Find resources and ideas for finding and training people who can effectively guide your community in Internet adoption.
For organizations that encourage broadband adoption and use in underserved communities, providing those communities with Internet access is only half of the solution. Meaningful broadband adoption requires trainers. Whether it's in a computer lab, in a classroom, or at home, people who are new to computers and the Internet often need mentors who can teach basic computer skills and help them navigate the web.
TechSoup recently completed a study of Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grantees, and one common theme that came up again and again was the need for trainers who understand and relate to the communities the organization serves. Ultimately, friendliness and community-mindedness outweigh technology skills. As interviewee Jason Schroeder put it, "You can teach anybody how to use a computer… but they [the trainers] have to be the right kind of person that the public wants to spend time with."
When asked to rank the top three skills they'd look for in a trainer, librarians and nonprofits agreed on these competencies:
- "Knowledge of subject matter; ability to make the technical sound simple (follow the K.I.S.S. principle!)"
- "Customer service skills — service with a smile"
- "Professional and charismatic approach in teaching"
- "Ability to explain clearly and understand and answer questions from the trainee's perspective"
Resources for Hiring and Training Staff
Nonprofits and public libraries had different perspectives on some aspects of training and hiring, and we've gathered a few stories and resources from BTOP grantees below.
- Technology Trainer Competencies from the CO State Library
- Mixed Blessing: Hiring New Staff
- Hiring Trainers for My Community-Based Nonprofit
- Hiring the Right Techs
- IT Staff Calculator: This handy, editable spreadsheet allows you to input how many workstations, servers, branches, and people your technology supports so you can gauge how much IT staff you need to effectively manage it.
Resources for Hiring and Training Volunteers
- BTOP Projects at Work: Connecting People to Broadband, Computers, and Resources: This nonprofit shares (among other things) how it uses middle school volunteers in its project.
- BTOP Projects at Work: Ramping Up Public Computing Access in the Midst of Staff Cuts
- Empowering Community Leaders to Navigate Broadband
- Chapter on volunteers from TechSoup for Libraries' Small and Rural Libraries cookbook (PDF)
- Working with Technical Volunteers: A Manual for Nonprofits
- In an excellent series of blog posts (part 1, part 2, part 3), Chris Jarvis and Angela Parker lay out three stages in a volunteer's life cycle: tourist, traveler, and guide.
- Elliot Harmon, former staff writer, TechSoup
- Sarah Washburn, Library Program Manager, TechSoup Global