Email benefits for community business

by Kay Caldwell,

Community businesses - like their for profit equivalents - need to communicate locally and globally. Kay Caldwell of the National Network of Community Business explains how the benefits of the Internet became apparent. She wrote this article in 1997.

We were immediate converts from technophobia to technophilia on discovering the value of e-mail to our staff when organising an international conference. The ease of communication, the low cost and the fact that people on the other side of the world could communicate with us during our night time and their day time - effectively allowing us to work around the clock- all combined to make us wonder how we had lived without our modems for so long.

The Network exists to provide an exchange of information between groups, individuals and councils who are involved in community business development. Members receive from us regular mailings giving the details of projects, kinds of trading activities and support services, with the aim of encouraging exchange of information and advice between them. These are costly in preparation time and postage and require storage on receipt.

The opportunity to have our own web-site where all of this information could be stored and displayed and accessed by members at the touch of a button was welcomed, and we instructed Internation Ltd. to design us a site. The information on members is in the process of being completed and we have an electronic membership form on the site too, through which we have recruited some new members. A selection of articles from the current issue of our magazine, New Sector, can also be accessed.(Paper mailings will still continue, of course.)

A new feature designed for us on the same site by Internation Ltd. is the Readers' Forum whereby members or other readers can initiate debate, carry out conversations or advertise events.

The key benefit of the Internet to us, however, may be about to be realised. The Network is a member of COMMACT, the Commonwealth Association for Local Action and Economic Development whose Governing Council members belong to every Commonwealth Region. The cost of even an annual meeting of these people travelling from different parts of the world is all but prohibitive, but using a programme specially created on Internet for us by Internation we shall be able to have regular, inexpensive "meetings". The Interactive Meeting Service, when set up, will allow all of the Governing Council members with access to modems - from the Caribbean to Africa - to link up for meetings across the Net. COMMACT may be the first, but will certainly not be the only network, to make use of this service.
The National Network of Community Business has its website at
Internation Ltd. has its website at

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