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Catalytic intervention grants aim to support a more sustainable community network environment. To create such an environment, we have to explore ways to overcome the isolation of local community networks, improve their access to spectrum, actively foster their diversity and provide solutions for their resilience (e.g. alternative energy) as well as technological innovation. These grants are part of the project Connecting the unconnected: Supporting community networks and other community-based connectivity initiatives.

To help identify strategic interventions to strengthen a diverse and sustainable community network movement, the project team compiled the following short list of the types of projects being sought, although applicants were invited to combine several of the objectives presented, or propose something different or new:

  • Access to spectrum and corresponding regulation: Lots of innovative network initiatives struggle to get legal access to available spectrum. The current management of the airwaves and regulations oriented towards the business models of global telecom companies limit our ability to put into practice community-based approaches. We therefore embrace initiatives aiming to create replicable strategies for policy and regulatory changes as well as the creation of expanded conditions for networking practices. Some examples of this are liberating licensed spectrum for mobile community networks and developing approaches to enhance spectrum sharing or secondary use.

  • Incorporation of new and different technologies: While wireless community networks have become local realities in many places, there is both a need to connect those local networks with upstream connectivity as well as to expand the types of technologies at the disposal of community networks to address current and future challenges. As an example, fibre optic technology responds to both of these issues and we welcome innovative ideas to put this technology, and others, within reach for communities.

  • Women, queer, trans and gender-diverse networks: Once again, we encourage you to (re)think and (re)create networks through an intersectional feminist lens. Examples for pilot projects are community networks sensitive to gender, directly designed and run by women or open for queering as well as initiatives reflecting the different abilities of all possible users and collaborators and their environmental impact. Of course, intersections are possible and desired. What can you think of?

  • Local and indigenous content production: Community networks are not only about enhancing the possibilities of connecting to the global internet; they are also about creating spaces for interpersonal communication and information sharing and conservation. Against the background of free and community broadcasting experiences, a broad range of informative, political and cultural uses of local digital networks appear and disappear. We are looking for your ideas around local media production and sharing, storage of information, community archives and other content-related operations.

  • Network resiliency, development and environmentally viable energy for all: Whether due to power failures, lightning strikes or even politically motivated shutdowns of digital networks, community networks face lots of vulnerabilities. Simply keeping our networks running is a challenge we all face, and so we welcome proposals addressing topics such as alternative energy, site grounding and protection, circumvention, and so on. What kind of network resiliency and development is needed in your region? What is your plan to create it and how could it be shared by others in practical ways? We especially encourage proposals coming from informal urban settlements, rural and isolated areas, and indigenous territories.

  • Indigenous-led networks, land rights and climate justice: Indigenous people carry a tremendous burden defending the water, land and environment. Many times their territories and ways of life are under attack. We invite indigenous communities to lead the design of CNs. We also invite them to innovate CNs in their languages to increase accessibility and preservation of language and culture, as well as include local knowledge and resistance to advance the resiliency of networks that are rendered vulnerable due to environmental and other human-related threats.

  • Unlocking universal service funds: To promote universal communication services within national territories, many governments subsidise the deployment of infrastructure. Traditionally those funds have been used exclusively by large private and public companies – but things could change. We are looking for pilot projects that pave the way to unlocking universal service funds in a specific country for community-based networks and that are willing to share and replicate the experience across borders.

  • Sustainability, regional and cross-regional consolidation of community networks: A community network cannot survive and thrive without a sustainability strategy. Costs for maintenance, legal orientation and innovation can become important financial burdens, especially as networks grow. We invite you to propose practical ideas that help foster the collaboration of local networks and consolidate the sharing of resources and technologies on a regional and cross-regional level in the global South.

  • Networks led by people living with disabilities: In our commitment to inclusive and community-led networks, we invite communities constituted partially or as a whole by people living with disabilities to apply. Thereby we invite people living with disabilities to (re)gain control over the design and usability, and advance development and access of community networks. People living with disabilities are often excluded or discriminated against in relation to their involvement in community networks, whether it be from the design of community networks, to the assumptions that community members hold around someone’s ability to carry on a certain task or about their assumed needs. So, let’s connect with care and make visible what is often rendered invisible, unheard or inaccessible. We also invite communities not yet including people living with disabilities to be inclusive and aware of the needs of groups of people living with disabilities when leading work on community networks.