To move through the 8 building blocks, a community must employ multiple sets of tools, strategies, and practices. Each of the pathways also requires different kinds of knowledge and ways of knowing.
How to start from what and who is already living and working in a community to build power while you build digital equity. Wherever you live, there are probably people who are already toward a shared vision of a healthy and equitable future, whether or not they are working on digital equity issues. Community organizers know how and who to engage, and how to align digital equity goals with other community needs and priorities.
Teaching and learning about technology is critical to closing information gaps and asymmetries to build confidence and power. CTNY and our partners apply popular education tools and strategies and the Digital Stewardship and Community Technology approach developed by the Detroit Community Technology Project and the Community Tech Collective. CTNY also uses our PNK as a platform to apply these tools and strategies via collaborative hands-on learning and building opportunities.
The key to sustainability for the long term is creating intentional business practices in line with community goals and values. Becoming an Internet Service Provider means figuring out how to do business development, data management, and customer service, as well as how to connect into the bigger commercial internet. Tools and strategies needed for this path include entrepreneurship, organizational development, and partnership development, as well as tech skills and knowledge.
The way we govern our media and digital ecosystems should be in alignment with our values and principles as communities. Yet the internet is local, regional, and national, all at once. CTNY and our partners work to build intentional governance from the ground up, starting with small-scale decisions about passwords, data collection, and participant consent on PNKs to understand and advocate for the collective digital future we want to see. Local governance guides where and how to expand, build off of our networks with new projects and applications, and how to advocate for policies and programs that will give back to our communities over time.
We have identified these building blocks based on our experience with partners moving through the complex process of developing community internet infrastructure. While not every community will use every one of these building blocks, we hope that these resources and stories will help other communities as they take on the process of building towards digital equity. These emergent steps represent what we know about what has worked. The building blocks are:
Organize, Demystify, Plan, Educate, Build, Maintain, Expand & Transform