Community Technology Centers, or CTCs–the lone survivors of the “community technology” movement–are currently struggling to survive in low-income communities where access to technology is scarce, and access to funding is scarcer. They are important not only for their work to span the digital divide, but also because they have the potential to act as key public spaces in areas where such places are scarce.
In 2002, PPS partnered with the New School for Social Research and BCT Partners, with funding from the Ford Foundation, to research how CTCs can function more effectively as public spaces and as forces for positive social change at the community level. The team’s report, “Community Technology Centers as Catalysts for Community Change,” received much interest in the CTC, library and community development communities and fostered a grantmaking program and several conferences.
In 2003, again at the request of the Ford Foundation, the team developed a strategic planning grant program as a pilot project, and supervised and provided technical assistance to seven CTCs that were selected to participate in the program. The planning grants were designed to take the centers past their technology programs to take on broader community agendas, with specific emphasis on funding and partnerships that would broaden both their mission and traditional sources of funds. The key to this effort is a strategic analysis of the CTC as an effective community place. As part of its technical assistance, PPS used the Place Game and other Placemaking tools to help CTCs improve their presence in the neighborhood, identify core programming goals that addressed neighborhood issues, and conducted space planning and programming workshops that helped the CTCs locate programs and unstructured activities in their centers.
The strategic plans, which were completed in December, 2003, are being reviewed for implementation grants by the Ford Foundation for Fall 2004.