Name Vancouver Community Network
Address 411 Dunsmuir Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1X4
Contact Person Peter Royce, Special Projects Co-ordinator
Title of the Project Vancouver Community Learning Network
Summary of Pilot Initiative
The pilot initiative will explore the effectiveness of using online interactive tools and public Internet access to support an ‘assets-based community development’ process. Community participants will be residents of several mixed-income, high density, adjacent neighbourhoods in East Vancouver. The project will help residents in their efforts to map community-based assets, improve the local economy, and develop plans for resolving critical issues in the community.
Major Objectives Provide the use of several Internet tools for community development: interactive services directories, neighbourhood ‘learning exchanges’, neighbourhood ‘portals’, and an issue-based online ‘agora’.
Integrate the project with a network of public Internet access sites, six in the first year, and ten or more in the second and third years, to increase community participation.
Train residents in using Internet technology for community development purposes and to increase citizen participation.
Implement a participatory evaluation process that will involve the community in the project.
Financial Requirements (Contact VCN for details)
Brief Argument For Financing
To pay for human resources required for activities directly related to the project, including community co-ordination, training, and technical support.
The Vancouver Community Network (VCN) was established in 1993 in response to a need to provide public access to the Internet and to promote the free exchange of information amongst citizens as a public good. The following outlines the history of our organization from that time to the present:
1993–1997: The VCN (originally, Vancouver Regional Freenet) was established after a year of grassroots organizing with over one hundred volunteers, and using startup funding from the Vancouver Foundation. A network of public access terminals was established in most public library branches in Greater Vancouver.
1997–1999: The VCN collaborated with the Labour Market and Career Information Association of BC, HRDC, and Industry Canada to provide integrated programming and Internet access with employment service provider agencies. (www.vcn.bc.ca/jobseek)
1998–1999: With support from the Legal Services Society and the BC Ministry Responsible for Multiculturalism and Immigration, the VCN helped Vancouver’s Spanish-speaking communities create community and legal resources online. (www.vcn.bc.ca/spaweb)
1999–2000: With support from the Vancouver Foundation, the VCN began to explore ways of using the VCN as a tool to build community capacity. (www.vcn.bc.ca/public)
1999–2001: The VCN, partnered with the United Way, Volunteer Vancouver, TradeWorks, and Van East Community Skills Centre, became a ‘VolNet’ delivery agency to connect over 400 non-profit voluntary organizations to the Internet. (www.vcn.bc.ca/volnet)
The mission of the Vancouver Community Network (VCN) is to operate and promote a publicly accessible, non-commercial, community network in metropolitan Vancouver and the ‘604’ toll-free area. The service is community-owned and membership-governed. It operates under charitable tax status and is a provincially registered non-profit society. Our vision is to be an inclusive, multicultural, community-based organization that ensures the free, accessible, electronic creation and exchange of the broadest range of information, experience, ideas, and wisdom. Our top three objectives are as follows:
• Encourage the development of a wide range of electronic community information and communications resources;
• Encourage the broadest possible participation of community, non-profit organizations and others in making their information available on the VCN; and
• Work with community and non-profit organizations to make VCN a capacity-building tool.
See ‘Attachment A: Organizational Chart of Vancouver Community Network’.
Currently, over 6,000 individual users and close to 500 community groups use our Internet services. Over 2,500 people are members of the nonprofit society. Users reside throughout the greater Vancouver area, with a concentration in the City of Vancouver. A significant proportion of our users are low-income residents or are unemployed, speak English as a second language, or do not have home computers and therefore gain access to our services solely through community access terminals.
The following outlines the technical, financial, and human resources, including volunteers, of the VCN.
The VCN operates a public network of mail, web, and news servers. The network is accessible through a 96-line modem bank offering text and graphical access, and 60 community access stations, mostly located in public library branches. The network is connected to the Internet by a high-speed data link that is shared with the Vancouver Public Library.
Current annual revenues total $411,000, as follows: membership fees and private donations, $45,000; service agreements and training services, $55,000; gaming revenue, $30,000; and an operating grant from the City of Vancouver, $15,000; project grants from two levels of government and a community foundation, $266,000.
We have a staff team of three full-time equivalents, supported by about 240 volunteers each year (40 active volunteers at any one time). The VCN is governed by a volunteer board of directors consisting of 14 members represent community sectors and end beneficiaries. See ‘Attachment A: Organizational Chart of Vancouver Community Network’ for details.
Our project will be located within the urban neighbourhoods of East Vancouver. For a profile of this geographic community, we will focus our attention on three historical neighbourhoods adjacent to the Vancouver port area: the Downtown Eastside, Grandview-Woodlands which includes the Commercial Drive district, and Hastings-Sunrise.
Some key characteristics of these neighbourhoods are as follows:
• Low rate of home ownership
• High unemployment
• High rate of income assistance recipients
• High number of seniors
• High number of single men living in Downtown Eastside single room occupancies
• High number of children living in poverty
• Highest per capita rate of interventions by the BC Ministry of Children and Family Services are recorded in Hastings-Sunrise
For geographic, demographic, and economic statistics, see ‘Attachment B: Community Profile of East Vancouver’.
The following are some of the prevalent questions to which the community needs answers:
• How can affordable and social housing be adequately supplied amongst land-use development that is responding to increasing pressure due to globalization?
• What are the appropriate methods of reducing addictions and drug use?
• How can residents living in poverty, with low levels of literacy, or unemployed, be better supported?
• How can the social marginalization of First Nations residents, community members with criminal records, and residents who are HIV-positive, be overcome?
• How can neighbourhood voices be adequately represented in the local government?
The historic neighbourhoods of East Vancouver are a focus of stress in an interplay between several forces in our region.
Historically, the region is the destination point of many cultures. The large immigration population now resident in the region—Asians, Hispanics, Africans, Eastern Europeans—has, over several generations, created diverse language needs in the community. This diversity erects barriers to the adoption of technological tools such as the Internet for community purposes.
External forces in the form of international trade and culture arrive through many local doors: the international port, the recently expanded international airport, the nearby US border, the three universities, and a large number of private ESL schools. The constant presence of an outside economy is an enticement to many residents and policy makers to de-emphasize the development of the local economy.
Land development is restricted by coastal mountains and the Fraser River, forcing new residents to deal with a dilemma: they can either stay put and face high costs of living, or migrate eastward to the suburbs in the Lower Fraser Valley and face diminished levels of community services. The eastward migration, in turn, endangers sensitive natural habitats and agricultural land reserves.
The social wherewithal for residents in East Vancouver and the region to reverse current trends in these critical areas—literacy, community economy, living costs, urban ecology—is a prevailing motivation for the project.
We are proposing to build a working and self-sustaining community learning network (CLN) for East Vancouver to support the community in its community development work. Our desire is to make the CLN a resource that would develop and increase local community strengths, identify community assets, and involve people in using them for attaining greater self-reliance. Ultimately, it is hoped that technology will assist in increasing the voice of marginalized people in decisions that affect them in their community.
Our main technology components will be the Internet, the use of Internet collaboration tools, and a public network of access sites configured as ‘learning nodes’.
Initially, we will focus on using existing public access sites in several adjacent, densely populated, historical neighbourhoods of East Vancouver, including the Downtown Eastside, Grandview-Woodland, and Hastings-Sunrise. Eventually, we will expand the CLN to include servicing the whole of East Vancouver and the West End neighbourhood, using newly established access sites that will be funded by Industry Canada’s Urban Community Access Program. See ‘Attachment C: Map of Vancouver Neighbourhoods’.
The following describes each objective, how they will be fulfilled, and who will benefit.
Objective 1a. Establish neighbourhood information and learning exchanges.
An information and learning exchange will support residents wishing to make an inventory of the community assets in their neighbourhood. It will do this by acting as a public repository for information that is contributed by members of the community about their skills and capabilities, enabling them to use this information to link up with one another. Ultimately, as community members help each other to resolve their individual needs, it will increase the web of relationships within the neighbourhood.
Some of the benefits will be as follows: people will find tutors and teachers for English and other languages; individuals who have acquired skills and experiences will share their knowledge with interested learners in and around their neighbourhoods; students will find experts willing to act as mentors; community centres will find resource people to expand their programs.
Objective 1b. Establish neighbourhood portals, to collect and archive written, pictorial, or oral histories and creations.
A portal is an online tool that will help residents increase the inventory of community assets. It will enable them to collect stories and other forms of knowledge documenting the vitality and creativity of the neighbourhoods, and will highlight the self-expression, reflection, and representation of community members.
As part of the activities for this objective, neighbourhood volunteers enlisted as network ‘troubadours’ will wander through the community to look for personal stories which have been archived and ‘left on the shelf’. They will seek out the authors, and participate with them to digitize and share the stories using the online portals. The troubadours will do the same with community members who are authoring fresh creations.
Objective 1c. Establish neighbourhood services directories that are each coupled with an interactive channel to convey public commentary.
An interactive services directory will help residents increase the inventory of community assets. It will enable the nonprofit organizations operating within a neighbourhood— especially those acting as providers of job-finding clubs, employment resource centres, and publicly funded programs for lifeskills development and adult basic education—to be included in the inventory.
The main procedure is for a provider to list services in neighbourhood directory boards. Clients in and around the neighbourhood will take the opportunity to refer to the directory board for services. After using a service, they will use the interactive channel to contribute their experiences, perspectives, and suggestions. As a result, the directory will create greater understanding between providers and clients.
Objective 1d. Provide an interactive ‘agora’ for community planning around critical issues identified by the community.
An interactive agora (traditionally, an open meeting place in a public space) will increase capacity-building by supporting research, problem-solving, and the design of policy interventions. To see how this will work, let us take the role of a neighbourhood-based group which has come together to resolve a critical issue: First, it will take the opportunity to develop a portal. Using the portal, it will then rummage through the online inventory of community assets for support; it will publish online policy drafts to seek comments from community members; it will communicate with groups elsewhere to build consensus and solidarity; and finally, it will link to resources ‘outside’ the community to begin to manoeuvre them to support community visions. As the details change, the policy group will modify the portal to reflect these changes.
Two likely examples of beneficiaries of an interactive agora: a participatory action research project in the Downtown Eastside that will seek policy interventions at the local and provincial levels to increase public space and local affordable housing; and an urban ecological action group seeking to provide more input to a local sustainable development project.
Objective 2. Provide public access points for informal learning activities.
In the first year, the project will involve the use of several drop-in computer labs, with a total of about 50 Internet stations (targets and beneficiaries are shown in parentheses):
• A family-oriented neighbourhood house in a mixed-income residential neighbourhood (24 days per month x 25 visits per day = 600 visits per month by neighbourhood residents, all ages);
• A job resource centre
(20 days per month x 25 visits per day = 500 visits per month by job seekers);
• A seniors centre
located at the edge of the downtown core
(20 days per month x 10 visits per day = 200 visits per month by seniors);
• A job training computer lab near a public transit intersection of a mixed-income neighbourhood (four day-equivalents per month x 25 visits per day = 100 visits per month by residents of East Vancouver);
• An informal learning
centre in an urban Native education centre
(20 days per month x 5 visits per day = 100 visits per month by urban Native adults);
• A job training centre located in the urban inner core.
• A university
community liaison office located in the urban inner core
(20 days per month x 5 visits per day = 100 visits per month by urban inner core residents).
By the third year, the project will extend the coverage of the public access network by ten or more sites to Southeast Vancouver neighbourhoods and the West End. Likely sites will include a Hispanic community centre, a Filipina women’s centre, an urban Native youth centre, several more neighbourhood houses, an environmental resource centre, and a public legal education centre. Altogether, there will be 1000 visits per month (i.e., 10 sites x 20 days per month x 5 visits per day) from members within ethnic and multicultural communities (for example, Hispanic and Vietnamese) and from urban Native youths.
Objective 3. Provide skills training for community members and volunteers.
The primary activity is to deliver a training program consisting of two elements (targets and beneficiaries are shown in parentheses):
1. Periodic orientation
workshops for community members to support them to do assets-based community
development using the Internet tools
(10 people x 36 workshops x 3 years = 1000 participants);
2. Occasional ‘encounter’
sessions with community members to deepen their skills and to focus on specific
themes (for example, social housing, anti-poverty, job development, urban
ecology, linguistic and cultural barriers).
(10 people x 12 presentations x 3 years = 360 participants);
A second activity is to deliver a three-step program for volunteers to further support community members:
1. Volunteers participate in VCN workshops to enhance their skills to provide technical and public support at public access sites.
2. Volunteers undergo training at the host community and learning node of their choice to understand its procedures and policies.
3. Volunteers are placed at the learning node to increase the level of service to community members.
Volunteer intake will consist of individuals drawn to VCN and its partner community groups (30 per annum), youths trained in information technology and who have participated in the provincial ‘Youths@BC’ community-based internship program (5 per annum), and UBC students who want community experience to augment their academic studies (10 per annum).
Our project joins others in adapting the Internet to facilitate the assets-based model of community development (ABCD), comprehensively described by Kretzmann and McKnight. The context for our project is ‘our own backyard’, several distinctly different urban neighbourhoods in East Vancouver. The project will have the opportunity of being supported by a growing local network of public access sites that will be funded by Industry Canada’s Community Access Program (CAP), making the long term impacts of the project potentially broad-based and wide-spread. The assets-based model of community development is delineated by five progressive, concurrent phases: (1) make a map or inventory of community assets, (2) use it to strengthen relationships among local residents of the community, (3) re-apply inherent production skills and experiences to improve the local economic and loosen the community’s reliance on external economic forces, (4) develop community visions and plans, and (5) manoeuvre outside resources to support locally driven development, once the first four have developed to some degree. In this project, phases 1, 3, and 4 will be directly supported by the Internet (information and learning exchanges, services directories, neighbourhood portal, and issue-based agora). Moreover, the project will support the community to manoeuvre outside forces represented, in part, by the ‘grey matter’ active within the academic arena of the three local universities (UBC, SFU, Tech BC) that are, directly or indirectly, participating in the project.
This project attempts to interweave three threads into a community development fabric for our local community. Although the Internet was developed over three decades ago, its modern rendition began in 1993 with the first public release of a ‘web’ browser. In the same year, the ABCD model was being publicly highlighted by the work of Kretzmann and McKnight. Within the next year, the CAP began to fund 10,000 universal access sites, starting a new type of infrastructure for community services.
The questions that this project will address in its implementation and evaluation are these: How can an urban community such as ours be supported by a convergence of these three threads: the Web, ABCD, and CAP? Also, what are some possible future Internet tools for ABCD? and conversely, how should ABCD be modified in the context of the Internet? These are some of the questions being asked by other groups. However, this project will attempt to make an explicit link between the Internet and ABCD.
The project will occur between June, 2000 and June, 2003. Most of the first year will be for setting up the tools and the community processes. The second year will be devoted to community development activities. The third year will be added for expanding community involvement and intensifying the evaluation processes. In the last two months of the project, evaluation results will be consolidated and disseminated.
For more details, see ‘Attachment D: Estimated Timeline of Project Activities’ showing the tasks to be accomplished, when, and by whom.
The following describes the technical and human resources which are available or which are needed to implement the project.
In order to implement objectives ‘1a’ to ‘1d’, the project will use two software tools available in the ‘public domain’. The first is Community Portal, web-based portal that was recently developed by Telecommunities Canada in partnership with Industry Canada. It will allow a user to display windows or ‘portals’ of selected web resources. Furthermore, the user will be able to customize his or her own portal of resources and to arrange them in ways which may be suitable for a particular use. Moreover, the user will be able to add new portals of resources to a master collection and to share them with others. The second is Discus, a web-based message board that was originally developed by the chemistry department of Hope College, Michigan. The message board will enable a user to post messages, articles, or replies on existing topics and sub-topics. Furthermore, the user will be able to create new topics in any areas of the message board. The message board has a comprehensive suite of administrative features, which allows it, for example, to decentralize the control of any area of the board to responsible volunteers in the community. Moreover, the graphical elements of both products are configurable, and each can make fine-grained links to the other, which will enable us to fashion intricate and special-purpose tools for the project. (The homepages for these products are at, respectively, http://portal.tc.ca and http://www.discusware.com/discus.)
To provide a foundation of resources for community members, two local exemplary websites and one local emerging website will be highlighted in the project: BC WorkInfoNet, a website for career practitioners and others looking for a ‘one-start shop’ to career and labour market information in BC; PovNet, a website for people on welfare, and advocates and community groups who are involved in anti-poverty work, and VanEast, a website for supporting community development in East Vancouver. (The addresses for these websites are, respectively, workinfonet.bc.ca, www.povnet.web.net, and www.vcn.bc.ca/vaneast.)
The Vancouver Community Network will provide an effective community information and access service for the project. The suite of services for community residents will include local toll-free dial-in service, Internet connectivity and service, free e-mail accounts for those who cannot afford subscription fees, and free webpage hosting for registered community groups and users (including the project website). Registered users and groups who need help with their account will be able to call a help line and attend free weekly orientation sessions. (The VCN’s homepage is at www.vcn.bc.ca.)
The main resource requirement for the project is a project team that will circulate amongst the community to provide three main services: (1) enhance public access support, (2) disperse project knowledge and skills, and (3) collect positive experiences from each neighbourhood and attempt to convey them to the others. The individual members of the team, along with an estimate of each member’s labour times, are listed below.
Project Co-ordinator, responsible for implementing objectives one and three. Activities will include reaching out to community agencies, community development, training agencies, and liaison with advisory groups.
Community Co-ordinator, responsible for implementing objectives one and three. Activities will include reaching out to community residents, community development, training users, and performing volunteer intake, training, and placement..
Public Access Co-ordinator, responsible for implement objectives two and three. Activities will include supporting the public access network, providing help support and technical training. 1.0 FTE.
Project Administrator, responsible for project accounting and liaison with funders; 20% of exisiting role.
System Administrator, responsible for Internet connectivity and server technology support; 20% of existing role.
Graphic Designer, responsible for developing graphical design elements for the project; short term contractor.
Web Programmer, responsible for developing and configuring online tools; short term contractor.
Neighbourhood Support, volunteer corps acting as content moderators, advisors, and developers; 1.0 full-time equivalent.
Public Access Support, in-kind contributions of human resources consisting of existing staff and senior volunteers at public access sites; 1.0 full-time equivalent for each five public access sites.
The following is an outline of our extensive consultations to prepare this proposal, and the alliances that we formed to support the project.
We held community consultations in five neighbourhoods and asked over 60 participants in two-hour sessions six important questions. Their responses were carefully recorded and provided the raw material for much of this proposal. (See the ‘Attachment E: List of Participants in Community Consultations’.) To support this consultation in an ongoing way, we will establish neighbourhood advisory groups from interested volunteers for project implementation and outcome evaluation.
In order to support community residents who want to participate in the project, we formed an informal public access network with the following community groups: Kiwassa Neighbourhood House, Vancouver Community College Skills Centre, The Native Education Centre, The 411 Seniors’ Centre, PRIDE Training Centre, and UBC Downtown Eastside Initiative (in formation). Together, these groups operate seven computer labs which are publicly open during certain hours for free, ‘drop-in’ use. (More details are provided in the ‘Attachment F: List of Community Participants in the Project’.)
We formed a project advisory group from representatives of project partners to collaboratively deal with project administration and management.
We also established the following alliances:
• Van East Community Connections. This coalition of community service and development agencies, will become a partner in the project by participating in four activities: (1) provide support in identifying new access sites for the network, (2) participate in gathering community development resources from member agencies, (3) seek more funding for sustaining project objectives, and (4) give advice in project implementation and outcome evaluation.
• University of BC, Downtown Eastside Initiative will participate in this project by (1) providing a public access site to the CLN, (2) involving university students with the project as volunteers, and (3) providing a strategic link between community needs and university resources in the form of defining and implementing participatory action research projects, academic expertise, and donor fundraising.
• Dr Michael Gurstein, Associate Professor Management and Technology
of the Technical University of BC. He will participate in this project in two
ways: (1) Share case studies from its involvement in a global network of
community learning and networking initiatives; (2) participate in the project’s
evaluation process to identify ‘lessons learned’, ‘best practices’, or
‘codified knowledge’, giving the participants an opportunity to reflect on what
they are doing and a systematic way for them to share what they are learning
with others who might be interested.
We plan to ensure that the community is well informed about the project and how each member may participate in it:
• Press releases will be issued to the news media announcing key milestones of the project. As well, news stories will be periodically inserted in several local newspapers and in community newsletters to highlight the project.
• At local public events, project representatives will be present or the project will be displayed. As well, monthly presentations will be conducted in community gathering places, with public announcements made ahead of time.
• Flyers describing the project will be distributed throughout the target communities (20,000 per annum).
• A website will be designed to give online access to the project components. Links to the website will be inserted in other related websites.
The following are the relevant responses to the question, ‘How do we know if we’re getting it right?’ made by over 60 participants in our community consultations about the project. See ‘Attachment G: Keys To Success’ for a longer synthesis.
• Public access sites should be located where they are easy to get to, be physically accessible, and at places ‘where people are already spending time’. There should also be a place in the neighbourhood to go to for ongoing support. ‘There should be a person on-site once a week to answer questions’.
• The project should accommodate diversity and the project should encourage people of diversity to get involved. The project should make its services available in different languages. Also, there should be no bureaucratic process to participate in nor any fees. The project should offer learning tools for marginalized individuals.
• The project should be ‘...integrated into the work communities are already doing...’ It should have an advisory committee, and community members should be involved in determining success factors. Checkpoints and adjustments should be made along the way. The project should aim for ‘spreading out responsibility...’
• The project should be visible in the community and many people should know about it. It should also be particular to a community and a context.
These responses will be incorporated into the evaluation plan, for example, they will be translated into success indicators to measure and survey questions to ask participants.
The following is the budget forecast for first year (2000-2001) of project.
In-kind contributions are shown in italics. One FTE (‘Full-Time Equivalent’) equals 35 hours per week or 260 days per annum. (for budget details contact VCN)
The project will use a participatory evaluation process with the intention of making the evaluation sustainable; that is, part of the evaluation will be training community groups in how to do their own evaluation. This ensures that there is room for the community to make decisions around what and how it wants to evaluate.
The project co-ordinator will co-ordinate the participatory evaluation process. During the project’s initial phase, the project team and community advisors will attend a workshop on ‘outcomes evalution’ conducted by an evaluation consultant, using the project’s evaluation framework as a case study.
At project startup, the project team and community advisors will agree to the evaluation standards and put together the evaluation team. During the project, the project team will collaborate to determine the kind and amount of data to evaluate, how to evaluate it, and a process that ensures validity. At all times, the community-based evaluation teams will work with an overall project evaluation team to assist with issues of bias, etc.
Before the start of learning activities, a baseline of indicators will be established. In order to evaluate the project as a whole, outcomes and indicators will be aggregated over learning nodes. In order to show evidence of a growing CLN that could later reach a stage of maturity in the community, most of the project’s important indicators are of rising levels, rather than of absolute levels, of output.
Data sources or data collection for evaluation will be as follows:
• Web access and public access at some sites will be automatically logged to produce statistics related to time- and place-of-use, destination point, and type of resources;
• Feedback from community members will be collected by email and message board;
• Surveys will be collected at each training workshop, debriefing sessions will be held for volunteers upon end-of-term, and community advisors will be periodically interviewed;
• Project staff and volunteers will regularly record activities using web-based forms;
• Users with diverse ethno-cultural-economic backgrounds will be selected to serve as testers and, at certain milestones, they will be sampled to gain comparative results.
As part of the participatory process, evaluation will occur alongside implementation, and as interim findings are determined, they will be published on the project website. In response to interim findings, the project team will make adjustments to project activities. By incorporating both neighborhood-based evaluation and overall project evaluation, each of the project components will be able to learn from their own ‘best practises’.
To ensure that important results of the project are disseminated to interested communities and people, we will compile a case study guide outlining the project’s objectives, activities, participants, and results. It will include a collection of the experiences and lessons learned by community people in their involvement with the project tools. We will print a limited number of copies to be distributed locally and elsewhere. We will also prepare a web-based version for the Internet.
The following is a list of the outcomes expected in the short and longer term. The description of each outcome includes the indicators to be established to monitor progress, the type of data to be collected, and the process which allows adjustments to be made in response to interim findings.
• We expect the public access network to be increasingly accessible to the target communities with respect to geography and weekly hours. Indicators: Increasing number of (a) learning nodes and (b) Internet stations within the community learning network (CLN). (c) Increasing total number of weekly operating hours. Adjustments: As more public access sites become operational, they will be encouraged to join the CLN as ‘learning nodes’.
• We expect users to be increasingly trained and, in the longer term, become increasingly skilled, in the use of CLN tools and resources. Indicators: (a) Increasing attendance in orientation and training sessions. (b) High and steady level of satisfaction and interest with training process and content as shown in post-session surveys. (c) Questions posed by attendees related to training and skills are infrequently recorded by the help desk and the other support channels. Adjustments: Refine content and structure of training sessions and increase quality of service of help support.
• We expect an increasing involvement of volunteers in technical maintenance, user training, and help support. Indicators: Increasing number of volunteers (a) attend volunteer orientation sessions, (b) attend technical workshops, (c) placed at learning nodes, and (d) complete one volunteer term. Adjustments: Increase volunteer intake, fine-tune training, and find better placement and better liase with host agencies.
• We expect community members to increasingly gain access to the CLN. Indicators: Increasing number of (a) ‘hits’ to the portal and the message board, (b) visits to public access sites from community residents, and (c) registrations for accounts on the VCN by groups and individuals in the target communities. Adjustments: Increase promotional activities. Adjust the types of promotion channels to better suit target groups.
• We expect community members to increasingly contribute new resources to the portal and the message board that are related to community assets in the form of services, stories, and issues. Indicators: (a) Increasing number of portal links and message board topics. (b) Increasing number of ‘hits’ to these resources over time. Adjustments: Increase community co-ordination; increase public skills training; increase promotional activities.
• We expect community members to interact with each other, mediated by the CLN and, in the longer term, form groups of associations for studying, planning, exchanging, and other collaborative activities. Indicators: (a) Increasing number of groups of associations participating or formed. Diversifying types of (b) issues involved, and (c) activities supported. Data will be collected from open-ended interviews of selected participants, and from the group of community people selected for pre-testing and post-testing. Adjustments: Conduct wider or deeper co-ordination of activities in use of the issue-based agora.
The following is what we expect to be the project’s overall outcomes.
We can expect exchanges of community services and goods to be better facilitated and to fulfill more needs. As this occurs, we can expect the participating community members to find new ways to help each other. Within each neighbourhood, we can expect its ‘identity’ to be strengthened and its sense of ‘community memory’ to be more sustained. We can also expect that each neighbourhood begins to relate to other participating neighbourhoods in the CLN, as they more fully explore each other’s strengths and uniquenesses.
We can expect community-based research to be more evident and systematic, and that this will lead to greater positive action.
We can expect the network to be sustainable, because as new public access nodes are developed and hooked in, the host group and neighbourhood ‘owns’ the node, for example, the node is aligned with agency work and with neighbourhood issues. We can expect, ultimately, that an infrastructure for community knowledge and decision-making is established.
A. Organizational Chart of Vancouver Community Network
B. Community Profile (East Vancouver Neighbourhoods)
C. Map of Vancouver Neighbourhoods
D. Estimated Timeline of Project Activities
E. List of Participants in Community Consultations
F. List of Community Participants in the Project
G. Keys To Success
The following chart shows how the VCN currently organizes itself for getting work done and for being accountable to its members and project funders.
Committees Volunteers Staff
Fundraising (5) Help Desk (40) Co-ordinator
Technical (5) Online Help Team (5) Administrator
Web Design (4) Youth Interns (2) System Administrator
Personnel (2) Volunteer Co-ordinator
The VCN is governed by a volunteer board of directors, whose 14 members represent community participants and end beneficiaries, as follows:
• call VCN for details
The Board is supported by several working committees, who give advice on policies and directions in fundraising, technical design, the public web site, and human resources.
We have a staff team of three full-time equivalents for community outreach, project co-ordination, technical system administration, and office and financial administration. They are joined by a large group of volunteers who operate the Help Desk, and supports our weekly training sessions and special project activities. About 40 volunteers are engaged at any one time for an average term of two months; about 240 volunteers are co-ordinated each year.
We focus attention on three historic neighbourhoods adjacent to the Vancouver port area: the Downtown Eastside (DW), Grandview-Woodlands (GW), and Hastings-Sunrise (HS). Profile information are extracted from the City of Vancouver website (www.city.vancouver.bc.ca).
Geographic And Demographic Information
DE GW HS Vanc.
1991 population 4,956 27,460 29,195 461,890
average household size, persons 1.2 2.2 3.0 2.3
seniors age 65+ 28% 11% 13% 14%
residents age 40 to 64 42% 26% 27% 28%
residents age 20 to 39 27% 43% 36% 39%
children under age 19 3% 20% 24% 19%
% families led by a single parent 16.7% 24.8% 16.4% 15.5%
average household income $11,251 $30,293 $44,538 $45,180
% persons in low-income households 80.0% 38.0% 23.0% 25.0%
number of dwelling units 3,810 12,665 9,880 199,935
dwellings owned 1% 27.5% 61.8% 40.9%
dwellings rented 99% 72.5% 38.2% 59.1%
dwelling units per hectare 25.3 28.8 10.0 17.7
area, hectares 150.8 440 984 11,305
English 52.6% 58.5% 46.5% 59.9%
French 4.8% 1.6% 0.7% 1.5%
Italian 0.7% 4.2% 8.9% 1.7%
Chinese 26.4% 17.3% 30.7% 18.4%
Portuguese or Spanish 1.3% 19% 1.6% 1.3%
Amerindian 1.4% N/A N/A N/A
Indo-Pakistani N/A 0.3% N/A 2.4%
Other 18.2% 15.1% 10.8% 15.2%
DE GW HS Vanc.
Industrial lands, hectares 112 280 218 688
16% 40% 32% 100%
Number of firms located in industrial lands 496 602 200
26% 30.1% 9% 100%
Number of jobs located in industrial lands 6,940 12,260 10,000
16% 26.4% 23% 100%
Downtown-Eastside: Manufacturing is the dominant industrial land use; wholesaling, transportation and storage uses are also prevalent. Grandview-Woodland: Manufacturing is the dominant land use in the industrial areas producing garments, processed food, car repairs and printing services; wholesaling, transportation and storage are also prevalent. Hastings-Sunrise: Wholesaling is the dominant land use in the industrial areas; transportation and storage uses are also prevalent.
The project will occur between June, 2000 and June, 2003, as shown in the following timeline:
Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2
2000 2001 2002 2003
List of major tasks, when they will occur, and by whom.
Establish project team. VCN Administration
Establish project management committee. Project Coordinator (PC)
Establish neighbourhood advisory groups. Community Coordinator (CC)
Conduct evaluation workshops. Evaluation Consultant (EC)
1a. Begin neighbourhood information and learning exchanges. PC, CC
1b. Begin neighbourhood portals. PC, CC
1c. Begin neighbourhood services directories. PC, CC
1d. Begin interactive issue-based agora. PC, CC
2. Integrate public access points. Public Access Co-ordinator (PAC)
3a. Deliver skills training program. PC, PAC
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q1 Q2
3b. Begin volunteer training. CC
Submit annual reports. PC
Consolidate evaluation results and disseminate. PC, CC, PAC
Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood, Feb 14, 2000, 12 participants:
Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood, Feb 16, 2000, 14 participants:
West End neighbourhood, Feb 22, 2000, 12 participants:
Downtown Eastside, Feb 23, 2000, 23 participants:
411 Seniors Centre, Feb 28, 2000, five participants:
Before preparing the proposal, community outreach was conducted to various community groups and associations. There were three objectives to the outreach: (1) Seek out access sites, existing and potential ones, which would be suitable for integrating as community learning nodes. (2) Ascertain suitable learning or literacy projects or programs which would benefit from having an online component. (3) Seek out complementary funding sources for the project.
The more relevant contacts are divided into two groups. Group A include the community groups who will contribute resources to the project as partners. Group B include the community groups who will participate in some components of the project, or whose activities will benefit from the project’s more immediate outcomes.
Contact VCN for details
The following is a synthesis of responses made to the question, ‘How do we know if we’re getting it right?’ The responses were made by over 60 participants in our community consultations about the project.
• The project should have a network of public access sites for people without the resources. While public access sites will overcome some barriers, they should be carefully considered to avoid generating other problems. For example, sites should be located where they are easy to get to, be physically accessible, and at places ‘where people are already spending time’, for example, libraries, neighbourhood houses, health units, churches, adult learning centres, community colleges, and even grocery stores. Someone using the site should feel comfortable in the environment, and if, for example, the computer freezes, should be able to ask someone, ‘What do I do?’ There should also be a place in the neighbourhood to go to for ongoing support. One person noted, ‘There should be a person on-site once a week to answer questions’.
• The project should accommodate diversity with regard to users of different socio-economic classes, race, ableness, sexual orientation, religion, levels of education, and areas of learning such as arts, employment, history, health, recreation. Furthermore, the project should encourage people from such a variety of backgrounds to get involved. The project should find multilingual trainers and make its services available in different languages. Also, there should be no bureaucratic process to participate in nor any fees, and there should be ‘no coercion for training, for example, not EI or welfare mandated’. The project should offer learning tools for marginalized individuals.
• From the point of view of clients of community agencies, there should be an appropriate agency culture: ‘staff has to come onboard’. From the point of view of some community agencies, the project should be integrated, ‘the learning technology does not disrupt existing services’, and the project should be accountable within the community, ‘does not drain other important programs and resources’. Most potential host groups wlll worry about privacy, security, safety, vandalism, maintenance, changes in technology, offering a free service that is subject to abuse and hogging.
• From the point of view of community people, the project should be ‘completely integrated into the work communities are already doing, in our spaces, with people from our communities having time to support and teach’. It should have an advisory committee to ensure community access and ownership, and community members should be involved in determining success factors. There should be an atmosphere of trust to facilitate candid feedback, and checkpoints and adjustments should be made along the way. The project should aim for ‘spreading out responsibility, breaking the 20/80 rule (20% of the people doing 80% of the work)’.
• The project should be visible in the community and many people should know about it. The project should use a common logo and welcome screen, so that people can say, ‘that’s my CLN’ or ‘I am here’. But a CLN should also be particular to a community and a context, and it should, for example, enable people with knowledge to bring their lifestories to the web. The project should avoid turning out to be a number of isolated workstations, by presenting ‘opportunities for informal or formal interactions, face-to-face interactions beyond a keyboard relationship’. It would be empowering for users to hear personal testimonials from others about how the CLN has benefitted them.
• Finally, there is recognition that some community members, ‘not just the impoverished’, but people such as seniors, would never use a CLN, because they are shy or even ‘terrified’ of technology. Therefore, some community people (leaders) will need to be reached first before others will start to participate. Since many members of the community are not around the technology, so the CLN may need to be taken out to the street, using mobile technology.
Kretzmann J.P. and McKnight J.L. Building Communities From The Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets. Institute for Policy Research. Northwestern University. Evanston, 1993.
* Proceedings of the consultations are recorded in ‘Report of development activities toward the proposal of a community learning network’.