dickson, Layton Olson, Eugene Fregetto.

ilCTC is a partnership of community and technology-focused organizations dedicated to bridging the Digital Divide for low-income urban and rural residents throughout Illinois. Its lead members include: CTCNet Chicago, Prairienet, the IT Resource Center, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Erie Neighborhood House, Western Illinois Center for the Application of Information Technologies, U of IL Extension Services, Northern Illinois Center for Adaptive Technologies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois at Chicago, and the Midwest Technology Access Group. CTCNet Chicago served as the conference organizer.

This conference was designed to connect people working in community-based organizations in Illinois to a statewide network dedicated to improving the quality of life for people through digital literacy and Internet access programs.

Illinois political leaders participated actively, beginning with the welcome address from keynote speaker Lt. Governor Pat Quinn, who addressed the importance of technology access in urban and rural areas. Our lunchtime speaker, Illinois State Rep. Connie Howard, validated the importance of the work being done by Illinois CTCs to promote digital inclusion throughout the state. Both have invested significant energy and influence in developing funding streams for the work of CTCs. [Editor’s note: For previous coverage of IL funding and statewide organizing, see the report on the ilCTC initial organizing efforts in the spring of 2003.]

Telling your story with Data workshop at ilCTC Conference 2004

“Telling your story with Data” workshop: (l-r) Peter Haas, Center for Neighborhood Technology; Mercedes Soto, IT Resource Center; Nicole Friedman, Center for Neighborhood Technology.

Professional development workshops offered tracks in three crucial areas for CTCs: sustainability, communication and collaboration, featuring sessions highlighing Best Practices in Community Technology for Youth Programs, Workforce Development and Recycling. Participants were able to learn about creative fundraising strategies and grantwriting basics as well as tools and resources to help support their work the through sustainability workshops. The communication workshops, Getting Your News on the Air & Into Print, Telling Your Story with Data, and Getting your Message Out to the Community, provided participants with helpful suggestions on developing the story, documenting success and how to get the message out. The collaboration track provided attendees with examples of successful collaborative experiences in advocacy and how they can work together to expand services and resources, while the Broadband and WiFi workshop provided spirited discussions on last mile/first mile solutions. An evening reception provided plenty of food and networking opportunities for attendees as well as a breathtaking view of Chicago’s lakefront. 

Day two began with a Funder's panel with representatives from two public funding agencies who provided attendees with insight on what they look for in proposals and how the decision process works. A legislative panel then educated attendees on the importance of working with and educating legislators on their work to help secure resources and influence legislation impacting their programs. Panelists Linda Fowells from the California Community Technology Policy Group, Ryan Turner from CTCNet National, and Thyatiria Towns from U.S. Representative Bobby Rush’s (IL) Technology Taskforce, contributed to helping Illinois centers further develop the work of building the statewide network.

Bruce Montgomery, Nancy Brittle, and Max Gail
(l-r) Bruce Montgomery, Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA) Chicago; Nancy Brittle, IBM; and Max Gail, AFCN Board of Directors.

Roundtable discussions focused on sharpening the vision for the statewide technology network and the follow-up facilitated session resulted in the development of a blueprint for the statewide association. 

This first-ever statewide conference attracted a broad range of participants including CTC staff and leaders, representatives of intermediary organizations, individuals from university programs supporting CTCs, vendors, and government staff. We are proud of what was achieved through this conference, another step in building a statewide community technology organization in Illinois.

Debra Walker Johnson is Director of CTCNet Chicago.

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