RURAL WIRELESS ECOMMERCE AND TELEWORK CENTERS
Expanded version at
by Frank Odasz
Lone Eagle Consulting
2200 Rebich Lane
Dillon, Montana, USA 59725
This paper is an implementation plan for an actual grant proposal to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Technology Opportunities Program presented as a replicable plan to assist all rural communities in taking “The Ten First Steps for Rural Community Ecommerce and Telework Preparedness.” History will validate that measurable outcomes proved necessary in determining the direction forward.
The Clarity of Common Sense
The common view of rural communities, as quoted from the Beaverhead County commissioner’s office is “We’ve yet to see a rural community benefit significantly from use of the Internet.” There’s an important missing link here between the glowing promises of the telecommunications companies and the government that broadband is essential and indisputably beneficial, and the perception of rural citizens based on their very practical experience that there are no proven benefits.
The Big Picture
This process begins with imparting a realistic vision for participation to citizens and organizations regarding their specific roles, ongoing activities, and highest value applications. Specific short-term action agendas are required to validate in the minds of citizens the potential of Internet infrastructure for building collaborative capacity in support of the social and economic sustainability of the community.
An Inevitable Reality for Communities Hoping to
As broadband becomes increasingly commonplace, communities are beginning to compete on the demonstrated talents of an inspired and motivated citizenry. Visible demonstrations of advanced telecommunications and technology applications are a selling point for communities seeking to showcase their ability to learn, innovate, and grow their cooperative vision.
An Issue of National Competitiveness
The vigor of our communities, our nation, and all nations, will depend on creating motivated lifelong learners, proactive citizens who are value-driven, innovative entrepreneurs, skilled collaborators, and citizens who are both consumers and producers - both learners and teachers, all the time.
Those communities first to show true widespread participation in realizing tangible benefits may well enjoy a cottage industry for decades to come teaching other communities how to replicate their success, online. It is just a matter of who and when.
Three impoverished rural
communities enabled with high-speed wireless Internet recognize that they
share a common problem, i.e. their citizens don’t know how to turn high-speed
Internet access into economic and social value. Too many of their citizens are
fearful of, and actively avoid, anything related to learning about technology.
To establish new awareness and new learning relationships, our solution will
be to create an “Ebay Cash Center” storefront - a unique community technology
center serving as a combination Community Technology Center, Ecommerce
Incubator/Fulfillment Center, and Kinkos-style Community Cooperative Service
Center. (Documented severe community economic conditions are in Appendices B,
C, and D.)
Three communities will partner
with Idaho State University’s Special Programs office in the College of
Technology and Lone Eagle Consulting. The City Council in McGrath, Alaska; the
Chamber of Commerce in Montpelier, Idaho; and the Beaverhead County
Commissioners in Dillon, Montana, are primary partners in the project.
The initial attraction of the Centers will be the demonstration of how online auctions can easily turn common items into cash. By raising awareness and offering skills development and unique services, the center will assist rural citizens in raising their abilities to use the Internet for creating new income and new relationships (social value).
Mary Anne Wofford, an unemployed home-schooling Mom in Dillon, Montana, has just finished the Rural Ecommerce course. “I’m amazed to report that I’ve sold everything I’ve posted on Ebay, and I just sold a cookbook for $66.00 that I bought at a garage sale for 25 cents. I want to be involved in Dillon’s Ecommerce Center so I can learn more and teach others.”
Innovations of this project build upon knowledge of past projects including previous TOP ecommerce grants such as ACEnet, Kellogg’s MIRA project, the MIT Camfield Estates project, HP’s digital village initiative, and many others.
To achieve the primary goals of new income and social value, the Ecommerce Centers will assist each community in initiating entry-level Ecommerce activities, a community Emall, fast-track business skills development, and a local/global online newsletter. Recommended citizen engagement strategies will include multiple events to generate online collaboration and web content, a peer mentoring program resulting from a community skills assessment, and more. Collaborative Emarketing of local businesses, emerging new businesses, and the skills of local citizens and the community as a whole will document all measurable outcomes created during the three-year timeline.
Demonstrating a “people first, technology second” philosophy, project leaders will guide these three communities forward by creating a unique online “community of communities” to share encouragement, problem definitions, resources, citizen involvement strategies, and visible outcomes. The immediate and powerful impact from this first-of-its kind project is that the strategies, all rural Ecommerce and community curriculum materials, and the regularly updated community newsletters will be immediately available to all interested communities via the web.
Additional communities interested in participating will be supported as partners via a subscription online newsletter designed to become a sustainable national resource after the project’s completion. This newsletter will serve the mission to empower all rural communities by providing a serious collection point for ongoing success stories, community curriculum, key resources, and specific inclusion strategies designed for rural communities.
The Clarity of Common Sense - Project Purpose (20%)
The Problem. Rural America represents 25 percent of the U.S. population. It is in the midst of a severe economic crisis. It suffers from anti-technology attitudes, and it lacks appropriate motivation and training at an adult level. Nowhere are today’s economic hard times felt more deeply than in rural America. Rising prices in land and machinery, continuing downturns in agriculture, and increased global competition have left rural communities throughout the United States at risk for their continued survival. There is an immediate need to revitalize the pioneering spirit that originally created them. Rural Ecommerce strategies are needed to combat the impacts of a rapidly shifting economy.
In the 1980s and 1990s the perceived solution to the exodus of rural people to cities and the downturn in the economy was the installation of the “information highway.” “Build it and they will come,” was the coined phrase of the day.
It is significant to note that the proliferation of dial-up Internet did not produce the social and economic benefits that were promised. It is the belief of the principal investigators and substantiated by technical trade magazines that this is due largely because rural citizens were not provided the knowledge or skills needed to benefit. The computer and the Internet are commonly viewed as a time-wasting toy best suited for children.
Broadband, fiber optics, wireless, satellite—all became answers to the low-level use that dial-up Internet was receiving, but still rural, communities didn’t use the technology. A city official in one rural community noted, “We’ve yet to see a rural community benefit significantly from the use of the Internet.”
Alaska, Idaho, and Montana are primarily rural states. Rural communities such as McGrath, Montpelier, and Dillon are economically depressed, losing job opportunities, and suffer outbound migration of the citizenry. Montana has the lowest per capita income of any state in the United States. Alaskan villages suffer 80% unemployment. In Idaho, when Governor Dirk Kempthorne first took office in 1998, twenty-seven of Idaho’s forty-four counties were economically depressed. Governor Kempthorne set out a Rural Idaho Initiative in 2000 to address the growing problem in an effort to find alternative means to create opportunities for citizens in these areas. Idaho State University has joined in many partnerships to address this challenge. The ISU Special Programs office has participated in economic development projects to identify ways to bring economic relief to these rural economically-depressed communities. A pilot project was funded in FY02 with state rural economic development funds to create an Ecommerce project in Montpelier for individuals to develop personal skills and a plan of action for self-sufficiency. The success of this project has inspired this proposal.
High-speed Internet infrastructure has become available in many communities, replacing the older, slow-speed dial-up technology. McGrath has a unique village-owned ISP model successful in bringing high-speed wireless to 70 percent of their homes. Montpelier has had high-speed wireless for several years and Dillon has had it for two years. These communities now recognize the seriousness of learning how to take full advantage of the benefits available.
Community members will tell visitors they love their rural lifestyles and do not want to leave their respective areas. But, there are too few jobs and due to the remote nature of their communities, there are few customers for their retail outlets. It is highly unlikely new businesses bringing many new jobs will relocate in these rural communities with limited labor pools.
There is extensive and rapidly growing evidence that Internet infrastructure alone will not transform rural communities. Glowing promises of telecommunication companies have proved inadequate. Only personal, practical experience will prove to rural citizens that there are potential benefits of new technology. Barriers of learning new technology must be overcome. The fear of change and for “learning anything at all” must be addressed. Time is short.
Taking the First Step –The Solution. Rural citizens must learn the opportunities that are available to them for added income to support their families. There is a real untapped opportunity there. Participants can learn alone, at home, with a friend, or in a group. They can learn by teaching, tutoring, or by practicing. Rural adults will learn skills in a fun social environment. There will be no pressure or tests. This model allows for the flexibility of a variety of learning styles and takes into account the time constraints of busy rural community members.
Implementation of the following “Ten First Steps” will create a low-cost, high-value, visible, community-learning program implementing advanced telecommunications applications. The “Ten First Steps” solutions are presented below with a brief explanation of each step. The first three steps involve the initial creation of the Ecommerce Center and Emall. Steps four through nine are flexible, ongoing community involvement skills and web content development strategies. Step ten serves as a community celebration of achievements and a community self-assessment in preparation for the next cycle of more advanced applications. (Further detail on the Ten First Steps can be found in Appendix F.)
Step 1. Create an Ecommerce and Telework (EAT) Center Storefront. Vacant storefronts are a common site in all three economically depressed communities of McGrath, Montpelier, and Dillon. Utilizing such a space in the middle of town, a center will be established. This Ecommerce and Telework center will be a combination Community Technology Center, Ecommerce/Fulfillment center, and Kinko’s-style community cooperative service center. Free services are offered to take digital photos of products for sale (Ex.: quilts, crafts, antiques, etc.) and then store them for shipment for a defined period while attempts are made to sell them.
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 sites. A small commission will be charged only for items sold, thus allowing citizens an effortless way to turn their salable items into cash. E-Bay experts in all three communities have already volunteered time at the center to assist their neighbors in getting started with this process. This unique storefront E-business will display all posted salable items for others to see what is being auctioned online. Shelves of products will be open for bidding as well. Public records 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 specifications. 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. Six computers connected to the Internet will be immediately available to open the door for one of the biggest first steps of all--self-initiated, hands-on computer exploration and learning.
Essential skills needed to benefit from the Internet will be made available during open hours as 30-minute training sessions. These sessions can be presented for self-directed learning in a supervised lab environment or mentored directly by another citizen from the community. 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.
Vital 30-minute mastery learning skills units:
Browsing Basics (Ex.: http://lone-eagles.com/browse.htm)
Searching Basics (Ex.: http://lone-eagles.com/ecommerce-search.htm)
Email Basics (Ex.: Hatp://lone-eagles.com/ecommerce-email.htm)
Listserv Basics for Group Collaboration (Ex.: http://lone-eagles.com/ecommerce-mentor.htm)
Web-Authoring Basics (Ex.: http://lone-eagles.com/netscape.htm)
Digital Photography and Photo-Manipulation Basics
Digital Art Tablet Basics
Multimedia Basics (Online sound, video, animations)
Downloading and Installing Software Basics
Ebay Basics (Entry Level Ecommerce Basics)
The Center’s future sustainability will come directly through a commission of online auction sales and the Center’s growing roster of citizen-drive for-profit services. As additional business skills are taught to patrons, additional new revenue generating services will be created in this unique Kinkos Community Cooperative model. Office cubicles will be available to serve as an Ecommerce incubator providing workspace for the needs of entrepreneurs and new businesses in association with state Small Business Development agencies. Thus, a collaborative work environment will be established that will facilitate experts and novices to work together.
Step 2. Hold a Major Presentation Event to Announce the Purpose and Goals of the Center and Project. Working in cooperation with local sponsors, an event will be held showcasing the center, articulating the community’s mission for this center, the outreach engagement goals, and the planned development of new services. Advertising for the event will include local newspapers, radio, and other media. Local sponsors will assist in distributing fliers and in making personal telephone calls to their neighbors about this important first event. A videotape of the presentation will be available for those unable to attend. (See Appendix G for expanded examples of community engagement events.)
Step 3. Launch an E-mall as the Local Web Community Content Resource for E-businesses and Collaboration. A web mall will be created and will provide existing and emerging new businesses the opportunity to get on the web quickly using web templates and/or low-cost Ecommerce store builder services. Demonstration Ecommerce websites will be created to showcase the benefits of a local E-mall with the intention to continually build local content until the majority of the community is reflected in the online content in some way. With the addition of collaborative software and throughout steps 4-10, which will facilitate online collaborative use by the community, a functional community network will model the process of producing social as well as economic value. (See Appendix H for an online course Ecommerce course containing many example sites for this and other steps.)
Step 4. Hold a Skills Drive to Create a Mentorship Roster. A community skills assessment will connect those within the community who have skills they are willing to share with those needing mentoring to gain new skills. Having three distant communities in the project will be especially beneficial here as mentoring can be done online between communities. (See Appendix I for a mentorship roster model from McGrath and Appendix J for the AskA+ Locator mentoring model example.)
Step 5. Hold a Multimedia Fair for Local Champions to Demonstrate New Technologies and Applications and to Create a Series of Locally Driven Workshops. This is an opportunity to generate new learning relationships and for-profit services by having local citizens showcase their talents and skills to raise community awareness regarding advanced computer and telecommunications applications and to market their skills and new services locally.
Step 6. Create Local Online Newsletters as an Incentive for Collaboration. Each community will maintain a local online newsletter as an ongoing self-evaluation mechanism for the community to monitor its own progress throughout the project’s timeline. The other participating communities, as well as the external evaluator, and the whole world, will be able to also monitor each community’s progress – serving as an added incentive for community involvement.
Step 7. Create Teleworker Portfolios as an Incentive to Mentor and to Develop New For-Profit Services. Incentives for sustained peer mentoring will include the offer of advanced Teleworker training to include creation of an electronic portfolio resume documenting successful online mentoring and collaboration skills. Viable for-profit online services will be identified and wherever possible implemented as real businesses promoted through this project.
Step 8. Create an E-business Incubator at the Ecommerce and Teleworker Center. The Center will serve as a place for people to access computers, Internet, phones, UPS, marketing, business expertise, and multiple services to help them get their businesses started.
Step 9. E-Market the Community and Its
New Ecommerce Businesses. Using all 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.
Step 10. Hold a Celebration Showcasing Achievements. All achievements will be recognized and reported through local and national media with a special celebration event planned after the first 18 months of the project to honor the contributions of citizens and the visible outcomes generated by their direct involvement.
Measurable Outcomes The primary purpose of this project is to create a highly replicable model to improve the economic and social value of rural citizens in rural America. New income and new learning relationships resulting from each of the ten steps will be evaluated along with multiple additional measurable outcomes as defined in the evaluation section.
Keeping the Plan Simple and Doable - Innovation (20%)
The simplicity and common sense of the low-cost, high-value activities of this project, combined with the immediate opportunity for replication due to the online availability of the full Ten First Steps program strategy and curriculum materials make this project unprecedented in preparing for high impacts and widespread dissemination and is destined to be recognized as a historical first.
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. Proven enthusiasm from previous technophobes will be the most innovative outcome of this project – which they will then be able to impart to others – peer to peer.
The Center’s plan for 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 Center. Citizens will offer Kinko’s-type services including digital photography applications, digital art, web authoring, music recording, family multimedia scrapbooks and more. As awareness grows for the products that can be produced with computers, new opportunities to offer for-profit services will emerge.
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 materials including the Ten First Steps 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 eight previous TOP incubator grants, sixty-five TOP economic development grants such as ACEnet, and Kellogg’s MIRA project for which Frank Odasz was a popular community workshop presenter, the MIT Camfield Estates project which has striking similarities to this project, and HP’s digital village initiative for which Frank served as grant reviewer for HP and many others.
A Scenario: Developing Human Bandwidth Through
One year ago, Margaret Phelps and Frank Odasz began a presentation series in Montpelier, Idaho. At the first presentation few citizens showed up, but with persistent effort and personal networking more attended later presentations until over 20 citizens signed up for the online Rural Ecommerce class. While even the mayor related that Montpelier is an apathetic community, today a community steering committee has embraced the potential. A pilot project Emall has been created with support from the hospital and chamber of commerce. Local volunteers are now gathering crafts and products for online auction sales. Excitement is mounting steadily.
Local innovators formerly unrecognized are now mentoring others on how to replicate their Ecommerce successes. Jared Caldwell has been finally recognized for his Ebay expertise and 40 persons showed up at his last Ebay workshop. Retiring as school janitor, Shane Johnson has a major Ecommerce success selling baseball bats at http://batsbatsbats.com and is now advising the steering committee on the fine points he’s learned from years of experience.
In Dillon, Mary Anne Wofford joined the Montpelierians in the online class and has proven to herself by selling everything she’s posted on Ebay that she CAN do it! Natalie in McGrath has also joined the Ecommerce class and has shared a wonderful Powerpoint presentation on their need for a community learning program. Each community has unique expertise and successes to share. This project will demonstrate effective collaboration between communities as well as within communities as the holy grail of Internet empowerment – bringing people together!
“Doing for Ourselves – Together” Community Involvement (20%)
The premise of this entire project is “Doing for ourselves—Together.” The Ten First Steps represent a very logical, doable succession of methods whereby the community will prove to itself what it can achieve. The very specific multiple measurable outcomes listed in the Evaluation section below provide for community ongoing self-assessment at any time. Local online newsletters and visible measures provide for assessing how the other partner communities are coming along – as part of the overall motivational coopetition strategy. (The term coopetition was coined by Cisco as cooperative competition.)
This project involves the three main pillars of rural communities—education, business, and government encouraging citizen engagement at all levels. Successful ecommerce businesspeople will be sharing their success stories with all three communities. Citizens will receive incentives to mentor and involve others, to create new web-based content, and to create new service businesses. We have the support of community and civic groups, faith-based groups, teachers, principals, city councils, county commissioners, and hospitals.
Letters of support from major community supporters are included in Appendix E. There is also a listing of people and agencies that support the project in terms of volunteering time and resources for the project. If required, additional letters can be secured from each of them on this list as well. The rural citizens in McGrath, Dillon, and Montpelier are ready for this project. They all have a proven track record from other initiatives headed up by Frank Odasz of Lone Eagle Consulting and in Montpelier they have a long-standing working relationship with Margaret Phelps of the Idaho State University Special Programs office. The required trust, so necessary in rural communities, has already been established in all three communities.
Visible and Measurable Social and Economic Outcomes - Evaluation (15%)
An external evaluator will oversee the collection and validation of all data. The evaluator will visit all communities three times during the project. The first visit will be at the beginning of the project to make sure the evaluation tools are in place for the proper gathering of data. The second visit will be during the ninth month to make any adjustments that might be necessary and the third visit will be at the end of the first eighteen months to attend the celebration and participate in the half-way point self-assessment. The external evaluator will serve as a participatory action researcher advising as well as evaluating. The external evaluator will monitor all data collection with additional survey instruments and anecdotal interviews along with the hard data specified in the measurable outcomes for all ten steps.
Mr. Steve Cisler has agreed to be the external evaluator for this project. He currently is a librarian and telecommunications consultant who has been involved with community networks since 1986. In the 1990s, while at Apple Computer, Inc., he made grants to libraries and communities that were building Free Nets and other community networks. He convened two community networking conferences, Ties That Bind, in 1994 and 1995 that brought together networkers from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Mexico, and Germany. He headed a project to free up unlicensed wireless spectrum (5 GHz band) for public use. In 1996 he helped found what is now the Association for Community Networking and since then has been active in the rural United States and in Latin America to help grow community-based ICT projects. He just got back from Uganda where he helped evaluate an ICT project for teaching colleges and he is helping on a project in libraries with the Open Society institute in Hungary. Steve Cisler maintains an outstanding web blog at http://glocal.crimsonblog.com
This project presents the Ten First Steps as a simplified low-cost ongoing program community assessment of resident talent and skills, current ecommerce businesses, the level of internet awareness (need for awareness events), and the level of collaboration for ongoing sharing of new knowledge and learning to create new businesses and bring existing business online.
Step 1 – Create an Ecommerce and Telework Center Storefront. Within 90 days of being awarded funding, each Center will be open for 40 hours a week. The measurable outcomes for all Ten First Steps will be graphically displayed at the center and updated regularly, such as the number of participants and participant hours utilizing the center, the number of items sold, the total resulting new income, and the number of media exposure events and local sponsors.
Step 2 – Hold a Major Presentation Event
to Announce the Purpose and Goals of the Center and Project. A public
presentation at each Center will be held to announce its opening within the
first 90-day period of the grant. The presentation will be video-taped to
assure the majority of citizens view it and will be offered to other
communities to help raise their awareness.
Step 3. – Launch an E-mall as the Local Web Community Content
Resource for E-businesses and Collaboration. An E-mall at each Center
will be established within the first six months of the grant and will contain
both community products and services. The mentoring list, a local skills
list, connections to other web sites, online training modules, and success
stories will be included. The mall will list 100 percent of local businesses
and will encourage development of a web page for 80+ percent of local
Step. 4 – Hold a Skills Drive to Create a Mentorship Roster. A minimum of a dozen volunteer mentors at each Center will provide peer assistance for basic computer skills, basic Ecommerce skills, and will respond to citizens providing the skills they would like to learn.
Step 5 – Hold a Multimedia Fair for Local Champions to Demonstrate New Technologies and Applications and to Create a Series of Locally-Driven Workshops. Within one month after each Center opens a multimedia fair will be held to engage resident talents. Existing local experts will demonstrate digital photography, photographic restoration, basic web page design, online auction skills, tips for selling on the web, and recording digital music. A schedule of workshops will be advertised inviting the public to participate in in-depth learning opportunities for specific skills.
Step 6 – Create a Local Online Newsletter as an Incentive for Collaboration. Each community will maintain a local online newsletter as an ongoing self-evaluation mechanism for the community to monitor its own progress throughout the project’s timeline. The other participating communities, as well as the external evaluator, and the whole world, will be able to also monitor each community’s progress – serving as an added incentive for community involvement.
Step 7. – Create Teleworker Portfolios as an Incentive to Mentor and to Develop New For-Profit Services. Records will be kept on the portfolios for each Teleworker trainee, including the specific training they receive in return for mentoring others including the number of their mentees, specific skills taught, and specific new for-profits services developed.
Step 8 – Create an E-business Incubator at the Center. At least five new businesses will be created at each E-business incubator with records kept on assistance given to additional businesses.
Step 9 – E-Market the Community and Its New Ecommerce Businesses. A marketing plan will be developed by each community. Each community will enlist the assistance of an outside business group, such as the Small Business Development group or other formal business planning group. Each community’s marketing plan will be shared with the other two communities.
Step 10. – Hold a Celebration Showcasing Achievements. A final “event” will take place two to three weeks before the end of the first 18th month period. All three communities will share the best-of-the-best lessons and outcomes from each of the steps by creating a video (and webcast event) to be used to help other communities get started replicating this program.
Extensive Existing Resources and Proven Expertise - Feasibility (15%)
This project’s design is based on direct grassroots implementation and decades of seeing what has and has not worked in dozens of other projects. The sheer volume of the community planning resources, community curriculum and existing community grant template resources available to participating communities at the beginning of this project is in itself noteworthy. The social recognition and attention to the direct and immediate benefits to individuals as well as to their communities make this project believable and exciting to potential participants. (See Appendix A - Qualifications of Frank Odasz and Margaret Phelps and Appendixes B, C, and D--community profiles of McGrath, Dillon, and Montpelier.)
Timeline and Conclusion
Each community will engage in final planning during the first three months of the project to involve as many local citizens and organizations as possible. The Center will open three months after the grant begins. At the same time the center opens a major presentation event will be held to announce the opening. The E-mall will be established within the first six months of the grant. A multimedia skills fair will be held one month after the center opens and monthly workshops will be presented thereafter. The mentorship roster will be posted on the E-mall during this time and the three local online newsletters will be established. Local online newsletters will be updated by participating communities - monthly.
At the beginning of the second year, teleworker portfolios will be posted online containing the new for-profit services available within the communities. Emphasis will be to learn E-marketing techniques and work on an Ecommerce business plan. At the end of eighteen months a celebration will be held to showcase the achievements of the Centers and self-assess prior to the next 18 month cycle. The second eighteen-month period will be used to refine the services of the Center, build the profit and service Center, and plan for more advanced telecommunications applications. (See Appendix K for a chart showing timeline of activities.)
Working Together – We’ll All Have Access to All our Knowledge
As an immediate dissemination strategy, the Ten First Steps program and curriculum will be available online for replication by communities who can self-identify their readiness. These additional communities will be supported as partners via a subscription online newsletter designed to become a sustainable resource after the project’s completion. Separate from the three local community newsletters, this newsletter will serve the mission to empower all rural communities by providing a serious collection point for ongoing success stories, community curriculum, key resources, and specific inclusion strategies designed for rural communities.
Throughout the project all participants will have free access to all resources at Lone Eagle Consulting’s web site. (See Appendix L for a partial listing.)
The Ten First Steps for Community Ecommerce and
1. Create the Ecommerce and Telework (EAT) Center Storefront
Goal: To create a centrally located storefront for the EAT Center to attract a wide variety of patrons who wish to learn new skills to help them raise their income levels and maintain their preferred lifestyles. The center will serve as an outreach and training hub with one fulltime equivalent champion for the first year. Half time funding is planned for years two and three with revenues from sales and services building eventual sustainability.
Strategy: Using the first incentive of ready-cash from online auction sales from items brought to the center as the initial attraction, additional incentives for participation will be the friendly offer of free training, Internet and computer access, and specialized training workshop events to create for-profit services. Local media will be used to keep the center’s many activities in the minds of the community. Ebay-Day events will be promoted as fundraising activities for local organizations.
Outcomes: The number of participants and participant hours utilizing the center, the number of items sold, the total resulting new income, the number of media exposure events, and the number of Ebay-Day fundraisers will be graphically displayed at the Center and updated regularly.
2. Hold a Major Presentation Event to Announce the Purpose and Goals of the Center and Project
Goal: To introduce the services, staff, volunteers, and community opportunities presented by the center with emphasis on the opportunity for additional funding if the community rallies to demonstrate widespread active use of the center. This presentation will be videotaped to allow for maximum dissemination.
Strategy: Create a multimedia presentation showcasing successes of other communities and individuals specifically related to the intended outcomes of the project in the context of “learning what’s working for others like you.” Articulate the community mission for the project as related to the goals of the Ten First Steps for generating new skills, relationships, collaboration, content, Ebusinesses, and visions for the future uses of communications technology.
Outcomes: The presentation will be video-taped so everyone interested will have a chance to see it, including other communities. The ideal outcomes are unbridled enthusiasm for what a community can do for itself as well as widespread participation in the center and the many following activities to be specifically recorded as measurable outcomes. An online public calendar will serve as the basis for local organizations planning their own awareness-raising events.
3. Launch an Emall as the Local Web
Community Content Resource
for Ebusinesses and Collaboration
Goal: To demonstrate the benefits of posting local content on the web to draw business to the Emall as well as to better share information and new learning services throughout the community.
To facilitate maximum community inclusion from the very beginning of the project through local organizational incentives of assistance creating a web presence with initial emphasis on listing existing business web sites, bringing more businesses online, followed by community content creation and collaboration activities.
Strategy: A public graphical display on the Emall and at the Center will celebrate all sponsoring organizations and businesses to make it explicit that participation will be rewarded with recognition. All local businesses will be invited to co-sponsor these content and collaboration creation events in return for technical assistance creating Ecommerce web pages and/or other content contributions to the community Emall.
Many model low-cost events, are described in The Community Bootstrap (See Appendix G: The Community Bootstrap Academy)
Specific events will be held for business and community leadership with information packets containing an executive overview on their advantages for direct participation.
Special integrated presentations for K-12, parents, and economic developers will be held. An emphasis will be on youth involvement and youth trainees will be specifically sought out.
Web-raising content creation events will be held designed specifically to generate web-content to draw potential customers to the Emall web site. Such content would include all local and regional businesses with web sites, volunteer mentors listed by topic, relevant success stories, Ecommerce models, and training resources. Incentives include free workshops on creating web pages for local community based organizations, businesses, families and individuals.
Records will be kept for the number of events held, the number of
participants, the number of sponsoring organizations and businesses, and
feedback from participants. Documentation will include emphasis on new
relationships, initiatives, and new web content created and the range of
organizations, businesses, families, and individuals involved in creating and
4. Hold a Skills Drive to Create a Mentorship Roster
Goal: Conduct a skills assessment to create an online Mentorship Roster to list local talent alphabetically by topic and by name to meet the need for coordination ofmatching local expertise, with local learning needs – i.e. the haves with the have-nots. (Example Mentorship Roster; AskA+ Locator Appendix J.)
Strategy: A survey will collect resident skills, recording who is willing to share them, as well as skill needs and who needs mentoring assistance. In rural communities, those with technical skills are often shunned instead of celebrated. A social recognition strategy is needed to provide external recognition for the social value of their skills. Local social recognition will grow as people learn to appreciate that learning new technology skills is easier in a social setting. This project provides a structure to assess and record collaborative successes – gathering and sharing information and encouraging new learning through peer mentorship.
Outcomes: Records will be kept for the number of new mentors and new skills generated by all project participants and multiple ongoing training initiatives.
5. Hold a Multimedia Fair for Local Champions to Demonstrate New Technologies and Applications and to Create a Series of Locally Driven Workshops.
Goal: To demonstrate the benefits of new technology and advanced telecommunications applications as a model process. Whereby, the citizens can conduct training workshops, advertise their expertise, and related services and whereby communities can continually stay current on continually advancing applications.
Strategy: Drawing heavily on local volunteer talent, as well as established experts, demonstrations of new technologies and applications will be conducted covering the full range of things that can be done with a computer and Internet – given friendly and knowledgeable assistance. This will create new relationships between those with skills and those with learning needs. Citizens will volunteer their presentations as a way of creating awareness for their new for-profit services.
A workshop series utilizing local talent will be created. These workshops will require a small fee for attendance and will include such topics as multimedia family scrapbooks, digital restoration of damaged photographs, a showcase of local and regional Ecommerce success stories and strategies, Ecommerce tools for Ecommerce web sites, collaborative emarketing solutions, and so on.
Outcomes: Records will be kept on the number of persons participating in the presentations, the number of new relationships resulting and the number of new technologies and specific advanced telecommunications applications demonstrated. Records will be kept for the number of advanced workshops held using local talent and the number of participants. Link lists will point to examples of advanced community applications and will provide a summary of ongoing means for seeing the latest advanced applications.
6. Create a Local Online Newsletter as an Incentive for Collaboration
Goal: As a conduit for citizen engagement, online collaboration, and storytelling of what’s working - each step of the way – a collaborative online newsletter will be created and regularly updated throughout the project.
Strategy: Collaborative incentives will be created for all citizens willing to regularly share their expertise. Effective use of free collaborative tools such as listservs with web-based archives will be accessible via the newsletter and Emall, including use of “blogs” a new form of self-publishing allowing anyone interested the equivalent of an online newspaper column – with a link included in the newsletter as their means of ongoing contribution. (http://crimsonblog.com)
This newsletter will be an
incentive for citizens to regularly get online to see what’s
going on locally with the majority of the content being provided by locals. The
newsletter will showcase the Center’s many activities and frequent workshops held
by locals. All three communities will be able to gauge their progress against that
of the other communities thus facilitating the rapid sharing of new ideas and resources. Example http://deltadiscovery.com from Bethel, Alaska.
Outcomes: The newsletter serves as an ongoing evaluation mechanism for the community to self-assess its own progress throughout the project’s timeline as well as allowing the external evaluator, and the whole world, the ability to monitor the project’s progress. The number of contributors will be recorded along with the frequency of their contributions.
7. Create Teleworker Portfolios as an Incentive to Mentor and to Develop New For-Profit Services
Goal: Create incentives for sustained peer mentoring by offering advanced Teleworker training to include creation of an electronic portfolio resume documenting successful online mentoring and collaboration. Viable for-profit online services will be identified and wherever possible implemented as a real business promoted through this project.
Strategy: Citizens engaged in mentoring others will enjoy the incentive of the development of an online portfolio detailing their successful online training and collaboration skills. Incentives will include specialized telework skills training and telework jobs awareness reserved for mentors only – i.e. citizens who have agreed to share what they have and will learn.
Teleworker trainee’s mentoring activities will be an explicit method for creating local awareness for their developing for-profit services based on the provided teleworker training.
As their skills and confidence develop through use of the existing “Rural Ecommerce and Telework Strategies” online course - this “ideal” center will not only assist citizens in developing employability and Ecommerce skills, but would assist those who are ready to create a real business.
Outcomes: Records will be kept on the portfolios for each Teleworker trainee, including the specific training received, the number of mentees, specific skills taught, and specific new for-profits services developed. New social relationships will provide an ongoing means for knowledge sharing and measurements for this will be publicly recorded.
8. Create an Ebusiness Incubator at the EAT Center
Goal: Establish an Ecommerce-marketing workgroup “Learning Circle” to make explicit the need for ongoing learning as essential to sustained Ecommerce success.
Strategy: Create an initial Ecommerce-marketing “Learning Circle” group to establish a functional model for ongoing group learning, both online (using listservs with web-based archives) and face-to-face. The theme for this first learning circle is effective collaborative Emarketing focused on helping local businesses who have established a web presence. Other “Learning Circles” will be created with a similar ongoing online learning and collaboration format to demonstrate the advantages of this effective strategy. This creates online collaboration skills essential to Ecommerce and community learning.
Outcomes: The number of participants in the Emarketing group will be recorded as well as the specific level of online and offline interaction. The number of additional learning circles created and their length of duration will be recorded along with their listserv usage levels and number of participants.
9. E-market the Community and Its New Ecommerce Businesses
Goal: To clearly portray the readiness of the community as connected, collaborative, and current by effectively marketing the talents, businesses, and best features of the community.
Strategy: Reassessing its readiness, the community will move to the next level for marketing its new services and Ebusinesses based on enlightened expectations. A sample 3-inch CD created to give to tourists by the Chamber of Commerce in Ely, Nevada, is available on request. (An outstanding example of Multimedia production!) See also http://www.elynevada.com as an example community Emall.
Outcomes: An identifiable community marketing component of the Emall and EAT Center both online and offline. A formal mission statement and strategic plan will be created by a community steering committee as part of their commitment to this project.
10. Hold a Celebration Showcasing Achievements
Goal: To hold an event to formally recognize those who contributed to the successful sharing of new knowledge and measurable outcomes. Realizing there will be lessons learned, a reassessment will clarify the next steps for this project based on the new awareness of options, new relationships, and new enthusiasm created during the initial execution of these Ten First Steps.
Strategy: To reinforce the social incentives for continued contributions, innovation, new content, new skills, new businesses and enlightened expectations for what’s now seen as viable next steps.
Outcomes: The total sum of the number of measured outcomes throughout the first 18 months of this project will be presented as hard data in graphical format online and at the EAT Center. This event will be held again at the end of the project.