IBX Game Changers Challenge

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The following is a proposal written for the IBX Game Changers Challenge:

Link back to the Information Advocates Notebook

Link to the Edited Game Changers Challenge

Link to the iStart IBX Web site

Business Name

Philadelphia Information Advocates

Business Abstract

A network of dedicated, trusted, community-based listeners intelligently connecting resources to requests.

An Information Advocate is a person who helps their neighbors, community members, or any other group of people learn about the resources, skills and needs of other members of the community and the world. They provide access to social supports and help the community to build social capital by listening to their constituents and converting what they learn into information that can be shared in ways that are appropriate to each person's needs. They help people to conduct personal research and teach people how to use information and communication tools. Their importance lies in the fact that they are a person who is available to be helpful in using modern technology and by knowing who does what in the community. Information Advocates help their community with COMMUNICATIONS, INFORMATION and TRUST.

1. Read and agree to the official rules and conditions


2. Team leader name and email address:

Stanley Pokras <pokras@ntronline.org>

3. Team names and email addresses:

Jay Cohen - jay@weisscohen.org

Michele Masucci - masucci@temple.edu

A Ranger 

Jim Wurster - jwurster@comcast.net

Bob Shipman - rmship@yahoo.com

Adrian McCabe - adrian.mccabe@gmail.com

Tom McNeil - tm2123@hotmail.com

Lugene Prince - prince1001@comcast.net

Jeffrey Lambert - LambertJ@freelibrary.org

J P Sank - paul@ntronline.org

4 Advisor names and email addresses:

Seth Horwitz <reachseth@gmail.com>

Organizer of Philly NetSquared - Social Networking for Social Change


Catherine Dibble <cath@aikilabs.com>

Catherine specializes in developing resilient communities using information and communication technologies.

Application and Organizational Information

5. Team or Company name:

The startup of this project is being sponsored by Nonprofit Technology Resources (NTR), a charitable 501 (c) 3 organization.

NTR's Mission:

NTR is committed to helping the people of Philadelphia, and the organizations that serve them, have access to and use of information and communication technology.

NTR's Vision:

NTR envisions Philadelphia as a city where all people, regardless of financial resources, have the skills, knowledge, and access to the informaiton and communication technology they need to achieve their goals.

6. List all founders/board members/advisors:

Board of Directors, Nonprofit Technology Resources

Ken Kramer, President - Trainer, Comcast Corporation

Ed Cummings, Vice-President - President, Electronic Design Systems

William M. Finn, Treasurer - Certified Public Accountant

Patricia G. Coyne, Secretary - Human Relations Rep, Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations

Stanley R. Pokras, Executive Director - Nonprofit Technology Resources

Virginia Booker - Director, W.E. Martin Production Company

Vanja Buvac - CEO, The Cadence Watch Company

Nathan Cottrell - Account Manager, SHI International

Myra Cousins - Retired university professor

Ronald E. Cropper, Jr. - Network Administrator, DOT/DHS, City of Philadelphia

David Rifkin 

Simmone R. Roberts - Retired business administrator

Jonathan R. Verlin - Teacher, South Philadelphia High School

Narissa Wallace - President, Multi-Media Concepts, Inc.

Tim Wisniewski - Assistant Managing Director for the City of Philadelphia

7. Organization website:

Nonprofit Technology Resources: http://NTRweb.org

Philadelphia Information Advocacy: http://ntrweb.org/information-advocacy/

8. Organization address (if not located in Philadelphia, Chester, Montgomery, Delaware, or Bucks counties, what are your plans to establish a location in the region?

Nonprofit Technology Resources, 1524 Brandywine Street, Philadelphia PA 19130

9. Business model:


The founding organization is Nonprofit Technology Resources, a charitable 501 (c) 3 organization. As it grows, the Information Advocacy project may grow into a coalition of organizations with a new corporate name and a new IRS filing. But for now, it is a project of Nonprofit Technology Resources, Inc.

10. Date established/years in business:

Nonprofit Technology Resources was founded as "Public Interest Media Project" in 1974. We took the current name in 1993. 

Information Advocacy became a project concept in the Spring of 2011 and is an extension of work done as "Everything for Everybody" in 1970.

11. How will you measure your impact on health and wellness? What metrics will you use?

If funded under the IBX Game Changers Challenge, a team consisting of Michele Masucci and Associates from Temple University will be evaluating the Philadelphia Information Advocacy project.

A review of the research suggests the lack of social supports is a significant risk factor as related to health and wellness in the community. Conversely, the opposite is also true. That is, research also shows that the presence of social supports can be used to significantly improve the health and wellness of a community.

In evaluating the project, the research question we are to address is "can a network of information advocates be effectively used to provide social supports in a community and thereby improve its overall health and wellness?"

Additionally, if a network of this type can be effective, can it be made easy enough to use such that both Information Advocates and their community members will use it.

There will be three areas of evaluation for this project. The first, our formative evaluation, will evaluate the development of the project and the network over the next year. The evaluation team will attend regular meetings with coordinators of the project, recruited Information Advocates, and community members (participants seeking assistance from the Information Advocates) to report on obstacles and successes.  As evaluators we see our role to give status reports back to the funders, but also to provide timely feedback to the project managers so that they can improve the implementation of the project in "real time" without waiting for the final project report.

The second, our summative evaluation, will measure the extent to which the project is meeting its goals with special focus on on its impact concerning health and wellness of the "community" being served.  As already discussed, this project intends to implement a prototype or "working model" Information Advocate Network.  To evaluate the impact of this on health and wellness in the community, we will utilize participant retention rates, participant success rates, and implement a survey that will ask how the Information Advocate's assistance helped the "community member's" health and wellness.  This survey as well as most of the summative evaluation in this project is intended to be qualitative in nature.  Its purpose is to inform the development of the third area of evaluation - the design of a larger scale project and evaluation which will aim at improving the overall health statics of Philadelphia.

Implementation Metrics

Hiring and training the first network coordinator
* Identification of about 12 Information Advocates in service to "early adopter" communities
* Design and implementation of a curriculum and training program to allow the Advocates to become familiar with the information landscape of Philadelphia
* Design of a model Web-based communication database to allow the Advocates to keep notes and write and search listings for and by other Advocates about their respective community members.
* Train the Information Advocates to "crowd source" information into structures such as http://wikidelphia.org

Outcome Metrics

Retention rates:  Do participants continue to interact with their Advocate after first interaction.
Success Rates:  Are participants “helped” by the Information Advocate as shown in self-reported surveys
Health and Wellness Outcomes:  Is the participant's health and wellness improved as shown in self-reported surveys

The third area of evaluation is to design a formative and summative evaluation for a larger scale project to grow out of this one. This third area will include the implementation metrics below as well as a more robust summative analysis designed for a larger scale Information Advocacy Network once the model has been successfully implemented. This summative evaluation design will include a quasi-experimental model with pre and post tests to measure the change in health, attitude, and behavior of the "community members" participating in the project. This evaluation plan will also plan to track impact on the overall health statistics for Philadelphia.

Implementation Metric Design

Establishment of a set of guidelines for network members
* Increase the number of participating communities from the dozen early adopters to 30 or more communities
* Using what is learned through the model database and network, begin the design of an enhanced Web-based communication database that will be sufficiently robust to handle the needs of network members as the data traffic balloons
* Design and plan for increasing the number of Philadelphia Information Advocates into the hundreds or thousands over the next 5 years
* Begin the design process for involving communities outside Philadelphia as the idea of Information Advocacy spreads around the world

Health and Wellness Metrics

* Participant health as measured by pre and post tests and compared to a control group
* Participant economic success as measured by pre and post tests and compared to a control group
* Participant social support network as measured by pre and post tests and compared to a control group
* Participant outlook and attitude as measured by pre and post tests and compared to a control group
* Comparison to base-line health statics for Philadelphia as a whole.

Your Solution, Innovation and Social Impact

12. Describe your proposed solution, product, or service and how it will help improve health and wellness in the region.

This project will establish a network of helpful people whom we are calling "Information Advocates" in communities throughout Philadelphia. The term "network" is used to emphasize that the Information Advocates will communicate with each other in providing services for their community members. The term community is used broadly to mean any group of affiliated people. A community may be geographical or conceptual.

The Philadelphia Information Advocates Network, will work to improve three of the four health factors in the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute's model for the people of Philadelphia. We expect the network 1) to be effective in helping people adjust their Health Behaviors through access to quality information. 2) We expect to impact all five Social and Economic factors, especially family and social supports. And 3) we expect to impact the physical environment of individuals by providing connections to other people who can help with home repairs and other issues related to the physical world.

* We will build a preventive health network utilizing existing systems and information, but provide the missing link of getting the information to the people who need it when they need it via people they trust.
* We want to create circles of Information Advocates throughout the city.
* We want to place them in the neighborhood organizations where they will reach the most people who need help.
* We want to build relationships within communities to promote respect and acceptance.
* With the city structure in health and human services getting less and less funding, it will have less and less people to help those in need. We hope that our IA network will be able to pick up the slack and provide the information people need.

Information Advocacy is an extension of an idea developed by John Scully in the late 1960's. Scully had a store front shop from which he ran an organization he called Everything for Everybody. The idea was simple: provide a place where SOMEONE listens, helps to write down what is important, and helps other people to find out what has been written. This simple technique helped thousands of people in New York and Philadelphia in the early 1970s. Then the medium used for recording information was the 4 by 6 card. Now we have the Internet and PEOPLE that listen and write can help millions to connect with each other. It's time to put this simple idea to work for everyone.

Since the parent organization sponsoring this project is a computer refurbishing organization using a variety of interns and trainees from the welfare roles or tech schools, in addition to creating the Philadelphia Information Advocates Network, a successfull grant through the IBX Game Changers Challenge will provide free computers for up to 500 Philadelphia residents who establish themselves as Information Advocates, or are adults with disabilities, or are low-income children or youth who lack computer access at home. NTR has distributed over 14,000 computers and nearly 1,700 laptops to Philadelphia organizations and individuals. Over 3,100 of these have been given away for free primarily to youth.


Information Advocate

A person who helps their neighbors, community members, or any other group of people learn about the resources, skills and needs of other members of the community and the world. They provide access to social supports and help the community to build social capital by listening to their constituents and converting what they learn into information that can be shared in ways that are appropriate to each person's needs. They help people to conduct research and teach people how to use information and communication tools. Their importance lies in the fact that they are a person who is available to be helpful in using modern technology and they are someone who knows who does what in the community. Information Advocates help their community with INFORMATION, COMMUNICATION, and TRUST.

Information Advocates 1) help people in their community; 2) listen to people; 3) write down what they hear; 4) make it possible for other people to learn what they heard.

Information Advocates may not be the most influential members of their communities, but they should be among the most trusted. Information Advocates maintain the confidentiality of those they seek to empower.

The Information Advocate Network

A network of dedicated, trusted, community-based listeners intelligently connecting resources to requests.

The collective of people who are considered to be Information Advocates. These people use tools developed by and for the network to communicate with each other in service to their respective community members.

The Client

The member of a community served by an Information Advocate. This person is the most direct beneficiary of the Information Advocate Network

Social Support

Social Support is defined as "help in difficult life situations."

Social support is a concept that is generally understood in an intuitive sense, as the help from other people in a difficult life situation. One of the first definitions was put forward by Cobb (Cobb, 1976). He defined social support as ‘the individual belief that one is cared for and loved, esteemed and valued, and belongs to a network of communication and mutual obligations’. In the MINDFUL project social support is defined as ‘the perceived availability of people whom the individual trusts and who make one feel cared for and valued as a person’ (MINDFUL, 2008). 

The above definition WAS continued here: http://www.euphix.org/object_document/o5479n27411.html 

Funding collapse has terminated the above valuable information source. We may not have time to locate another reference to include for the IBX Game Changers Challenge.

Social Capital

The central thesis of social capital theory is that 'relationships matter'. The central idea is that 'social networks are a valuable asset'. Interaction enables people to build communities, to commit themselves to each other, and to knit the social fabric. A sense of belonging and the concrete experience of social networks (and the relationships of trust and tolerance that can be involved) can, it is argued, bring great benefits to people.

Trust between individuals thus becomes trust between strangers and trust of a broad fabric of social institutions; ultimately, it becomes a shared set of values, virtues, and expectations within society as a whole. Without this interaction, on the other hand, trust decays; at a certain point, this decay begins to manifest itself in serious social problems… The concept of social capital contends that building or rebuilding community and trust requires face-to-face encounters. (Beem 1999: 20)

The above discussion is taken from this page: http://www.infed.org/biblio/social_capital.htm


Resilience in human social systems understands there to be the added capacity of humans to be able to some extent anticipate and plan for the future. Resilience is conferred in both human and ecological systems by their capacities for adaptation to these external stresses and shocks. In the column to the right are definitions of resilience that have helped us in shaping the development of our resilient planning and design ideas and principles for resilient cities put forward at ResilientCity.org. As a working definition we put forward the following:

“A Resilient City is one that has developed capacities to help absorb future shocks and stresses to its social, economic, and technical systems and infrastructures so as to still be able to maintain essentially the same functions, structures, systems, and identity.”

From the Web site Resilient City http://www.resilientcity.org/index.cfm?pagepath=Resilience&id=11449

News Vs. Information Advocacy

We have lots of ways to circulate news. But only a few ways to air the needs and offers of individual people.

The way the world is set up now, people have no one to turn to for help making their needs and offers known to the "right" other people. This is where the Advocate (and a network of Advocates) comes in. The Advocate is a person who listens, thinks, remembers, writes listings, makes connections, makes referrals, and takes action to find resources. The Advocate may help to prioritize what to ask for or offer. The Advocate may help with wording the listings. The Advocate may help maintain the privacy of the client by acting as recipient of responses or by setting the system's features to provide that privacy.

Information Advocacy focuses on the needs and offers of individuals. That's why the term "advocate" is in there. This role is not just as a news person. Apparently, the idea is difficult for people to parse (advocacy vs. news). Information Advocacy is an improved system for personal one-on-one supports, not an improved system for dissemination of news. The world's current systems and the new technology tools provide fairly powerful avenues for the dissemination of "news." That's not to say that Information Advocates won't play a role in news. But news is not the focus of the Information Advocacy Network. Individuals, and a way to help them, are the focus of this effort.

Perhaps an example will help. Let's say that Mrs. G needs certain kinds of home based assistance. She certainly would not want to broadcast a message that says, "Mrs. G needs help getting from the bed to the potty." That's a task for IA. It's not general news. Her Information Advocate needs to know this information. And the listing that solicits help for Mrs. G needs to be sufficiently clear without including her name, so that a carpenter won't be inclined to respond. The Advocate may be able to help her by searching listings for people who wish to provide this kind of service - a listing on her behalf may not be needed. On the other side of this, someone seeking to serve someone like Mrs. G should be able to search and find this need... Hum... perhaps the idea of searching should be emphasized here. News is broadcast. Information Advocates and the Information Advocacy Network should help make it possible for the Advocates to search and find matches...

13. What root health issues will be impacted by your solution?

Health issues that are complicated by isolation and poor connections to other people will be addressed by this project.

 Many issues that relate to lack of income can also be overcome because of this project. Problems as simple as a shower that doesn't work because a person can't afford a regular plumber can be harmful and can be corrected by knowing who in the community can help at an affordable price.

Having someone to check in on an elderly person during hot weather can be handled by a community Information Advocate who knows the elderly person and a young person willing to visit the older person each day.

This project will help spread useful information about healthy practices. It will help put someone who has been trained to observe other people in contact with people who may not even know they need help.

This project will encourage collaboration and information exhanges among groups already concerned for the safety and health of their community members.

The trusted Information Advocates will help people make better health related decisions based on research rather than popular notions.

Social Isolation

Social isolation can be defined structurally as the absence of social interactions, contacts, and relationships with family and friends, with neighbors on an individual level, and with society at large on a broader level.
Social isolation is considered a risk factor in the development of disease and in the disability that can occur in the course of existing disease.

External Stresses and Shocks
Resilience in human social systems stems from the capacity of humans to be able to anticipate and plan for the future. Resilience is conferred in both human and ecological systems by their capacities for adaptation to these external stresses and shocks.

“A Resilient City is one that has developed capacities to help absorb future shocks and stresses to its social, economic, and technical systems and infrastructures so as to still be able to maintain essentially the same functions, structures, systems, and identity.”
From the Web site Resilient City http://www.resilientcity.org/index.cfm?pagepath=Resilience&id=11449

Declining Social Capital
"Social Media" technology is producing revolutions in societies across the world. At the same time, for many people, connections through technology are not sufficient. The connections among people known as social capital have been declining for years, perhaps for generations. The most widely known review of this problem is the book by Robert Putnam - "Bowling Alone." In his book, Mr. Putnam describes the decline in social capital happening in our society and offers several reasons for this decline.
For a useful summary of Mr. Putnam's book, see the article by Brett Reeder of the Conflict Research Consortium.

Further Discussion
What would you do if you believed you might have an illness and wanted to see a doctor?   What if you were paying your own insurance and were afraid that the condition might cause your insurance to be cancelled? Would you know who to trust to get good information or would you just ignore your condition and hope that it goes away?

Questions and fears like the example above are frighteningly common especially among the urban economically disadvantaged.   This fear keeps people from seeking the health care and insurance they need to stay healthy.

While new healthcare initiatives come and go, they never seem to address the underlying fear that many people have.   Those of us who have informally been information advocates in our community know all too well how fear has paralyzed thousands of individuals from seeking health services, appropriate housing, employment advice and more.   

We also know that people come to us because we are trusted.  

Our frustration is that there isn’t a network of people doing similar work or a way for all of us to share information quickly with each other.  If we could establish a network of trusted individuals, and a way for those individuals to connect with each other, there is no doubt that it would result in large numbers of individuals finally getting the health care and insurance that they need to stay healthy.

But, the impacts of an Information Advocate Network could go much further.  Social isolation is itself a barrier to much more than simply getting health care or insurance.  It is a barrier to getting a job, finding housing, getting an education, and even purchasing technology.  All of these barriers result in a local urban economy that is less educated that they should be, less paid than they should be, and less healthy than they should be.

By finally connecting the Information Advocates within Philadelphia to each other through a system that allows the Information Advocates and the individuals in the community to connect with each other, we believe that we will go a long way to improving the health of the people in Philadelphia.

14. Why do you consider your solution innovative? Discuss how it is different from existing solutions.

Our solution is innovative because it uses existing technology but builds into it people-to-people connections. The systems may be in place, but if people don’t know about them, or can’t use them, or don't have the time to use them, then the systems are useless. Our solution brings into focus connections that everyone can use. One doesn't have to be low-income to benefit greatly by having access to knowledgeable, trusted people who can help reach out to other people and make good sense of the connections.

At this time in history there are very few, if any, places where a person can speak with another person and have their needs, skills, ideas, resources and interests noted, recorded and (if appropriate) disseminated. All too often the places that offer "community services" are unable for many (often good) reasons to simply recommend one neighbor to another. The Philadelphia Information Advocate Network will allow trusted people to be Information Advocates without the baggage associated with being an established organization.

The idea that we should have a network of trusted, dedicated listeners in every community adds to the power that the Internet currently offers to tech savvy individuals. With such a network in place, people who do not have Internet access, or the skills (and time) to communicate their needs effectively, will be able to take advantage of the full power of the Internet to make information about themselves accessible to the people who match and complement their needs.

As far as our research has revealed, existing solutions leave out the listener. This project makes real, caring, trusted people available to help their neighbors or community members. The Information Advocates will be people who can help a client prioritize their needs and find the best solution(s) while maintaining the client's privacy and security. Other networking solutions also leave out the network and only provide a tool for people to broadcast or search via a Web portal. With the Information Advocates Network in place, the Advocates will be able to meet, get to know each other, and discover the riches within each other's community. The best of the systems below allow localization, but some will give results in another state. 

Lotsa Helping Hands http://www.lotsahelpinghands.com/ - A tool for channeling public interest into private emergencies

Neighbor Hire http://neighborhire.com/ - A tool for marketing and finding people who provide services. 

Change By Us Philly http://philly.changeby.us - An online marketplace for community projects

Philly FreeCycle http://groups.freecycle.org/phillyfreecycle/description - A group that shares everyday items via an email list

15. What do you hope to achieve in the next 12 months towards implementing your solution? What major tasks do you need to complete to achieve these milestones?

There are two areas of achievement for the first year: First: Build a model Information Advocate network. Second: Build the foundation for the future development of the network as it grows within Philadelphia and beyond. (See also Question 11 where evaluation of this list is described).
Build the Model Network
* Hire and train the first network coordinator
* Identify about 12 Information Advocates in service to "early adopter" communities
* Design and implement a curriculum and training program to allow the Advocates to become familiar with the information landscape of Philadelphia
* Design a model Web-based communication database to allow the Advocates to keep notes and write and search listings for and by other Advocates about their respective community members.
* Train the Information Advocates to "crowd source" information into structures such as http://WikiDelphia.org
* Effectively promote the services of the Information Advocates using publicity acknowledging the role of the IBX Game Changer Challenge
Build A Foundation for Network Growth
* Establish a set of guidelines for network members
* Increase the number of participating communities from the dozen early adopters to 30 or more communities
* Using what is learned through the model database, begin the design of an enhanced Web-based communication database that will be sufficiently robust to handle the needs of network members as the data traffic balloons
* Design and plan for increasing the number of Philadelphia Information Advocates into the hundreds or thousands over the next 5 years
* Begin the design process for involving communities outside Philadelphia as the idea of Information Advocacy spreads around the world
* Produce a formative evaluation of the initial one year period
* Produce a strategic plan and evaluation plan covering projections for the next 5 years.

Scalability and Practicality

16. What communities or constituencies are you targeting/will you target initially? Why? How have or do you propose to impact health among these groups?

We will target neighborhoods through block captains, churches, community centers, and community organizations. These are the existing groups that serve communities in Philadelphia. By linking trusted members of these social structures, our project will help reduce social isolation, and address economic issues that can not be solved in other ways. The members of the communites served by Information Advocates will have a better chance to acquire needed personal care, necessary repairs to their homes and the support of the other people in the community. The idea that it takes a village to raise a child is important to raising healthy children. We are proposing a concrete tool for making the village work as it should.

Philadelphia has a large African American population. On average, African Americans are significantly affected by most social ills above ALL other ethnic races. The STD/STI rate alone among AA Philadelphians is astounding. Church groups offer an appropriate route to addressing the needs of the African American community.

One of our newest Team Members, Lugene Prince, a church Deacon, introduced the idea of Information Advocacy to Reverend Sydney Flores, Assistant to Pastor Lusk, at the Greater Exodus Baptist Church. Rev. Flores became sufficiently interested in Information Advocacy that he said it may become a ministry of the church. Mr. Prince agreed to help set up this ministry after reporting back to Rev. Flores about the Information Advocacy meeting held on Saturday, May 25th.

17. What are your plans for scaling your solution throughout the region and beyond? What resources will you need to accomplish this?

The web communication tools will allow for regional and linguistic variety. The listing tools will offer geographical and conceptual focus. For example a listing may be directed at a particular zip code. Alternatively, a listing may specify a particular focus such as HIV or spinal cord injury. Once the Philadelphia Information Advocacy Network is functioning, we expect that there will be a need for the translation of listings into multiple languages.

Training and Seminar Series

The process of starting Advocacy work at several sites may require the design of a startup manual and curriculum for a training program. Issues to be covered should include the art of listening to people and helping them to prioritize what they have to say. The training will also need to cover the art of writing clear and unambiguous listings, how to use the online database, how to publicize the service, and more.
People doing this work will need to learn the art of interviewing people to reveal their resources, skills and other assets while also revealing the needs they have for communication over the network. These resources and needs will be transmitted as anonymous listings in order to protect people's privacy and encourage participation. It's important to recognize that people have difficulty asking for help. By introducing Information Advocates, who will maintain the private nature of listings, we should find that people will be able to share the things that mean the most to them without feeling violated in some way.

Training Topics
Writing Listings: Using the Information Advocates model listing system
Internet indexing and searching tools: Google, Yahoo, Wikidelphia Catalog System, etc.
Internet merchants: Amazon, eBay, etc.
Internet services for people: Craigs List, Angies List, etc
Information sources: 211, 311, http://OpenDataPhilly.org/

18. How will your venture create a lasting impact on health and wellness?

This project has the potential to be "evolutionary." In this sense, it is a continuation of the process that has brought "civilization" to human societies. By empowering people to help each other, the ideas behind Information Advocacy will reduce the pressure on governments and other institutions currently considered responsible caring for those who are less than capable of caring for themselves.

In  addition, everyone with an interest in anything will be more likely to find collaborators, companions and allies in their own community (or from around the world) because there is an Information Advocate available to make connections that might otherwise be left to chance.

The Information Advocates and the network they form will function as the "librarians" for the people. No one will be able to keep track of the messages that six billion of us will be able to generate. We will need the Information Advocates to be intermediaries, not just helping to find things and connections, but to help filter and focus what we learn about. Even the most wealthy among us can not pay attention to everyone. It will be the Information Advocates that people will turn to as a barrier to overload.

Individual health is well know to be affected by the availability of social supports. This project will empower people to find the supports they need and the friends they want. 

Finding appropriate help can reduce stress. When stress is alleviated, people are healthier and able to live life more fully. They can do their jobs better. Be better parents. Build better families. Build better communities.

The same result will be obtained when isolation is reduced; people will be less likely to suffer ailments for long periods.

19. What is your business model? For a for-profit venture, how will you make money? For a non-profit, what revenue streams will you develop to sustain your venture?


Charitable donations, corporate sponsorships, training fees, consulting fees, web marketing and ad revenues. 

We believe that the idea of Information Advocacy is something that might be sustained with minimal costs once the technology and training structures are put into place. Once the final model is developed, we anticipate that the technology costs can be recovered by advertising and the training costs can be covered by donations. 

The technology advisors to this project are committed to the development of the Information Advocate Network. Many of them are already volunteering their time by providing advice and information within their own communities and they will continue to volunteer in a technology capacity if needed. With that said, we believe that there is a potential for income through the use of advertising on the website where this system will be placed and it should be scalable to cover any expenses that are incurred as the project builds. There is also a potential source of revenue in training other regions to implement their own Information Advocacy Networks.

The potential trainers are also likely to be volunteering their time by providing advice and information within their own communities. We believe that much of the cost of future trainings can be covered by donations once the initial training infrastructure is put into place. And again there is a potential for income in working with other regions.

The Philadelphia Information Advocates Network could be a model for the world. It could develop and grow by publishing papers, articles, and books about the design of the network and the impact that the network has had on the Philadelphia community. Lecture tours and consulting projects involving the most knowledgeable Information Advocates could provide an income for the network, staff, and touring members.

20. Financial model: describe your revenues and projected costs for the next several years. At what point do you reach break-even? Describe resources (investment and other) that you will need to reach break-even and sustainability.

The small costs associated with meetings that have been held so far to organize community members have been covered by the founding organization and other organizations on a voluntary basis. This process of people contributing their time, energy and interest can and will proceed to fulfill the vision that the founding members hold. This is a non-profit venture, there will not be investors that require repayment or profits. The idea that we need to recover expenses doesn't really exist. We will pay for the process as it unfolds. If grant funding or other revenues become available, they will be applied to growth, improved network resources, and educational processes.

21. What research, analysis, or testing have you done to validate the impact of your proposed solution and the viability of your business model?

There is a huge body of research (including that sited by the IBX Game Changers Challenge) that links social support networks to increased helath and wellness within a community. In addition, we have the following:

  • We have our own experiences as people providing information and resources to thousands of other people in our community as evidence that people feel better about themselves and others when they are connected to each other through a network of trusted individuals.
  • Research on Information Advocacy began by collecting 1500 listings of the needs and offers of community members on South Street in 1970. Hundreds of employment opportunies were made, thousands of people were offered a patient ear by the shop keepers at Everything for Everybody.
  • More recently, a series of community meetings have been held to help guage the interest that community members from across Philadelphia might have in a process that allows people to help people. The largest of these meetings was held on May 25, 2012 in the Skyline Room of the Central Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. Fifty people came out to learn how we intend to help them help their community. It was a very positive experience.

22. Feasibility Please provide a brief history of your venture, including obstacles overcome and milestones reached.

The term Information Advocacy first appeared at a "Leadership Forum" on the Digital Divide held at Temple University May 4th, 2011. 


At this meeting Stan Pokras realized that while offering computers and training to disavantaged populations is a good thing, it's not really what they need. As he listened to Mayor Street and the other prominent providers of services for the Digital Divide, he came to recognize that people don't really need computers. They don't necessarily need technology at all. What they need is Information, Communication and Trust. In our world today, the latter concept, trust, appears to be among the most valued commodity.

With these thoughts in  mind, as the moderator of the event called on each participant to name a process or idea that is relevant to the topic at hand, Pokras came up with the term Information Advocacy. People need people they can trust to help with communication and information.

What followed has been a year of meetings and discussions among the people who are now forming the core of this project. The purpose of the meetings has been to spread the ideas and gauge the response of the people who attended. This culminated in a City-Wide conference on Information Advocacy held May 25th 2012 at the Free Library. About 50 people attended that meeting. That meeting was followed up by a meeting on June 30, 2012 at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. There, the staff has been for many years using gardening as a community organizing tool. (For full disclosure, the staff member at the Hort Society responsible for providing the space was Sally McCabe, Pokras' wife.) This meeting drew 30 participants and had speakers covering information and tecnology services including the City's 311 and the human serivce hotline, 211.

The result of these meetings has been strong and growing support for Information Advocacy by many people interested in the future of Philadelphia, the health and wellness of its people and the potential economic and social benefits obtainable when people work together to help each other. The participant email lists for Information Advocacy now reach over 120 people while the Information Advocate News list reaches nearly 700. The core team numbers just under 20 people from a variety of communities and walks of life. It is the support of these people which has validated the ideas behind Information Advocacy. Your support is now needed!

23. Please provide a brief background for each of the founders or principals who will be working on your solution, emphasizing experience relevant to implementing your proposed solution.

Stanley Pokras

I first developed an interest in computers as an electrical engineering student in the 60's. I have been Executive Director of Nonprofit Technology Resources (NTR) since 1980 when I founded Other Networks, a newsletter devoted to the study of networks of people. I have coordinated NTR's broad spectrum of services in information technology, assisting hundreds of local nonprofit agencies with training and computerization projects since 1983. Under my guidance, NTR has developed successful programs which provide used computer hardware and training in computer refurbishing for both the staff and the clients of nonprofit organizations. We have distributed well over 12,000 computers to low income people here in the Philadelphia area.

I consider myself to be a social engineer. I want to build systems and services that help people connect. I started down this path in 1970 by opening an information store front based on John Scully's "Everything for Everybody" in Manhattan. I sought out Scully after hearing the words "Whole Earth Catalog." I wanted to build a whole earth catalog of people. His business looked like an ideal way to start. For two years, my associates and I collected over 1500 "listings" (4 by 6 cards) of the things people wanted and had to offer. We listened to thousands more people as they called for help or stopped in to see us in our store. I have news articles about this experience that will be soon prepared for inclusion in the IBX proposal package, so you will be able to see this material shortly.

In the 1980's I collaborated with Seth Horwitz (an active member of this team) to publish Other Networks Newsletter, a newsletter about networks of people.

I've been following the sociological discipline of Social Network Analysis for over 30 years since I discovered Vol 1 No 1 of the journal "Social Networks" with the founding article by Ithiel de Sola Pool, "Contacts and Influence." In this early article, Dr. Pool outlined the basic concepts of Social Network Analysis which has led to such popular ideas as the "six degrees of separation" and the round about idea that Kevin Bacon is helping find the cure for cancer.

From Dr. Pool's article and because I am a science fiction fan, I immediately made the connection to Isaac Asimov's "Future History" which forms the basis of his Foundation Trilogy. In Asimov's trilogy, mathematicians developed a science of predicting the future of large scale events. Today, the science of Social Networks is helping to understand many aspects of society from corporate board room linkages to the ties among terrorists.

My current effort to build a network of "Information Advocates" is built on my experience helping thousands of people connect (or at least attempt to connect) with each other.

For more of my history: I was one of the founding members of the Electronic Networking Association (ENA). As it's Vice President I ran a conference here in Philadelphia in 1988 which brought people from around the globe to study and discuss the new tool called computer conferencing.

I got involved with international networking because I was publishing a newsletter called "Other Networks." That got me an account on Delphi where I met people from EIES, at the NJIT. We used Harry Steven's software, Participate (Parti). It was most well known on "The Source" but we used it on a system called Unison out of Denver.

I recently re-read the book "Complexity, The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos" by M. Mitchell Waldrop. It's the history of the Santa Fe Institute. This book encouraged me to vision my work building an Information Advocates Network as evolutionary. The book inspired me. It made me wish to write a paper (which I'm not qualified to write at this time) that I would like to title: Civic Consciousness: Increasing Self-Sufficiency in the Complex Adaptive City.

Jay Cohen

Jay Cohen is a active community activist focused on getting information out to parent with children in the School District of Philadelphia.   Over the past several years, Jay Cohen has directly helped thousands of parents connect to the School District and helped the Philadelphia Home and School Council and other organizations develop a network of email lists that now reaches over 10,000 people in the Philadelphia area.  In addition, Jay now specializes in the use of Google technologies to automate gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar to create applications to improve the effectiveness of community organzations.   His latest project is the parent registrations system for the School District of Philadelphia called Parent University (www.philasd-parentuniversity.org).

Temple University with BA in Economics and Statistical Forecasting (1983)
Set up one of Philadelphia's first PC networks at the Philadelphia Parking Authority called the PANIC network (1984-1986)
Chase Econometrics forecasting predicting housing trends in California, Washington and Arizona (1986)
President & Founder of COBAR Inc. Invented and patented a holder for computer diskettes called a DisKeeper and sold approximately 50,000 (1986-1992)

Taught computer technologies to high school students and adjudicated youth at the Neumann Center and Folcroft Vocational School (1992 - 1995)
WHYY, Director of Educational Technology and received about $1,000,000 in grants to deliver low-cost & refurbished computers to student's homes from the US Department of Education, the State of Delaware and the City of Wilmington. (1995-2001)
Masters Degree in Urban Studies at Temple University (2001)
FamilyNet Manager, School District of Philadelphia to teach parents how to use FamilyNet (online grading system) and other computer technologies (2001 - 2010)
Developed an email list of approximately 3500 parents that is used by parent organizations and the School District of Philadelphia (2010-Present)
Philadelphia Home and School Council and became active in other parent organizations such as PARENTPOWER and helped them use email, email lists and websites. Now am the Secretary for the Philadelphia Home and School Council and a member of the District-Wide School Advisory Council Planning Group.  (2010 - Present)
Philadelphia School District's Parent University as a computer instructor (2010-Present)
Developed the Parent University's online parent registration & attendance system at <http://www.philasd-parentuniversity.org>www.philasd-parentuniversity.org using Google Docs, Calendar and Email (2012)

Michele Masucci, PhD.

Senior Associate Vice Provost for Research
Director, Information Technology and Society Research Group
Professor and Chair, Department of Geography and Urban Studies
Temple University

Dr. Masucci received her Doctorate in Geography from Clark University in 1987. She also holds an M.A. in Geography ( Clark University 1986) and a B.S. in Geography and Regional Planning (Salisbury University 1982). She has been on tenure-track appointment at West Georgia University (1989-1991), at Auburn University (1991-1997) and at Temple University since 1997. She is currently the Director of the Information Technology and Society Research Group at Temple University and on appointment in the faculty of Geography and Urban Studies in the College of Liberal Arts. She is also a Fellow of the Telemedicine Research Center at Temple Health Sciences Campus.

Dr. Masucci's current research examines the how barriers to accessing information resources using geographic information technologies are interrelated with community development and environmental quality problems, including accessing health, education, and social services. She has worked to develop university-community partnerships with organizations that address human rights issues, community and environmental planning organizations in the Southeastern U.S. and in Brazil involved in water quality monitoring and assessment, and with informal educational settings on integrating information technology curricula through educational programs aimed at advancing knowledge of to develop information resources. She is currently the P.I. of an NSF sponsored project entitled Building Information Technology Skills among North Philadelphia Youth - bITS. The main objective of this project is to develop a community geographic information system involving participation of area high school students. This project is ongoing through 2007.

Dr. Masucci is also a co-investigator on a study of internet health communication systems entitled “Preventing Heart Disease in Underserved Patients.” Her research examines the relationship between geographic, social, and networked access to information technologies and health outcomes among 400 cardiovascular disease patients in a comparative study of health care systems in Philadelphia and rural Pennsylvania. She has developed and implemented an internet training protocol that addresses digital divide barriers to accessing information technologies among patients enrolled in the study, assessing self-efficacy issues related to acquiring skills needed to use the internet communication tool developed for the study, and analyzing social, demographic, and spatial patterns associated with health outcomes among patients who use the communication tool. This study is ongoing through 2007.

Previous research has been funded by the USIA College and University Affiliations Program, USDA, Fulbright, and the Regional Center for Teacher Education in Georgia. This work has examined the relationships between community planning, environmental management and information uses and technologies in non-governmental organizations in the Atlantic Rainforest Region of Brazil, in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin region, and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her work on identifying criteria for assessing appropriate use of IT in marginalized community settings is the focus of a new book that examines the relationship between social marginalization and technology implementation with non-governmental and community environmental planning organizations entitled: Ethical Issues in the Use and Development of Geographic Information System Technologies (forthcoming - Oxford University Press).

Baba Bob Shipman

Social media consultant, community news editor

(Bob is a "REAL" and currently practicing Information Advocate)

Prior to his current positions, he created and led the Shipman Family Services Fund. As a former community organizer at the Institute for the Study of Civic Values, he served the welfare-to-work and ex-offenders community.

Born and raised in Philadelphia Pa, he has 40 plus years as a community organizer, activist, photographer and journalist. He continues to gather information relevant to all levels of the community and shares them across the web to agencies, organizations, businesses, individuals and families.

Bob continues to help ambitious job seekers find ways be successful with less effort. Bob has a knack for helping people determine how they can get more with less by focusing and refining their personal strategy and processes. He helps people find people.

Bob was an accomplished speaker, presenter and trainer prior to a medical condition which affects his voice. As a social media administrator in the telecommunications and information technology industries, he is providing news and information to and for groups and agencies. Current client list include Newsworks.org, Philly1.com and X-Offenders.org.

His background includes 20+ years in the nonprofit environment. He currently serves on the editorial board of (Philly Independent Media collaborative) Phillyimc.org and member / volunteer at PhillyCam

Bob did undergrad work at Virginia Union University, Temple University and graduate work at Rutgers U. (New Brunswick)

* I left out my Financial Services Life and Health producer (25 years), former registered representative series 6 & 63 licenses
* Creator and moderator of 4000 member Philly Parent Partner Yahoo group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/parentpartner/
* QWL coordinator USPS (Quality of Working Life) union Representative local 308
* Current Democratic Committeeman 2nd Ward 3rd Division
* Current member of S. Phila EPIC Stakeholders and former EPIC coordinator
* Youth Coach activities and a few others, never did one thing at a time...heck still don't!

Catherine Dibble (Advisor)

Catherine Dibble, PhD is the Founder, President, and Senior Research Scientist at Aiki Labs which specializes in developing resilient communities using information and communication technologies.

Catherine brings specialized knowledge of the sociology behind what we're doing with Information Advocacy and she also programs supercomputers!


24. Who are/will be your competitors and what will make you competitive with them?

The Philadelphia Information Advocacy Network will have no competitors. All services providing useful, health-promoting opportunities for mutual support among client community members will be recommended by the Information Advocates when these services will fill a client's needs. And, other services working to help people connect for mutual benefit will be invited to join the network. This is our non-compete clause!

25. What potential obstacles to your long-term success do you foresee? How do you plan on overcoming these obstacles?

Not all people are able to reinvent themselves as dedicated, trusted listeners. Some people who may wish to take on this work may become overwhelmed with the difficulties their clients encounter. Therefore, finding the right people to be Information Advocates will be a start-up task. Many may wish to do this work, but not everyone is cut out for it. An on-going peer-facilitated training and seminar program will help to prepare Information Advocates for the rigors of the real world.

Organizations with limited capacity to accept or deflect liability may have to avoid certain kinds of referrals. A "terms of use" document will be required to be customized for each Information Advocate's relationship with the community and their affiliated organization(s).

26. What resources or expertise are you currently lacking?

Legal assistance will be needed to help define liability issues and write "Terms of Use" documents for the network and for larger groups and for small groups and individuals undertaking the work of Information Advocates. We want to head off any legal problems that might be faced by people on the front lines of being good samaritans. And we recognize that larger organizations may have to play a lesser than "personal" role in offering services that connect people to each other. Small organizations (or individuals) may be the best providers of Information Advocacy as long as their clients recognize that the Information Advocate may not be perfect and may, from time to time, introduce people to each other who ought NOT have met for one reason or another.

27. How do you believe Independence Blue Cross or the other challenge supporters could be helpful to you as you implement your solution?

While we will not expect the Information Advocates to become sales people for Independence Blue Cross, it will be helpful for the company and the Department of Public Health of the City of Philadelphia to offer assistance in the design of the health related components of the Information Advocates training and seminar program. Similar assistance in each partner's area of expertise would be sought from the Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs, Venturef0rth, and ?What If! Innovation Partners as the training and seminars are designed.

Independence Blue Cross and the other members of the Challenge team would also be very helpful in letting the public know about the evolutionary change being facilitated by the Philadelphia Information Advocates Network. The network at its core is a people process. The more that people know about the project, the more effective it will be. This project will work in a number of directions. It will help people learn about healthy habits through individual connections to trusted members of the community. It will help people find useful services among their neighbors to help them stay healthy and maintain their living standard. The promotion of this service through the media and other communications by IBX and the partner groups will enhance the chances that the people of Philadelphia will learn how to help each other stay healthy, know where to turn for valid wellness information, and prevent escalation of health related problems.


28. Feel free to attach additional materials that help describe your product, service, or solution; its impact on health and wellness; or your team. The maximum attachment size is five (5) pages.

29. Where did you hear about the Challenge?

A: Jeff Friedman posted a message in the Open Access Philly email list: IBX Game Changers Challenge