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partnerships:articles:cov1 [2017/06/12 10:20] (current)
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 +How volunteer enthusiasts created a town's Community Network
 +============================================================
 +
 +\
 + ​[Chris Studman](mailto:​chris@ecosaurus.co.uk),​ chris@ecosaurus.co.uk
 +wrote this article in 1997.\
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +\
 +
 +Community information networks do not have to be started by councils or
 +even voluntary organisations. Chris Studman explains how one Midlands
 +network was started by grassroots enthusiasts.
 +
 +------------------------------------------------------------------------
 +
 +Coventry and Warwickshire Network (CWN) began life in the summer of 1995
 +as a project conceived by a group of environmentalists to network
 +'​green'​ news and events in Coventry.\
 +\
 + ​However,​ A public demonstration,​ supported by BT and a computer
 +company, on a Saturday in the main local shopping centre attracted a lot
 +of attention. Alas, for the environmentalists however, the interest was
 +in the Internet and its networking capabilities rather than in the green
 +content on display. The Coventry Environment Network quickly
 +metamorphosed into the The Coventry Community Network.\
 +\
 + A team of half a dozen net enthusiasts then began to learn the whys and
 +wherefores of web publishing and put together a series of ad hoc pages
 +about the City - local museums, MPs, sport, heritage etc.\
 +\
 + Even this modest level of activity was enough to bring a personal visit
 +from a chief officer of the local council. He was extremely enthusiastic
 +and promised support of some kind. This inspired us to continue the
 +development of the site. Increasing the volume of material, improving
 +its graphic design and expanding our contacts.\
 +\
 + ​However after several months no support came from the council who had
 +by now begun to plan their own web site. The CWN continued to piggyback
 +on the commercial web facilities of Ecosaurus, a local community
 +computing company.\
 +\
 + By November 1995, the site was beginning to receive significant numbers
 +of email messages from around the world with a wide range of requests. A
 +Guestbook was set up for these messages and very quickly we were getting
 +feedback that visitors were making contact with others, particulary
 +former school contemporaries through the guestbook.\
 +\
 + ​Around this time Ecosaurus began work on a local European funded
 +project to give Internet access to community organisations in the less
 +favoured areas of the city. Participants in this project were given
 +accredited training jointly by the University of Warwick and Ecosaurus.
 +The final part of this training involved each organisation producing web
 +pages that would form part of the CWN web site.\
 +\
 +
 +Expansion
 +---------
 +
 +Early in 1996 it became apparent that it was difficult to contain the
 +Network boundaries and it was flowing out into the surrounding towns of
 +Warwickshire. The site was therefore renamed to reflect this as The
 +Coventry and Warwickshire Network.\
 +\
 + The site has continued to grow during 1996 until it has almost 200
 +pages. It is still compiled by a small team of 3 - 6 volunteers mostly
 +working from home emailing pages into a central point for uploading.\
 +\
 + By autumn 1996 the CWN web site had reached access figures of over
 +10,000 total accesses per month. Guestbook entries are still very
 +buoyant, and the amount of material for putting on the site is rapidly
 +ourstripping our capacity both in terms of html time and web space.\
 +\
 + Just to keep existing pages up to date now takes the equivalent of a
 +half time person. To expand the site with new information would take
 +more.
 +
 +Options for the future
 +----------------------
 +
 +It has become clear now that a careful examination of the future
 +resourcing of the site is needed. There are no immediate signs of any
 +significant funding. Options include:\
 +\
 + a) continue as we can utilising the resources of Ecosaurus and the
 +small band of volunteers on an 'as and when' basis\
 +\
 + b) sell advertising on the site to local companies etc to at least part
 +fund a staff person\
 +\
 + c) seek external funding\
 +\
 + d) leave the site to wither on the vine, and gradually get more and
 +more out of date\
 +\
 + e) shut down the site\
 +\
 + As of January 97 no definite conclusion has been reached by those
 +involved other than ruling out d) and e). We will probably proceed with
 +some combination of the first three.\
 +\
 + There are lots of developments now appearing rapidly on the horizon
 +that excite us. Ecosaurus (and hence CWN) now has its own servers and
 +permanent connection to the Net. This connection is a 10MB link that
 +will allow us to experiment with the latest technologies such as sound
 +and video - prospects for wider participation?​\
 +\
 + We have now been approached to join in the large Euro funded RegioNet
 +telematics project in Coventry and Warwickshire. Our large amount of
 +existing local content has presumably been the attraction - whether
 +there will be any funding attached is still to be seen.\
 +\
 + Our next big challenge will be Public Access Points. There is some
 +potential funding for small scale pilots.
 +
 +Key points
 +----------
 +
 +-   CWN receives no significant funding, so far only 100 pounds has been
 +    raised from modest advertising - this has contributed to web space
 +    costs
 +-   There are no staff employed to adminster the site. All web paging
 +    preparation is done by volunteers.
 +-   Our basic premise has always been to give our services free to any
 +    community / voluntary organisations,​ and to subsidise this work by
 +    charging businesses. So far the former has greatly outpaced the
 +    latter!
 +-   We edit / view all material before it goes on the site. So far we
 +    have only had to make significant changes to one piece that we
 +    considered might give legal problems.
 +
 +The Coventry and Warwickshire Network is at
 +<​http://​www.cwndesign.co.uk/​welcome>,​ and will be moving to
 +[http://​www.coventry.org.uk](http://​www.coventry.org.uk/​) early in 1997.
 +
  
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