It's been nine weeks since I was hired as the Executive Director for Chebucto Community Net (CCN). As I've told some friends, it feels like nine months!
As one can appreciate, it's been a steep learning curve as I get oriented to the various committees that support the membership of CCN, as well as the many community initiatives that are being undertaken. The expertise and commitment of the many volunteers who support CCN is truly inspiring. I'd like to share with you some of the things I've been discovering about this innovative organization.
As many members know, CCN was one of the first Community Net organizations in Canada. As an organization, CCN is a volunteer-driven, member-supported, community-based, not-for-profit service which provides the technology, infrastructure and training that enables all people in the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) area to participate in an affordable electronic public space. In contrast to other Internet Service Providers, when people sign up for the CCN service they become a member of the CCN society with a say in how the organization functions. They can participate on committees, attend Board meetings, nominate Board members, etc. In this regard, CCN's operating mission is to:
CCN places a particular emphasis on providing services to those who would not otherwise be able to access the Internet and participate in an electronic public space. As a registered charitable society, members select a Board of Directors who make policy and work with the many volunteer committees on which CCN relies. It was in this context that I was recently hired as the Executive Director to coordinate a number of new community development initiatives and to oversee many of the day-to-day administrative duties towards ensuring the long term sustainability and growth of the CCN organization.
Support and training is a strong mandate within CCN. It has demonstrated that it has the technical, financial and human resources to sustain this through its uninterrupted operations for the past five years. It is estimated that CCN has trained over 16,000 people in this time. CCN has provided web space to Community Access Program (CAP) sites in the HRM area and email accounts, training, online support and web space to individuals and community-based organizations. CCN now supports close to 4,000 members and 200 Information Providers online, hosting numerous public and community service agencies, hobbyists, sport groups and other not-for-profit organizations involved in the enhancement of the HRM community. CCN also has members around the globe (Iran, China, U.S., and other parts of Canada, etc.) who can access their email through a web browser from anywhere that they can access the Internet. Industry Canada has also supported a number of innovative research projects and proposals which CCN has undertaken.
In terms of recent projects, CCN has recently been designated as the lead delivery agency for the Federal Government's Voluntary Sector Network Support Program (VolNet). This coming fall it will undertake the task of training and providing technological resources to assist 175 volunteer groups in the HRM area to gain access to the Internet and utilize various technological resources.
CCN is also the lead coordinator and facilitator for the Urban CAP program within the HRM. This process currently involves community-wide discussions with a variety of organizations and groups to identify potential collaborative projects and design specific criteria to install thirty computer access sites to serve general public needs in the HRM area.
CCN has demonstrated its leadership most recently by building and hosting a Provincial Server (http://www.nsaccess.ns.ca); helping give access to networking resources for many CAP sites around Nova Scotia, and enabling them to locally create and administer their own community-based Internet resources.
Being well placed in the HRM community through its five years of experience in Internet-based technologies, and its technical expertise in providing affordable access in text and graphical-based systems, the Chebucto Community Net was recently invited to participate in the economic, social and cultural online infrastructure for the Halifax SmartCommunities initiative. More on that later in the fall.
Community Net support systems are evolving and exchanging their expertise throughout North America and Europe and are becoming important non-profit enterprises that are articulating the need for both affordable access and the need to create public space for the free flow of information amongst individuals and organizations. On behalf of CCN, its Board of Directors and many volunteers, we're proud to be at the forefront of this activity in Canada.
You may direct comments about this article to: