Project Summary
Rationale and Signifigance
Objectives and Approach
    I. Create a Model community Netorking 'Incubator" on the World Wide Web.
   II. Provide Online training in Web-Marketing, "Enviro-Preneurship," and Online Community Building.
        Entrepreneurial Training Cooperative
        K12 Entrepreneurship and K-100 Lifelong Learning
        Supporting Community-Wide Entrepreneurial Training
        The Entreprepreneurial Cooperative Benifits and Goals
   III. Create A National Community Bootstrap Clearinghouse
        Regional talent Database / Bureau
   IV. Create A Regional Interactive "Community of communities."
        Resource Sharing
About Big Sky Telegraph
Summary and Conclusion


    New forms of open learning communities and 'learning organizations' must evolve quickly to realize the educational, social and democratic potential of Internet connectivity and community networking.

    This project will develop as a national model a regional online marketing and training system with the capability to create multiple community networks simultaneously. A centralized "Community Network Incubator" WWW server will provide economies of scale to efficiently serve the entire region.

    This project will emphasize working with both youth and rural teachers to create an intergenerational, multicultural "community of communities" by which all citizens will learn together how to evaluate and adopt entrepreneurial models proven viable for rural citizens.

    This uniquely American national resource would create and offer online resources and courses on use of technology for self-empowerment, self-directed lifelong learning, web-marketing, community building, and electronic democracy...and would serve as a model for rural empowerment and networked democracy, nationally and worldwide.

    The key goal of this project is creation of a national model for rural community networking and ongoing online training. This project will demonstrate how to best prepare rural citizens to actualize the full extent of what they can do for themselves using collaborative technologies to work together.

    This proposal will aggressively investigate and propose solutions to overcoming barriers regarding the adoption of communications technology for the above needs. In addition, solutions will be proposed to resolve the vulnerabilities of rural and isolated elderly and poor persons through innovations in delivery of education and information.

    Innovative collaborations among this project's diverse constituents will build sustainable solutions to rural problems through community participation. That participation will increase international competitiveness, profitability, and efficiency, with emphasis on environmental stewardship and rural community enhancement.

    The key issue for national proliferation of sustainable community networks is the duplicative burden on each community required for the evaluation of effective and collaborative social, technical, and financial models. At issue is the best way to share this essential, continually changing information across communities, on an ongoing basis.

    This proposal suggests creation of a 'Community Network Incubator' to provide a national Internet showcase of the most effective collaborative software environments and collaborative social dynamics behind Community Networking. The Congressional Office of Technology (OTA) report, "Making Government Work; Electronic Delivery of Federal Services" correctly states "The diversity of applications required for a successful National Information Infrastructure can only come from the citizens themselves".

    Hundreds of innovative grassroots community networks have been created during the last ten years through the efforts of local champions. There exists a dire need for an organized, web-based clearinghouse sharing the known benefits of citizen-driven community networks.
    The first community networks in the mid-eighties focused on providing affordable local Internet access when there was none. Today, widely available and affordable local Internet access has made maintaining modem banks often unnecessary and costly while opening up new affordable opportunities.

    A well-developed centralized World Wide Web Server offers the advantage of providing widespread availability for multiple collaborative software options for direct review and adoption by communities. Communities need an ongoing means of easily keeping current with, and upgrading their networks to utilize the latest in collaborative technologies.
    An incubator would allow communities to customize their own network features from a selection of high quality software modules. Communities would have the option to move the system to a local server if the additional costs can be borne. This model makes good sense by providing economics of scale for our nation's 10,000+ communities.

    Citizens and community organizations share the need to learn what's working best in other communities regarding the productive use of collaborative Internet technologies. All would benefit from sharing solutions, stories, partnering models, cost-sharing methods, and dialog regarding the emerging opportunities for enhanced collaboration. Typically, very little money is available to purchase expertise.

    Corporations, foundations, and regional, state, and national organizations promoting community networking and Internet entrepreneurship initiatives have a vested need to grasp the potential and evolving nature of Community Networks. The joint challenge for communities, corporations and government becomes learning to optimize social capital with effective applications of technology, training and vision.

    Rural teachers prepare students for life in rural society, which is changing significantly due to accessibility to information technologies. Today's world demands encompassing online entrepreneurship within the K12 curriculum if students are to be prepared to create their own employment opportunities after graduation to enable them to remain in their rural communities.

    Recertification credit may be available for rural teachers who receive this project's online courses. Regional rural teachers will be encouraged to have their students participate directly in the web resources evaluation and posting component of this project as a means of exploring integration of online entrepreneurship and problem-solving within the K12 curriculum. Rural schools often serve an important role helping their communities understand the benefits of computers and Internet connectivity.

    Clearly, youth are today's change agents regarding adoption of Internet technologies, often bringing parents and teachers into the information age faster than they would otherwise. This project will emphasize the process by which student themselves identify and adopt relevant skills, online training opportunities, and online entrepreneurial services and products with proven replicability for rural communities. Students will use the web to reflect what they've discovered, as a service to their communities.

    This objective will provide the opportunity for regional communities to experience online how other communities are effectively using collaborative Internet tools to realize the inherently empowering capabilities. The incubator model can offer communities economies of scale and dramatic cost reduction with equally dramatic performance improvement in hardware, software, online training, technical support, and staffing.

    Its now very feasible to provide a broad range of collaborative software options, convenient upgrades, and continuous opportunities to review how other communities are adapting these tools for productive use. This state-of-the-art Internet Community Network will allow citizens the opportunity to preview the best collaborative tools available, on an ongoing basis, and directly implement collaborative community innovations of their own design.
    A centralized Community Networking Incubator could easily provide showcase access for the best available collaborative software modules. In addition to providing quick, affordable implementation for budding community networking initiatives, this system would serve as a national clearinghouse for management guidelines, training models, and relevant expertise and resources. Multiple community "Web-Raisings" will be conducted during this project, with a minimum of one every six months.

    Grant-writing, policy awareness, and system management guidelines assistance are fundamental and must be readily available because these types of expertise are not uniformly available for all communities.  Relocating a new community network physically within a local community, if the additional costs can be borne, will always be an option.

    Four online courses to build rural social and organizational capacity through community networking and web-based marketing will be created and offered free of charge for the duration of this project. Two courses will be created the first year and then a minimum of one course each following year. Course authors will retain full copyright authorization for their work.

    Training and support will be available for citizens who wish to create their own online courses with emphasis on the entrepreneurial opportunity of offering informational and training services via Internet worldwide.

    The planned courses are:

    1997-98: (1.) International Web-Marketing
                  (2.) Enviro-Preneurship

    1998-99:  (3.) Community Building; Building Rural Social and Organizational Capacity through
                         Community Networking

    1999-2000: (4.) Electronic Democracy and Rural Empowerment

    The International Web-Marketing course will focus on entrepreneurism and involving K12 youth in searching out and evaluating web-based entrepreneurial and marketing models. Rural teachers will focus on economic survival issues along with the youth.

    The most important current need for citizens is how to "learn-to-earn" a living to replace rapidly disappearing traditional vocations. A model is needed for an "Entrepreneurship Cooperative" to provide training, certification, and joint marketing of skills and entrepreneurial online services for citizens.

    Lifelong learning has become an employability survival necessity. The distinctions between what should be taught in K12 schools and in the current workplace are blurring as more powerful connectivity and information management tools are proliferating at ever more affordable prices and with easier-to-use interfaces. It's a fact that K12 students have an attitudinal mindset that allows them to typically out-learn adults if given hands-on access to the appropriate technologies.

    In short, what's good for K12 is good for training the current workforce in most instances; basic literacy, teleliteracy, and infoliteracy.

    An Entrepreneurial Online Cooperative could offer training, support, and co-marketing online while promoting citizen-created lessons and information services to stimulate even greater interest among citizens in creating their own ventures. Citizens need affordable means of learning how to create online courses and services and to potentially market them. The goal will be to create self-fulfilling knowledge-economy models that respond to local needs.

  - Identify which trainable skills best result in employment  - Identify appropriate entrepreneurship instructional resources for K-12 and Higher Education  - Identify and share replicable rural entrepreneurial successes through an ongoing showcase of those innovations that work and the failures offering valuable lessons to learn from.
  - Identify and share current "inside track tips" on new technologies, efficiency tricks, and entrepreneurial trend profiles.
  - Provide working models of successful decentralized workteam businesses and citizen-to-citizen mentoring services.
  - Give "good idea" businesses free publicity to assure their success and replication/competition.
  - Allow citizens the opportunity to "hang an entrepreneurial shingle" from a regional online "marketplace/mall" which has already achieved a critical mass of development and promotion.

    Regional Youth groups and rural schools, will participate in the web development and citizen training
programs of this project through a youth-entrepreneurship program. These youth will help local businesses establish a web presence as well as seek out, evaluate and disseminate the most relevant entrepreneurial rural models.

    Individual community networks would become resource sharing partners by posting their best resources via web pages such as:

    A. The best web-based learning tours of community network successes and special features.
    B. The best community networking models with summative explanations as to specific software features and social motivational programs.
    C. The best awareness raising activities, articles, starter collaborative activities, and online training models.
    D. The best online civic initiatives, multicultural models, electronic democracy models, economic development and web entrepreneurship models.
    E. The best community networking field guides and organization structures.

    Regional experts would receive assistance in creating their own consulting/resource web pages to make citizens more aware of regional expertise and to encourage them to better communicate what they can best contribute. This 'Regional Talent Database' will serve as a national model for how to enter the emerging 'Knowledge Society' as an independent entrepreneur and how to better connect regional talent with regional needs for expertise. Too often, outside help is brought in primarily due to the lack of knowledge of available regional talent.

    Project Personnel would model a consultant's bureau by each posting a web page with a minimum of the ten best resources in specific specialty areas. Each project participant would host a resource category and web page showcasing their available consulting expertise, a short biography with references, followed by the 10 or so best resources in their specialty area. This resource model would double as a consultant/speaker's bureau.
    Everyone interested would be invited to participate in multiple online discussions using web-based conferencing and in building a robust archive of carefully organized and evaluated resources. This would create a "community of communities" and a free resources sharing program in support of Community Networks. This "Inclusion Initiative" interactive web-conferencing site would present:

   - Web-based conferencing allowing interaction between members with weekly posting of summaries of these and other top community networking discussion groups.
   - Anecdotal stories showcasing what's possible for various community organizations with weekly highlights on a different community network innovation each week.
   - A realistic appraisal of all that's involved in creating and sustaining a community network, with emphasis on the risks and conditions for failure.
   - The best community technology center models, technology transfer programs, and international community network models.
   - Ongoing access to summarized accounts of what's working in other communities, free resources, entrepreneurial modeling and support.
   - Resources for raising community awareness through multimedia presentations of the best current models and the newer technical interfaces.

    A community networking resources clearinghouse and 'products pipeline' will be created with emphasis on those services and products that support communities in benefiting from online technologies, particularly those created by individuals and communities. Full copyrights for all 'products' created by, and in relation to, this project will belong to the original authors.

    The Big Sky Telegraph web site ( is already a highly functional prototype for this project offering a clearinghouse for:

   - Self-directed training, lessons, tutorials, and courses.
   - Community Networking, Rural Economic Development, and International Trade Training.
   - Family Fun Home Learning.
   - Web page development and web conferencing resources.
   - K12 Essential Resources and Guidelines.
   - Links to Montana Business, School, and Community web sites.

    Evaluative metrics on the degree of interaction and marketing success facilitated by the Incubator will be kept, including the number of citizens who participate in the web-marketing and online course activities.

    Quantitative and qualitative assessments of the accumulated resources will be conducted regarding relevance and effectiveness for empowering county residents. Peer and community assessment will be the key evaluative strategy with anecdotal evidences collected throughout the life of the project.

    Quantitative data will be kept on the number of citizen consultant/resource web pages created, business web pages created, and number of communities who utilize the Incubator to create their own community network systems.

    Measures of interaction, delivered resources, training and technical support will be conducted internally. The opportunity exists to devise unique, replicable measures on the effectiveness of collaboration.
   - The number of persons assisted via voicephone.
   - The number of community web pages and sites.
   - The number of interactive web conferences and the amount of citizens participating in each conference..
   - The number of email queries from citizens and the degree of support provided.
   - The number of files and resources posted on the clearinghouse.
   - The number of WWW "hits" on posted clearinghouse resources.
    BIG SKY TELEGRAPH has been recognized for excellence by the White House and four Congressional Office of Technology Assessment reports. In 1989, US WEST funded BST $280,000 for 300 community presentations on the benefits of microcomputer telecommunications, presented by BST's trained rural circuit riders. At that time, a regional economic development grassroots leadership organization created a network through Big Sky Telegraph linking 10 county offices. To appreciate the impact Big Sky Telegraph has made regarding advocacy of rural connectivity, performing an Internet search for 'Big Sky Telegraph' and/or 'Frank Odasz' is strongly recommended.
1997              1998                              1999                             2000
Create/develop Incubator Web Conferencing and County Databases

Build Rural Resources Clearinghouse

Create and offer first two courses
(Web-Marketing and Enviro-Preneurship)

Create/Offer Community Building Course

Create/Offer Democracy Course

Create One New Community Web Site every six months!

    All five incubator components will occur simultaneously with high visibility and emphasis. New forms of open learning communities and 'learning organizations' must evolve quickly to realize the educational, social and democratic potential of community networks and Internet connectivity. This is a plan to meet this need in the short term.
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