- Apr 07
In Search of a Cause
Newsletter Article - April 2007
There are very positive signs that a concept of real community benefit to the Cape is starting to take hold. The idea is simply to use the Internet to improve the network across which information about specific needs in our community can be connected to individuals who possess the knowledge, experience, and interest to respond.
Traditionally, news organizations have been the most regular, reliable, and timely providers of information that defines our broad interests and priorities. And though news reports also serve to link a particular individual to a cause or event, the specific interests of the population as a whole are not so chronicled. For this type of information, government agencies traditionally have collected the facts about our lives from birth to death, but these records are protected by rights of privacy and other security interests that limit their accessibility.
More recently, the ability to connect broad interests of a community to the specific skills of a person within that community has improved because of the World Wide Web and our increasing use of the Internet. Now, our capacity to connect an individual's specific skills to a broader need is conceivable to the extent that a person chooses to make himself or herself available.
Early in our history, people stepped forward upon hearing a town crier or an appeal expressed at a town meeting or other community gathering. Later, the telephone extended the range of the network significantly beyond one that required close physical proximity. Even the mail service has developed over the years to become a sophisticated way to target messages to those likely to respond.
Now, the Internet opens up new possibilities to build a broader network of greater detail and increased capacity for more immediate responses. Figuring out how to improve the network has been more complicated than increasing our understanding of the technology's capabilities. It's been also difficult to change our information collection practices from those that gather and shield data to ones that distribute and share it openly.
Nevertheless, we are beginning to figure out not only how we can gather news and information about broad societal trends but also how to encourage people to provide detailed information about themselves that they do not believe impinges upon their bounds of personal privacy. What we have when we have both is a resource that engages our community. And these connections are established not only in response to matters of urgency but also to matters that may be less pressing in a time context but more demanding in terms of a specific skill or background experience.
To present one example, I commend the efforts noticeable in the Cape Cod Times as it has been gradually building its capacity to offer online services to any nonprofit, school, or town. Found online at CapeCodVillageGreen.com, the Times' Internet site is also one that it has increasingly been promoting in its printed publication.
Recently, at the annual Red Cross "heroes" breakfast, the newspaper's CEO, Peter Meyer, expressed sentiments that are also apropos of his paper's efforts. The Red Cross event recognizes ordinary people who have acted in extraordinary ways deserving recognition. Peter Meyer's remarks broadened the event to connect it to all in the audience by saying that we are all best described by what we do, by the actions we take whether or not extraordinary in their circumstance.
In just this same way, albeit in a different context, the action that the paper has taken to develop its site and to make it available as a community resource is worthy of note. It builds significantly upon the concept to which we aspire, the idea that we can better connect the organizations working on matters of community benefit to the individuals living here who are interested to pitch in and help.
Apart from the Cape Cod Times, there are several other print and broadcast news organizations serving the Cape that have undertaken similar initiatives. They can be found at the Web sites associated with their core mission. They're worth checking out, and you might provide to them the areas of your own experience and interest that you would be willing to make available.
Our premise is that an open and broadly accessible information network is an essential and underlying foundation on which we can maintain and enhance our region's quality of life. We are encouraged not only by the efforts of the Cape Cod Times but also by the efforts that other news organizations have initiated.
There are others too that are similarly focused. The Cape's fifteen town governments and its Barnstable County government have also achieved remarkable outcomes that we'll touch on in future newsletters. And as an organization directed to sustaining Cape Cod, our interest is to find ways that we can facilitate the integration and connection of these networks so that we establish a Cape Cod database. It's not particularly sexy, but it's our cause.
Allen Larson, President
Cape Cod Center for Sustainability