October 1, 2000
Community-based organizations have a significant role to play in addressing technology access for the people they serve. They may have contacted you for help in getting their own agency equipped so they can provide more e ffective services, or they may want help in informing the community at large about the issues and choices that the new technologies present. Either way, you can help by understanding more about the nature of these groups and how they differ from other institutions you may have worked with. There is a vast range among community organizations in size, scope, and purpose. Many are tax-exempt, which means that they perform a service to the public that the government deems important but does not itself provide. They are responsible to the public and their primary duty is a civic one, in contrast to a corporation, whose legal responsibility is to its directors, stockholders, and bottom line. While the following may not be true for all community agencies, these considerations may be particularly useful when working with those most concerned about the impact of the technological revolution on poor and disenfranchised communities:
- Honor, understand, and advance the mission.
- Gather as much information as you can about what people do, how they do it, and what they care about preserving and promoting in the way they do it.
- Recognize the financial constraints.
- Bear in mind that introducing technology can exacerbate existing staff development dilemmas.
- Use plain talk and explain the technology to the uninitiated.
- Build a collaborative working relationship that includes mutual education.