I developed these pages in 1999 to catch some of the early history of community networking in the UK as I had seen it. Now - in 2001 - things have moved on a lot, with Governmernt programmes supporting local centres, community grids for learning and Wired Up Communities. There's more about that on the main site I'm now developing with colleagues http://www.makingthenetwork.org . David Wilcox \<email@example.com>
These pages will provide an opportunity for anyone involved in community networking in the UK to tell the story of how they got involved, where they are now, and what hopes and fears they have for the future.
This story-telling, future-gazing project was prompted by a book edited by Sheila Pantry for the Library Association, and due for publication in June 1999. Sheila wanted a chapter on the history of an organisation I founded and developed with Michael Mulquin and others from 1995 - UK Communities Online. I acted as editor and director until early 1998 when Michael - who had been chair - became executive director. I then set up Partnerships Online with a different focus.
As I wrote my story I realised how many people had been involved - and what interesting stories everyone else would have too. Why just do one story in print about the Internet? Why not use the Internet to let everyone tell their story - and create a composite Web Story? It would also be good opportunity to catch up on the story before 1995, when the real pioneering work was done.
I wrote a first draft of the chapter early in January 1999 and emailed it to about 60 people that I had mentioned, including some of the Americans who had provide early inspiration and continuing support. I included Michael's story of UK and also European developments. Within hours I had an email from Steve Snow, a key figure in the American Association For Community Networking (AFCN). He wrote:
“I just finished reading your excellent and fascinating history of the European communities online/UK development. May I put this on the ACFN website in our international area?”
I said of course - and why not do the same story-telling in the US? Maybe we could get the Canadians, Australians, and others in Europe to join in too.
In my message to the 60 'pioneers' I invited people to make any amendments and also to provide a Web link or few hundred words of their stories. You will find those linked from the main thread of the narrative and also listed below.
I suggested to Sheila that we should complement the historical perspective with a look at 'where next'. She agreed - and said she could squeeze in a 'futures' chapter if we were quick. From past experience I knew this couldn't all be done just online - and so my wife Ann Holmes, an events organiser who had worked on the UKCO programme, rapidly developed plans for a workshop with the 'pioneers'. We held that seminar in February 1999, and launched the 'Inventing the Future' discussion.
If you would like to contribute to this story send me a contribution and/or a link - firstname.lastname@example.org - and I'll post it at http://www.partnerships.org.uk/stories. We may automate this later.