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IT in Community Organisations - New Report

9 May 2002 at 1:05 pm
Staff Reporter
A new US Community Development Survey shows that community organisations have been slow to adopt technology.

Staff Reporter | 9 May 2002 at 1:05 pm


IT in Community Organisations - New Report
9 May 2002 at 1:05 pm

A new US Community Development Survey shows that community organisations have been slow to adopt technology.

Called the Evolving Role of Information Technology in Community Development Organisations, the report, funded by the Ford Foundation is believed to be the first survey of technology usage among these groups.

The survey has been carried out by SeedCo, a US Not for Profit that works in the area of capacity building for community groups.

The survey concludes that for these organisations it’s not about access any more –surprisingly even the smallest organisations have computers — it’s all about applications!

The organisations haven’t taken a cue from the business world and started to take advantage of technology to help them achieve their missions. Most have not gone beyond email and simple database management because they don’t have the resources or the expertise to do more.

The report does show that when organisations partner with a university, intermediaries or a foundation, innovation is the result. For example, community development organisations in LA, in partnership with UCLA, are using sophisticated computer mapping to reduce predatory lending and the number of abandoned houses.

Seedco’s Community Development Technology Initiative (CDTI) is designed as a multi-year project to assess the role that technology plays in the
community development process and was divided into two parts. Phase I consisted of research, including a survey, on community-based institutions and their use of technology to carry out their work. In a concurrent Phase II of CDTI, Seedco is identifying and working with eight pilot sites that are using IT creatively in their efforts to revitalise communities.

This report summarises the results of the Phase I survey of community-based development organisations.

Conducted in February and March 2001 by the Baruch Survey Research Unit at the Baruch School of Public Affairs, Seedco’s survey was designed to reach a wide range of organisations that use IT to address the problems of distressed communities.

Of 701 organisations initially contacted, 353 responded to the survey. Groups in the sample fall into four somewhat different categories of institutions that work on community development issues:

 Community development corporations (CDCs) – organisations that are involved in a range of community development economic activities, that are often based in a single neighbourhood and that draw most of their board members from their target communities;

 Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) – organisations that typically have a wider geographic reach and are lenders of capital;

 Community-based organisations (CBOs) – defined as groups that specialise in one or more areas of community development, e.g., workforce development, community organising, provision of social services, economic development; and

 Intermediaries – organisations that mediate between community groups and resource providers, e.g. foundations, businesses and government entities.

Specifically the survey found responses from groups in the sample indicate that most of their productivity gains from IT are a result of their use of basic IT systems — for example, the increased use of word-processing
and spreadsheet software and of internal and external e-mail, and greater access to the Internet.

The four sub-groups in the sample use these IT tools with approximately
the same levels of frequency.

Almost half to two -thirds of respondent groups do not have a staff member or department specifically devoted to IT. Also, almost half say that senior staff pay little attention to IT, and roughly half rely on outside consultants or “no one in particular” for technical support.

Approximately 50 percent of organisations in the sample provide little or no IT training for their staff. The median spending for IT as a percent of an organisation’s budget was approximately one percent for CDCs and somewhat less than two percent for CDFIs and CBOs. When asked if this level of spending on IT was enough to meet their needs, only the
CDFIs said that it was.

If you would like a copy of the report in PDF format send us an e-mail to


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