One way is to get them connected via the telecentre.org website, make them appreciate the value of being part of the community by making available relevant information and resources, and provide opportunities for them to interact with and learn from their counterparts all across the globe.
I do agree when we talk of empowering the village elders, chielfs, subchiefs, church leaders. They can influence the way things happen at the grassroots. But I do see a danger...these opinion leaders and shapers do not have the monopoly of ideas, knowledge or though. We should first sell the entire telecentre concept to them and use them as agents. Interestingly, though, chiefs are only known to go with what is accepted as official government position. So the question should be how we can sell our vision and mission to the higher political class and government bureaucrats,....at policy level. When this comes from up there, we can find it easier to touch base with the users> chiefs and opinion leaders at the grassroots rarely visit telecentres (at least where I come from). But it would still be good to involve them as a strategy given the dynamism of some local communities where chiefs are law unto themselves.
Cuchie and Moses have provided very good suggestions in this regard.
@Cuchie: I have one suggestion- most of the grassroots workers are not very well versed in English; only very few of them have a working knowledge of English. Therefore, unless there are translation applications, they will continue to find it difficult to connect globally. Therefore, telecentre.org Foundation should think in the direction of providing such facility. Otherwise, networking would continue to be limited to countries/regions.
@Moses I agree that these grassroots leaders play an important role in mobilising the community at the village level. So, telecentre.org Foundation should leverage upon them for wider reach and also acceptability within the community. It implies that the grassroots telecentre operators should be mobilised and sensitised more effectively in a 'bottom up' way
You raised a very important point there - localization. I think one of the areas the new foundation should be looking into is the creation of other language sites in order to reach out to telecentre operators at the grassroots.
Utilizing the networks and collaborating with them is also another way of getting to these grassroots knowledge workers.
Grassroot telecentres are thriving despite the many challnges they are facing today. I am in agreement with all the contributors so far. I however think more emphasis on capacity building through the rergional networks on critical areas such as the need to share information, platforms and tools to do so is the missing link. Many telecentres have lots of local content but do not share.
Secondly I think there is need to have more community content facilitators, ideally at every region to interact directly with the grassroot telecentre frequently sharing there stories, experiences, success and challenges. The telecentre networks could be used to do this as well since they interact more with the telecentres at country level.
I like it when Niranja notes "We have to first look at what problems grassroots...".
But in my case in would even tilt it even further to root it right from "what motivates grassroots operators to become active members at global scene" and "what hindrances are available to stop them from sharing even when the motivation is availed".
The key challenges to a telecentre today are low users, low money movement in a telecentre, low opportunities for grassroots telecentres users and telecentre operators that result into low impact to communities - and to me within these challenges lays the true motivations. The global telecentre movement and its partners shld thus be deliberate on addressing these issues both strategically and tactfully.
And luckily, by addressing the challenges lays the answers to the current hindrance to sharing which included, low esteem and confidence of most grassroots operators, inconsistent Internet availability, low prioritization for knowledge sharing by operators and unreliable electricity...
Whatever the strategies used, they should put the interests of the operator first, then work around them to stimulate interest to share from within the operators while at the same time eliminating the bottlenecks to sharing within the telecentre ecosystem.
Good thing that we can agree on one thing and disagree on another
With my close encounters of grass roots during last four years, I find only the real social innovators stay in grass roots, lots of people try telecenters and leave. It's not an easy thing to continue when financial benefits are very low, lack of connectivity, hardware problems, skill gaps adds.
Telecenter operators are not magicians to read all telecenter theory, and implement what we discuss, They need real solutions in content, applications and processes that involve them in real money to stay in the movement, If this is not there BRAIN DRAIN occurs and we have to train people from beginning.
I must reveal that many pilots targeting telecenter sustainability seldom reach them and have little impact. Unfortunately we don't have good M & E process to evaluate the impact and return on investment.
Identify the needs of operators related to Knowledge, information, business management , possible products and services, innovations, online solutions, discussion forums through this portal, the operator will actively particpate and he/she will stregthen the movement