Community Organizing and Wireless Network Deployment

VISTA Name: 
Melissa Niiya
Program Start: 
Program End: 
Project Description: 

The AmeriCorps*VISTA project we are proposing is a critical component of our community technology program to promote broadband deployment and adoption in the low income neighborhoods we serve. We seek to build the capacity of our wireless and wired networks that will be installed in our affordable housing projects through the development of a program that will distribute community-based resources (equipment, trainings, information), establish resident advisory committees, and deploy wireless networks.

Our AmeriCorps*VISTA member will support our initiative through community outreach, surveys, and technical support. Specifically, s/he will:

- Develop and implement community-based outreach strategies for community wireless adoption and participation.
- Collaborate with other project partners to develop outreach plans to expand our presence in the targeted communities.
- Develop educational resources for community technology staff and residents in the targeted communities.
- Coordinate and build the capacity of a community advisory committees in the targeted communities
- Organize, coordinate, and develop community education workshops delivered by volunteers on community wireless networks
- Develop sustainability models for the deployment of community wireless networks
- Coordinate volunteer efforts to plan and deploy neighborhood wireless networks
- Meet with technology center managers to coordinate community workshop activities
- Work with project partners to build the technology skills capacity of youth in South Los Angeles
- Develop a volunteer base of technology and community activists to support the deployment and sustainability of community wireless networks

Goal 1: Promote and increase the adoption of broadband within low-income communities
Goal 2: Build the capacity of deployed community Wi-Fi networks through community participation.

Project Outcome: 

The VISTA member has been instrumental in increasing the overall capacity of the Community Technology department. We now have documented standards and procedures for deploying residential and community Wi-Fi networks, as well as a track record and experience that can be used to provide technical assistance to other groups seeking to deploy similar Wi-Fi networks. We have compiled not only the technical procedures for wireless deployment but also a best practices guide, as we have learned from the challenges we’ve faced. The VISTA also helped to develop criteria and a process for selecting future contractors for our new networks. To ensure the sustainability of our networks we need to continue working with LTSC’s real estate and property management departments to develop a system for ongoing support and maintenance of the networks.

The VISTA member also assisted with grant writing, reporting and research to support and build the capacity of the Community Technology department. She also helped with program and curriculum development for the DISKovery Center’s digital media classes covering basic computer and internet skills to more advanced digital video editing and production. She also established a public access WiFi network at LTSC’s DISKovery Computer Center in Little Tokyo. The VISTA’s accomplishments in these areas seemed a natural addendum to the stated goals. She has proven herself to be highly competent in many areas and has therefore been given additional projects and responsibilities, as time and her own interests allowed. Since she is extremely self-motivated and is capable of accomplishing projects thoroughly and quickly, we were able to involve her in additional projects beyond what was proposed.

- Development of community and residential wi-fi resource materials made available online.
- Development and dissemination of publicity and outreach materials to promote the Little Tokyo community through flyers, a community blog developed by and for community wireless users, print materials and a community wi-fi website.
- Establishment of a community wireless blog to document the challenges and successes in deploying community wireless networks.
- Deployment of three new free community Wi-Fi networks in LTSC’s affordable housing communities. Accomplishments toward achieving stated goals:
- Curriculum developed for wifi trainings in the form of a wiki. The wiki was developed with some server assistance from Wataru Ebihara, LTSC’s Network Administrator.
- Resource materials developed for wifi users / volunteers / nonprofits wishing to start wifi networks, also on the wiki.
- Flyers for outreach developed with Spanish translation help from Sugey Salazar, computer instructor.
- Community blog developed using a free blogger account. The VISTA has worked to transition administration of the blog to the LT community council for its ongoing sustainability.
- Computer Adoption Program (CAP) program planned and organized, and additional wifi curriculum developed for the class
- 10 families served.
- Wifi deployed in the Reno Apartments using open source mesh routers from Open Mesh and broadband over power (BPL) technology to deploy a robust network at Reno. Switched Angelina Apartments to open source Open Mesh to enable better usage tracking.
- Usage tracking of Wi-Fi networks
- using free and open source tracking called CoovaOM, developed tracking methods and documentation for residential Wi-Fi networks.
- Developed a Request for Proposals for the development of 5 new broadband networks in affordable housing projects; developed criteria for selecting a proposal and oversaw selection of contractor for these new networks.

Second Year

While residents want broadband access, the majority are dissatisfied with wireless technology and the stability of the networks. With the support of LTSC staff, Melissa has helped move the organization toward a more sustainable model of providing residents with internet access (through wired DSL installation and through providing residents with information on low cost communications services). This plan was implemented in the latter half of her service year. Two of the current wireless networks were sold to an independent contractor, who will maintain a lower bandwidth free network while charging for a higher speed pay-to-play network. The remaining networks will be transitioned to an independent contractor after Melissa completes her service year.

While Melissa did not create a DIY computer curriculum due to shifts in program priorities, the other curricula she has created - Digital Histories film class, Internet Safety, Photoshop, and Social Media - will continue to be used in subsequent classes. Broadband Content Development Melissa has developed several websites for the organization, which have been instrumental in promoting our programs and services and raising our visibility. She also connected these sites to social media pages the create a seamless online presence. Melissa has made sure to document the websites she has created so that the organization will be able to maintain them. She has given trainings on Facebook and Joomla to the Little Tokyo Community Council and to LTSC staff.

Impact Quote: 

Thank you very much. We are sad to see Melissa and Tiffany go. They have contributed tremendously to our program and it is truly a loss to see them go.”

- Naomi Uchida-Boas, Supervisor

iConnect Project Developer

KNON Community Radio
VISTA Name: 
Mark Woodward
Program Start: 
Program End: 
Project Description: 

The CTC Vista volunteer will increase our capacity by providing the technical assistance to develop a new media training program, systems for volunteers to use an interactive website, and develop volunteers to become trainers themselves for future participants. The VISTA’s role is to help us through this transition and move KNON into a position where we can provide existing services in newer, more relevant forms. Once the project is completed, the additional volunteers, trainers, training tools, online protocols, online audience, and online tools will augment our community connections by making sure the station is as interactive as possible and acts as a community resource that uses the latest technology to give its listenership a voice in the community and the ability to affect positive change in their own environment.

The CTC Vista will be responsible for:
Work with volunteers to mae presentations to organizations serving lower-income and minority communities in DFW
Work with community members to conduct surveys to determine community media needs
Develop curriculum to train to community organizations and their members to utilize media tools including blogs, audio recording and editing, video recording and editing, and social networking.
Train volunteers to train additional community members to utilize media tools.
Work with volunteers to develop a community media campaign around one identified issue that will be used as a template for future issue campaigns
Develop protocols for volunteers to maintain the equipment and website for volunteer media work

Project Outcome: 

Mark developed a list of 100 community organizations and events in coverage area and Developed outreach material describing community media project and volunteer interest forms. Developed on-air announcements and recruited audience members for project Recruited participants from current audience, community advisory committee and existing volunteer p Surveyed existing volunteer usage of social media networks and other online tools Integrated KNON station brand into new station website, facebook and twitter. Established user interface for volunteers and staff to update station’s online presence Activity 3: New Media Training for Community Volunteers Develop ed training series for community members for blogging and video (youtube) origination, editing and uploading onto station webtools. Also developed social networking training. Mark did all of this by reaching out to those at the station and in our audience during meetings and on air. He was assited by KNON volunteers and staff

Fundraising web componants. Developed well and continues to help us in fundraising

Technology Enhancement Coordinator

Friends of Trees
VISTA Name: 
Toshio Suzuki
Program Start: 
Program End: 
Project Description: 

Friends of Trees’ Technology Enhancement Coordinator (TEC) will help Friends of Trees expand the effectiveness and extent of its communications through blogging, social media, and Google Ads. The TEC will also assist in organizing Friends of Trees’ donor and volunteer data so the organization can efficiently transition from using its current Access database to using its new Salesforce system.

1) Establishment of a Friends of Trees staff, board, and arborist partners blog.
2) Expansion of our social media and online networking.
3) Fine-tuning of our Google Ads through tracking and analysis, the updating of keywords and ad content, and the creation of new Google Ad campaigns as appropriate.
4) Assistance in completing, cleaning, and managing our data in the migration from our old Access database to our new Salesforce database.

Project Outcome: 

Toshio started working with Friends of Trees in July 2009 and immediately began researching how other nonprofits handled their blogs, inviting our community partners to contribute to our blog once it was set up, collecting blog post ideas, taking photos, creating videos, and doing other work in anticipation of creating a blog for Friends of Trees. Since Friends of Trees was in the process of designing a new web site and we needed to set up the blog in sync with the new web site, in a format that could be integrated with the new web site and complement it in appearance, Toshio wasn’t able to officially launch the blog until some of our design decisions were made. Toshio launched the blog on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2009. On that day, the blog had two visitors. As of my writing this report, the blog has more than 3,000 visitors a month and more than 200 visits per day. Each visitor spends about two and a half minutes on the blog. Through the blog, and through his comments on other group’s blogs, Toshio has increased Friends of Trees’ visibility and importance in the community in addition to driving many more people to our web site than visited it previously.

In addition to his accomplishments with our blog, Toshio’s work on our Google AdWords account has enhanced our online presence. One measure of his success is how much of our allotted $10,000 of in-kind Google ads per month we’re using, since the more we spend, the more people must be clicking on our ads. Since July 2009, our monthly spending has increased from $7,000 to the maximum $10,000. The number of clicks on our ads per month has increased from 8,000 to 14,000, and the number of impressions or times that people see our ads per month has increased from 400,000 to 620,000.

Toshio also manages our Flickr, YouTube, and Facebook accounts, posting photos that Friends of Trees staff and volunteers take at weekend plantings and adding comments to the photos as well as a link to our web site. This not only engages our supporters, who enjoy seeing the pictures, but also drives new people to our web site when our photos show up on Google Image searches. Toshio responds regularly to postings on our Facebook Fan page to keep that part of our online community engaged. We now have 900 Facebook fans. More recently, Toshio set up a Twitter account for Friends of Trees, and by tweeting a few times a day, he’s further increased traffic to our blog and web site and spread the word about our plantings and partnerships through numerous retweets. Toshio has produced many videos for both our blog and our YouTube site, and has posted the videos on local TV and newspaper web sites as well as sent them to elected officials featured in the videos, who have then posted the videos on their web sites.

Toshio accomplished a number of additional projects, including working with an IT consultant to add memory to our server so we could make regular backup copies of our extensive data. Toshio took on the project at the start of his service with us, when he was waiting to launch the blog as we made design decisions for our new web site. Another important project that Toshio took on as he waited for our blog to be set up was our organization’s transition from using MS Outlook to using Gmail. Toshio did online research and carefully timed the transition so it went very smoothly. Toshio also trained staff members how to use the various features of Gmail. We were eager to switch to Gmail because of the great amount of spam we received through our Outlook account. Gmail has been much better. Toshio also was an invaluable resource in producing some of our printed materials. In November, as I spent an unanticipated amount of time organizing Friends of Trees’ 20th anniversary celebration, Toshio agreed to design the printed newsletter I would ordinarily have produced. He knew InDesign software already, which was helpful, and he’s an excellent writer. He did a fine job on the newsletter.

Impact Quote: 

Toshio brought his own expertise to the job. He already knew how to use WordPress and had created a blog of his own before he joined Friends of Trees. His writing skills, his ability to take photos and make videos, his willingness to learn about social media possibilities, and his openness to learning about all aspects of our work made it possible for him to accomplish a great deal quickly. Toshio’s personable way with Friends of Trees staff, volunteers and community partners also invited their participation in the blog.

Online Outreach and CTC Implementation

VISTA Name: 
Rachel Rose Sandow
Program Start: 
Program End: 
Project Description: 

This project grew out of a strategic assessment and will improve communication with collaborative partners, constituents and improve the utilization of an existing organizational resource. There will be three components:

Development of sustainable communications strategies: E-newletter - To communicate with supporters, collaborators and constituents on a regular basis. The development of an agency brochure and template that can be updated or reused for new programs.

Web-site: To up-grade and improve web-site with information and links to Southeast Asian resources for adults and youth. To provide detail about accessing basic services that supports the work of SEDC’s case managers and links Southeast Asian communities nationally.

Computer Lab: An underutilized resource, provide technical support, develop policies for use and maintenance. Research opportunities for free and low-cost software. Solicit college student volunteer to staff computer lab and work with clients.

Goal 1: Improve communications with constituencies
Goal 2: Re-open Computer Lab

Project Outcome: 

The VISTA member worked along with SEDC staff to improve communication and collaboration throughout the agency. She developed a sustainable communications strategies, including starting up SEDC Web-site and maintained the site throughout. She interviewed staff and wrote the contents for the web. She established newsletter and distributed widely in the community. She also assisted in setting up computer lab for after school children to use. She spearheaded on all of these projects by collaborating with SEDC staff. The projects that she worked on are still active and we hope to continue it for many more years.


VISTA Name: 
Roxanne Johnson
Program Start: 
Program End: 
Project Description: 

The AmeriCorps VISTA (Leader) for C-CAN will provide support for our current CTEP AmeriCorps members, helping to develop and coordinate youth media literacy and production projects at the local CTCs currently in our CTEP AmeriCorps program.

The CTEP project serves over 20 CTCs with our 25 full-time AmeriCorps members, and all of these host sites serve low income and new immigrant youth. Media programming is in high demand, and the CTCNet VISTA member will be charged with developing specific trainings and workshops for CTEP Members and CTC staff.

CTCnet VISTA position will work closely with former CTCNet VISTA Jeff Streier, on website, newsletter and other e-media materials that support the work of CTEP AmeriCorps members.

The Member’s work will also include helping to create partnerships with other local youth media organizations as well, and work to develop partership opportunties between our CTC community and the media arts community in the Twin Cities.

Project Outcome: 

Roxanne helped plan and deliver the member acceptance letters, handbook, and Pre-Service Orientation. She has answered many questions from the members on many topics related to their service, thus setting them up to accomplish our mission. This includes 6 one-on-one, more in depth check ins with members, one regarding youth media. She has helped plan and facilitate Corps Days where AmeriCorps Members participate in formal and informal training, speakers, workshops, field trips, etc. She has prepared and delivered media literacy training with 2 AmeriCorps CTEP members for the statewide MLK Day AmeriCorps conference. She and two AmeriCorps CTEP members prepared and delivered a technology literacy workshop for the All VISTA Conference (which she also helped coordinate with MN VISTA Leaders). She has also moderated our online message board, created her own blog and encouraged member blogging. Finally, she has been the advisor to two CTEP member committees, media and communications.

Roxanne has contributed to the ability of three CTEP sites to move beyond the “tech center as babysitter” mentality by assisting them to use technology resources to give youth a voice via digital media. At SPNN, she has lent her media literacy mentoring to the youth department where teens are creating a TV program for a teen audience. At the YWCA, she and Ken nelson provided a video submission opportunity to the staff and youth, and provided them with the curriculum, which allowed the youth to complete a video to submit. At Intermedia Arts, she has assisted in the identification and securing of hardware and software to implement a digital media center, and complimented this with assisting in the curriculum development and program planning.

Organizing 2.0

December 5, 2009
Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies, New York City

Is online organizing really ‘organizing’? That’s a challenging question for those of us from a labor or community organizing background. That said, online organizing has received a lot of positive attention recently in connection with the presidential elections. What does this mean for our organizations? What skills do we need to share to make the most of no-longer-new online tools for our campaigns in New York?

Registration is now open. Tickets are $15.

Registration on the day of the event will be $20.

Bioneers Conference

October 15, 2009 - October 19, 2009
San Rafael, CA

The Bioneers Conference is a leading-edge forum—join us in San Rafael, California, October 16-18 (with intensives October 15 and 19). At this premiere environmental conference, social and scientific innovators focus on solutions inspired by nature and human ingenuity.

The 2009 Bioneers Conference includes plenary speeches from: Amazonian Chief Almir, Brock Dolman, Kari Fulton, Jack Hidary, Sarah James, Jensine Larsen, Joanna Macy, Mari Margil, Jason McClennan, Michael Pollan, Jerome Ringo, Arturo Sandoval, Dr. Andrew Weil, Lily Yeh and more!

Web of Change

September 23, 2009 - September 27, 2009
Cortes Island, BC

Hosted on BC’s remote Cortes Island, in the intimate setting of Hollyhock, Web of Change provides senior technology and social media leaders with the opportunity to share their world-class work, ideas, and inspiration with a powerful community of deeply committed peers. This is a transformative event that:

* pushes the edges of technical and campaign innovation
* models a culture of deep collaboration already present in our sector
* shares leading organizational change and leadership frameworks

Transmission Project