The Native Schools Network has a mission and a clearly defined target group. It spreads the idea of Immersion Schools for children of the native people as widely as possible throughout the world. The target group for the community is everyone with special interest in the cultural world of the Native People.
The Website itself has certain, clearly defined principles of design, communication and content presentation. It is impossible to plan a community, to design it from the scratch, to construct it theoretically and just upload the perfect result. The media itself is growing and changing, the needs and points of view are developing and so will the Native Schools Net.
Native Web Community will grow like a tree. It is not starting like a small tree with all the branches, leaves, blossoms or roots and just becoming bigger. A tree has a certain growth principle and starts from a seed with this principle. Native Schools Community will start and grow. The tree adapts to special quality of the soil, wind and weather, surrounding conditions and special events. Sometime in the future it will be a tree, but no one could predict its shape from the sprout.
This will be the same with our Native Schools Net and the Web community. We will start with some principles and react to the environmental conditions. First of all we have to define a Corporate Identity (CI). Our Native Schools Net is like a person with natural abilities and a unique structure of intellect, emotion and impulse. One might image it as the assignment in a circle. It differs, but never is 0% or 100% of one condition. The circle of the Native Web Community represents the adjoining corporate identity:
What does this mean? We are going to start with a strong emotional portion of the whole content. This leads to a lot of pictures in different galleries, audio and video downloads, pictures of the members and the visitors, the school, the children and scenes of the school life. There are also good and strong emotional flows from historical pictures and scenes.
The intellectual part of the story is for example the explanation of cultural developments, curricula, historical background and financial issues.
The impulse may entice someone to donate money or other goods, to register or to place a statement in the guestbook, to set a link to the page or recommend the page to a friend. This portion of the identity is the smallest, at least in the beginning. Probably this priority changes with the content on the site or the people that present their ideas, products or opinions.
Every person has different percipiences and decision structures. Some can easily be reached via feelings and emotions, others want facts and data. A third group decides “out of the belly” and acts on instinct. The Native Web will gather the people that fit to our own identity. We keep our authenticity in the best possible way. This is the best way to follow the integrity principle.
A strong, concise and visual identity will attract people with the same spirit and the same mindset. We do not push people into our community, but in the internet-ocean we will raise a lighthouse for people interested in Native Immersion schools.
Functions and Tools
Not in either case we generate the content by ourselves. In many cases we offer only the platform and organize the presentation of the content. In a forum, for example, the members place their own news and opinions. A picture gallery will be open for the public. Speeches, essays, articles and press releases will be published a second time for the community.
The starting point into the project is a good content management system. I use “drupal” in its latest version (6.5), which has strong functionalities for the development of communities.
There are other special software packages to integrate, like web-services, newsletter services or media server. The discussion of those would go beyond the scope of the brief introduction of the project. We will evaluate them and decide the matter, when we have reached the appropriate stage.
For the realisation of the project I identified several stages. They are classified in respect of a reasonable timeline, the critical number of members to keep this part active, the difficulties in implementing the task or the workload for the responsive person(s). The modus operandi is not easy to be logically explained or to be argued straight forward, one may call it experience.
The first steps towards an autonomous system has to be done by the initiators with little help from the visitors or the members. We do have to collect and offer content. The priority objective is to register members and to spread the idea and the cultural background.
Personalization means to register visitors as members and keep their profile in a data base. The cells of the data are in order of relevance: nick name, e-mail, name, address, tribe or nationality, company or organisation, abilities, interests, background, offers and needs,… (to be augmented).
Cultural knowledge is provided as text and pictures in a structured form. The content management system (CMS) is used to gather, structure and present the information. Someone has to be trained on the system and is responsible for the concise and appropriate organisation of the content. The information on the web-page is accompanied and deepened by downloads of text, pictures, presentations, audio and video information of all kind.
A search function offers the visitor a quick selection of the items of special interest. We incorporate a Google search, which is easy to implement with a powerful search algorithm.
News is implemented as RSS-Feed. It is shown on the homepage and can be integrated into the own web-presence or called as a service-stream. News offer brief information slices to gain attendance and keep the reader curious.
A message board is the first step into interaction with the visitors and members of the community. It is an easy way to gather opinions and suggestions from the partners. They express their ideas, wishes or comments and we have a good indication of the acceptance or the drawbacks and opportunities of the system. After all it starts an interaction between the members, which is essential for the growth of a community.
In a destined web-area for partners everybody supporting the project has the chance to portrait himself and his organization.
Referring to the preliminary thoughts I hope there are some rites and practises that can be translated into the virtual community. We should have a “Council of Elders” and maybe we arrange web-conferences for women, medicine men or other groups of native tribes… (to be augmented).
This stage offers more interaction to the visitors and members. It requires more input of data and also partly difficult software implementation or coordination of external partners. After all more administrative work is needed.
Member fora and blogs offer the opportunity for discussing matters of interest. To get this modules running we need a reasonable number of members and an administrator to ask questions and clear the place from spam or objectionable contributions. We should search for interesting matters to discuss, so that the members keep active.
A Newsletter strengthens the community’s interaction with the members. This letter will advance to an e-mail driven guide through the content of the site.
There will be download areas like picture galleries, audio-voice downloads, music downloads, video downloads of short presentation-shows.
Some tools of the second stage, like galleries, blogs, or newsletters can be used to give background information and document the impressions and insights of visitors.