Organizational Characteristics for Addressing Change

Pattern number within this pattern set: 
Karen Michaelson
TINCAN/The Inland Northwest Community Access Netwo

Programs designed to increase equity of access to and use of information technology for under-served populations almost always need to address issue of changing context between the time the project was designed and the end of the implementation period.


Since 1994, U.S. Department of Commerce has funded hundred of projects designed to increase the equitable utilization of information technology in communities throughout the United States. The projects have addressed issues of health care, education, the arts, community networking, and public safety. Communities served are diverse, from rural to inner city, and populations cover the gamut of ethnicity, age, and gender. Thus, the same program has funded the ability of law enforcement personnel to communicate information instantaneously, as well as programs that engage youth in leadership activities, or engender community development through online entrepreneurship. All of the programs funded have undergone rigorous review, and appear well conceptualized from the outset.

Each program, however, will need to address a changing technological, economic, and social landscape as they are implemented in specific communities. Change can include advances in technology, unexpected shifts in community support, changing personnel, and the impact of other community programs on project implementation. Sometimes, the need to address change causes a project to falter. Yet other projects are not only able to ride out the unexpected, but use the changing context to make their programs stronger. These programs are able to use change to innovate, and even to foster new programmatic directions.

Successful programs are those that not only are able to implement a project that addresses the goals for which they were funded, but are able to continue the program after the funding ends. This means that they have been able to keep a broad view of their stated goals, while modifying their activities to meet the challenges of change. Examining successful projects indicates that despite their diverse objectives, they have some commonalities. These common features have less to do with the technology itself, and have more to do with the organizational characteristics in which the technology is embedded. These characteristics include leadership, community involvement, and organizational flexibility.


Therefore, project design must focus less on technology deployment, and include organizational capacity to address change.

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