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The Power of All of Us –

If we all share what we know, we’ll all have access to all our knowledge.
Written by Frank Odasz  frank@lone-eagles.com


With one billion people online, and six billion more due to come online in our lifetime, we share unprecedented opportunities to literally educate the global population. Our historic opportunity is to work together to learn how best we can keep each other up to the same instant of progress on an ongoing basis – gathering and disseminating innovations as they occur – from global sources - while providing knowledge support systems for just-in-time learning as the need arises.


With each new person that comes online, the potential power of the Internet to benefit others grows. Each new person has the potential to learn from, and to teach anyone, anywhere, anytime. As new skills are acquired, the potential global impact of each individual grows dramatically. As more people learn new collaborative skills, their collective impact becomes exponentially greater.


We’re seeing an accelerating evolution of innovation unleashed by dropping costs for PCs, software and Internet access. Cellphones are rapidly becoming sophisticated handheld PCs capable of 2-way multimedia just-in-time elearning communication tools.

Improving technologies for Internet access, such as wireless, are projected to allow free wireless Internet access as the norm, a trend already beginning to appear in major population areas. Also appearing are unlimited free multimedia elearning resources, and open source (free) software, all of which are opening minds to the inherent global potential of the power of all of us.


The Internet has unleashed unprecedented entrepreneurial creativity worldwide. Mining the best of these innovations to bring home to empower local communities is a task we will all work together to achieve. Engaging the members of our communities to understand where to go to learn that new knowledge which creates new opportunities will be a key goal for our partnership.


Our Key Challenge

Our key challenge becomes how to identify the best expertise and greatest wisdom for local and global dissemination…on an ongoing basis. The potential exists for the wisdom and creative writing and curriculum development of a single individual to impact huge numbers of individuals. Already, some web journals (called blogs) by such individuals enjoy a readership of thousands. Such blogs are likely to evolve into fast-track elearning pathways designed to impart new skills and capabilities as quickly as possible further leveraging the proliferating array of free web tools.


Peer-to-peer social networks have already demonstrated the potential. At http://wikipedia.com over one million topical articles have been donated creating a robust resource that already rivals the Encyclopedia Britannica as but one example of the future potential of the power of all of us.


Social and economic innovations are merging as new online services in an innovation economy where ideas, resources, and education can be shared without restriction with everyone on earth. These trends present us with the opportunity for the most dramatic positive global change in the history of humankind. The stage is set for everyone to realize their potential as both learner and teacher, both consumer and producer, all the time.


What is a Community Network? And Why You Should Care
Redefining mutual empowerment best practices in a mobile interconnected global society


In the book “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” Buckaroo Bonzai is armed with a hand-held information unit that provided every type of information possible as an indispensable survival tool providing just-in-time solutions. This science fiction fantasy describes the emerging potential of today’s sophisticated cellphone/PC hybrids and wireless broadband.  Suddenly, we’re all in global competition for staying current in an innovation economy amid accelerating change on what we didn’t know we needed to know, on a daily basis.


 “In times of change, learners inherit the earth.”
                                                          Eric Fromm

Shifting Definitions of Community Networking; A Short History


Our Opportunity to Avert an Economic Disaster

The economic costs of the Katrina disaster and the Iraq war stand to dramatically reduce state and federal rural community development funding at a time where the rural economic decline, outsourcing of jobs, and out-migration of our youth is becoming a national disaster in its own right.


Both disasters spotlight the following questions that given Internet access, PCs and appropriate training, what’s the best we can do by working together….


The Internet represents a tool with the potential for unlimited elearning, fingertip access to global markets, opportunities for unlimited collaboration between communities in the U.S. as well as partnering opportunities with global communities… IF we can learn to leverage the benefits while there’s still time.


Whatever other terms might appear to describe “community networking” success will be determined by widespread citizen engagement, measurable results, and ongoing learning.

Face-to-Face Community Networking

The term community networking originally referred to common community gatherings where everyone gets to know one another. The motivator was making essential connections with those locally who share your interests and understand your needs. In the mid-eighties this term began to be used in reference to people getting to know one another online locally – with the growing potential for gathering and sharing ideas and resources with anyone, anywhere, anytime. The trend is that as the technologies evolve, the range of definitions for community networking will continue to broaden.


Virtual Community Networking

During the mid-late eighties, “online” community networks (Freenets) were formed to provide free dialup Internet access when none was available. Being the only option for free dialup Internet access was reason enough for community networks to exist. But, the deeper purpose was creating a shared online space for good people working together to more efficiently make good things happen for their communities.


The broadest definition of the term ”community networking” refers to a dedicated group of people working together for a defined purpose. In the online context, a simple definition of “community networking: is “people working together online to empower a shared cause.”


The diversity of community networking definitions, continual rapid evolution of ever increasing Internet speed, different collaborative tools, purposes, and practices makes defining community networking similar to painting a moving train. And an accelerating train at that! 

Cause-Driven Community Networks

Understanding the value of community networking starts with what you care most about and what you want to make happen to make a positive difference. Why you should care about community networking - is that the causes you and others believe in can be dramatically empowered with online collaboration tools if you learn how to use them well.

What do we need to do as communities that we cannot achieve as individuals?

Major challenges exist for those determined not to be victims of a technology-dominated future. The decisions faced by towns and regions everywhere must be based on the populace’s ability to organize, deliberate, plan, and work together.  But, how can the populace learn to work from an informed position based on current information when telecommunications innovations are evolving at an accelerating rate?


The issue quickly becomes how any individual or defined community, either geographical, virtual, or both, can most efficiently help each other stay current by creating shared learning systems. Building learning communities is the process of building mutual support systems, i.e. how we are supported, and contribute to the support of others. 

Matching the Right Tool With the Right Job - Competitively

One major challenge is keeping up with the technologies which keep changing. Recently we’re hearing about blogs as public web journals, vlogging as video blogs, wikis as group co-authoring tools, and podcasting as audio syndication via RSS (Really Simple Syndication,) and if you’re feeling suddenly lost – you’re not alone.


All these can be easily syndicated which means we can select specific information formats of text, audio, and video to have in hand – literally in our hands via handheld devices like Ipods, Blackberries, or Treo hybrid PC/Cell phones – multi-media citizen generated broadcasts from any desired virtual communities we chose. Common cell phones will soon have broadband two-way multimedia capabilities. Will you be ready? Will you be willing to participate?


Many adults are lost in this blizzard of accelerating innovation, and many community leaders, have already opted out entirely. “One-to-many, many-to-many – too damn much. Shut it off!”  At the same time, the first digital generation is busy inventing new forms of interaction continuously “on the fly.” Until they assume leadership we face interesting challenges regarding the issue of who is leading whom, and important decisions that will prove crucial to our futures risk being ignored by the current generation of overwhelmed adult leaders. Bottom up leadership is already making a significant impact on our society. 

Commoditization of Social Interaction:
Can the Top-Down Builders of Global Network Partner Meaningfully with local Geographic Communities?

A recent one and a half-hour CNBC documentory on ebay "The
Ebay Effect: Worldwide Obsession" features the fastest growing company in U.S. history. If you get the chance to watch this show, do it, or purchase the video
from http://moneycentral.msn.com/Content/CNBCTV/TV_Info/email.asp You can
call 877-251-5685

The documentary details how Ebay is the fastest growing company in U.S. history and has grown to serve 135 million users and has expanded into 33 countries. This would make Ebay the 9th largest country in the world, and they have only just begun. Ebay growth in the UK has been 100% or better for 17 quarters in a row.
Ebay gains 20,000 new users a day in China. 15% of ebay trades cross
international borders and this will soon dramatically increase.
Toward the end they showed folks in rural communities who enjoy
self-sufficiency due to ebay. The documentary ended with the potential for third
world crafters to benefit - but stated that today it is still just an idea.

Today, Ebay, Yahoo, Amazon, Google and other large corporations are beginning to focus on providing localized services; free collaborative tools, (http://groups.yahoo.com) free ecommerce web sites (tripod.com), free resume-building with local job searches, (monster.com) local searches (google.com), local sales (froogle.com), l local maps (mapquest.com), local classified ads (craigslist.com) local satellite images and GIS mapping tools(earth.google.com), and even local dating (eharmony.com).


But, is a corporate version of local community networking all we have to look forward to? What are the risks? Amid the globalization of big business fueled by advancing technology – what role do “we the people” play? Are we merely consumers or can we participate and share in the economic benefits as producers? Will the telco networks and mega corporations define community for us, or will our communities define these networks to suit community goals instead of corporate goals?

Where and how does “top-down” meet “bottom-up?” How can the builders of these networks partner meaningfully with the users?


With the push of these megacorporations and their rush for global dominance – somewhere missed is the mission of communities to do for themselves building local collaborative capacity. Certainly there are many positive services these corporations can provide which rural communities in particular cannot create for themselves, such as access to satellite images. What is the ideal role for local citizens to generate their own local content for the benefit of the community?  Can corporate and community leadership come together to recognized their joint opportunities? The realization for what’s possible is coming from bottom up leadership literally led by the people themselves.


While the muni-wireless debate rages and monopoly telcos try to outlaw communities from installing their own wireless solutions, citizen journalism projects are appearing to compete directly with mass media, delivering citizen generate news and content likely to be more honest and relevant than current mass media offerings dominated by big money and big politics.  Example: Bayosphere.org


In short, there’s a revolution underway as to how we learn, how we collaborate to make a positive impact on the world, and how social responsibility and economics can become one and the same.


Over the past decade doubts have been voiced on the viability of the original online community networking vision and mission (people working together effectively online) even as the accelerating evolution has repeatedly demonstrated extraordinary effectiveness for group learning for a specific purpose across a rapidly expanding plethora of collaboration tools.


The Katrina and rural economic disasters are raising awareness that there is indeed much that we can do deploying Internet tools and our imaginations to leverage the goodwill of caring persons to do what must be done. The question of “who cares about community networking” may prove to be one of the pivotal issues as our global society matures.


And it has already begun…sustainable businesses are being created that also serve the social good - as evidenced by the examples in the following article.

 The Power of US


 Creating a 21st Century World Class Workforce

In a recent telecast, “Creating a 21st Century World Class Workforce” Sandy Baruah, Chief of Staff for the U.S. Dept of Commerce and Chief of Staff for the Economic Development Administration related the following:


“Innovation is the only sustainable competitive advantage the United States has; we are the world’s innovators. We need to do more to help communities develop their ability to continually innovate in order to complete globally. Workers are the engine of innovation.  “Leave no worker behind” is the new theme. Everyone must have access to education and skills development opportunities. We need more rural elearning. 23% of Americans are functionally illiterate and can not even fill out an employment form. We need to reverse the decline in literacy. We need to optimize talent development for innovation.


The U.S. faces a worker shortage of 10 million workers by 2011. This is the greatest labor and skills shortage in the history of our nation. Professions in healthcare and our public schools will be the hardest hit. There will be renewed emphasis on developing emerging workers including high school drop-outs, the chronically unemployed, immigrants, and individuals with disabilities. Retaining retirees with flexible work hours and telework will be a key emphasis. Canada faces similar shortages and in response has tripled the number of immigrants.


At both the community and federal government levels stimulating innovation and ongoing learning is the emerging goal, but the history of community networking demonstrates how difficult it is for even local champions to engage the majority of any community in new ways of sharing information. Successful federally sponsored community innovation programs have yet to be demonstrated. See the new report at www.commerce.gov Click on “Strengthening America’s Communities Initiative”


Future telecast details are available at the NARC website www.narc.org and www.universityhouse.nau.edu Email questions to Tadej@narc.org