User Tools

Site Tools


A charter for Community Internet

Researcher Debbie Ellen is developing a list of criteria for successful community networks, and inviting practitioners to contribute. When refined this will form the basis of a Charter for Community Internet.

This is a list of criterion which those thinking of establishing a community network might wish to consider both before embarking on a project and throughout the projects lifetime. The criterion do not aim to be prescriptive in terms of what kind of community network you might wish to set up.\

Key principles / values

  • an understanding that each community will have different expectations about what this new media can do (including the possibility that it may do nothing for a particular community !)
  • ground work to investigate what the community's needs and wants are.
  • commitment to the principle of social inclusion in the 'information society' for all (learn from other networks that have found ways of providing access to the less well educated, elderly people afraid or uncomfortable with the technology, people on low incomes who cannot afford the hardware…)
  • free public access at a wide range of venues (libraries, community centres, leisure and recreational facilities, electronic village halls…)
  • communication as well as information
  • room for dissent / freedom of speech within the law
  • availability of information in minority languages
  • spaces for children to participate
  • independent spaces for entrepreneurs, groups and citizens
  • community involvement (local residents, local businesses, schools, colleges, community groups, institutions, local councillors )
  • community involvement in decisions about content from the outset
  • community ownership of the project (i.e. feeling a sense of ownership amongst the community)
  • willingness to evaluate as an ongoing process of improvement / development
  • commitment to awareness, access and support
  • a financial model to ensure their ongoing viability and sustainability
  • need to compliment CI interchange with other means of communication (letters, telephone calls and meetings)

What outcomes are we looking for ?

  • improving local democracy (e.g. providing access to local government information and email access to councillors - enabling two way communication between local representatives and citizens )
  • improving links between schools, parents, companies and other local communities of interest
  • improving business and work opportunities
  • improving public access to local information by providing another source of information for the community
  • improving public feedback to organisations
  • improving input into local planning and development
  • strengthening of self help initiatives and local organisations such as LETS, Credit Unions, Food Co-ops, volunteering, homeworking
  • widening access to information amongst those previously not able to access it (elderly people, women, disabled people, ethnic minorities)
  • improving communication for ethnic groups to build up their cultural identity
  • local services including home learning, shared entertainment, net friends
  • easier collaborative work
  • increased understanding and use of online opportunities
  • community building, increased local pride and participation
  • new skills, services, jobs and opportunities arising from the above
  • long term aim that the CI becomes part of the fabric of the community

What will it take to implement and sustain ?

  • preliminary work in the community to establish communication and information needs, investigation into levels of information awareness
  • vision, co-ordination, co-operation and consultation amongst interested parties
  • partnership of interests and recognition of practicalities of partnership
  • a viable plan for making the network self sustaining
  • appropriate (and ongoing) local publicity
  • build on existing networks within a community to strengthen and extend possibilities for communication
  • awareness of resources required to get something up and running, then maintain it (funding, volunteer support energy, credibility, partnership)
  • skilled support to ensure the website(s) are effective and well maintained
  • training and education programme to involve those not familiar with the technology (involvement both as 'users' and / or as volunteers helping to run the system)
  • agreement amongst those involved about scope of the system
  • agreement to focus on activities that achieve visible results locally
  • commitment to involve local people in production and development
  • finding encouraging, inspiring local champions in as many spheres of activity as possible
  • clarity and agreement about who owns information and equipment, who is responsible for maintaining it
  • recognition of the importance of participant feedback at all levels
  • commitment to make resources available to evaluate the project against hoped for outcomes
  • recognition that networks grow according to their reputation and may outgrow their original constituency

How will you know that you are reaching your goals ?

  • by monitoring and evaluating progress

\ Debbie Ellen\

partnerships/articles/charter.txt · Last modified: 2017/06/12 10:20 (external edit)