|Learn how to utilize the internet to research and communicate community change and improvement.|
What do we mean by using Internet-based tools to promote community health and development?
Why use Internet-based tools to promote community health and development?
Who should use Internet-based tools to promote community health and development?
When should you use Internet-based tools to promote community health and development?
The Internet can function as an invaluable resource in community health and development. In this section, you will learn how to use the Internet to gather and distribute information, to effectively communicate with others, and to gain support and credibility in conducting community projects.
What do we mean by using Internet-based tools to promote community health and development?
The Internet is the largest and most comprehensive storehouse of information and knowledge ever assembled, and represents the largest communication network the world has ever known. With the click of a mouse, (or a Smartphone), you can update your Facebook status or send a Tweet and reach thousands of people all across the globe. You can also work collaboratively with someone you may never meet in person, read an article on most any subject, or scan the contents of the world's largest libraries.
You can also get a huge array of false information. It's important to be aware of the reliability of the source of any information you get online. If you have any question about it, check out the information with other sources before you assume that it's accurate. Even reliable sites - the New York Times or major universities, for instance - make mistakes from time to time. The difference is that they generally correct themselves as soon as they find the error, while less reliable sites may intentionally persist in error, or simply may not bother to change their information once it's posted.
Two websites that provide some guidelines for sorting out good information from bad are "Ten C's for Evaluating Internet Sources," from the library of the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire; and "Criteria to Evaluate the Credibility of WWW Resources."
There are different kinds of Internet-based tools you might use, and different purposes you might use them for:
To learn how to do the work. The Community Tool Box is an example, but there are many others that can provide guidance as you plan your work, start a coalition, raise money, gain participation, etc.
To gather information .This obviously includes a broad range of possibilities - not only websites, but also chat and newsgroups, on-line publications, library catalogues, and other on-line resources. Some of the most common types of information you might be seeking:
- Demographics (age, gender, race, ethnicity, income, etc.). The most common source of this data in the U.S. is the Census Bureau, but much may also be found on state, county, municipal, and federal and state government agency and department websites. The equivalent data for Canada can be found on the website of the Canadian Census, and on provincial and ministry sites.
- Laws and regulations. Laws can be found on a number of websites for both the U.S. and Canada. These include U.S. state laws; Uniform Commercial Code, U.S. federal laws, and the General Laws of Canada. Regulations of municipal, county, state, and federal agencies can generally be found on the agency websites (Resources contains a partial listing of federal agencies).
- Funders and funding opportunities. A well-defined web search will turn up the names of foundations that are interested in your issue, and their websites will tell you whether you're a good candidate for funding by them or not. State and other government agency websites will also give information about what they fund, how much is available, and usually include copies of current Requests for Proposals (RFPs). The websites of state and national coalitions and organizations may also have funding information or opportunities.
- Best practices. Many U.S. and Canadian state/provincial and national government agencies (e.g., the U.S. National Institutes of Health) have on their websites lists and descriptions of successful programs and approaches (sometimes actually called "best practices," sometimes just identified as successes or effective programs.) Professional organizations, coalitions devoted to your issue, and organizations that run successful programs are all likely to have information on line about best practices.
- New methods, ideas, theory, or research in the field. Academic papers and journal articles, chat or newsgroup discussions, and e-zines or electronic versions of newspapers, journals, and other media may all make this kind of information available on the Internet, or at least tell you where you can find print versions. Web pages containing this information may also include an e-mail address for the author or another expert, so that you can contact her personally to discuss the ideas more fully.
- Information to use for education or other program purposes. Biographical data, historical facts, scientific principles or formulas, the text of important historical or government documents (the U.S. Constitution, for example).
To communicate with others. The Internet allows you to communicate with people from all over the world in a short time, through e-mail, Skype, Twitter, instant messaging, etc. Among the reasons you might want to do so are:
- To share and discuss information and advice on your work, or on political or social factors affecting it, in newsgroups, chat rooms, forums, etc.
- To communicate directly with colleagues, participants, funders, collaborators, and others. You might also use e-mail to ask members or supporters for contributions; to advertise programs or events; to discuss individual cases or situations with others involved; to ask questions of colleagues or experts; or to organize and engage in advocacy.
- To use a website to get your message out, advertise your services, and post messages and other important material for participants, members, board members, staff, and others.
To distribute educational or informational material to participants . Many university courses use the Community Tool Box as text, for instance, or send students directly to the Community Tool Box site for course reading.
To conduct business . Non-profit and grass roots organizations, like many individuals, use the Internet to find and contact suppliers; comparison shop; order materials, equipment, and supplies; pay bills; advertise positions; and sell or publicize services and products.
To engage in advocacy . The Internet can be invaluable to an advocacy effort. E-mail, websites, listservs, and discussion groups allow an advocacy group to organize, mobilize members for action, contact policy makers, conduct advocacy research, and educate a constituency, as well as the general public, about an issue.
Why use Internet-based tools to promote community health and development?
First, the scope: the Internet is truly international, and knows no borders. Even in places where there is no electricity, there is the possibility of Internet access by satellite and with the use of solar powered computers. That means that virtually anyone can gain access to the vast store of information and potential in cyberspace, and can communicate with others in faraway places. Such power can be misused - terrorists take advantage of the Internet all the time, for example - but it can also create previously unimaginable opportunities for economic, social, political, intellectual, and human development.
There are, of course, some limitations here. One is the availability of hardware. Certainly, the poor, especially in developing nations, are unlikely to own computers - a laptop represents considerably more than a year's income for a family in many countries - but they may have access to them through non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government projects, schools, or other channels. In general, the issue of access is a serious one for a good proportion of the world's population.
Perhaps an equally severe barrier is that of literacy. Probably a majority of the world's low-income population (perhaps even a majority of the world's total population) is either completely or functionally illiterate, and even many who are literate are not fluent in English or one of the other languages common to most Internet sites. Translation is one answer, but the sweep of available material is so vast - websites number in the billions, and increase daily - that it is difficult to imagine anything short of truly effective translation software addressing the problem. The literacy issue is even thornier, since much of the planet's illiterate population has very little opportunity for school, and very little support - governmental or otherwise - for changing their situation.
That said, there still remain billions of people who can benefit directly by use of the Internet, and billions more who can be helped by it as a result.
Second, by its very nature, the Internet is almost certainly the most democratic medium ever devised. Access to the vast majority of its sites is free. Its size and scope are such that anyone who can get online can learn nearly anything. No one is denied the right to say what she wishes, to contact whomever she wishes, or to go almost anywhere she wants electronically, at least by the restrictions of the Internet itself.
Furthermore, the nature of the medium makes it possible for a message to be transmitted to a recipient anywhere in the world, or for that same message to reach thousands, or even millions, of people in a very short time. The Internet eliminates not only the physical barriers of time and space, but social ones as well. Anyone's words can be sent to anyone else, and judged solely by their content, rather than by the sender's appearance or apparent social standing. Everyone is equal, at least in some respects, at the keyboard.
There are governments that monitor and limit Internet use for political reasons. It is difficult for them to stop every activity they'd like to, but the threat of being caught undoubtedly keeps many of their citizens from roaming freely. In some cases, these governments are able to cut off access to large parts of the system, but people continue to find ways around the barriers.
Given these two outstanding characteristics of the Internet - its huge size and its democratic nature - there are a number of reasons why Internet-based tools have enormous potential for health and community development.
- They give access to knowledge and information to everyone - not just to those who can use libraries or universities, not just to those who enjoy a free and reliable press, not just to those who live in developed countries, not just to those who are educated or well-off. Thus, they build capacity for people to work out solutions to their concerns.
- They make it possible for people to change their lives and communities themselves , without having to depend on others more educated or sophisticated to "save" them.
- They help to distribute power and control more equitably throughout societies. If knowledge is power - and the one certainly has a lot to do with the other - then access to knowledge, accurate information, and the truth are all keys to power, keys that the Internet can provide.
- They help to combat ignorance and misinformation, as well as disinformation (the intentional lies that governments, corporations, institutions, and other entities sometimes tell in order to keep control or to protect their own self-interest).
- They make it easier for people t o understand how they can effect social change , and therefore to be more willing to attempt it.
- They give people models to follow. This is true in several senses: Internet-based tools can help people discover best practices and processes that are likely to work in their communities. They can, by exposing people to a range of possibilities, change their goals and sense of the possible. And they can present individual role models - either individuals with whom Internet users might establish direct contact, or simply profiles of other people like themselves who have been able to accomplish good things. Many websites of NGOs and development organizations - Oxfam America comes to mind - profile such people: farmers, factory workers, or other ordinary folks who have made a difference in their communities.
- They put people concerned with health and community development in touch with one another, so they can act as mutual support, and can spread their own knowledge and experience farther.
- They increase the ease and effectiveness of advocacy, particularly for those who might otherwise have no voice. As discussed above, Internet-based tools can mobilize and instruct people in action, provide information on issues, and facilitate strategic planning for policy change.
- They can ease access to elected and appointed officials. Most of these officials now have websites and e-mail, and can be contacted directly through them.
- They can help to assure the accountability of those officials and of oversight bodies. Proceedings of governmental and legislative sessions and hearings, legislators' voting records, corporate political contributions, and a great deal of other information relating to official accountability is available on the Internet, as well as the details of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, through which you can obtain even more.
- They can shorten response time to community emergencies or to addressing community needs. The Internet and e-mail can mobilize volunteers, supplies, and funding to cope with disasters or to alert the community about and address community issues. The overwhelming international response to the December, 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean was largely due to the Internet.
- They encourage and facilitate collaboration among individuals and organizations at all levels. The Internet makes it easier for individuals and organizations to work together, especially if they are geographically separated. A collaborative funding proposal, for instance, can be worked on by many different people at the same time.
Who might use Internet-based tools to do health and community work?
The short - and accurate - answer here is everyone. The internet is particularly useful for those who want to reach out to many people in a short time.
- Professionals and professional organizations use newsgroups and websites to discuss issues, conduct advocacy, plan and organize conferences (including computer conferences that actually take place in cyberspace), and collaborate on research and other work.
- Grass roots and community-based organizations use the Internet to inform the community about their services, to communicate with one another, to search for best practices, to seek and apply for funding, and to keep current on political situations that affect them.
- Larger nonprofits and initiatives use the Internet to publicize their issues, highlight their challenges and successes, and to raise money.
Oxfam America, reacting quickly to the 2004 Tsunami in South Asia, constructed a website meant to raise $2.5 million over two months for the relief effort. They instead raised over $8 million in little more than two weeks - such is the reach and power of the Internet.
- Community activists use the Internet for organizing and for researching their issues.
- Political activists use the Internet to mobilize for or against candidates and issues they care about. (MoveOn.Org is an Internet-based organization that is able to marshal large numbers of people to contribute and sign petitions through the use of a website and an enormous e-mail list.)
- Participants in and beneficiaries of health and community service organizations and initiatives use the Internet to communicate, to learn about political and social issues that affect their organizations, and to practice advocacy (sending e-mails to legislators, for instance).
- Students in disciplines related to health and community services use sites like the Community Tool Box to learn about their fields, find practicum and job opportunities, and communicate with others with similar interests..
- Ordinary citizens with an interest in a topic or issue, like the parents concerned about teen alcohol abuse in the introduction of this section, can use the Internet to learn more about it and to make connections with others with similar interests.
When might you use Internet-based tools?
There are times when Internet-based tools are particularly helpful.
- When you want to build the community's capacity to solve its own problems. A site like the Community Tool Box can help community activists, grass roots groups, and interested citizens gain the skills, knowledge, and confidence necessary to create homegrown solutions to community problems, and to do the long-term work of social change that leads to better lives for everyone.
- When you're starting a program, initiative, or other effort with little information. The vast information resources of the World Wide Web can help you assess your community's needs, learn about your issue, find best practices, determine what's worked elsewhere, etc.
- When you need to communicate with a large number of people (and decide or embark on an action) quickly. E-mail, a website, or a listserv makes it possible to communicate with and mobilize a large number of people quickly and easily.
- When you need to learn about or understand laws or regulations. Whether it's a matter of checking on the amount of lobbying your tax-exempt organization may legally engage in, or on the environmental obligations of that smoke-belching factory on the edge of town, it's all available on the Internet.
- When you need information for a grant proposal or other funding possibility. Statistics, the history of your issue, and what else this source has funded may all be helpful, and can all be found on the Web.
- When you want to get your own message out, or set up a place where everyone involved in your organization or effort or issue can communicate. You can actually kill two birds with one stone here by setting up a website with a discussion feature. You, or someone else who's qualified, might serve as a moderator or expert in the field in order to answer questions and guide discussion in productive directions.
The logic behind the Community Tool Box as an Internet-based tool for the promotion of health and community development:
Since 1995, the University of Kansas Center for Community Health and Development has been building the Community Tool Box as a free, Internet-based resource for health and community development. In order to create as nearly complete a resource as possible, the Tool Box team first tried to understand the building blocks of health and community work. What do you have to know and do first, and where do you have to go from there, in health and community work, in order to foster change that will lead to an improvement in the quality of community members' lives?
We came up with a framework for health and community work that includes five components:
- Understanding the context of the work and collaborative planning
- Community action and intervention
- Community and system change
- Widespread behavior change and improvement in population-level outcomes
- Sustaining the effort
Each of these five components is in turn split into a number of core competencies (a total of 16 in all) that further define each component and divide the work into manageable elements. We'll look at each of the five components and its core competencies separately, but first, we'll call attention to three basic assumptions - guiding principles - that run through the Community Tool Box.
- An organization's vision, mission, and philosophy should all be consistent with one another. Any effort - whether an intervention or service, a push for change in behavior or policy, an advocacy campaign, a protest against current or planned action - must have a clear vision, a mission that supports that vision, and a philosophical base that reflects the vision and mission. The vision, mission, and philosophy should guide every decision the organization makes, from what funding to pursue to how staff and participants are treated to relationships with other organizations and the community
- Almost any effort will benefit from a participatory process. Such a process involves all stakeholders - particularly those who are the focus of your work - in the planning and implementation of anything that affects them. That often means educating them so they can make informed decisions, and providing the information they need to understand clearly the possibilities and limitations of the effort you're embarking on.
There are two excellent reasons for employing a participatory process:
- It's respectful and fair. It's arrogant and disrespectful, as well as patently unfair, to make decisions for other people without consulting them, no matter how well-meaning those decisions may be.
- It's more effective. You're far more likely to be successful if people buy into and feel ownership of a plan, a program, an initiative, an intervention, or a policy than if they feel it's been imposed on them.
There are, realistically, times when participatory process simply isn't possible. Time may be too much of the essence - people's lives may be at stake, as in an emergency relief effort or a military operation. Some of the people you want to involve may be so immovable that there's simply no point in trying to include them. (That's rarer than most people think, but it does happen: religious and ideological fundamentalists, particularly, may be unwilling to consider the possibility that others' ideas or positions might be legitimate.) In those circumstances, participatory process isn't the best idea.
Servant leadership and collaborative leadership both assume the leadership of a participatory process.
- Ethics are important. This not only means adhering to the professional ethics of your field, if that's relevant, but behaving as you would have others behave to you. As an organization and as an individual, you should treat others with respect and fairness, and acknowledge their work and contributions. You should never abuse whatever power you have, and should instead use it to further your cause and your work. An ethical stance should carry over into your dealings with participants; collaborators and other organizations and institutions; staff, board, and others within your organization; funders, contributors, and members; policy makers; and the community.
The components of health and community development, and their respective core competencies
Understanding context and collaborative planning
The context of a health or community issue encompasses the history, culture, character, and economic, social, and political makeup of the community itself; the nature of the issue and its relevance to and frequency in the community or population in question; the culture, size, attitudes, and other characteristics of the target population; and the personalities involved in all these areas, and their relationships to one another.
Six core competencies, or fundamental abilities, contribute to the work of understanding context and collaborative planning:
- Creating and maintaining coalitions and collaborative partnerships is a way to engage a variety of sectors, such as government agencies and faith communities, in a common purpose; to hear the concerns and needs of all sectors; and to gather a broad range of ideas and perspectives.
- Assessing community needs and resources, such as the need for more accessible health services or the presence of grass roots advocacy groups, grounds the work in what is locally important and available.
- Analyzing community-identified problems and goals with community partners helps pinpoint the personal and group factors - knowledge and skills, or history of care or discrimination - and environmental factors - access and barriers, support and resources, broader policies - that may affect the current problem and future prospects for goal attainment.
- Developing a framework or model of change helps define how the community intends to go from the current situation, such as low rates of childhood immunization, to sustained improvements in population-level outcomes.
- Developing strategic and action plans sets the blueprint for getting from a community's vision (Healthy Youth Program) to improvements in population-level outcomes (changes in teen pregnancy rates or drug and alcohol abuse).
- Building leadership helps ensure that the community itself can continue to generate a team of people to develop and sustain relationships and transform conditions necessary for community change.
Community action and intervention. Once you've engaged in community assessment and used the results to formulate a plan, you have to take action in order to effect change. Action plans should flow from the overall strategy you've come up with, and should be aimed at producing the outcomes that a collaborative planning process has identified as important. Your action should, to the extent possible, involve all sectors of the community, and encompass the diversity of the community. To these ends, three core competencies fall under this component of health and community development:
- Developing an intervention involves selecting and using intervention components based on an analysis of contributing factors and available resources. For example, a comprehensive intervention to increase childhood immunization might include such elements as providing information and enhancing skills (educating parents about how vaccination works and what it protects children from); modifying access, barriers, and opportunities (expanded outreach, provision of transportation); and modifying policies (offering vaccinations as part of other clinic visits).
- Increasing participation and membership brings in the voices of those who have the most experience of the issue (youth, language minorities), but who often resist involvement, as well as involving as many sectors of the community as possible. All of this increases the sense of ownership of any action by those involved.
- Enhancing cultural competency makes it possible for people of diverse backgrounds to work together, and to understand and respect one another's cultural beliefs and practices. Such understanding and respect increases community coherence, and aids efforts to improve the quality of life for everyone in the community. Cultural competency, through improved communication and recognition of others' abilities also contributes to the attainment of such other competencies as building community leadership and developing strategic and action plans.
Community and system change. Bringing about permanent change in a community entails more than simply creating and running an intervention. The intervention may have an immediate effect on the issue you're concerned with, but that's rarely enough. In order to bring about permanent change, you often have to change both the systems that affect it - e.g., policies, funding mechanisms, education, etc. - and the community itself - attitudes, social customs...the things that people take for granted. In order to make these kinds of changes, you may have to take a multi-pronged approach, working with several sectors of the community at once. Three core competencies help in this endeavor:
- Advocating for change. Advocacy can range from trying to convince a local merchant not to sell tobacco to minors to organizing a national campaign against a proposed military action. It may target individuals, corporations, institutions, legislators or other public officials, or be aimed directly at public opinion through use of the media. Effective advocacy takes an orchestrated effort that pulls in as many people as possible, takes into account and counters opposition, and uses a variety of strategies and tactics.
- Influencing policy development. Both formal and informal policies may need to be rethought in order to bring about long-term change. Creating a safer environment for children, for instance, may involve a restructuring of drug laws (allowing for more prevention education, and more emphasis on treatment as opposed to imprisonment); a change in workplace policies (on-site or subsidized day care, flexible schedules, etc.); expanded nutrition education and food programs; more structured activities for children and youth in the community; community policing strategies; etc. Changing those policies may require a combination of direct legislative advocacy working with the business community, conducting a media campaign, and negotiating with community agencies and officials.
- Evaluating the initiative. Evaluation makes it possible to see (and enhance) the effects of your work over time, and to understand their impact on indirectly-related community indicators of change. Not only does it enable you to make changes that reflect ongoing changes in the population and that respond to what you've learned, but it shows you to what extent you're addressing community and system change. Thus, an evaluation of an initiative to reduce smoking among pregnant women that showed a significant number of participants quitting during pregnancy might be related to a subsequent decrease in the expected number of low-birthweight babies.
Widespread behavior change and improvement in population-level outcomes. How do we affect the behavior of enough people in enough places to improve overall outcomes? Changing population-level outcomes requires changing the behaviors of large numbers of people. In order to accomplish this, states, communities, and organizations may employ social marketing efforts that include promotional messages, and that incorporate environmental changes that make the desired behaviors easier and more rewarding. To increase civic engagement, a campaign might include media messages that emphasize the beneficial consequences of citizen involvement, easier access to voting (through simplified registration, more neighborhood polling places, free transportation to the polls, etc.), and the increased ability of citizens to propose legislation by petition, allowing for increased rewards from their engagement. One core competency supports this component:
- Implementing a social marketing campaign. Social marketing applies the techniques of commercial marketing to social goals, "selling" behavior change in much the same way that manufacturers sell products. Social marketing surveys potential "customers" - those whose behavior needs to change - segments the market (decides whom to appeal to and how), carefully crafts and places messages to speak to the intended audience, maximizes benefit and minimizes cost to the customer, supports change, and continually evaluates and readjusts the campaign to make it as effective as possible.
Sustaining the effort. As the Community Tool Box continually emphasizes, the work of health and community development is never really done. Once an intervention is launched, it has to be maintained over time for as long as it's needed. Real community change - change that involves system and attitude changes, policy change, etc. - may take years or decades. Even once it's accomplished, it still needs to be maintained if you don't want to lose ground. Both the work and the funding have to continue, or you'll never reach and your ultimate goal of an improvement in the lives of community members. The final three core competencies are aimed at keeping it all going indefinitely, or for as long as is necessary.
- Writing a grant application for funding. As much as we might wish things were otherwise, money is necessary for almost any health or community effort. Understanding where to look for both public and private funding, and how to write a successful grant proposal are essential skills for any organization that wants to do community work.
- Improving organizational management and development. If you're going to sustain your work over a long period, your organization has to be well-managed and structured for the long haul. There are different models you can choose from, but regardless of which you use, you have to be able to pay bills and staff on time, deliver services effectively, recruit participants, deal with internal and external problems, use your assets well, work with other organizations, and develop systems that make it easy to get things done. In short, you have to be able to manage work, staff, external relationships, and money as efficiently and gracefully as possible.
- Sustaining the work or initiative. All too often, funding from a particular source is time-limited. People - founders and key staff members of organizations - come and go, creating shifts in organizational patterns and gaps in organizational memory. Communities change, requiring changes in services or goals. New research pushes the work in an unexpected direction. Despite these disruptions, the organization and its work have to continue if you want to effect real change. You have to find ways to keep going - to replace lost funding, to institutionalize your work in the community, to continue to hire people who'll do an excellent job, to respond to changes in the population or the community. Sustaining the effort becomes part of your work at a certain point, and will remain so throughout the life of the organization.
We believe that the Community Tool Box is the most comprehensive capacity-building tool available on the Internet, both in the breadth of its vision and in the sheer volume of the information it provides. However, as we've discussed in this section, there are countless other tools of various types available in cyberspace, and most of them provide information or services that the Community Tool Box doesn't. Explore the CTB, but explore other options as well, especially if you're looking for specific information - census data, methods of doing your work, research results, etc.
The spirit in which the civilian Internet was created was one of cooperation and idealism. Its founders believed that it would be the most democratic communication medium in history, and that there would be opportunities for almost anyone to learn or teach almost anything. In that spirit, our goal is not to compete with other websites, but rather to help your organization become the best and most effective practitioner of health and community development possible. If we all work together, and use Internet-based tools well, we can help make the world a better place, one community at a time.
The Internet is a vast storehouse of information and expertise, where community builders can find instruction, data, links to others with similar concerns, funding possibilities, and just about anything else they need to engage in their work. Internet-based tools for health and community development - websites like the Community Tool Box that provide information and instruction; university sites; government sites; newspaper and other media sites; online encyclopedias and databases; listservs, and other sites that allow communication among community builders - can all contribute mightily toward doing the work. They're accessible to all, transcend geographical boundaries, and make it possible for communities to find their own answers to problems.
The Community Tool Box is an Internet-based tool that aims to build the capacity of community-based and grass roots groups and organizations to act effectively on health and community issues, and to bring about positive social change in their communities. To this end, we have identified five basic components of health and community work, each with its own core competencies, and have organized accordingly:
Understanding the context of the work and collaborative planning
- Creating and maintaining coalitions
- Assessing community resources
- Analyzing community-identified problems and goals
- Developing a framework or model of change
- Developing strategic and action plans
- Building leadership
Community action and intervention
- Developing an intervention
- Increasing participation and membership
- Enhancing cultural competency
Community and system change
- Advocating for change
- Influencing policy development
- Evaluating the initiative
Widespread behavior change and improvement in population-level outcomes
- Implementing a social marketing campaign
Sustaining the effort
- Writing a grant application for funding
- Improving organizational management and development
- Sustaining the work or initiative
The Community Tool Box is, we believe, the most comprehensive capacity-building tool on the internet, with thousands of pages of how-to information for health and community activists. But it's not the only valuable or useful Internet-based tool. There are thousands of sites that might be helpful, which provide additional information or expertise that Community Tool Box doesn't. The Internet is the most powerful communication medium and information storehouse ever devised; if health and community builders take full advantage of it, we can change the world...for the better.
The list below, although fairly long, is hardly comprehensive. It's simply meant to give a taste of what's available. For every site listed, there are probably thousands more that could be found with similar or better information. For each U.S. government site, for instance, there is likely to be an equivalent site for most other western governments, at the very least. Use search engines, links, and your ingenuity, and there's almost no limit to what you can find.
The Canadian Encyclopedia - all about Canada, in French and English
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Information on a variety of topics related to disease and epidemiology, prevention techniques and programs, best practices, etc.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission - The agency of the United States Government that enforces the federal employment discrimination laws.
Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School. Links to the statutes of all states, listed by topic and by state. You can find any US state law here - a tremendous resource.
The Library of Congress. An enormous reservoir of information, which contains the texts of pending and newly-passed bills and laws, as well as a great deal of other information useful to political activists. The LOC site also includes American Memory, which contains the full texts of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and many other American historical documents.
The Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia, from the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.
The National Institutes of Health - The website often lists best practices or describes successful programs and efforts.
Oxfam America, an international development organization whose website often profiles "local heroes" - ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary things for their communities.
"Ten C's for Evaluating Internet Sources," from the library of the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire.
The text of the Uniform Commercial Code, from the Legal Information Institute at Cornell.
Links to state statutes that correspond to the articles of the Uniform Commercial Code.
U.S. Census Bureau - Census data for all areas of the U.S., including demographics, economic data, education, housing, etc.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture - Information on agriculture, rural development, food products, land use, the environment, etc.
U.S. Department of Education - Information on government policy.
U.S. Department of Labor - Labor laws and regulations.
U.S. Department of Justice - Civil rights, immigration, the federal court system, etc.
U.S. Department of State - Foreign policy.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Information on environmental topics, and on government environmental policy and initiatives, as well as EPA regulations.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration - Information on drugs and foods, warnings and safety alerts, FDA policy and regulations, etc.
U.S. government grant site - Information on grant availability, guidelines, applications and application procedures, etc.
U.S. House of Representatives - Connections to all Congresspersons and their websites, information on legislation, schedules, committees, links, and more.
U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration - Workplace safety regulations.
The text of the Uniform Commercial Code, from the Legal Information Institute at Cornell.
Links to state statutes that correspond to the articles of the Uniform Commercial Code.
The U.S. Senate - Senate rules, voting records and contact information for all Senators, glossary of terms, etc.
Wikipedia, a user-generated on-line encyclopedia.
Fawcett, S., Schultz, J., Carson L,, Renault, A,, Francisco, V. (2003) Using Internet Based Tools to Build Capacity for Community Based Participatory Research and Other Efforts to Promote Community Health and Development. In Minkler, M., N. Wallerstein (Eds), Community Based Participatory Research for Health, (pp. 155-178). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Schlein, M. (2004) Find It Online: The complete guide to online research (4th ed.). Tempe, AZ: Facts on Demand Press.