International Association for Community Networking


The idea of an International Association for Community Networking was launched at a conference in Taos, New Mexico, in May 1996 following several months of discussions among people involved in local networks.

Below is the message sent to the communet mailing list from the conference, and a follow up message from Laura Breeden reporting on formation of the steering group. The International Association never took hold, but the idea led to formation of a US Association and to
Communities Online, and later Partnerships Online in the UK.

Community Networking 1996 Taos
Tuesday May 14 1996

A group of 20 community networking practitioners today spent six hours
fleshing out ideas for a new organisation to promote and support the use
of new media for community networking.

They had spent the past several months both online and offline discussing
the possibility of a new association. Included in that process was a day
long discussion at the Morino Institute at Reston, Virginia in late March.

Today the group split into teams to assess issues in three key areas and
agree on first action points to put to the larger conference.


We agreed that:
* An community networking organisation will be created
* Any individual can be a member - initial membership fee $50
* The organisation should be international and diverse in its make up
* Ultimately a core staff of three to five would be employed to drive
the work of a distributed organisation
* We would create an oversight Board and actively promote member
* The organisation should be funded by a mix of members' fees, grants
and sales of services
* The organisation would be developed in phases
* The first phase will be to hire someone to create a business plan.
The business plan would provide the organisational design, the more
detailed products and services and basis for funding presentation


Some basic premises were that it should have an international
constituency; that it would support both start up and established
community networking efforts; and it would offer both free and fee based
products and services. For example:
* "How to" guidelines for community networking
* Talent inventory: speakers, consultants
* CD-ROMS: samplers of model community networks, useful shareware, and
community invented applications.
* Annotated directory of community networking initiatives, indexed
geographically and by application.
* International conference/regional workshops
* Presentation materials
* Customisable, interactive, international course on community
networking with a mentoring component
* Point to best practice/life long learning example
* Cultural exchange/sister city programmes and "how to"
* "What's new" mechanism/newsletter, etc.
* Specialised/fee based products services: facilitating social
processes online, special applications, video conferencing, legal services

Products and services for further discussion
* Certification of community networks
* Group purchasing
* International telecommunications policy


The organisation might promote the products and services through a
campaign with three elements:

A clearing house on the Web, of:
* Articles, opinion pieces
* Case studies
* A statement of principles
* A match-making system
* Signposts to other resources
* Listings of community networking initiatives

A community regeneration network
* Content about the policies and practices of community renewal and
the development of sustainable communities
* Enabling practitioners and activists o share ideas and experience
nationally and internationally

A Community Networking start up kit
* The start up process - building partnerships
* Technical applications
* Courses on community networking
* Workshops and seminars
* Consulting support
These elements of the campaign would be targeted at audiences on
different levels:
* Government and foundations
* Local organisations
* Citizens

Some of the campaign elements would be passive = presentation of material
= but the main thrust would be active promotion.

The campaign might start simultaneously in several countries, and have a
different emphasis in each to suit local circumstances.

Steve Snow, Charlotte's Web
David Wilcox, Partnerships for Tomorrow

Here is Laura's follow up message after the conference.

Date: Mon, 20 May 1996 15:56:41 -0400
Subject: Re: Report from Taos
Precedence: bulk


Taos is very remote, and beautiful in a way that is both powerful and simple.
Several cultures come together there: indigenous North American, Hispanic,
and Anglo. I think the special environment facilitated our discussions and
our progress. Many thanks to Patrick and the team at La Plaza for a
wonderful job.

I was "elected" to the Steering Committee. (I think Lisa and I use quotes
because all who were nominated are serving.) The group includes:

Madeline Gonzalez (US)
Giovanni Morchio (Chile)
David Wilcox (England)
Michael Gillespie (Canada)
Rosy Simas (US and Native American)
Bill Watson (US and Native American)
Doug Schuler (US)
Tony Colleraine (Mexico)
Laura Breeden (US)

I may have missed someone because I didn't get a business card with his/her
name on it. Please excuse me if so! Patrick has the official list and can
make corrections.

A couple of people were nominated who were not present. I will contact them
to see if they are interested in serving and have the time to do so.

We will be seeking input most actively from all potential members of the

Issues that we agreed were top priorities, in addition to those described in
the notes of the May 14 meeting and previously posted to this list, include
whether the US needs a separate national organization before joining the
IACN, and establishing the mission and values of the IACN.

We have organized into three teams to work on:

1. Organizational structure (I will facilitate)
2. Products and services of IACN (Madeline Gonzalez will facilitate)
3. Advocacy and outreach (David Wilcox will facilitate)

We are in the process of getting organized online and will communicate our
progress as it happens.

Please feel free to address comments or ideas to me for now and I will pass
along to the full group.

With best wishes,

Laura, Madeline and David prepared proposals, and Laura summarised them - below. However, it was becoming evident that creating a new international organisation was too big a step, and that a first stage in the process would be to develop a Web site - or a series of linked national Web sites. See below.

Top of page

Current IACN development plans

US community networkers held a telephone conference in September 1996 to consolidate discussions started at the Taos conference of May 1996. As a result Madline Gonzalez was appointed to lead their further development and create the first US Web site associated with IACN.

One of the main conclusions from the discussions, Madeline reports, was that 'it has become evident that before thinking of starting an international association, a more immediate need is to create cohesive national associations. '
Details of the US developments.

In June 1996 Laura Breeden summarised development work undertaken by herself, Madeline Gonzalez and David Wilcox, and suggested that a first step might be development of an IACN Web site, or linked national sites. Since then Madeline has been discussing this work with Doug Schuler in the US, and with David Wilcox in the UK. Communities Online Forum is the first national IACN Web site to be developed.

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Date: Tue, 25 Jun 1996 16:40:15 -0400
Subject: "Starting IACN" issues list
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Attached is the list of issues that Madeline Gonzalez, David Wilcox and I put
together following the on-line discussions and the Taos meeting about forming
an international association of community networks.

Remember that the focus was on asking the pertinent questions, not on making
decisions or recommendations.

However, I am going to seize editorial privilege at this moment to recommend
the following, based on my experience with the process so far.

There is a tremendous need for, and interest in, sharing information about
community networking, at the national, continental and global levels.

An effective way to do this, without incurring the heavy burdens of setting
up a formal intermational association, would be to raise money to support one
person half-time to keep the conversation going, put up a Web page, and serve
as "information central." I can think of several people (not including me)
who would be powerful and effective at this.

There was almost no dialog within the steering group about any of the issues
we raised. I am not sure why but believe that this is indicative of the
burdensome nature of trying to set up formal, international bodies.

Therefore, I humbly recommend that we focus on keeping information and ideas
flowing to the benefit of all. I am willing to try to raise some money (and
have already mentioned this idea to a good contact at the US National Science
Foundation). The goal would be simply to ensure that communication among
groups is supported for a period of a year or so.

I recommend against a formal organization with bylaws, boards, and the heavy
administrative burden that such an organization by nature requires. Our
limited time, money, and energy are likely to be exhausted in such an effort.

This is a personal opinion, not a recommendation from any committee or group.
I welcome your comments.


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This document was prepared by Madeline Gonzalez, Laura Breeden and
David Wilcox to assist in creating an International Association of
Community Networking (IACN). It has been edited by Laura.

It is based on a series of meetings and on-line discussions held in the spring of
1996. The purpose of this document is to identify issues to be addressed in
forming the IACN. The document is intended to be used as the basis of a
consulting agreement. The consultant(s) will identify additional issues,
define alternatives, and suggest options for moving forward.

The document is about 6 pages long. It is organized into four sections, each of
which treats one set of issues:

A. Basic Issues and First Principles
B. Services and Products
C. Advocacy and Outreach
D. Organizational Issues

As editor, I have deliberately left out discussion of "process" issues for the
most part. Process issues have to do with how the consultants should
proceed, what communication tools we should use, which steps come first,
and so forth. I recommend that we leave those decisions to the consultants,
having ensured that they understand the principles we want to embody.


In preparing this paper, we discovered that there are several basic issues that
will need to be addressed before we decide how to implement IACN. These

1. What is community networking?
2. What is a community network? Is the distinction between 1 and 2
3. What principles are associated with community networking? For
example, Doug Shuler provided a list which is appended to this paper.
4. What is the mission of the IACN? The mission should express the core
purposes of the organization.
5. What operating principles for IACN are implied by the principles and
definitions established above? For example, it should practice diversity, it
should be affordable, etc.
6. Who are the audience for IACN services? They could include organizers
of community networks, users of community networks, policy makers,
funding agencies, etc.

Throughout this paper you will find that these issues are referred to many
times. This points to their importance.

We also recognize the need to address the issue of whether countries should
establish national organizations before affiliating with IACN, and whether
multiple organizations from a single country could be included in IACN's
membership. These questions are treated in the "Organizational Issues"


Prepared by Madeline Gonzalez

If one of our intended audiences is groups in communities who want to start
community networking projects, some immediate SERVICES that would be
useful are:

Referral Service: to recommend Consultants, Technology Specialists, Internet
service providers, etc. (perhaps by way of "Directories" as described below
under Products).

Consultants: to talk and meet with these groups, get a feel for what their
community is about and what their community would like to
accomplish through community networking, plan from the onset how the
activities will be funded, describe what other communities have done and are
doing, what kinds of services and content have tended to be most popular,
etc., and propose solutions fitted to that particular group's needs.

Technology Specialists: people who are experts on technology, and are
available for answering questions about what kind of platform, which kind of
computer, which operating system, what kind of modems, what kind
of connection, which specific applications, etc., are best for the
given community group's needs.  

For both groups starting to create these kinds of community
networking projects, and groups thinking about funding these kinds of
projects, one very useful SERVICE would be:

Evaluation of Community Networking: working with other groups to
objectively evaluate and document the impact these projects are having in
their communities, what efficiencies are being had, what specific issues they
are helping address, etc. This would help groups better phrase and evaluate
their funding options, and would help funders know what to look for and
promote in their applicants.

PRODUCTS that would be very useful would be:

Print/on-line "How-To" manuals, with very specific suggested
"guidelines" on process, suggestions on what kinds of services/content could
be offered, what kinds of funding options there are, specific details on how
these projects have enriched & benefited communities, what specific issues
these kinds of projects have helped other communities address, etc.

Directories or databases of consultants and Internet service providers.

"Tools for Towns": some very easy to use collection of software tools that
address the most common needs communities have when creating presences
on the World Wide Web, for instance. Initially, this could be some set of
tools available for downloading from the IACN Web site, later this could be
perhaps better "packaged" and distributed through other means in addition to
the Web (e.g., diskette). 

Phase 1 could simply be a collection of separate tools -- e.g. a community
calendar, discussion mechanisms, information-uploading-and-posting
mechanisms, etc. Phase 2 could actually be a more cohesive package, built
upon the collection of separate tools, perhaps available as various
combinations of these tools, that perhaps incorporated and promoted some of
IACN's mission and values.

For example: if we believe that a core value is strengthening the local
community, then the role of "matchmaker" is one that the "Tools" could
facilitate in general, and specifically through services such as a ride-share
bulletin board, volunteer needs/volunteers available, nonprofits' expertise
needs/volunteer experts available, a barter system, etc. Another example: if
we believe that diversity in community participation is crucial, then the
"checklist" we provide as part of the "Tools" could include an item
specifically devoted to this -- to the benefits of inclusivity, to some resources
(books, periodicals, organizations) available, etc.

ISSUES  - How much to do internally, how much to "contract out"? Should
our role be one of pointing people towards others who can actually help
them, or should we ourselves be providing some of the help? Should we
consider charging for some services, while maintaining others free, or maybe
just free to members? If so, which services to charge for?

Internally, what should the process be for providing services and creating
products? Should we see ourselves working as a "collection of consultants"
when it comes to providing services or products? Perhaps viewing ourselves
as a "Co-op" might be helpful? Or what other kind of model would work?


Prepared by David Wilcox

This draft discusses the following Advocacy and Outreach issues and presents
a series of questions about each for the consultants to IACN:

WHO? -Audiences
WHY? - Key messages
WHAT? - Identity and style
WHEN? - Timetable
WHERE? - National to international links
HOW? - Methods

Throughout there are internal and external communication issues. Internal
issues are identified with an (I), and external ones with an (E).

WHO? - Audiences
(I) In the short term, what are the key audiences within the community
networking movement IACN needs to address in order to build its
constituency of support?

(E) Who is IACN addressing in the longer term? Everyone from individuals
newly interested in communities and networking, through experienced
networkers to policy makers? Or some main audiences within this?

WHY? - Mission and key messages
(I) Why is IACN in being? What can it offer those involved in community

(E) Why is IACN promoting community networking - what benefits does
networking offer to communities? What key words and phrases could be
used in IACN statements and materials? How are these encapsulated in a
mission statement?

WHAT? - Identity and style
(I) What is IACN for those involved? A trade association? A campaigning
body? A provider of products and services? Is IACN the best name? How
does it relate to other bodies in the field?

(E) What response does IACN want to its promotional work? What is IACN
offering, and to whom?

What is IACN trying to achieve through its promotional work - how will it
measure success?

WHEN? - Timetable
(I) What is the timetable and process for gaining commitment from key
communjity networking interests?

(E) When does IACN go public, and in what form?

WHERE? - National to international links
(I) Where does IACN start? What is the balance between central guidelines
and local (national) initiatives?

(E) What communication to key audiences will be initiated centrally, and
what locally? What 'quality control' will there be to ensure consistency - if
this is desirable?

HOW? - Methods
(I) How will IACN communicate with those within the movement to gain
support - e.g. Web site, mailing lists, meetings? How far will these be
nationally based?

(E) How will IACN communicate externally, and how will it deal with
responses to its promotion? Electronically, by post, phone? Centrally or
through countries?


Prepared by Laura Breeden

This draft discusses the following organizational issues and presents a series
of questions about each for the consultants to IACN:

Implications of being international
Forms of membership or association

MISSION. There is general agreement that the IACN should be mission-
driven. The mission, or core purposes, of the organization will determine
who affiliates with it and how it uses its budget, staff and other resources.

-- By what process will the mission be defined?
-- Which aspects are fundamental, and cannot be negotiated?
-- Which aspects, if any, can be negotiated?
-- How will the IACN refine and review its mission as needed?

Implications of being INTERNATIONAL. International organizations have
complex requirements for communication, governance, and other basic

-- Should IACN, as an international group, be an association of national
organizations, and if so, should it include multiple national organizations
from a single country? Or should organizations at any level (local to
international) be permitted to join? What about individuals?
-- If the latter approach is adopted, is there a risk that the US or another
developed country will dominate the agenda of IACN?
-- Can the IACN governance structure mitigate this?
-- Will the IACN have an "official language"? An official currency?
-- How will IACN address the different levels of development in community
networking around the world?

FORM OF MEMBERSHIP or association. Many forms of membership or
association with IACN might be possible. These include, but aren't limited
to, institutional membership, individual membership, voting membership,
non-voting membership, sponsorship, etc.

-- What forms of membership are possible?
-- Which forms best meet the needs of IACN as an organization (for stability,
revenue, consistency, and so forth)?
-- Which forms best meet the needs of affiliates or members (for flexibility,
services, identification with IACN's mission, and so forth)?
-- How might these issues change over time? What time frame are we
working with now, and when should we reconsider our options?

GOVERNANCE. Every organization needs a means of making decisions.
The decision-making process often includes gathering information,
requesting advice, testing several options, and choosing a single option.

-- What forms of governance are possible for the IACN?
-- What kinds of decisions will be required in the first year of IACN
-- What forms of governance are the best match for these kinds of decisions?
-- What other factors should determine the governance structure, such as the
size of IACN, the newness of IACN, or others?
-- Can some decisions be delegated?

STRUCTURE. IACN will need sufficient structure to accept funds, make
payments, provide communications services, and perhaps other functions.

-- What needs will IACN have in its formative year?
-- How can IACN fairly and efficiently meet those needs?
-- If there is a decision to create an office for IACN, where should it be

BUDGET. An organizational development plan is needed that presents
possible revenue and expense scenarios for IACN, based on the decisions that
are made about mission, membership and services.

-- Please present several budget scenarios, for years 1-3 of the IACN.


Community Networking Principles, as suggested by Doug Schuler

+ Universal access to communication infrastructure
+ Civic society and civic values (the "radical center")
+ Focus on the underserved, economically disenfranchised
+ Fundamental right to privacy
+ Opposition to media concentration
+ Support of diverse, alternative, and marginalized voices
+ Partnerships with civic organizations and instituions
+ Commitment to strong democracy
+ Freedom of speech and expression
+ Access to government information
+ Build the systems on local needs using local people and organizations
as co-developers