|Sustainability Issues and Solutions - Summary of Sessions held at BCCNA Spring '98 Conference|
(hosted by Jim Swanson, Parksville, Vice President, BCCNA with help from Milt Stanley, Kaslo InfoNet and Allan Skuce, Valleynet, BCCNA Board Members)
Overview of the Sessions
There were two sessions held at the conference which dealt with these issues. Both sessions were well attended and the discussion was very lively and constructive.
A great resource for Community Networks is the BC Community Network Association Web Site. Many of the issues addressed during these sessions are discussed in the BCCNA Resources Site Page .
Background to the Discussion
Neil Guy, in his Paper 'Community Networks: Building Real Communities in a Virtual Space?'examines many of the issues relating to the sustainability of Community Networks. Based on interviews he conducted with a number of Community Network leaders across the country, Guy came up with the following key issues:
- Internal consensus. The need to improve communications within the organization as a whole. It was felt that good ways to accomplish this are:
- set-up an e-mail ID (i.e. everyone) that will reach all members of the Community Network
- hold regular face-to-face meetings
- have an online newsletter
- survey the membership on matters affecting the community network
- do an annual Goal Setting Session amongst Board members
- create a Business Plan - work with members who have a strong business background
- Community needs. The need to study the actual needs of the community; what abilities the organization's user base wants. Also an examination of how these needs can be met by community networks. Some community networks have conducted "community needs" surveys to determine what "niche" the community network can fill in the local community. One community network worked with their local Chamber of Commerce and another distributed their survey through the schools. One community network asked its members attending a meeting for direct input into what they wanted to see included in each of the Main Menu areas.
- Financial costs. Addressing the question of what funding sources community networks should rely on in the future. The majority of the discussion in both sessions centered on this topic. During the first session, those attending were asked to share what their fee structure. These included:
- $10 per year plus $35 per year for e-mail and news
- $10 one time membership plus $20 per year for e-mail only or $20 per month for unlimited full service
- $10 one time startup fee then either $15 per month for 20 hours or $20 per month for 40 hours
- Free local access
- $25 per year membership plus free e-mail and free text access
- $35 per year membership plus $35 per year text access or $110 per year graphical
- Honour-based system - what can you afford to pay?
Discussions took place on fundraising. Ideas discussed included:
- Developing corporate sponsorships. Recognition of sponsors can be done on the Main Menu screen and also on such screens as those that directly branch off the Main Menu - i.e. Library Services, Recreation Services, etc.
- A 1 - 900 telephone donation service where people phone into the 900 number and donate a specific amount to the community network - Victoria has started offering this.
- Working with a local ISP where any community network members wanting faster Internet access would join the ISP. For every person joining the ISP through this plan, the community network receives a subsidy.
- A possible funding source is Community Futures
- Grant writing help can be found on the Heritage Canada Web Site. Another good source is the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy Web Site as well as the Drucker Foundation. There is also a Grant Writing book in the Self Counsel series of books.
- Some community networks have gained Charitable Status (Vancouver, Victoria, Sea-To-Sky and Mount Arrowsmith). A good source for help in applying is Vancouver which was the first community network in Canada to receive such status. Information is also available through the National Capital FreeNet on a kit put together by the Ontario PIAC.
- Some banks and credit unions have donated used computers, etc. to community networks.
- National Capital FreeNet holds regular auctions. Go to their web site and type in auctions in the Search Engine on the Main Menu for examples of auctions that they have held.
- Some community networks hold regular bingos or casinos.
- Denny's Restaurant will donate 10 % of the proceeds if members of the community network help work at the restaurant.
It was felt that BCCNA should be actively lobbying such groups and organizations as the CRTC to try to bring about a more level playing field regarding such vital issues as telco charges.
West Kootenay PowerLink will provide free Internet Access for Non-Profit groups in the Interior of the province.
Those attending the second session were surveyed as to where their Public Access Terminals are located:
1. Libraries 14 2. Other Non-Profit Groups 11 3. Community Colleges and Universities 7 4. Community Network Offices 5 5. Employment Agencies 4 6. Recreation Centres 4 7. Visitor Information Centre 3 8. Band Office 2 9. Schools 2 10. ISP's 2 11. Health Centres 1 12. City Hall 1 13. General Store 1 14. Laundromat 1 15. Coffee Shop 1