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Sustainability Strategies for Community Technology Centers
Pattern number within this pattern set:84
Edward Liebow Gabrielle O'Malley
Environmental Health and Social Policy Center
Community Technology Centers have emerged as one of the more popular ways to bridge Americas digital divide. With the help of funding from both public and private agencies, thousands of these centers have sprung up across the country. Early evaluations have shown their potential for positive impact on individuals and communities, yet despite the popularity and promise of these centers, their sustainability remains problematic.
The proposed pattern might be used to share best-practices for the sustainability of Community Technology Centers in low-income neighborhoods.
A few fairly simple observations and assertions:
Community Technology Centers rely heavily on government funding, foundation grants, and corporate donations, and often lack a strategic technology plan for how a Center will continue after its initial funding runs out.
Donors usually require some sort of evaluation measures to demonstrate that the project is producing socially desirable outcomes and Community Center staff and volunteers need to know that they are making a difference. Yet many CTCs lack the staff hours and expertise to construct these measures and collect the data. Without this data, CTCs will be hard pressed to demonstrate why they should receive additional funding.
While all Community Technology Centers share the goal of broadening access to technology, they vary in size, structure, affiliations, and overall mission. Given these differences, it is unlikely that a cookie cutter approach to sustainability issues will be appropriate. However, sustainability strategies of different types might be replicable among others who share certain other characteristics.
Solutions will be based on research that produces case studies of successful CTC sustainability strategies. These case studies can make a much needed contribution to ensuring information technology is available to everyone. Larger and smaller Centers may need to pursue different strategies. Likewise, multi-service providers and technological access focused providers may need to pursue different strategies.