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Empowering Communities
 
   
  Who is ECIE?  
 

ECIE is a 501(3)(c) non-profit organization whose general mission is to promote an open exchange of information and ideas using the tools of Information Communication Technologies (ICT). The founding members of ECIE have been active since 1996 in the delivery of information to third world countries using on-line seminars and training sessions.

Recently, ECIE began developing a project for leveraging ICT to create on-line communities as a means to empower them. While the primary goal for ECIE is to empower disadvantaged communities, we also believe that any community can benefit from this model.

 
     
  What does "Empowering Communities" mean?  
 

Empowering Communities focuses on the concept that the basis for a strong community is in the active and dynamic participation of its members. A strong community leverages the strength of each of its members to empower the whole community. An "Empowered Community" uses that collective strength to become self sufficient and independent, more productive in promoting and achieving its vision and goals, and more able to care for its own members. Now more than ever, in these times of transition, chaos and uncertainty, there is a telling need for strong "empowered" communities to unite, sustain, and guide us.

 
   
     
  Where can I find these communities?  
 

ECIE is proposing that communities should boldly embrace modern 21st century technology in order to address the pressing issues we face today. The Internet and the tools of ICT make possible the anywhere, anytime inter-communication and inter-connectivity that allows individuals to participate more fully and more effectively in on-line communities. Using the Internet as a channel of communication and information, we should be able to build strong ties and relationships from the constant interaction with others in our community. Through active on-line participation, the power of one can be leveraged and transformed into the power of many. This affords the community and each of its members the opportunity and power to effect global and societal changes for the benefit of humanity.

 
     
  Why use On-line communities?  
 

With the barrage of information and the competing demands on our time and attention that we all face each day, it often seems that we have little time left for anything outside our own immediate concerns. We don't have time to get involved, to attend community meetings, to make commitments. Yet, paradoxically, it is the sense of community that keeps us grounded in our humanity, and community action that provides us with a sense of achievement. Participating in on-line communities is a very simple and effective means for maintaining community ties and involvement without the constraints of time and schedules.

I'd like to get more involved, but I don't have enough time. It is often difficult to find and schedule the time to do everything we'd like to do. The key thing to remember is that the Internet is not time-dependant and is therefore more flexible at adjusting to idle time. Although communication via the Internet is essentially instantaneous, we are not required to respond immediately. Instead, we can "stretch" time to answer e-mail on our own time. This "stretched" time allows us to participate whenever we have periods of free time where we would not have to "fit" our participation into our busy schedule.

There is too much information to sort through. Although the Internet makes it possible to access a multitude of valuable resources, not all of us are proficient sufficiently in Internet search methods to quickly get the information that is relevant and useful to us. We often face the daunting task of having to sort through a whole haystack of information to find the needle that we need. On-line communities can use the skills and dedication of its members to provide a resource of information that is relevant and easily accessible to the community.

 
     
     
  How does "Empowering Communities" work?  
 

ECIE is using open source programs, such as PHP-Nuke, PostNuke, Envolution, and other web applications which are designed as Content Management Systems (CMS), to create interactive websites that allow members to contribute and participate in its development. One site currently in development is at www.aipeuc-ps.org, which is the Washington State chapter of the Association of Peruvian Institutions in the United States of America and Canada. As a founding member of AIPEUC-PS, ECIE is working in Washington State to unite and empower the Latino communities in the region.

A key element in the "Empowering Communities Project" is active participation. It is the active participation that gives the community its strength and power. To promote and encourage active participation, ECIE plans to provide training in the use of ICT for those communities that participate in the project. The training will include lessons via e-mail, lists of interests, web surfing, searching, and using the CMS programs for building an online community. It is important that the community take ownership of the web site and that the site reflects the community that it represents.