The Transmission Project amplifies the power of public media and technology. Our vision is a robust and diverse media ecology enabling a world built upon the full participation of society.
The Transmission Project fulfills its mission by supporting a diverse network of partner organizations that serve communities nationwide, including low-power radio stations, media arts centers, digital and media literacy educators, rural broadband initiatives, and media reform policy advocates. Through our primary initiative the Digital Arts Service Corps , we recruit and place full-time AmeriCorps*VISTAs (Volunteers in Service to America) in organizations to complete specific, yearlong capacity building projects. By streamlining the AmeriCorps application process, subsidizing the cost of hosting an AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer, and providing the volunteer with training and support throughout his or her year of service, the Transmission Project makes a valuable resource accessible to more organizations. We use our broad network of individuals and organizations to share lessons and resources with the field.
While serving with the partner organization, the Digital Arts Service Corps member takes a lead role in ensuring the success of his or her capacity building project. These community media and technology projects expand organizations’ ability to pursue programming and policy agendas that reflect the following values
Everyone, regardless of income, age, disability or background, should benefit from today’s media and information technologies. Ensuring accessible and inclusive communications contributes to an informed and engaged community, inspires individual self-realization, promotes lifelong learning, increases civic participation, and fosters community wellbeing
New and emerging technologies provide innovative opportunities for individuals and organizations to communicate with and advocate for their community. Through hands-on learning, individuals gain not only valuable experience, but learn technical, teamwork and problem solving skills, and a strong work ethic. New media and technologies used in tandem with traditional modes of communications enable organizations to more effectively reach out to constituents and supporters as well as raise awareness about their mission, services and needs.
Constructive dialogue about issues facing communities can be a catalyst for change and growth. Nonprofit services are enhanced not only through new technologies, but also by continuing engagement with the communities they serve. Community outreach, feedback and participation—through leadership, governance and volunteerism—remain central to the success of organizations that seek positive transformational change within their communities.
Ensuring the continued health and capacity of nonprofit organizations is key to their ability to effectively communicate and provide services within their communities. Capacity building solutions provide long-term benefits that increase the reach or impact of programs, reduce costs, improve leadership and staff ability, and tap new sources of funding or support. By building internal strength, organizations ensure their ability to create change for years to come.
The Transmission Project (formerly the CTC VISTA Project) began in the fall of 2000 as an ancillary to the CTCNetwork, the country’s oldest and largest association of nonprofit organizations devoted to technology access and education for low-income communities. The CTC VISTA Project received a million dollar, three-year grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) to help recruit and support the placement of AmeriCorps*VISTA members into CTCs (Community Technology Centers) across the country. While national in scope, the Transmission Project is housed at the College of Public and Community Service at University of Massachusetts Boston.
At the time of the Project’s inception, Community Technology Centers were serving their communities at minimal capacity; they often consisted of little more than a few computer workstations in community spaces such as faith-based institutions or low-income housing developments. The purpose of the CTC movement was to increase CTCs’ use of technology to address the needs of communities. In tandem with the federal Technology Opportunities Program (TOP), the Project was integral to this movement. CTCs, of which there were less than a dozen in the early 1990s, grew in both number and scope of services. With more than an estimated 20,000 centers in 2008, these organizations created an infrastructure capable of supplementing schools, employment agencies, and other national service providers.
As the Project grew and developed relationships with an increasing number of CTCs, it naturally began learning about the new applications of community technology. The Project capitalized on this position by assuming a major role in the publication of the Community Technology Review, a journal dedicated to covering trends in non-profit technology use. The collaborative nature and broad scope of the Review allowed for the Project to forge close ties with national community media and technology networks available beyond CTCs.
The Project expanded its reach considerably, integrating a wide range of non-profit organizations in more communities around the country. At the same time, broadening the range of supported organizations presented a challenge to the Project’s unified mission. The Project therefore renewed its mission to include building capacity through the strategic and effective use of technology to advance the missions of community-based nonprofit organizations in general – even those whose missions did not explicitly involve computing. At least in name, however, the CTC VISTA Project kept the capacity building of CTCs at the forefront of its work.
By 2009 it became quite obvious that the name CTC VISTA had not kept pace. The CTC movement had evolved, and the Project’s directors and advisers knew that the Project must redefine itself yet again. Discussion around the future of the Project culminated in an announcement that it was changing its name to the Transmission Project and establishing its new Digital Arts Service Corps. The new name captured the broad network of supported organizations, which more and more consisted of public and community media institutions. The Corps’s name was inspired by Helen De Michiel, then co-director of the National Alliance for Media Art and Culture and who envisioned an initiative that integrated national service, public digital infrastructure construction, capacity building for nonprofits, and innovative uses of the technological arts in public and community-based organizations. Excerpted from the announcement:
With a new name, the Transmission Project places a stronger emphasis on building capacity for equitable and effective use of public media and technology…
By creating a Digital Arts Service Corps, the talents and organizing skills of committed volunteers can be harnessed to connect people across online communities and amplify America’s independent media voices and visions. Community-driven teams will design tools, social networks and online environments that bolster and stimulate community-building and participation.
Broadening the Project’s mission to encompass such a diverse body of work hinged on an expansion of our definitions of public and media. Taking the broadest understanding of both, the Transmission Project defines “media” as all the ways people communicate and “public” as the sum of all the dialogue communities generate. Thus, while dissimilar in the services they provide, Corps members’ host organizations all have one thing in common: the use of media and technology to bring individuals and communities out of poverty by developing the skills and communications resources necessary to contribute and participate fully in our economy and democracy.
In its tenth year, the Transmission Project continues to advance its goal of creating healthy media ecologies by strengthening media institutions that engage with communities and build publics. For instance, just as the CTC VISTA Project supported the work of Community Technology Centers granted through TOP, the Transmission Project now works with BTOP (Broadband Technology Opportunities Program) grantees to ensure the success of their efforts to enable community members to adopt and utilize powerful broadband technologies.