The social networking presentation (GNPA April 2010) is interesting.
From an intellectual point of view, design analysis of what becomes possible by facilitating the networking of groups and individuals is fascinating.
The design of Sharing Our Future included 27 partners working in nine communities (more like 19 when you consider multiple communities of Bay St. George South and Port au Port). Our schematic featured an atom of local interactivity and arrows reaching out to expatriates and other communities outside the region.
In 2004 I designed an intranet on the internet education network so I could come home from Abu Dhabi but still participate using an interactive server.
I don't personally used social networking internet tools (but they are, especially Facebook, but also blogs and Twitter, used on our participatory communication projects).
I'm more interested in network design and what the communication tool can achieve.
But I'm also inhibited by the personal information that goes into a social networking site.
(This is one reason I'm ready to experiment with setting up a social networking site on a designated server - an intranet on the internet concept.)
Up until 2006, we used dozens of internet discussion boards (CGI) to promote networking. They were public, however, and eventually spammed. (I tried blogs after but they weren't used because of the signing in complexities. The boards were totally open.) We set our community facilitators up with websites to which their reports were published. We used email, of course, and email newsletters for expatriates and experimented with video conferencing.
Appendix: Computer communication tools used in Communication for Survival and Sharing Our Future (1994 to 2002).
Note: The computer communication tools of Communication for Survival were email, list servs, bulletin boards and web sites.
These tools were, for the most part, used exclusively by resource people and some committee members. The communities themselves were still waiting for the Community Access Program.
Stephenville had access to a Rural Telecentre but that program was "unfunded" in 1997.
The Communication for Survival (CFS) initiative, is an informal partnership of communities, agencies, groups and individuals from the west and southwest coasts of Newfoundland who are working together to promote the survival of rural communities through the sharing of ideas and information with the long term goal of solving community and regional problems of common concern. It was formed in June 1995, although planning for the initiative began in the fall of 1994. The key partner communities for the HRDC funded period of the initiative (June 1995-March 1997) were Burgeo, Ramea, Lourdes and Area, and Mainland and Area.
CFS partners used non-technical community-based tools and techniques to bring people together and keep people informed about important issues (ie: flyers, posters, newsletters, issue-based drama, round tables, meetings, workshops). CFS also worked with groups to promote and develop local capacity to use simple and available technical tools (ie: video, community television, radio, computer communications (listserves and web pages), useful in pulling people together to work on common problems. All tools and methods were customized to meet community needs.
CFS established and maintained the Survival of Rural Communities Bulletin Board/Listserve on Enterprise Network (email@example.com).
Also initiated was the CFS Web Site (www.entnet.nf.ca/communication for-survival but now moved to (http://www.web.net/~ryakuga/CFS.html).
The CFS Web page and LISTSERVE were discussed among ARCO staff:
- work to develop computer communications as a tool to communicate with other partners and to gather information when needed; see above;
- encourage all participants to use the electronic bulletin board on the "survival of rural communities"; key people at ARCO were asked to contribute.
The Ramea Communication Steering Committee discussed creating awareness of computer communications and its usefulness as a tool for encouraging discussion between communities:
* members of the CSC assisted with the BB/LISTSERVE development; no progress with community people communicating with one another through computer communications;
- work with interested community people to access computer communications sites in the area; no action on this as Ramea did not become a community access site (however this may change as an access site is apparently about to be established);
- work with community access site coordinators to train community people in the use of computer communications (if Ramea is successful in becoming an access site); see above;
- work to develop computer communications as a tool to communicate with other partners and to gather information when needed; some progress in that the BB/LISTSERVE, CFS account and Web Page were established; some e-mail contact between sponsoring partners occurred as well as some participation on the BB;
- encourage all participants to use the electronic bulletin board on the "survival of rural communities"; attempts to encourage local participation in the BB were made;
The Burgeo CSC committee also discussed awareness of computer communications and its usefulness as a tool for encouraging discussion between communities:
- work with interested community people to access computer communications sites in the area; some assistance provide in terms of developing Youth Internship Proposal (which will include computer communications);
- work with community access site coordinators to train community people in the use of computer communications (if Burgeo becomes a community access site); Burgeo has not yet become a Community Access site.
- work to develop computer communications as a tool to communicate with other partners and to gather information when needed; some communication between resource people and committee members who are "on-line".
- encourage all participants to use the electronic bulletin board on the "survival of rural communities"; seeding among Burgeo people on-line has occurred.
Note: Sharing Our Future was, in many ways, an evolution of CFS. Funded by the Office of Learning Technologies as a Community Learning Network, it focused on computer communication tools for networking/collaboration.
Sharing our Future (SOF) was a two year experiment in participatory grassroots communications - specifically the discussion of local issues and cultural celebration - in rural western Newfoundland. It was perceived to be another evolutionary step in a 20 year process.
As an experiment, it tested basic principles, which inform our work in community media. In brief the principles are the value of all the voices; local control; inclusion of all the community; collaboration of multiple partners; youth power; cultural celebration, and positive mirroring.
A major goal of the experiment was to develop a network to serve the needs of the communities, as well as professionals in community development (education, health, communications and community economic development.)
Ancillary goals included promoting public awareness and participation in community communications; establishing and legitimizing the job description of community communications facilitator; promoting internet technologies as a tool for community development professionals; using internet technologies to network with other community development facilitators in Atlantic Canada; contacting expatriate Newfoundlanders through the internet; replicating the program outside the region, and strategizing ways to continue the program beyond the project completion date.
Sharing Our Future has 27 partners, all of whom have contributed. The project was administered by the Community Education Network (CEN) and coordinated by Ryakuga Grassroots Communication. Active members of the steering committee include representatives of CEN; Communities In Schools; Sir Wilfred Grenfell College; College of the North Atlantic; the Long Range Regional Economic Development Board, and Ryakuga.
Major innovations developed during the project included "the virtual office" and streaming audio (internet radio) from rural communities. Another was the use of special event community radio as a tool for community communication events. The traditional tool in Newfoundland since 1979 has been local television. Expatriates began to listen to our community webcasts.
Community communications was promoted throughout the region by the facilitators. More people attended the forums as well as being given the opportunity to be a participant on radio, television or internet.
We also developed tools for a community communications facilitator, including a job description.
The entire project - reports, guides, photos, videos and audio - is archived on the internet.
Expatriates were also engaged through internet discussion boards; Email for Expatriates and webcasts.
We have been recognized internationally for our use of mixed media. So we saw this project as an opportunity to learn new skills in internet technologies including software video conferencing and webcasting from rural communities. We have surprised many professionals in what we have accomplished with low speed rural internet access.
More than 100 youth have learned practical community media application skills. We delayed our final networking event to ensure that we would have youth participation in a conference that combined practical skills training with continuous television broadcasting and webcasting. We had expected youth to play a role but not as major a role as was evident in the final event.
We proposed webcasting for networking and so expatriates would learn more about what is happening back home. But it was probably the Email for Expatriates project, initiated by one of our facilitators, that made the most significant contact. As practitioners, we learned a lot about promoting webcasts. But it's a new technology and will need time to be accepted.
In 2000, we were invited to present on our work at the first Global Community Networking Congress. Subsequently, we webcast plenaries of both the 2001 Buenos Aires congress and the 2002 event in Montreal. This unexpected development led to a partnership with the Victoria FreeNet and further experiments in software videoconferencing.
Quantitative data was gathered in the monthly reports of the facilitators and the coordinator. These reports were posted on the internet discussion board and emailed to CEN and the coordinator. Each facilitator was also requested to post and update a community communications needs, skills and resources assessment.
Moreover, the evaluation information is on the SOF website with links to audio discussions, web discussion board reports and individual facilitator websites.
One of the innovations of Sharing Our Future was the development of a "virtual office" for reporting and networking. These tools included email lists, discussion boards, facilitator "do-it-yourself" web pages and software video conferencing.
The websites also include audio from the participatory evaluation and community events. Videos are also on the sites.
The Sharing Our Future website is still being maintained by Ryakuga. New communication events are being linked to the site. In addition, the discussion board continues to be used by new and ongoing projects.