Information Resources
for the
Voluntary Sector

The Role of email
in NVN

and Back up

Training in
using the Net

Norfolk Charities

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Creating an Electronic Network

This is a proposal for internet services designed to meet the needs of Norfolk's Voluntary Sector.

NORFOLK VOLUNTARY NET will provide an information service over the Internet to Norfolk's voluntary sector. The Voluntary Sector is a major employer in Norfolk. It employs hundreds of people in the county and provides direct benefits to thousands more.

There are four main parts to NVN:
(a) It will produce World Wide Web documents and a database with information about each of the voluntary organisations involved in NVN. This would not only list the services offered by the organisations, but also the kinds of support they are looking for.

(b) It will provide structured World Wide Web resource sites, where voluntary organisations in Norfolk will find information and advice specifically tailored to their needs.

(c) Each organisation will be provided with at least one email address. (If they don't have a computer and modem, their email can be faxed to them). NVN will maintain and monitor a series of email newsgroups on topics of interest to the Voluntary Sector in Norfolk and will promote cooperation and coordination between organisations.

(d) The Net will provide training, support and back up for voluntary organisations to enable them to receive full benefit from the services offered.

Web documents created by the voluntary sector will be available to the public at all times. But Norfolk Voluntary Net will aid the voluntary sector itself as well as the public.

Because the voluntary sector is open to cooperation and information sharing, it is ideally suited to benefit from the Internet.

  • Information gathered by the better organised and funded organisations will be available for use by the smaller, probably less well funded organisations.

  • The world wide web and email will allow VOs to make better use of the time available to them. Email, unlike the telephone, does not need to be dealt with immediately. Email will reduce the numbers of meetings needed for sector coordination.

  • Organisations can also benefit from the experiences of others. Low overhead conferencing can be organised where speakers publish their contributions via mailing lists and others have perhaps two or three days to consider and respond.

There are other benefits. Norfolk is a large, sparsely populated, rural area. Norfolk Voluntary Net will overcome some of the additional barriers to communication faced by Norfolk's voluntary sector.

Bottom-Up Control
Norfolk Voluntary Net aims to be an empowering tool for all organisations in the voluntary sector in Norfolk. It will provide a service to all organisations involved, no matter how small. There were two important criteria behind the design of Norfolk Voluntary Net:

(a) It should be usable by organisations who don't have a modem - indeed it should be usable by organisations who don't even have a pc.

(b) As much as is possible, information updating and web site development should be in the hands of the voluntary organisations themselves. To make this a reality, training, support and advice are crucial, especially during the first two years. But that support will not become direction.

To meet those criteria we have built in features like a database which links to web sites, email to fax, and email collection from any linked pc. The result is a system which is flexible, robust, adaptable to differing circumstances and extremely cost effective.

Serving the Users One of the main advantages of NVN over other Internet schemes is that it addresses a clear audience. It does not send information out into the ether in the hope that it will be of use to someone. On the contrary, the voluntary organisations have been directly involved in the network from the start. They will control its development. They are the best people to say what information is of real use to them.