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Reaching the Tipping Point
for the New Generation of Community Networks

by Frank Odasz

What’s the best a specific community can hope to achieve regarding poverty reduction, enhancing community learning and realizing the promise of broadband?

From a historical perspective we’ve seen a legacy of over 15 years of grassroots champions creating local community networks, but because the ideas were so new they struggled to educate entire communities with meager resources and rarely achieved more than a small percentage of local participation. Yet, more recently, we’ve seen the peer-to-peer social networking phenomena boom in the form of massive participation in sites such as MySpace and others.

These champions can relate long time resistance to community networking visions by established leaders from a generation that fears technology. Were these local champions missing something fundamental during a time when the technologies were new to everyone or are we actually witnessing a generational phenomenon from those who have grown up using computers and online technologies?

We’re seeing rapid emergence of a new awareness of New Media opportunities for new forms of democratic participation. The global stage is set for a major breakthrough to a whole new level of transnational organization. Recent awareness has been stimulated by public debates on Net Neutrality, free speech and E-enterprise.

While traditional media and many adults resist the newer technologies, youth, as the first generation of digital Natives have embraced them. We have indeed reached a significant generational “tipping point.” Adults who did not grow up using digital technologies should not underestimate the current younger generation’s ability to imagine how they might create a very different world and faster than anyone would ever believe. It is already happening all around us.

 What new freedoms do we have to communicate?

            Our ability to find essential information, for others.

             Our ability to teach and/or empower others with tools and skills

             Our ability to learn to function as a coordinated community when necessary,
              locally, regionally, nationally and transnationally.

 Community Internet Learning is Everyone’s Responsibility

FK12 Administrators and Educators

FElected Community Leaders

FHigher Education

FEconomic Development and State agencies

FNational Agencies

FUnofficial Community Leaders; Parents, Youth, Disabled, Faith-based, CBOs

FIt is YOUR responsibility as a citizen with the ability do make a positive   

Grassroots Activism and the New Instant Multi-national Business Model

In the Modern Day – given the right tools and training – anything is possible, with a little help from our friends.

The impacts of one or two creative individuals creating opportunities for many, many others have produced a model for quickly generating huge global businesses that ideally would work toward positive global change.

Examples: Google (searching, GIS, and other tools) and Myspace (collaboration and self-publishing tools) and Wikipedia (collaborative authoring tools and program), Skype (open source VOIP with 2-way video), Craigslist – Classified Ads model, YouTube (video self-publishing) and Ebay (entry-level buy-sell ecommerce model), just to name a few. Just in, Google buys YouTube for $1.6 billion 

We are already seeing an acceleration of this Instant Global Megacorp phenomena with one related success after another and each being far grander than the one before. To be specific, MySpace was purchased for half a billion after an 18 month startup, and is projected to be worth 120 billion by 2010. And Google just purchased YouTube for 1.6 billion after a similar 18 month startup. Skype was purchased for 1.6 billion by Ebay after a two year startup. What’s next?

The context and content of such a startup determines how many people are attracted and how fast. A significant number of yesterday’s start-up successes have failed as suddenly as they succeeded. Their “context collapsed” and turnover can happen as quickly as the attention span of their users can shift. For example, at one point MySpace and Friendster were near equals, but attention quickly shifted to MySpace.

Toward a Grassroots Global Cooperative for Positive World Change
We’ve seen these successes created with the context and content being peer sharing regarding pop culture and entertainment, primarily by teens in the case of MySpace. But what IF the context for such a startup were based on something more meaningful than idle entertainment or chitchat, such as making a major positive difference in the world?

Now that Mohammed Yunus and the Grameen Bank have been awarded the Nobel prize for their third world micro-loans innovations, leveraging ICTs for third world employment has become a hot topic.

And What’s the Point? What could 200,000 Alaskan Natives or 5 million Native Americans do together, or one billion Internet Users? And what could your community vision become?

Better Philanthropy

Better philanthropy depends on motivating and mobilizing people to do as much for themselves as possible to extend the impact of funding dollars by engaging people in new best practices utilizing Internet tools for self-directed learning and ongoing collaboration with emphasis on peer mentoring to produce measurable social and economic capacity-building models. At issue is identifying the most powerful skills and tools for volunteers which will allow them to dramatically expand the scope and scale of their good works.

From a systems approach, if social recognition for sharing our knowledge generates more personal motivation for self-education and sharing, the intensity of commitment and ongoing participation should increase in proportion to the degree of social recognition received. Wikipedia.com represents over a million donated articles – as one tangible example.

If everyone in the world were rewarded socially and economically for what they learn and teach to others, we’d live in a very different world.

Proveit.com offers training plus self-assessments as a way of demonstrating expertise for employment purposes. Blogs represent a peer-linking and peer-validation methodology, but perhaps not in a format to which the majority of us will yet devote the personal time required to sustain.

Is there a fun, social, learning model that will prove motivationally sustainable for the majority of us? Ongoing e-learning and mutual support systems are rapidly evolving to become a fundamental part of survival in the information age.

The BIG Question
How can a timely online course, perhaps a sequence of short instructional IPTV Videos, mobilize huge numbers of people quickly to begin to collaboratively grow their ability to take purposeful and effective individual and collaborative action.

What’s the best an individual can do for him/herself in a way that benefits the community? Such as acquiring skills to share with others as a mentor or volunteer?

In this context, what is the best a Community Network can be? It depends on the shared vision, effective methods for community engagement, existing and potential local talent and leveraging volunteerism. Perhaps public private sponsorships are needed to bring a high level of coordination and proven curriculum to the community? Or new philanthropic funding models?

Citizen Philanthropy, Online Volunteer Management
How can we train individual volunteers to most effectively motivate and educate others, aggregate knowledge, and create patterns of purposeful activity that can enable and empower others to also become teachers as well as learners?

Online Volunteer Management and New Philanthropy

Volunteerism needs to be cast in a new light – that effective use of ICT’s allow a single individual to have a far greater impact on the public good than has ever before been possible. It must be recognized that this impact is not limited to the local community but can become an impact on global individuals and communities, as well.

Many non-profits lack a serious and committed technology capacity building policy. Many aspects of non-profits knowledge transfer missions can be virtualized. The main tasks of knowledge management are using software and Internet for: knowledge creation, organization, planning, sharing, managing, localization, informing, training, capitalizing, and auditing.

The online volunteer is the perfect knowledge management actor for the most knowledge intensive tasks for non-profits, particularly regarding ongoing training and support. The digital identities of volunteers, boosted by social software, can create a place for collaborative projects to occur.

Training on enhancement of personal communications skills to create effective virtual communities should be fundamental to training volunteers. Inclusion in virtual communities of those otherwise unable to participate becomes possible while making sustainable ongoing training for large numbers of people feasible by allowing them to care for families while remaining active as volunteers instead of having to choose between the two.

Online volunteering opens volunteering to those usually excluded from charity: people with jobs, other professional responsibilities, or with families to care for. The opportunity exists to connect to expertise previously not available. Moving the work to the workers instead of moving the workers to work makes good sense - sending volunteers back home by virtualizing their jobs.

Recognizing this new reality for cost savings and ongoing efficiencies: Online training can be a great enhancer to learning without boundaries of time and space, including the reduction of infrastructure and travel costs as well as economies of scale. In addition, online training allows ongoing feedback of the learning process allowing necessary adjustments to suit differences among learning styles and needs for emotional encouragement.

Other benefits of online training include mobilization of experts and trainees not necessary available otherwise, the ability to reach the largest number of people, and provides a good means to demonstrate transparency to funders and stakeholders.

It is also possible to reward effective online volunteers with high quality online learning and skill development in a train-the-trainers model where they serve as both learner AND teacher, from the very beginning. The potential exists for piloting a fast-track online course covering the best collaborative tools, and best practices to create sustainable cause-specific learning communities. Such virtual communities of interest do require real leadership regarding how genuine commitments of participants are organized efficiently for mutual support. More on online mentoring.

Perhaps a sequence of short instructional IPTV Videos could mobilize significant numbers of people quickly to begin to collaboratively grow their ability to take purposeful and effective individual and collaborative action.

 Volunteering Resources

An interesting dissertation on Online Volunteerism:
Pena Lopez, Ismael. (2005) “e-Learning for Development: a model

 USA freedom corps
Network for Good
ServeNet Youth Service America
Tutor Mentor Connection
Services for Mission-Based Orgs

Global Volunteer Network- New Zealand
GoVolunteer Volunteering Australia
United Nations Online Volunteering
 Volunteer Abroad
Volunteer Canada
Volunteer International
Seniornet’s Tutorials for Retired Technology Volunteers

 What IF, leaders of the new wave of private philanthropy were to partner meaningfully with the open source and open knowledge movement and leverage the ability of everyone interested to participate in creating measurable impacts – to be recognized and rewarded in direct proportion to their contributions?

 Match-up Mentors’ Mashups with Mentees for Measurable Megaimpacts

What IF we could match-up mentors’ fast-track instructional mashups,(gathered tools and resources) to include instructional podcasts, and instructional videos, with at-risk mentees to produce competitive measurable metrics of megaimpacts? And display all relationships via Google GIS flyover maps with an ongoing competition for which mentor/mentee teams can produce the greatest benefits in the least amount of time and at lowest cost? Think of this as a World of WarCraft game format but with real life challenges, battles, successes, and satisfaction.

What models will prove to be most efficient for keeping current on the burgeoning innovations of others in as simple a support system as possible with emphasis on today’s best practices requiring the least time, effort, and cost? The newer solutions tend to have the greatest benefits requiring the least time, effort, and costs.

How best can we leverage the power of all of us…socially, economically, and culturally? How can we become global citizens and help our communities evolve into a world-changing transnational democracy and a knowledge economy combining caring and connectivity with common sense?

Mining Innovations from Global Sources
One key issue is that the level of innovation worldwide has reached such a high level that ongoing gathering of the best innovations from elsewhere is the only strategy that makes sense. But, due to traditional politics of control and politics of appearances, this is rarely the case. The ideal approach would be to aggressively learn from everyone on an ongoing basis and to generate common-sense partnerships and mutual support systems.

Rural and Alaskan Native Opportunities for Innovation

Rural citizens often don’t make the association between opportunities to learn and opportunities to make positive changes in their lives based on this new knowledge. In our rural communities we often miss hearing about the local success stories and role models, and they do exist in nearly every rural community!

A popular analogy is that today’s youth are digital natives, having grown up using technology to communicate, and adults are digital immigrants who somehow still don’t really “get it.”   But, let’s look at this from a different Native perspective, how can Native Americans and Alaskan Natives best benefit once home computers and broadband access are in place? And particularly, how can those of us with vision and skills assist our Native peers?

Empowering Individuals as Means to Strengthen Communities and Culture

Bill Yellowtail, a Crow leader and former Montana state legislator argues for “Indian sovereignty – the autonomy of the Indian person:”

QUOTE: “re-equipping Indian people with the dignity of self-sufficiency, the right not to depend upon the white man, the government, or even the tribe.” He calls for a “circling back to the ancient and most crucial of Indian values – an understanding that the power of the tribal community is founded upon the collective energy of strong, self-sufficient, self-initiating, entrepreneurial, independent, healthful, and therefore powerful individual persons. Human beings. Indians.”


 NativeHeart  - Emerging Visions for Collaborative Enablement
                               (Note: Nativeheart
is a work in progress,
                                http://lone-eagles.com/nativeheart.htm )

 Promoting lifestyles based on Native values; sharing, community support, attention to the environment and a spiritual component as we each may choose to define it.

 NativeHeart exists as a community of caring to gather and share best practices and world class experts for Native InfoTech and Internet innovations to support cultural sustainability, rural ecommerce, telework and preservation of Native lifeways, communities, and cultural knowledge.

 NativeHeart invites both native and non-native persons to participate, as only by working together can be reach our highest joint potential impact. We recognize that we all share common bonds and values at many levels. We have much we can learn from each other and we share concern for the environment, and the necessity of learning to use the Internet well to make a positive difference in our homes, communities, cultures, and nations.

 Nativeheart exists to bring together both Native and non-Native persons who share a connection to the Earth/Environment and a willingness to take action to preserve and protect it. And to support Native and non-Native individual lifestyles and sustainable communities and cultures.

Now that each of us really CAN learn to use Internet tools to make a real difference in the lives of others, anywhere, anytime – it is necessary for those of us who care enough - to take action to make it happen. We can begin by supporting each other by sharing best practices as we each discover them.

We can begin by learning to efficiently share the best innovations as they emerge on an ongoing basis such as new training resources and multimedia ways of sharing new knowledge with emphasis on person-to-person mentoring, skills transfer, and cultural expression and preservation.

Nativeheart is dedicated to gathering content contributions from innovative citizens to begin to establish a new dynamic for peer-to-peer social networking and mentoring with emphasis on the fast-track transfer of new tools, skills, and knowledge stemming from new “shared learning” relationships.  

 Social recognition of the many Native Internet application innovations globally as a way to share new ideas and opportunities is something everyone can participate in – to build a new type of community of trust and knowledge management. As we’re able to demonstrate effective outcomes and engage others the level of trust and activity will grow exponentially as a model for both local and global communities – making a positive difference.

 First success stories - appears to be a necessary first step – and it is primarily a matter of who and where. And we can write and share these stories before they actually happen, as  templates for action.

Instead of being overwhelmed or disheartened by all the negativity in the world today, we are responding with action – demonstrating how to combine caring and connectivity with common sense. We seek to gather and share multimedia success stories, training resources, new tools, and visions for what needs to be done.

Casino Tribes Face the Risk of Poverty of Spirit 
Doing nothing with our lives, even if we live in luxury is a poverty of spirit and a waste of a life. How we find purpose in living, and create positive impacts from our having lived, is the purpose of living. Many Casino tribes are now recognizing that they have a problem that isn’t financial, but spiritual, related to how tribal members can build self-esteem and meaning in their lives when all financial challenges are removed.

 Making a Life; While Making a Living;
Creating genuine meaning in our lives and the lives of those we touch.
Bringing meaning into your life can be accomplished by making a positive difference in the lives of others. And, the potential exists to establish a preferred lifestyle based on the income you can realize by providing quantifiable services to others through your initially volunteered “good works.”  Motivation, Mediums, Measurable outcomes, Models, Money and More at http://lone-eagles.com/mentoring-mission.htm

 Creating Meaning in Our Daily Lives isn’t Measured by Dollars
What we do daily and for whom defines us. Living our lives is not defined by who we can get to give us money or by how much we’re given. We recognize that neither federal or corporate welfare builds self-esteem or give meaning to our lives.

 It is feasible for a concept such as NativeHeart, described at http://lone-eagles.com/nativeheart.htm, to provide company shares to quality content providers to produce a functional global cooperative. How democratic principals apply here is something that has yet to evolve, but be assured, it will evolve and very quickly. The umbrella term is “Transnational Activism.”