Sharing Integrated Computer Communications Among Nonprofit Organizations: The Case of Ontario's Social Development Network

Simon Mielniczuk
Ontario Prevention Clearinghouse, Canada

Andrew Clement
University of Toronto, Canada


Voluntary, nonprofit, community-based organizations are recognized as playing a vital role in sustaining and transforming civil society, especially during these times of disruption and uncertainty. The rapidly growing popularity of the Internet, and the increased affordability of the equipment, is now making putting sophisticated networking facilities within technical and economic reach of many of these organizations. However, in practice, the task of coordinating efforts among these diverse and autonomous bodies so that expertise and information can readily be shared remains a formidable challenge. The Social Development Network (SDN) is an ambitious project that aims to do just that by providing a province-wide "electronic forum for not-for-profit organizations to work together in support of social development ... and promote cooperation ... among people involved in movements for social change."

SDN developed a network architecture based on the Internet and an implementation plan that would electronically link 8,000 of Ontario's nonprofit organizations and provide a range of common communications services, notably secure e-mail, computer conferencing, and shared database access. Ontario's Network Infrastructure Program (ONIP) approved more than $2 million to fund the $5.3 million overall project cost. However, the June 1995 election of a "deficit slashing" government cut funding at the last moment. Although this has slowed development, its urgency has been increased, so work continues to build the coalition and the technical infrastructure, albeit at a slower pace.

This paper addresses the following topics: