Partnerships for Tomorrow

These notes were written in 1996. For the latest developments see further history of UK Communities Online and Partnerships Online.

Who we are and how we started

Partnerships for Tomorrow was started in 1995 by David Wilcox, Richard Stubbs and Michael Mulquin, who then developed the network through their contacts in the voluntary and non-profit sectors, and the telecommunications industry. The first meeting of the network was held on September 18 1995, when a wider range of people introduced themselves.

BT Community Affairs supported a conference in October 1995 to demonstrate the potential of an online Community Regeneration Network, and then backed further development work

The South Yorkshire Community Network also met for the first time in September 1995, and with Sheffield University planned the first UK conference for community networkers in July 1996.

September 1995 meeting

Report by David Wilcox

About 30 people attended the first Partnerships for Tomorrow meeting on September 18 1995. This summary note was sent to those attending.

At the end of this report is a summary of the yellow stickies we used for our brainstorming and discussion. It could all be divided up differently, but the following strong threads emerged for me.

What next

Michael Mulquin is helping organise a steering/strategy group and is suggesting Monday October 9 or Wednesday October 11. More from him shortly.

My conclusion from the discussion and past work is that we aim for the following:

P4T is a is a network and information system to promote debate on the impact of new media technologies on communities, and explore benefits. It acts as a referral point to existing projects and networks, and supports and helps those setting up new initiatives in this area (hopefully the group can improve on this).

  1. It operates through a series of linked projects developed by those involved in the network.
  2. The core/hub is a server(s) running a mailing list, First Class system, Web etc. A place to experiment as well as resource the network. I act as main editor/moderator with others from the network acting as topic editors/moderators.
  3. We also develop, with various partners:
  4. A Guide (I have some US contacts who have started and will collaborate on this)
  5. Events regional, national, international.
  6. Training and support for local projects.
  7. If possible we avoid creating a new organisation. Funding is attached to particular projects (we will need to see how this appeals to potential backers, and whether we need a charitable body to act as host for some aspect). I just know if we create an organisation we will get into what the Americans call turf wars.
  8. Rather than a long-term steering group we have a core network made up of project leaders and moderators, with some people taking lead roles to reflect national. local, technical, policy interests. Anyone out there experience of virtual organisations?
  9. If possible we use the October 31 event as a launch pad, which sets a deadline for getting things moving.
  10. I draft a proposal to British Telecom (in the first instance), with input from the strategy group.

Stickies From September 18

Technology Futures

Debate information infrastructure policies around control, ownership, public space.
How do we engage the vast majority who don't know what telematics means?
Given the changing UK economic environment, i.e. lower salaries, older people etc. - how do we pay for the Information Society?
How do we temper American culture and encourage and develop our own?
Where does the technology end and the individual/society begin?
The technological/social divide - how to avoid technologists making technological decisions and the rest not trespassing
The DIY society/community. Is this our future?
How do we have an opt-out parallel society?
If technologies are profit driven how can we hold back its development - especially if some cultures want it?
Is bandwidth an issue? e.g. problems in Rural areas? What will ISDN do for the Hebrides?
How can IT deal with issues of copyright?
Issues: addressing the attitude to information to create knowledge.
Where is community? Who is 'we'?
I have a section on democracy and civic republicanism at my home page (Scott Aikens). Also for E-democracy projects in the USA
What new ways of working and thinking are produced by on-line interaction with people and information?

Access to the technology

How do we involve the most disadvantaged in the community so they don't become more disadvantaged in IT terms.
Information and community need are paramount - technology is only the/a means.
Civic participation is a chimera?
Equal accessibility - not isolating any groups.
How can creative individuals in the Arts get funding as well as companies
Ensure access to information technology
Discuss/ensure access for rural communities: consumer/commercial, education, community networks.
Make kiosks - public access points - really accessible.
How to deal with exclusion issues.
How to get cheap modems computers and training for community groups and people in deprived communities?
Is it have and have nots, or will and will nots?
How to ensure smaller voluntary groups gain access to technology - through getting community voluntary service in London online (?) (the trouble is ­p; I've been focusing on the technology ­p; need to consider exactly what they could use it for!)

Using the technology

As an exercise, grade various on-line facilities in order of usefulness (email, listservers, conferences, WWW)
I am ignorant about anything starting http: //
Please explain bandwidth.
Technology is getting in the way - how do I transfer files?
How do we help communities to make demands on technology to meet their needs (rather than channel their activities into the demands of the technology)?
Community groups - which kinds will use the technology and which kinds won't? (e.g. campaigning orgs, servicing orgs, self help groups...)
Which are the groups of people for whom new technology developments will not increase isolationism and anti socialisation? How can we work to meet their needs first?
Address practical problems.
What are the benefits of the technology to community groups.
Personal and organisational development using technology.
Passing on information/knowledge to voluntary sector groups (in London from my perspective) is how they can gain access to/understand/use the technology to facilitate their organisational development (i.e. get on funding/personnel issues).
Brighton Health Care NHS Trust publishes info on the Web - what are the issues of making more people in the local community aware of and able to use info?
Community education through community methods - can they help?
I want to see some evaluation carried out and disseminated on the difference that the technology has made to community groups meeting their objectives.

Networking nationally

How many other groups like this are there in all sectors? How do we co-ordinate?
What projects are known to us that are 1 involved in collating resources and 2 agencies or organisations that are emerging on Internet/BBS. a) How might these overlap. b) How might these collaborate.
How to provide a framework/forum so people aren't all reinventing the wheel?
Can we please list the real examples of new media actually working now for community/social benefit, and contacts. (what makes them work? What do they have in common?)
How can we facilitate communication among people who are actively promoting a community perspective in this field?
Are there private sector mirror images of this group - how do we get through the looking glass?
I would like to know more about Telecities and other EU activity.
Don't propose a research project on current initiatives - it will be instantly out of date.
The (ever present and essential) skill of how, in an inclusive fashion - we network effectively.
Community info networks to support/inform/etc organisation engaged in urban/rural regeneration
Increase knowledge of community groups about what is happening.
Community networks and WWW - working through IT/linking small community interests world-wide/issues of access.

Networking locally

How do you define a 'community' in the context of an online system?
Development issues: vision and how do we get there. Electronic replication of real networks or revolutionary.
Defining community networks.
Education/training in using/setting up community networks. How? Where?
Managing community networks - making online democracy work on a small scale?
The politics of community networks. Do you need to keep local authorities at arms length? The difference between co-ordination and control.
Efforts made by local authorities are generally greeted with extreme scepticism by the least empowered in society (with historical jusification) How can community orgs be encouraged to take up networking tools?
Local politicians need to be taken with us.
How to create and sustain networks on issues, or for dispersed individuals e.g. rural credit union development. Who pays, who trains?
Community networking - not a substitute for anything.
Return power to community organisations.
Funding - where do you get funding? Charging policy?
Key development issues: who does what. Funding. Process. Political issues.
Staffing for community networking. Full time? For maintenance?
How do you monitor and evaluate community networking?
Empowerment factor fallacy.
Couldn't existing information skills, e.g. in public libraries, be better harnessed/resourced top develop communities and their networks?

Moving forward - P4T strategy

What specific objectives do we want to achieve through this process?
How do we stimulate and broaden this debate?
How do we share information?
Develop effective partnerships between the commercial/public/non-profit sectors.
What should large companies like BT do?
Bring the IBMs, BTs, Shells together to develop plans for community information access centres - who knows about this, who do we go to?
How do we explore, test the tech/info/real world issues live?
How to get funders for the process of Partnerships for Tomorrow?
Who takes a lead?

Flip charts

Additional points from group discussions were:
Avoid jargon
Explore the area - look for common interests between extremes - constructive cycles - enlightened self interest
* Training
* Recycle hardware through an intermediary
* Create local infrastructures - give them a 286
* Democratic dialogue
* Online activism
* Develop projects using the technology
Develop a guide on the area and how to use equipment
Guidance on how to choose 'best fit'
Ensure quality and management of information
Timely and up to date information
Make email a priority
Customise an initiative for the voluntary sector
Much scope for distance learning

In developing P4T:


* Cross sectoral
* Light
* Collaborative
* Experimental/learning
* Open
* Network of networks
* Organic and incremental


* Practical action oriented - fundable
* Find out and link up with other organisations
* Create a collective resource pool

Those attending were:

G Scott Aikens "G.S. Aikens" <gsa1001@CUS.CAM.AC.UK>
Martin Ayton 0171 713 6161
Nick Bailey (Nick Bailey) 0171 911 5000 x3117
Jonathan Baker-Bates 0171 434 3315
Clive Baldock (Clive Baldock) 01273 696955 x4387
Monica Barlow (Monica Barlow) 0117 9420162
Mike Brian (Mike Brian) 01273 481619
Jonathan Brown 0171 713 6161
Lynette Cawthra 0181 679 8000
Thurstan Crockett 0121 212 9221
Peter Day day <> 01273 643513
Mary Doyle 0171 706 4951
Peter Durrant 01223 262759
David Evans (David Evans) 01902 353929
Dave Fitzpatrick 0171 241 2162
David Gill 0121 569 4911
David Greenop (David Greenop) 0171 356 9471
Anne Harris (Ann Harris) 01273 571989
Kevin Harris (Kevin Harris) 071 226 5375
Eiko Itoh 0171 381 6276
Greg McNeill (Greg McNeill) 0181 985 1755
Michael Mulquin
Ian Pearson
Tracy Stiles (Tracy Stiles) 0171 700 0100
Chris Stokes (Chris Stokes)
Peter Stott (Peter Stott) 0141 339 7564
Chris Studman (Chris Studman) 01203 711185
Kay Wagland (Kay Wagland) 01903 884926
Chris Whitmore (Chris Whitmore) 01273 606767
David Wilcox 01273 677377
John Wilkinson J Williamson <>
Morris Williams 01272 656261

More details on those attending

October 1995 Communities Online Conference

In October 1995 Urban Forum and Partnerships for Tomorrow ran a conference at BT Centre on the theme of Communities Online.

At the conference we demonstrated a bulletin board system which could be used as the basis for an online information system for community-based projects. It used the same user-friendly software - First Class - as the Regen.Net system backed by the Department of the Environment for `official' partners in local regeneration projects.

Our pilot system was developed on an existing system called pHreak operated by Intermedia Associates.

Plenary session conclusions

At the end of the conference, participants in the plenary session concluded that the task for the Community Regeneration Network is twofold:

The system should cater for a range of users: individuals, groups, organisations, networks. Some will already be online, but many will not.

The online system should enable users to have public and private conversation (email, use of conference and chat areas), and also provide substantial information resources.

The immediate implications for development are then:

The way forward is by:

More on the October 1996 conference

P4T people

Michael Mulquin

I co-ordinate a team of 11 people - the Community Involvement Unit, working in Newham (East London), the most deprived borough in England and Wales. It also has one of the highest percentages of ethnic minorities in the country (at least 42%) and has the most ethnically diverse population. In short, it is a very exciting place to live and work. We seek to "encourage and equip the people of Newham to work together to effectively tackle issues of poverty, deprivation, discrimination, prejudice, disadvantage and powerlessness." We help in the setting up of community groups, provide training and support in the areas of financial and organisational management to community groups and maintain a library, including access to on-line databases for the benefit of community groups. We also have a strong research programme looking at key issues relating to community and the voluntary sector. Newham Council has been granted £2 million from Europe to set up multi media kiosks around the borough to provide access points for information and help and we have begun working with them on developing the project. We are very new to electronic networking, but are trying to ensure that the voluntary sector in Newham benefits from the technology and, more generally, are wanting to make sure that poor communities are not further excluded by developments in electronic communications.

Richard Stubbs

I'm 45 years old and have spent the last 24 years involved with community based initiatives including housing, worker and consumer co-ops, CDAs, charities and community enterprises. I am currently working half time for a development trust in Newham (East London, U.K.) on a 1.3 million pound scheme to convert a church so as to provide a health centre, community room, office and training space. The work also involves establishing community enterprise tenants including a homecare co-operative, cafe and childcare practice and training centre.

For about two days a week I am helping David Wilcox and others establish
Communities Online. My input is mainly in terms of business planning and the technical aspects (I was once a computer consultant and programmer). As an active practioner in the community enterprise field I am very keen to see the Community Regeneration Network properly established.

I live in a housing co-operative in Newham and am its Treasurer, other voluntary occupations include being Chair of Newham Co-operative Party, Treasurer of Community Economy Ltd and being on the steering group of NewTel which is a charitable project to establish an online community network.

David Wilcox

I spent 12 years as a journalist, mainly with the Evening Standard in the 1970s. Since then I have worked as a consultant, trainer and writer specialising in community participation and partnership building. I have been the voluntary chair of the North Kensington Amenity Trust (developing 20 acres of land under a motorway), and chair of the North Laine Community Association (or Bohemian Brighton as the official guide has it).

I'm interested in community electronic networks because they seem to challenge elites. The readers become writers, public bodies are challenged to put information into the public domain, partnerships become more widely based IF..... people have access to the technology, the information and discourse is well structured, and virtual communities are based on real ones.

I'm now spending most of my time, with Richard Stubbs, developing
Communities Online. Michael Mulquin is acting chair of the 'shadow' board.

Many of my ideas for Partnerships for Tomorrow came from a visit to a conference of community networkers in Cupertino, California in 1995. Communities Online stemmed directly from the 1996 conference in Taos, New Mexico, where we decided to form the
International Association for Community Networking.

Top of page

Current developments

The Communities Online conference of October 1995 led to a development proposal to BT Community Affairs, and ultimately to the formation of UK Communities Online. However we would be interested to hear from anyone who thinks that development of the group would be useful.

Michael Mulquin
Richard Stubbs
David Wilcox