Russian Civic Networking Program (RCNP)

Invitation for Partnership

UPDATED! 1999-08-23


Friends and Partners, with support of the Ford Foundation, Eurasia Foundation and other interested organizations, announces its intention to further develop the Russian civic networking program. Three communities will be chosen on the basis of competitive application and will be provided with equipment, funding for basic operating and salary expenses and, pending additional support, funding for a civic networking conference in the US.

This is a cooperative Russia-U.S. planning and demonstration project to promote development and wide-spread availability of advanced telecommunications technologies and civic networking to enhance the delivery of social services and generally serve public interests; to promote access to government information and increase civic participation; and to support the advancement of an nationwide civic networking infrastructure in Russia.

  • Dates
  • Anyone interested in submitting an application should contact the program officers as soon as possible in order to receive proposal and budget guidelines. You can reach us at the addresses listed below or, more easily, via email at:
    Applications for the RCNP must be mailed, hand-carried or electronically delivered to the address listed below and received by the Friends and Partners Foundation, Russia on or before 11:59 p.m., October 8, 1999. Proposals must be submitted in both English and Russian languages. F&P anticipates that it will take four weeks to process all applications and make funding determinations.

    Please no phone calls, all questions must be submitted by email.

  • Addresses
  • Friends and Partners Foundation,
    Russia Moscow, 125252,
    Kuusenena Str., 21 B, CIIC,
    office 117

    For further information, please contact:

    Natasha Bulashova, President
    Friends and Partners, Russia

    Greg Cole, Director
    Center for International Networking Initiatives
    The University of Tennessee
    Phone: (423) 974-7277 Fax: (423) 974-8022

  • Further Information
  • Information on this program may be retrieved from the Russian Civic Networking WWW site at:
    Additional information on the Friends and Partners project is available at:

    Program Description

    The primary goal of the RCNP is to cooperatively develop three additional model civic network sites (in addition to the three established during the first year of the project - Sergiev Posad, Samara, Chelyabinsk) within Russia and to broadly disseminate the results and the findings of these initiatives. The RCNP represents a close partnership between community networking activists in Russia and the U.S.

    It is expected that success of these projects and a good information base describing the progress of their development will result in momentum for a broader civic networking movement within Russia and improved civic networks for participants in U.S. communities.

    Because the focus of the program is specifically on civic networking, a thorough review of the accompanying materials about civic networking as well as other literature and research into civic networks elsewhere in the world should prove instrumental in developing a successful project. It is highly recommended that potential applicants utilize information resources on the WWW site indicated above.

    The RCNP will provide necessary equipment, travel, support and additional salary/operating funds for the first year of operation. A second year of funding is dependent upon available funds and upon a mid-term performance appraisal within the first year.

    Additional Background

    Successful civic networks are driven by a broad set of social ideals and goals - foremost being how modern information communications technology can be used for community development purposes. Just as with modern public libraries, civic networks are worth supporting because of the greater public good resulting from their availability and use.

    This program aims to help communities develop civic networks which provide services of genuine local relevance and benefit for the local community. An additional aim of this project is to demonstrate how these technologies can be used for fostering communications and information sharing between Russian communities. Thus, each civic network in this project will be integrated into the Friends and Partners "intranet," a larger network in which each community networks' content will be shared on each of the other community network servers. The goal is to have each community continually sharing its own development with each community participating in the project.

    These same technologies are beneficial on a global scale as well. For this reason, each civic network will carry the full content of the larger Friends and Partners project locally and its content will be mirrored at the various Friends and Partners locations in other parts of the world. In addition to the local content developed for local purposes (and, of course, published in the Russian language) each participating site will also publish some material in the English language which will be of interest to the global community. The goal is to help demonstrate how technologies can be used to effect partnerships with individuals and organizations in other parts of the world.

    One of the primary objectives in establishing civic network is to extend access and use of local, regional, national, and international information and communication services to the local public who might not otherwise have the possibility of such access. Of equal importance is the ability of civic networks to offer this same public the ability to publish information. This can prove to be of vital importance giving "voice" to such groups as non-governmental organizations, educators, government agencies, religious organizations, senior citizens, etc. But the most important objective of civic networking is to establish broad consortium of participants from various sectors of local community life who agree to work together to develop a shared information and communications resource of genuine benefit to the local community.

    Through this project we wish to help communities develop their own information services and supplement this software for constructing interactive bulletin board systems, email listservers, interactive chat sessions, etc. The community networks will provide software which will allow access to basic Internet service such as email, World Wide Web, telnet, ftp, etc., but will also make possible the easy construction of a WWW accessible version of the local information and communications network. The software must support local language content (initially handling Russian and English languages) and must provide facility for handling the different Russian character set encodings.

    To facilitate the goal of sharing information and communications across the "intranet" of 6 civic networking sites, Friends and Partners will develop and make available for each local community:

    1. software to make it easy for new civic networking sites to build and maintain community networks in different locations and to mirror specified parts of the community networks in other locations.

    2. optionally, basic server and telecommunications hardware for establishment of the community network to make some level of public dial-in access available to local citizens and organizations.

    3. assistance with continuing programs of training and support for system administrators, for community development activists and for end users.

    4. development and support of an active communications network among local community network developers, system administrators, and users for facilitating indigenous development of civic networking throughout Russia.
    One of the reasons we are proposing a project of multiple civic network sites (instead of investing more resources of a single civic network) is to lay the foundation for a community of individuals and initiatives involved in Russian community networking. By helping develop several civic networks simultaneously, we can take advantage of a wider body of experience which should prove useful to initial and subsequent efforts.

    Of course, this creates additional challenges for project management. To help make it manageable, we will encourage use of identical hardware and software platforms, will provide common software tools for web authoring and management, other tools for listserver management (and other communication services such as chat rooms and bulletin board systems) and will provide a web site and communications services to support the network of community networks - with specific services for system administrators and others for community network activists.

    By taking care of many of the technical and management problems on the front end, we will ensure that technical issues do not dominate community network deployment; we can instead together focus on what is required to make community network successful as far as broad based community interest, support and participation.

    By mirroring each community network at each other's site, making local access quick and easy, each community network can stay well informed about what the other is doing - taking advantage of good ideas and building upon them. To further collaboration among the various participants, the program requires that each site develop at least one resource that is of genuine interest and all benefits to other community networks. We are suggesting that each create and maintain a "topical" community network focused on a discipline or interest area in which local participants have interest and possibilities of contribution. By doing so, we hope to encourage collaboration across the entire network of civic networks. Additionally, each civic network will be required to develop dual-language content that will be "mirrored" on the international network of Friends of Partners servers. The focus of such services should be of broad interest to individuals in other parts of the world to draw attention to the local community and hopefully help establish partnerships with individuals and organizations globally.

    Funding Availability

    Each of the three to four proposals selected for initial participation will be provided with the following.
    1. A Sun Sparc Station,UNIX server, which will provide for user accounts, web servers, email, dial in access, etc. This will also include basic telecommunications equipment, if needed, to handle 8-16 incoming telephone connections.

    2. A scanner to be used with public access publishing workstation (workstation to be provided by the local community).

    3. Pending additional support, funding to cover travel expenses for 2 individuals per site for a two week planning/strategy conference in the U.S. working with Russian and American community networking activists. (funding for this second conference is now under consideration and will be confirmed later this year)

    4. An additional funding installment, not to exceed $16,500 to cover local salary, operating and travel expenditures associated with the first year of the grant.
    A mid-grant performance appraisal will be used to determine eligibility for a second year of funding. Emphasis of the second year of the grant will be establishing a local funding mechanism for long term sustainability of the civic network.

    Matching Requirements

    Grant recipients under this program will be required to provide matching funds for the total project costs. The RCNP will provide up to fifty percent (50%) of the total project costs unless extraordinary circumstances warrant a grant of up to seventy-five percent (75%). A project will not be considered fundable unless the applicant can document a capacity both to supply matching funds and to sustain a project beyond a period of the award. Cash matching and in-kind matching are equally desirable. Suggested areas of matching include telecommunications access, partial salary support, supply of additional public access computers, etc. It is strongly recommended that at least two individuals be devoted full-time to the project. Salaries for these positions can be funded from the grant. All overhead expenses must be absorbed by local organizations.

    Eligibility Criteria

    Each application must represent the joint submission of a broad consortia of organizations in the local community and including representation of and close partnership between government organizations, non-government organizations, educational institutions, health care providers, religious organizations, commercial organizations, telecommunications providers, social service agencies, public safety offices, etc. The application must be submitted by a representative, responsible organization which may be a local or regional government, a non-profit organization, educational institution, or other non-profit entity. This organization assumes legal and fiduciary responsibility for all received funds and equipment. Since funding for this program is being provided by other sponsor organizations, recipients will be subject to additional terms and conditions which will be provided at the time of award.

    Award Period

    The grant period for each successful applicant will begin in October 1999. The end of the first year grant will be exactly one year later, with a second year of funding dependent upon sufficient funds and a satisfactory mid-program evaluation. During award period the Friends and Partners Russia organization has a duty to monitor and evaluate the funded projects.

    Indirect Costs

    Limited funds available for the RCNP program do not permit payment of indirect costs or overhead expenses. But well documented institutional costs can be applied towards the matching required under this program.

    Project Funding Priorities

    Funding under this program will be awarded to support projects which demonstrate the highest probability of success of developing locally significant civic networks which can also serve as models for others. An important element of this is a plan for disseminating the knowledge gained as a result of carrying out the project.

    The program will support projects that empower citizens, promote equal opportunity, protect individuals' rights, and strengthen civic institutions. Principal consideration will be given to applications that promote effective provision of education, health care, public safety, libraries, community information services, and other approaches that foster public participation in civic life.

    This project is funded by continuation of a broad effort to develop civic networking in Russia. It is anticipated that 3 applications will be funded. This project is only the first phase of a much broader effort to develop civic networking in Russia. The RCNP is very committed to working with those individuals and organizations submitting meritorious applications and will, where possible, provide assistance and additional resources to help those community networking efforts not chosen on this initial round of funding.

    Evaluation Criteria

    The success of any grant program depends upon its ability to fund only those projects that are well thought out and comprehensively planned. Therefore, no funds will be expended under this program unless the project demonstrates the most economic and efficient use of scarce resources. Other general criteria that all applicants should address are:

    1. Commitment to Civic Networking

    An understanding of and commitment to civic networking is the key criterion on which proposals will be evaluated.

    For the purposes of this program, civic networking is defined as:

    ". . . a process, facilitated by the tools of electronic communications and information, that improves and magnifies human communication and interaction in a [local] community by:

    * Bringing together people within local communities and focusing their attention on key issues within the community for debate, deliberation and resolution

    * Organizing human communication and information relevant to the communities' needs and problems on a timely basis

    * Requiring, engaging, and involving - on an ongoing basis - the participation of a broad base of citizens, including community activists, leaders, sponsors, and service providers

    * Striving to include people from all sectors and levels of the community including different socio-economic levels *Making basic services available at a fair and reasonable cost - or, as many espouse, at no cost - for broad-based access within the community

    * Most importantly, doing what commercial [Internet service] providers find difficult to do well: represent local culture, local relevance, local pride, and a strong sense of community ownership

    [from "Assessment and Evolution of Community Networking", The Morino Institute]

    Proposal must clearly address the following issues:

    • Proposed governance structure for the civic network - including a board of directors, a committee structure, and plans to develop and manage a corps of volunteers

    • Technical competencies required to maintain the civic network server

    • Telecommunications access - including access from the local server to the larger Internet and from local community computers to the local server. Please see Item #2 (Technical Considerations) for additional information on this very important item.

    • Provision of public access sites.

    • Provision of regular programs of training and support.

    • Plans for encouragement and support of electronic publishing by local organizations and individuals. The strongest proposals will suggest a decentralized model of information publishing in which organizations have direct responsibility for and control of their published material.

    • Development of locally relevant useful information and communications services. For example, directories of local government offices, officials, and services; community event calendars, etc.

    2. Technical Considerations

    A major goal of this program is the integration of networks. F&P will not foster stand-alone, "dedicated networks," that are incapable, for either technical or practical reasons, of interconnecting with other networks and systems. In part, applicants will be judged on the extent to which they plan to coordinate information infrastructure activities in their community and region.

    Each civic network must provide for basic Internet connectivity.

    Each application must describe in detail all arrangements for Internet connectivity including letters from Internet service providers or other partners providing for Internet connectivity. The information must clearly indicate all layers of telecommunications connectivity - including provision of at least 4 telephone lines (for public access workstations) to the central civic networking server; including connectivity from the server to the local Internet service provider; and including the local Internet service provider's arrangements for connection to the Internet. Diagrams may be helpful in describing all levels of connectivity. All costs for Internet service (including Internet traffic costs (if applicable)) must be clearly indicated and arrangements for payment indicated.

    Applicants must consider the concept of "interoperability," the view that every system, no matter its level of sophistication or geographic extent, is part, ultimately, of a global communication system that allows one end-user to communicate "transparently" with another end-user, irrespective of distance or time.

    3. Partnerships

    The RCNP requires applications to be jointly developed and submitted by consortia representing many different sectors of local community life. Proposals should include representation from such organizations as: local government, non-government organizations, educational institutions, health care organizations, commercial organizations, religious institutions, social service agencies, environmental organizations, public safety offices, etc.

    Applicants should be aware of other relevant information infrastructure projects in the community or region. To the extent possible, applicants should plan to coordinate their projects with other relevant projects.

    There are many individuals and sectors of society with a stake in the information infrastructure. How an applicant intends to incorporate their opinions and concerns into the civic networking effort is crucial to success. The breadth and depth of representation, including a balanced representation of rural and urban, professional, socioeconomic, ethnic, cultural and other relevant interests, is important. Some questions for an applicant to address include:

    • To what extent will the applicant work to promote public/private partnerships?

    • What procedures will ensure that individuals and entities can provide input?

    • What public and private sector entities will be involved, and at what levels?

    If possible, partnership with commercial Internet service providers is recommended. Civic networking efforts have proven the value of collaborative efforts between public and private sectors - with public efforts helping to "grow" markets for higher end needs which can be serviced by the commercial sector. Civic networks must not unfairly compete with organizations whose livelihood depends upon providing Internet service.

    4. Privacy

    F&P expects applicants to carefully consider safeguards for the privacy of the information flowing through the information infrastructure funded through this grant program. While not mandating specifics, it is expected that applicants will demonstrate a high level of respect for the privacy of users' information and data.

    5. Eliminating Disparity of Access

    One of the key motivations for civic networking is to promote equity of access, so that the information age does not create information "haves" and "have nots." Applicants should address how they intend to support the goal of promoting widespread access, and eliminating or reducing disparities in access, to the information infrastructure, consistent with the scope of the project. F&P will look favorably on proposals that enable common Russian citizens to learn how to use, and benefit from, information infrastructure, without unreasonable burden or expense. For example, each interested citizen in a local community should be able to obtain and utilize an email account and to browse both local and global information resources.

    Applicants should also consider how to train end-users in the use of information technologies. This section should address questions such as:

    • How will the applicant's proposal help ensure end-user ease of access to the telecommunications infrastructure?

    • How will the planning or implementation process encourage community development?

    • How will the planning or implementation process address the issue of access to the information infrastructure by minorities, disadvantaged, or otherwise under-served populations?

    • Who is best qualified to provide the training?

    • Can end-users use the system to produce and disseminate information, as well as gain access to information?

    • Is the system or network user friendly, so that it does not discourage new users, or those who are not "computer literate?"

    • How will the widespread availability of telecommunications and information infrastructure capabilities be promoted within the proposal?

    • How should the costs of ensuring adequate access be allocated?

    • Will the plan stimulate demand for new telecommunications services?

    6. Role of Existing Information Infrastructure

    Applicants are strongly encouraged to partner with existing organizations who can supply telecommunications capacity. If an applicant requests support to construct new transmission capacity, there should be a clear discussion of why utilization of existing networks and systems cannot be relied upon efficiently and economically to meet the project's needs. A proposal should address whether incorporation of existing information infrastructure into the overall plan is feasible. Under this section, applicants should address issues such as:
    • What information infrastructure is currently available to the applicant?

    • How can commercial and non-commercial providers of telecommunications and information services help the applicant meet its information needs?

    7. Accommodation of Future Technology and Flexibility

    As communications and information technologies rapidly evolve and improve, existing technology can quickly become obsolete. For this reason, all applicants should consider how they intend to address this issue. The capacity for upgrades and improvements, as well as the flexibility to accommodate changes in the volume or types of uses, should be considered from the beginning of any planning or development process.

    8. Contribution to the Formation of a National Information Infrastructure in Russia

    Applicants should explain how their proposed projects can make a contribution to the development of a National Information Infrastructure. Some questions that an applicant could consider are:
    • What applications and services are being provided through the existing information infrastructure?

    • How will the project ensure connectivity to and integration with other systems outside the immediate community or region?

    9. Monitoring and Evaluation

    Each application should clearly state its goals and a plan for monitoring and evaluating realization of those goals. The plan should indicate objective and subjective measurements which can be used to evaluate successful implementation, usage and management of the civic network.

    Selection Procedures

    All applications will be subject to a thorough peer review process. A panel composed of individuals fully conversant in the technical, organizational and managerial aspects of civic networking will review the proposals and make non-binding recommendations to Friends and Partners, Russia. The final decision on successful applications will be made by officers of Friends and Partners, Russia who administer this program. All applicants should address the general criteria described above.

    Our gratitude is extended to a lot of thoughtful people at the U.S. National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA - housed within the U.S. Department of Commerce). Their 1994 TIIAP program solicitation served as model (and provided much content) for this Invitation for Partnership. It is one of the best designed and written program solicitations that we have seen. More information on the NTIA is available at:

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