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
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
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
- 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.
- $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
- 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
- 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
- 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:
|| Other Non-Profit Groups
|| Community Colleges and Universities
|| Community Network Offices
|| Employment Agencies
|| Recreation Centres
|| Visitor Information Centre
|| Band Office
|| Health Centres
|| City Hall
|| General Store
|| Coffee Shop
Sustainability and Solutions