RURAL ECOMMERCE AND TELEWORK INCUBATOR CENTERS
The People and businesses on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in northeast Montana are enabled with high-speed Internet via wireless and DSL. They recognize that they share a common problem: their citizens don’t know how to turn high-speed Internet access into economic and social value. Instead of outsourcing our jobs to countries that teach Ecommerce and telework skills, we need to generate this capacity in all our own rural communities.
To establish new awareness and new learning relationships, our solution will be to create a replicable “Community Ecommerce Awareness Campaign” in partnership with establishing an “Ecommerce and Telework Incubator Center.”
“Community Ecommerce Awareness Campaigns” will include:
1. Multiple events including multimedia presentations on what’s already working in other rural communities.
2. Online lessons on Ecommerce and telework entrepreneurship based on proven success stories and strategies.
3. Creation of a Community Mentors’ Guide to generate fast-track e-business skills to create multiple self-employment businesses.
and Telework Incubator Centers”
will be created to assist the community in initiating the following entry-level Ecommerce activities:
Entry-level online auction and Ecommerce services to engage potential new
2. Fast-track e-business skill development to include entry-level online auction and Ecommerce entrepreneurship training.
3. Creation of an Ecommerce incubator (e-mall) to bring local new and existing businesses online.
4. E-marketing initiatives for the community, its new Ecommerce businesses i.e. www.shopwolfpoint.com
The initial attraction of the “Incubator Centers” will be demonstration of how online auctions can easily turn common items into cash to generate self-employment businesses; employability skills using digital photography, art, and music; and learning to “learn and earn” in a friendly, non-threatening environment. Continuing motivation and enthusiasm will be ongoing as people begin to tutor/mentor others, develop new for-profit services and develop and sell new products via online auctions, e-malls, and individual web sites.
A series of seminars will be held at our Wolf Point, Montana location to assist the local businesses and the Fort Peck Tribes in the ways of eCommerce.
Training the Trainer:
To ensure the principal training staff of Integrated Solutions are abreast of the latest innovations in eCommerce. A series of seminars will be attended to develop the materials needed for the proposed seminars.
A Beginners Guide to Profiting from the Internet
The five seminars we propose are to present a hands-on overview of what’s working for others in eCommerce and include activities exploring many of the best Ecommerce and telework training materials and resources available – from which the community members will easily be able to determine the resources best suited for their continued self-directed learning. It is designed to be interactive with others and the instructor. A brief introduction to each chapter is listed below:
Lesson One – Ecommerce and Telework Readiness Skills. This class will provide a hands-on overview of the key opportunities related to Ecommerce and Telework. The students will review what has already been proven to work for others and will learn where to find specific information when you need it.
Lesson Two – Ecommerce Fast-Track Strategies – With the world changing so rapidly, the student will need to find a way to keep track of new trends in order to know what’s working for others and what is coming next. Because there’s so much that’s changing, finding ways to deal with information overload is a priority. Take advantage of available resources that have already summarized information
Lesson Three – Ecommerce Cooperatives and Virtual Incubators. If you are a crafter and just wish to sell your crafts, perhaps you don’t need your own web site. You might use eBay, or you might just post your crafts on a crafters’ cooperative web site along with the crafts of many others to benefit from collaborative marketing.
Lesson Four – E-Marketing Strategies. Using available resources, you can market your products or web site globally just as effectively as anyone in a big city – once you know how.
Lesson Five – Entrepreneurship Training Opportunities. Imagine being able to live anywhere, either working for yourself running your own businesses, or working for someone else, but still able to live anywhere and set your own work schedule.
Lesson Six – Online Resumes and Job Sites – Selling Yourself. Extensive resources on all kinds of careers, both online and offline, can be found at job-finding sites that allow free posting of resumes and many other sophisticated features.
Lesson Seven – Telecommuting and Telework Opportunities. Telework relates to work performed via telecommunications. Employers are finding that many high quality workers are demanding this type of flexible work arrangement as a condition for employment.
Lesson Eight – International Trade Training Resources. By U.S. standards, most of the world is still in poverty. New satellite and wireless systems will soon be able to bring the Internet to nearly any point on the globe – bringing the potential for new economic solutions.
Lesson Nine – How to Start a Business. There is a process to follow and extensive resources are available to assist you. Patience and perseverance are required, but you’ll be surprised at how quickly your new business concept can become a reality.
Lesson Ten – New Rules for the New Economy. With everything changing there are a few key points to keep in mind regarding the big picture. In a world of accelerating change, your strategy is to benefit from those resources that allow you to “ride the wave” instead of being dragged along. There is increasing importance on the value of relationships.
This community-wide campaign will be an opportunity to generate new learning relationships and for-profit services by having local citizens showcase their talents and skills. It will raise community awareness regarding advanced computer and telecommunications applications and to market their skills and new services locally.
1. Multiple events including multimedia presentations on what’s already working in other rural communities. Working in cooperation with local sponsors, events will be held to articulate the purpose and goals of the centers and to stimulate interest in the planned development of new local service e-businesses. Annual celebrations will serve as community self-assessment events. A multimedia fair, showcasing skills of local champions will be held to demonstrate new technology applications and to stimulate interest in planning a series of locally driven workshops
2. Training sessions on Ecommerce and telework entrepreneurship based on proven success stories and strategies. Ten two-hour training session will be conveniently available to everyone interested which provide a hands-on overview of what is already working for other rural citizens.
3. Creation of a Community Mentors’ Guide to generate fast-track ebusiness skills to create multiple self-employment businesses. A community skills assessment will connect those within each community who have skills they are willing to share with others needing mentoring to gain new skills. Development of new self-employment for-profit technology services to benefit the local community will be stimulated by incentives of advanced teleworker training in return for sustained peer mentoring. Having two communities in the project will be especially beneficial here as mentoring can be done online between communities effectively doubling the talent pool.
In both, Wolf Point, MT and Poplar, MT the buildings, staff, computers, and high speed Internet are all in place. The Wolf Point site has two centers. One is sponsored by the local Enterprise Community that seeks an Ecommerce training component as essential to community wellness. The other center is the Integrated Solutions corporate office with considerably more space and computers, will work in partnership with the Enterprise Community center.
The problem is that today only 16 percent of rural citizens are entrepreneurial. This center program serves to accelerate creation of a rural entrepreneurial culture, an evolution which has just begun as evidenced by the majority of rural citizens who have used online auctions or know someone who has. To achieve the primary goals of new income and social value, “Ecommerce and Telework Incubator Centers” will be created to assist both communities in initiating the following entry-level Ecommerce activities:
1. Entry level online auction and Ecommerce services to engage potential new entrepreneurs. To raise curiosity, commission-based online auction services will be offered to the community to turn items brought to the center into cash. At this level, no technical experience will be necessary.
2. Fast-track e-business skill development to include entry-level online auction and Ecommerce entrepreneurship training. Essential Internet skills will be taught at each center to those who are afraid of the Internet or otherwise have a lower skills level. Hands-on online auction skills will be taught along with computer entrepreneurial and Ecommerce skills.
3. Creation of an Ecommerce incubator (e-mall) to bring local new and existing businesses online. A web-raising event will launch an e-mall as the local web community content resource for e-business and collaboration. Existing and emerging new businesses will be offered the opportunity to get on the web quickly using web templates and/or low-cost Ecommerce store builder services.
4. E-marketing initiatives for the community, its new Ecommerce businesses and the new Community Cooperative Skills Registry. Using the marketing skills and services of the regional Small Business Development Centers, a priority will be collaborative e-marketing of local businesses, emerging new businesses, the skills of local citizens, and the community as a whole. A Community Cooperative Skills Registry will be created along with electronic resumes. Both communities will maintain a local online newsletter as an ongoing e-marketing strategy and self-evaluation mechanism for the community to monitor its own progress throughout the project’s timeline.
The initial attraction of the “Incubator Centers” will be demonstration of how online auctions can easily turn common items into cash to generate self-employment businesses; employability skills using digital photography, art, and music; and learning to “learn and earn” in a friendly, non-threatening environment. Continuing motivation and enthusiasm will be ongoing as people begin to tutor/mentor others, develop new for-profit services and develop and sell new products via online auctions, e-malls, and individual web sites. “It is the perfect idea at the perfect time,” says the author of “EBay Drop-Off Centers Sprout on Main Street USA.
Essential skills needed to benefit from the Internet will be made available during open hours as short training sessions. These sessions like those listed above will be presented for self-directed learning. People whom initially just “drop off products” for sale will soon become hands-on users mentoring others in the use of the public resources of the computer lab. These learning skill units (after browsing and searching) can be addressed in any order depending upon the specific needs and interests of the participants.
Training will be made available in a variety of forms so people can apply whatever method best suits their needs. Building upon extensive existing curriculum for essential Internet skill development as well as online Ecommerce and telework lessons, Integrated Solutions will customize training materials specifically for this project.
Essential skills needed to benefit from the Internet will be made available in the form of individualized training using computer-based training (CBTs) and one-on-one, small groups in more formal settings with instructions for hands-on learning, mentoring others, and developing learning circles.
Modules using these delivery systems will be developed and include but are not limited to the following:
· Browsing Basics
· Searching Basics
· Email Basics
· Listserv Basics for Group Collaboration
· Web-Authoring Basics
· Digital Photography and Photo-Manipulation Basics
· Digital Art Tablet Basics Multimedia Basics
· Downloading and Installing Software Basics
Help will be available for those wishing to have their own web site. Participants need only to learn a few basics and then have someone help them, show them, or do it for them depending on the participant’s needs and levels of motivation to learn. These sites will be linked back to the e-mall to create a community of learning and assistance to everyone. For example, the e-mall could supply the expertise for collecting money and helping to distribute the goods. Once again by people looking at other sites, they will gain an understanding of what’s working for others.
By working together on these learning projects, it will become evident that not all people will have to learn everything. By pooling their expertise and by collaborating with each other, it will take less time for people to start using the more useful aspects of the Internet for their own individual purposes.
As people learn Internet skills and learn what others are doing, there will be a need to provide lessons in small business start-up, home-based businesses, and entrepreneurship. Lessons will be offered in a similar way as the skills lessons. These skills will be offered via the Internet, by two-way distance learning, or by classroom work.
The simplicity and common sense of the low-cost, high-value community activities of this project, combined with the immediate opportunity for replication due to the online availability of curriculum, mentors, and peers from a sister community make this project unprecedented in preparing for high impacts and widespread dissemination.
Citizens will be able to learn skills in the short term to take them from being rote beginners with computers and Internet to being confident Internet self-directed learners as well as being able to mentor others, online and offline, for a profit or just out of their own goodwill. Demonstrated enthusiasm from previous technophobes will be a significant innovative outcome of this project.
The Center’s plan for future sustainability will include an online community auction house service, an Ecommerce incubator, and a community e-mall to generate its own income while at the same time serving the needs of the community.
The incentive of additional skills training to develop for-profit services will continue to stimulate participation in this unique community program in partnership with the Centers. Citizens will offer many services including digital photography applications, digital art, web authoring, music recording, family multimedia scrapbooks and more. As awareness grows for the products and services that can be produced with computers, new opportunities to offer for-profit services will emerge to provide the support for an economically sustainable center.
Collaboration with people living in similar circumstances many miles away will prove the benefits of working and sharing. As ideas are exchanged and people learn what’s working for people in other locations, online collaboration with different countries and the world could emerge thereby benefiting many cultures and opening even wider markets than previously thought.
One of the more innovative aspects of this project is other rural communities interested in emulating this project will have direct online access to the project’s full plan, the extensive Ecommerce curriculum, and the ongoing progress posted online as regular newsletters by the participating communities.
Innovations of this project build upon the knowledge and resources created by past projects including previous Technology Opportunities Program incubator grants and other past major rural development projects such as ACEnet, the Kellogg’s “Managing Information in Rural America” project, the MIT Camfield Estates project and Hewlett Packard’s digital community initiative.
The premise of this entire project is “Acting Locally, Thinking Globally.” There are many built-in incentives in this project for community involvement at both the individual and group levels. The project presents small bite-size learning blocks in a very logical succession of methods whereby the community will prove to itself what it can achieve. Very specific multiple measurable outcomes provide for community ongoing self-assessment.
Citizens will receive incentives to mentor and involve others, to create new web-based content, and to increase new service businesses. Conversations with local citizens indicate that after years of innovations raising local awareness, the rural citizens in Wolf Point and Poplar are at last ready for the robust scope and scale of this project.
Community Ecommerce Awareness Campaigns
Kickoff community workshops. Community presentations showcasing the best web-based resources and digital stories of community successes can articulate the opportunity for the following sequence of programs and services.
Community web content competition. Give prizes for the best instructional site, best local resource, and best collection of resources from other communities and sources, best Ecommerce site, and/or the most entertaining site. Or, hold a competition for the best (fun, or most rewarding) hands-on 15-minute web tour; a self-directed learning experience using only text and web addresses.
Community web-raising. Similar to barn-raisings, bring your web-literate youth and citizens together with those who need help creating their first web pages. A community Talent Roster and/or Web-Mall could be created in a day hosting both business sites and citizen mentoring/topical resource web sites. The social recognition would be self-reinforcing and new information-sharing relationships would result in enhanced community collaborative capacity.
Regular community technology nights. Initiate digital storytelling presentations. Begin regularly scheduled community technology nights to raise awareness and provide a showcase for local innovations and to connect those who need tech-training help with those who can provide it.
Ecommerce eBay web-raising. Everyone with something to sell would be invited to attend the event and bring a sample product. Participants would take digital photos of each product to be sold and would post them on eBay. The local paper would report on how many items were posted and after two weeks how many sold. A 10 percent commission on products sold would go to the organizations hosting the web-raising for the purchase of additional community training equipment. Citizens would become aware of the effectiveness of eBay and would learn the basics of researching online to see what similar products are selling for.
Community talent database. Use this simple format to list mentors by the topic areas for which they offer online email-based mentoring as a first step toward community engagement is sharing knowledge via the Internet. Local media will ‘celebrate’ the creation of new knowledge-sharing relationships as a means of creating community sustainability.
Careful analysis of ten years of community technology centers (www.ctcnet.org) will reveal that most community technology centers do not emphasize teaching online collaboration and online learning skills or prepare citizens for online participation in community networks to build collaborative capacity. Most centers have only a vague idea of what curriculum will be most empowering. As an initial practical strategy they tend to focus on teaching employability skills often limited to word processing and computer basics.
Community technology centers need to prioritize teaching self-directed Internet learning skills and online collaboration skills, ideally generating local community networks as the hub for local online capacity building focusing on collaborative local problem-solving. Short learning modules should be sequenced in a progression of empowering capabilities with certification for specific skills achieved. Civic participation and mentoring others would be inherent as part of the essential skill-building activities.
These centers will be a combination Community Technology Center, Online Auction Drop-off Center, and Ecommerce Incubator. Free services will be offered to take digital photos of products for sale (quilts, crafts, antiques, etc.) and then store them for shipment for a defined period while attempts are made to sell them. Different methods of selling will be provided for people to choose from. Auction centers such as Auction Watch and eBay are two choices. The third is to put the items up for sale in the virtual web mall.
This center will motivate citizens to “learn-to-earn” by offering the opportunity to bring items for sale to the center for free posting on online auction or mall sites. A small commission will be charged only for items sold, thus allowing citizens an effortless way to turn their salable items into cash. This storefront e-business will display all post salable items for others to see what is being auctioned online. Shelves of products will be open for bidding as well. Records of products will be visible for what has sold and at what price so the community can benefit from this type of market research.
When people come to the center with products to sell, they’ll be asked to remain in the center while the initial product posting service is being performed. They need to answer questions regarding their products and/or services they wish to sell, and they will need to watch to make sure it is being performed to their specification. The intent is that after “watching” they will be offered the opportunity to perform the computer operations for themselves while being tutored and then, finally, just to come in and do it themselves.
The center services will provide free sit-down sessions to help newcomers get comfortable with how to both research markets for their goods as well as how to post their items themselves. Ten computers connected to the Internet will be immediately available to open the door for one of the biggest steps of all – self-initiated, hands-on computer exploration and learning.
The center will serve as an e-business and telework incubator. It will provide a place for people to access computers, Internet, phones, shippers, marketing, business expertise, and multiple services to help them get their businesses started.