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by J.P. Myers, Ph.D.
Director, W. Alton Jones Foundation

New information technologies create remarkable opportunities for foundations and other non-profit organizations. Even with limited communications dollars, advanced networking tools can increase markedly the effectiveness of our communications. Unfortunately, most non-profits remain underachievers in the information technology world. And when we do invest in technology, we fail to make a corresponding investment in the human resources needed to make the equipment perform.

At the W. Alton Jones Foundation, we have found a productive way to help grantees communicate more effectively: "circuit riders"—talented individuals who provide hands-on, technical consulting and education to non-profit organizations. The foundation had begun an ambitious program to support advocates of Low Emission Vehicles and Zero Emission Vehicles (LEV-ZEV). This was one component of the foundation's commitment to encouraging wide-spread adoption of hydrogen fuel cells as environmentally-friendly sources of energy. Early on, it became evident that electronic communication would facilitate effective cooperation among the network of organizations working in California, New England and the mid-Atlantic on LEV-ZEV. Our circuit-rider proved highly effective in bringing these advocates quickly to a position of making effective use of computer communications.

The success of this LEV-ZEV networking project led us to several important conclusions:

For a partner in this project, we chose tcn, a communication technology cooperative. As a member of tcn, the Jones Foundation knew that a tcn circuit rider would bring important knowledge and resources to the participants. Indeed, tcn successfully changed the profile of the LEV-ZEV organizations' use of new communications technologies.

We welcome your feedback and encourage you to contact both tcn and the W. Alton Jones Foundation. This report is also available on the Internet at WAJF's World Wide Web site: http://www.wajones.org/circuit.html

J.P. Myers, Ph.D.
Director, W. Alton Jones Foundation
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