Assess What You Have
Assessments are an important part of the Connecting Rural Communities process — use them but don't get stuck in assessment mode for too long.
Before you start calling people to work with you on Connecting Rural Communities projects, it will be helpful to do some assessments to answer as many of the following questions as possible.
Engaging community leaders is a critical element of successful Connecting Communities projects. The key is to identify community leaders and technology experts who are willing to work together to increase the diffusion and adoption of digital tools across the community.
A quick assessment of the community's history of working together on issues will help you gauge how the community leaders will come together to develop and implement connecting community projects. The Community Readiness Assessment (PDF) is designed to gauge the level at which community leaders and organizations will collaborate to identify, develop and implement Connecting Communities projects. If your community has a history of not working well together on projects, this project will likely have the same outcome.Community Benchmarking Assessments
Benchmarking assessment tools provide a snapshot of your community use of the Internet and digital tools. These tools provide information critical to setting goals for your Connected Community and identifying projects that you can implement to reach those goals. The Connecting Communities project champion, leadership team, or a group of community leaders can use the following tools:
A quick assessment of the technology infrastructure and use of digital technology in your community will give you a starting point before you begin to get goals and identify projects. What connectivity is there? What training is there and how is it being used?
What if you don't know what's available in your community? Ask others — city or county government personnel, colleagues, or community members who might know. Ask the local Internet service providers what they offer locally. If you don't know who the service providers are, look in the yellow pages of the local phone book under "Internet" or search the internet for "internet services providers" in your state.A Word of Caution
Don't get bogged down with the assessments. The assessment tools in this guide are designed to provide a lot of information but do not require a consultant. Remember that connecting your community is a process and it is more important to get started than have very detailed information. As your Connecting Communities project gathers momentum you will be able to identify the appropriate tools to gather the information you need and conduct more extensive assessments.