The manifesto for local online communities sets out some aims and key elements of a UK-wide programme to ensure that every community has a local centre for online access and support, forums and other services to support one or more online communities.
These pages describe how some of the manifesto aims might be put into practice, by creating connections and synergy between existing initiatives, and adding in the work of a Task Force. Click each element in the diagram for an explanation, or see the summary below.
Disclaimer: this is simply a set of 'what if' ideas at present, based on what I know is happening. None of the interests mentioned has formally signed up to the plan, although discussions are in progress. David Wilcox <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The manifesto (in detail here) recommends that
Every community (10) should have a public digital services centre and a online community channel, with technical support for users. The centres would provide help 'on the ground', the channels would be well-design 'virtual spaces' for online communities related to localities. (Details)
Centres and channels should be easy to find - signposted locally, and through a national gateway. (The national gateway would be the datamap (6) of projects under development by Newnet, and 'best of' site at the BBC Communities Hub (3)).
Public funding should be available to ensure universal provision, and that poorer neighbourhoods have both centres and channels. (Funding proposals would be part of the Task Force development programme (8) - see below).
Development of centres and channels should be piloted through pathfinders projects (7), with community participation.
There should be a network (9) and support for the local champions and partnerships who will develop the centres and channels.
A virtual resource centre (4) should be developed to provide sources of advice for local champions and partnerships, and a neutral space online for discussion of the development of centres and channels. BBC Education (1) could develop programmes and online materials linked to the resource centre. Debates planned by BBC Online (2) and, hopefully, other major online service providers would increase awareness of the potential of online communities.
A "something" is needed to ensure that there is some synergy between these projects. An old-style solution would be to try and get them all into a formal partnership. From that would develop pressure to apply for funds, arguments about control and territory, who's in and who's out, bureaucracy and stultification.... Can we instead do something which allows the different projects their autonomy, but ensures that they all become more than the sum of their parts?
The ??? might need to:
What's needed is a pro-active communications system for the community of online community builders. It may have some similarities to the Brainstorms centre developed by Howard Rheingold. More ideas here.
Many of the elements of the national programme are under development already. However, a Task Force is needed to develop some parts which are missing, and develop longer-term proposals for funding and support. It could do some or all of the following - depending on how far the ??? system above facilitated collaboration between different projects.
www.partnerships.org.uk/cyber/plan.htm October 211999