by Sara Gowen
More and more community groups are using computers and some are finding that the latest technology - including the Internet - is useful to their work. But it is important to get beyond the hype and make the technology work for us and meet our needs! Sounds good but how can we do it? Here is one idea that worked well in Leeds in March 1996
'Making Computers work for the Community' emerged as an idea in discussion between two community organisations, Community Links and the Burley Lodge Centre at our national conference - the start of the networking! We are both members of BASSAC (the Urban Community Network) and are committed to community development is all aspects of our work. Using the experience of information technology learned through our everyday work, in producing publications and running training courses for community groups, we decided to share the knowledge!\ \ The day was designed to give community groups 'hands on' experience of a range of information technology, from word processing through to the potential of the internet. We set up six workstations (e.g. computer and printer or modem) each with a 'tutor'. People came from community groups with no computers through to those who were thinking about going online. The mixture of skills and experience of the participants enabled them to share their own knowledge and form contacts which will provide local support and advice.
After the first hands on session participants formed small groups and brainstormed two questions: what have you learnt and what questions do you have? The response was interesting in revealing the wide range of attitudes and experience of IT for community groups. Looking for example at the responses to these questions for those who had been at the internet workstation:
The general comments are equally revealing:
At the end of the day, participants came together to discuss how to get access to resources. This final session was an attempt to answer some of the questions raised in the day - particularly what support, courses, etc., were available in and around Leeds. The main themes to emerge were sharing and collaboration, from sharing information, providing training for each other to collaboration in purchasing.
\ 'Making Computers work for the Community' was a success, we could have had more computers, more time, more space but the basic format for the day works. It is easily transferable to other parts of the country - so why not think about organising a similar day in your area.
A budget for the day is difficult to calculate as much of it came as gifts in kind which we have broken down to give real indication of cost. True costs worked out at £50 per participant @ 50 attending with 6 computer workstations, based on a staffing rate of £10.00 per hour.\ \ The following is a guide to the time we took to organise the day, taking the organisation over six months, divided up as:
A full report of the event has been published and is available for £1.50 (including post and packing) from Community Links, 237 London Road, Sheffield S2 4NF.\ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org