SI 597/697 Community Information: Project Corps

Professor Paul Resnick

Fall 1999

Revised 9/9/99 (PR).

Meets Thursdays 5-6:30PM  in 311 West Hall
Class home page
Class Syllabus

Projects Page

Some potential projects you can get involved with this fall:

How to Sign Up for a Project

All project work assignments result from a process of negotiation between you and a project manager, who may be a professor or a client from an outside organization.You contact the project manager, provide information about your own background and interests, and find out as much as you can about the project. If both you and the project manager agree that there is a good match, then you will draft a project agreement stating the project objectives, planned timeline, and responsibilities of the various parties involved. There will often be several students who are interested in a project, and they will form a team to work on it. There should be one project agreement per team, not one per student.

It is perfectly acceptable to negotiate simultaneously with several project managers. You and the project manager should be explicit about when you are committing to work with each other. Once that has happened, you should not back out simply because you found a more exciting project opportunity.

If the project manager is not an SI professor, I will review the agreement and make suggestions for modifications.

Ideally, you should complete your negotiations and bring a draft of the project agreement to class next Thursday (9/16). Please contact me or come to office hours if you are having trouble arranging a suitable project.

Your project agreement will normally be about 2 pages long and should contain the following sections:

Project Listings

CHICO: Cultural Heritage Initiatives

Over the past several years, students have completed a number of interesting projects capturing cultural heritage materials and making them accessible in electronic formats. Check out the CHICO web site for some examples.

Planning is underway for a new series of projects with local arts organizations. UM CHICO students would develop web-based and print background materials to assist youth audiences in preparing for performances given by local community arts organizations. The basic idea is to use the virtual medium of the web to enhance appreciation for the real world performance and to stimulate further study on this and related topics at the library, at museums, on the web, etc.

There may also be an opportunity in the longer term, but not this semester, to plan and prototype interactive participatory features for the Hallelujah Dance Project of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange.

Contact Dean Olivia Frost if you're interested.

The Community Connector

The Community Connector web site is a portal for information about community networking, community technology centers, and other related activities. It includes an extensive Reading Room with links to articles, books, and Web sites. It also includes profiles and news stories. Students are needed to manage the existing information collections (find new materials, cull outdated materials), create new content (e.g., profiles of interesting people projects around the country), and develop new interactive features on the site. Contact Profs. Joan Durrance or Paul Resnick if you're interested.

HeadStart Data Tracking

In Detroit, there are six agencies that operate approximately 120 HeadStart sites. Professor Mike Spencer from the School of Social Work is working with two of the agencies to develop a new database system to track service delivery. This fall, the major effort will be needs assessment and exploration of different design alternatives. Some paid positions may be available.
Contact Prof. Spencer if you're interested.

Who's That? Photo Directories and email Lists

As our lives become ever more privatized, neighbors are becoming strangers.  The mission of the ‘Who’s That?’ project is to encourage individuals to get to know the people around them, in order to provide mutual support and engage in collective action. In the winter of 1999, several of us created photo directories and email lists for the blocks we live on. See  for more details.

This year, I'm planning to do a careful empirical evaluation of the impacts of these tools on social networks (who people know), activities (voting, having people over for dinner, attending club meetings), and attitudes ("do you like living here?"). I'll be recruiting block captains to create directories for their blocks, and conducting surveys before and after they do their work. I need a student to help conduct the surveys and provide assistance to the block captains in using a digital camera and the database software that we've already created.

Contact Prof. Resnick if you're interested.

FreshOnline: On-line Grocery Ordering

So far, entrepeneurs have focused their on-line grocery service efforts on the well-to-do (e.g., This service may actually work well in low-income, inner-city neighborhoods because: So far, a prototype database application has been built in FileMaker. In preparation for a pilot test at a public housing site in Detroit, some local residents have been trained as grocery staff. The full-scale pilot test is awaiting funding; several grant proposals are pending. Students can get involved in this project in one of three ways: Contact Professor Warren Whatley if you are interested.

Knowledge Management System for Global Telecenter Operators, Researchers, and Funders

In many developing countries, and some parts of the developed world, access to even basic telecommunications is often lacking, or primarily limited to urban areas.  Although currently defined imprecisely, the multi-purpose, community information center (MPCIC) (or telecenter)  is seen by many international development agencies and private sector enterprises as a vehicle to both provide access to the needed information infrastructure and to deliver the services of the Information Age.

One of the key problems with the global development of MPCICs is the tremendous isolation faced by many of these projects. A knowledge management system is required that can promote the development of a global virtual community of interest for community information centers.  This project will contribute to this process by building a global, web-based, three-tired knowledge management portal for community information center activity. The first tier is a network of MPCIC operators (and of local networks).  The second tier is for a network of researchers, interested in evaluating the impact of telecenters and MPCICs.  Finally, the third tier is for donor agencies and private sector actors interested in promoting and investing in MPCICS.

Contact Professor Derrick Cogburn if you are interested. See his project writeup for more details.

Arbor Hospice Web Site

Hospice is a comprehensive set of services designed to address the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of individuals and
their families who face a life-threatening illness. Everyone I know who has experienced hospice care for a loved one at the end of life has come away raving about it.

Arbor Hospice offers both in-patient and outpatient services. It previously had a Web site, but it offered only one-way communication (brochureware) and has not been kept up to date. In this project, you would work with staff members at Arbor Hospice to identify needs and opportunities for a more interactive Web site, research options for who would be a good Web hosting service for them, and then design and implement a site that would be maintainable by Arbor Hospice volunteers in the future.

For more information, see the flyers and handouts in class, then contact Christia West (ext. 112) and Bev Spicknall (ext. 122) at Arbor Hospice, 662-5999.

Inventory of Venture Philanthropy and e-Philanthropy Efforts

Two new trends are taking shape in the world of philanthropy. One is venture philanthropy, analogous to venture capital. Venture philanthropy is an effort to identify and nurture  new ventures that are aimed at social goals and which have strong opportunities for growth. The other trend is e-Philanthropy, which includes various efforts to create electronically mediated
opportunities for people to  give money, volunteer their time, and even directly perform services for charitable organizations.

Tom Reis of the Kellogg Foundation has been tracking and influencing these trends. He would like a student to maintain an annotated inventory of the efforts underways in these areas.

This opportunity is available because of the Alliance for Community Technology, a cooperative venture between the School of Information and the Kellogg Foundation. Contact Professor Dan Atkins and Tom Reis if you are interested.

Information Technology in Southern Africa

The Kellogg Foundation has extensive projects in Southern Africa and is especially interested in the role that information technologies can play there. There is not yet a well-defined project for a student in this area, but if you are especially interested in exploring this, you may be able to define a project serving as research assistant to a Kellogg program officers.

This opportunity is available because of the Alliance for Community Technology, a cooperative venture between the School of Information and the Kellogg Foundation. Contact Professor Dan Atkins if you are interested.

Community Information Organizer Training

This fall and winter, we will be training low-income teens as "Community Information Organizers". We are working at two sites, the community center at the North Maple Estates public housing in Ann Arbor, and the Flint Public Library. In the fall, the teenagers will learn about information technologies and be introduced to local civic, political, and business leaders. Their job for the fall is to to define projects that the will carry out in the winter. The projects will involve organizing and publishing information for the benefit of some community that they are part of.

We have already hired ten master's students as "coaches", but other students may also want to get involved. Contact Kelly Garrett, the PhD student who is managing the project, if you are interested.

Self-defined Projects

It is legitimate to define your own project. In general, the project must meet these criteria:
  1. there should be a well-defined outcome that you are trying for in the allotted time
  2. it should be doable given your skills and other available resources
  3. it should fit broadly within the scope of the community information corps, meaning it should:
    1. involve organizing information or information flows AND
    2. either have some collective purpose or create broad opportunities for public participation in the process, or both.
  4. there should be an identifiable project liaison at a partner organization who has a vested interest in what you produce and a willingness to supervise the project. The partner liaison need not be an information expert; you'll provide that.
  5. it should be sustainable by someone at the partner organization once you complete your work
Some exceptions to the last two requirements may be made for projects where you explore entrepeneurial options and you are considering staying with the project indefinitely if you succeed in starting it.

Directed Field Experiences

Please explore the Directed Field Experience listings. In the fall 1999 listings, I found several that might be appropriate, including the UM Center for Community Service and Learning, Focus: HOPE, Michigan Neighborhood Partnership, Non-profit Enterprise at Work (NEW), and the UM School of Education. The same criteria apply for DFEs as for self-defined projects, although typically 1, 2, 4, and 5 should be met automatically for all DFE projects.