[Telecentres] Introduction - Helen Lawson Williams, Inspire Foundation/Beanbag Centres, Australia

Helen Lawson-Williams helen at inspire.org.au
Mon Sep 27 12:29:54 BST 2004

Greetings all, and apologies for the late introduction!

First, congratulations and thanks to Andy and all of you for kicking off
a great initiative, with the potential to form networks and spark ideas
which would otherwise have been very difficult!

Second, a little about Inspire and why I've joined the forum:

The Inspire Foundation was formed in 1997, in response to the escalating
rate of youth suicide in Australia.  Its first initiative, Reach Out!
(www.reachout.com.au), was launched in 1998, as a place online where
young people can go to help them get through tough times.  It provides
information, referrals and support, allowing visitors to explore issues,
read about how other people like them have dealt with challenges they've
faced, and seek help - on their own time, confidentially & anonymously.
Its content and lay-out are constantly updated and redesigned by
successive Youth Advisory Boards, meaning that the service is run by
young people, for young people.  As you can see, its objectives are much
broader than suicide prevention, aiming to improve the mental health and
wellbeing of young people in Australia more generally.  We currently get
around 10,000 visitor sessions a week, and both feedback and formal
evaluations (as well as the occasional award) tell us we're doing pretty

An obvious gap in this approach is that around 25% of young Australians
still do not have regular access to the Internet.  So, in 2001, we
launched the Beanbag Centres (www.beanbag.net.au), aiming to provide
young people in under-served communities with the same social,
educational, and employment opportunities available to other young
Australians through their use of ICT.  Beanbag Centres are partnerships
with existing youth centres, which install high-quality ICT resources in
established youth spaces, and provide training to both the centre
coordinators and the young people who visit the centres.  To expand the
learning opportunities on offer, we've also just kicked off a
documentary film-making competition between the 16 centres, providing
each centre with DV cameras and video editing software and training.
Each centre will submit a film about life in their area, directed and
produced by centre users, and the winner will be selected by voting
among the centres at screening nights to be held in October/November.
Feedback tells us that both centre co-ordinators and the young people
who use the centres really love the idea, and both our centres and user
numbers are growing (we'll have 20 centres by the end of June 05!);  our
first formal evaluation of the centres will take place over the next few

I'm looking forward to meeting many of you, and hopefully discussing the
following topics:

1.  Evaluation:  How do we know a telecentre-related project is
successful, without creating absurd data collection burdens for
ourselves and our partners?  What outcomes should be targeted, and how
should they be measured?  What's "best practice" for particular kinds of

2.  Successes and failures:  What works to engage telecentre users (esp
with young people!) in using the technology and gaining real benefits
from it, and just as importantly, what doesn't - what have we learned
that we can share with one another?  

3.  Sustainability:  How are telecentres reaching financial and
operational sustainability?  What funding streams/mixes have been
successful?  Where has expertise been sourced?

Thanks all - looking forward to participating.


Helen Lawson Williams, PhD
Director, Research and Evaluation
Inspire Foundation
PO Box 1790
Rozelle NSW 2039
Phone: +61 2 9818 3055
Mobile:  +61 400 136 003
Fax: +61 2 9818 3855
Web: www.inspire.org.au

Reach Out!:  www.reachout.com.au  Beanbag:  www.beanbag.net.au

More information about the telecentres mailing list