'War College' of the Small Is Good Business Revolution
Proposal Overview and Introduction
1. Provide an executive summary of your proposal of 200 words or less in length.
Bear Paw Development Corporation (BPDC) is a pioneer and leader in traditional microenterprise services in Montana's rural northern plains region. With the relocation of the Sohodojo R&D lab to northern Montana and the launch of the North American Rural Futures Institute (NARFI) in our region, BPDC intends to strengthen its traditional microenterprise development services through a strategic collaboration that will establish northern Montana as a national leader in the development of business models, software technologies and services to support Microenterprise Networks.
Hardware acquired under the HP Microenterprise Development Program will be used to create an exploratory learning lab and software development "sandbox" to support microentrepreneur training, stakeholder development and technology research consistent with the emerging Microenterprise Network Economy.
2. Provide complete contact information for the microenterprise development agency including a primary and a secondary contact; the information for both contacts should include name, full address, phone number, e-mail address, fax number, voice mail number if different from phone number.
Bear Paw Development Corporation
3. What is the mission of your agency? Describe the services provided by the agency? List your agency's major accomplishments regarding microenterprise development during the years 2000, 2001 and 2002.
Bear Paw Development Corporation is a private, non-profit organization created for the purpose of administering programs to help improve regional economic conditions in Hill, Blaine, Liberty, Phillips and Chouteau Counties and the Fort Belknap and Rocky Boy's Indian Reservations. Bear Paw works toward this goal by coordinating economic development planning and project implementation among its member entities, assisting local governments in planning public works and coordinating public and private investments, and by engaging in research, planning and advisory functions appropriate to the attainment of its objectives.
Economic development loan programs were established in 1988 to assist new and growing businesses in the district. Since inception, our loan portfolio has grown to nearly $8 million in outstanding loans in 6 different loan funds. BPDC also serves as the host agency for the Small Business Development Center, a nationwide program established and partially funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBDC provides free, professional and confidential, one-on-one counseling and training to microentrepreneurs and small business owners.
BPDC's Microenterprise Milestones
4. Provide a list of the Board of Directors of the agency.
Note: A copy of the last fiscal audit of the agency may be requested.
Organizational Technology Vision and Plan
5. What is the technology vision for your agency?
As a full-service economic and community development agency serving the needs of the residents and communities of northern Montana, BPDC envisions using existing and emerging technologies to harness the full capabilities of our staff and organizational resources to most effectively serve the needs of this vastly rural and isolated part of Montana. The Bear Paw Economic Development District encompasses a geographic area of 17,665 square miles with a total population of 36,411 and is larger than nine individual states. This massive territory, coupled with limited staff and financial resources, lends itself to more efficient service delivery through the utilization of technology.
Our organizational vision for the use of technology in our daily operations encompasses the ability to more quickly and more accurately capture the interests and needs of community members in planning for the region's future development. Technology will also play a key role in the quality of customer service received by the hundreds of clients BPDC serves on an annual basis through our lending programs and our SBDC. Because of the necessity to regularly travel throughout our five-county region to serve existing borrowers, prospective clients and for purposes related to small business training and community outreach, the acquisition and use of computer technology will allow us to more effectively and more proactively promote and develop an even stronger microenterprise development program for northern Montana. This is anticipated to occur through wireless communication and the on-site availability of necessary software through mobile technology such as laptop computers and PDAs.
Beginning in 2003, BPDC is committed to a strategic partnership agenda that will lead north-central Montana into the forefront of technical and service innovations in support of the next generation of microenterprise businesses. We are witnessing the emergence of Microenterprise Networks and their associated network economies based on "story-driven and game-oriented" consumer purchase decision dynamics. BPDC intends to support this evolutionary advance in microenterprise by actively supporting the technical, educational and support service infrastructure development needed to encourage sustainable Microenterprise Networks.
Providing financial and technical support to microentrepreneurs alone is insufficient to establish the Microenterprise Network economy as a vital contributing element to northcentral Montana's economic revitalization. BPDC, in conjunction with our strategic partners, will take an active role in identifying and encouraging the collaborations among strategic stakeholders needed to create and sustain the environment for a thriving community of Microenterprise Networks. The Microenterprise Network Exploratory Learning and Technology Development Lab to be developed, in part through the support of HP's Microenterprise Development Program, is an essential ingredient in BPDC's expanded vision for support of the next generation of our region's microentrepreneurs and their small businesses.
6. What is your agency's technology plan, e.g. short and medium term goals?
BPDC's technology plan supporting microenterprise is both evolutionary and revolutionary. While we have a compelling vision for the next generation of technology-based microenterprise services, we cannot and will not abandon our commitment to current programs and services. Upgrading and standardizing office software as well as acquiring specialized market analysis software will quickly maximize office efficiency allowing better service to microentrepreneurs.
Server-side technologies will immediately bolster BPDC's office infrastructure as well as serve as the host for the envisioned Microenterprise Network Exploratory Learning and Technology Development Lab intranet and extranet. Both BPDC and Sohodojo, co-located in the Ryan Building in Havre, Montana, have access to and will collaborate to supply broadband connectivity of the lab's server to the Internet. BPDC envisions posting critical data on our public website for immediate download by clients and public alike. This data will include a sample business plan outline, loan application documents, BPDC's Annual Report and Annual Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy.
Sohodojo, through its strategic collaboration with the Argonne National Labs at the University of Chicago will supply the DIAS/FACET advanced simulation software technologies needed to develop and deploy the lab's exploratory learning environment. Sohodojo's founders and Research Directors have extensive computer network and software development experience and will serve as our "technology gurus" in support of the infrastructure enhancements made possible under this grant.
Client-side technologies will be concentrated in portable computing formats, primarily laptop computers and associated wired and wireless networking equipment. We have the experience and ability to "go mobile" in the deployment of on-going microenterprise training and to take the envisioned Microenterprise Network Exploratory Learning Environment to remote locations where it can be used in training and stakeholder development activities. When not actively in use for conventional training and Microenterprise Network software development, the mobile network will be housed at BPDC's office to be used by microentrepreneurs.
7. How will you sustain and maintain your plan goals over the long term?
The keys to BPDC sustaining our Microenterprise Network plan are partnerships and networking. Historically, BPDC has succeeded by identifying and nurturing strategic partnerships among the diverse range of organizations interested in contributing to the economic health of our remote, rural region. In 2003, northcentral Montana is the beneficiary of a significant strengthening of the community of our strategic collaborators with the federally funded launch of the North American Rural Futures Institute at Montana State University-Northern and the relocation of the Sohodojo Applied R&D Lab to our region. Individually, our organizations are not sufficient to envision and deliver the comprehensive vision for the revitalization of our regional economy based on a microenterprise network and small business clustering foundation. But together, we will envision and contribute significantly to the economic vitality of northcentral Montana. We will collaboratively create a community technology committee with representatives from key partners and community members to ensure that the Microenterprise Network Exploratory Learning and Technology Development Lab is meeting the ever changing needs of microentrepreneurs. This committee will guide the focus and implementation of the network to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of the network.
During the next three to five years, our strategic vision will succeed primarily through the strength of collaborations to attract research and demonstration funding to envision and develop the technology, education and support service infrastructure necessary to support the emerging Microenterprise Network economy. Through this applied research, truly competitive sustainable microenterprise business webs will be envisioned, seeded and evolved. In the long-term, the economic contribution of our Microenterprise Networks will become a new source of private enterprise, self-employment opportunity and wealth creation in northcentral Montana. And with this success, we will become the source of breakthrough innovations in technology and services that will support microenterprise in the larger national and global economies.
Concept Plan for the Project
When responding to the following three questions regarding the plan for the project, list product categories, not specific products or quantities, e.g. notebook pc's, handheld pc's, servers, desktop pc's, etc. Agencies selected to receive the grant award will collaborate with HP to determine the appropriate mix of equipment, cash, services and support.
8. How do you propose to use technology tools to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your agency?
Having the ability to remotely access network resources will allow BPDC staff to better serve the immediate needs of clients. We will have immediate access to research data as well as project analysis tools. This will also allow staff to immediately record and communicate the activities that they perform in the field to other staff or partnering agencies. This will not only allow us to better reflect what clients need and want, but also to become more efficient in time utilization by documenting electronically rather than recording on paper and then transferring the data to electronic format once we return to BPDC's offices.
Northcentral Montana is a remote rural region where communities and Indian Reservations are geographically dispersed and most communities are small. For this reason, Montana educators, both academic and adult occupational, have been leaders in distance learning. Successful microenterprise training and business development support services must similarly be both accessible and portable. We propose to effectively use the Internet and the power of portable computers with wireless networking to dramatically enhance our ability to create and deliver effective and practical microenterprise training and support services.
9. How do you plan to create/expand a technology access and training environment for use by your clients? Describe the physical space, including square footage that the agency will make available for this purpose.
The major obstacles that we have in northcentral Montana, to program delivery and client service, are distance and lack of population centers. One way to eliminate these obstacles is to provide access to technology at the local and personal level. Portable computers and wireless networking equipment will be used to take our conventional microenterprise training and the Microenterprise Network Exploratory Learning Lab to communities throughout our service region. Exploratory learning experiences will be provided not only for our region's microentrepreneurs, but just as importantly, to the community of stakeholders - bankers, venture investors, government and NGO service providers - essential to support the growing Microenterprise Network economy of our region.
The Exploratory Learning and Technology Development Lab will allow us to develop multiple ways of providing support and options for program delivery. Our ideas include list serves, e-mail groups and on-location education through mobile solutions. The program will host workshops on basic computing, Internet skills, and computerized financial management. This program will benefit the entire microentrepreneur population by developing workshops designed specifically to meet the training needs of the individual business owner or potential business owner.
Our loan department makes regular on-site visits to our microenterprise borrowers. During this review process we examine their bookkeeping procedures and printed financial records. Included in these reviews would be an assessment of how borrowers are using their technology training and knowledge. Questions on their use of generated records in their business would give both insights to the individual's needs plus an additional training opportunity at their place of business. Additional questions on our on-site review form would give us an understanding of the level of the individual's technology usage and how we can expand it.
The Small Business Development Center housed at Bear Paw Development will allocate 200 square feet of office space and 500 square feet of group training space to technology access under this grant. Together with Sohodojo, BPDC will provide Internet connectivity for small group training and technology access. Additionally, the SBDC has established locations in each of the four additional counties where the training and exploratory learning lab can set up equipment for group training. Individual trainings can be held in these locations as well, or can be offered in the client's business or residence.
The North American Rural Futures Institute will provide transportation for the portable learning lab. Through its Montana State University-Northern affiliation, NARFI has access to a vehicle pool that includes vans and RV-type vehicles that are most appropriate for such use.
10. How will this environment build the capacity of microenterprises in the community and transform the way they do business?
Microentrepreneurs will have the opportunity to experience cutting-edge technology to determine its usefulness before making the financial commitment to purchase computer hardware and software. By creating the access to technology, individuals will have the opportunity to create efficiencies in their businesses, freeing up time for them to work on other aspects of their enterprise.
While we will continue to make traditional microenterprise training available, such as basic computer skills and business software use courses, an additional application of equipment use under this grant will be the research, development and deployment of breakthrough Internet-based software technologies that support the decentralized and distributed supply chains of next generation Microenterprise Networks.
Software technologies and training materials developed under this initiative will be published under Open Source and Open Content licenses that will ensure the free and open access to these innovations by our region as well as the national and global community of microentrepreneurs.
11. How will you measure results to determine the impact of the overall project on microenterprise development in your community?
Full realization of the Microenterprise Network Exploratory Learning and Technology Development Lab initiative will require public and private funding beyond the support sought under HP's Microenterprise Development Program. BPDC and Sohodojo are non-profit corporations and NARFI is a federally funded public university initiative. As such, accountability and transparency in our operations are essential and routine.
Results from the proposed training and service initiative will meet or exceed "industry standards" for accountability in response to the collective requirements of the funding stakeholders of this initiative. In addition to building on BPDC's own extensive experience in program management and performance evaluation, we intend to mine and implement best practices developed by the MicroTest and Scale Learning Clusters of the Aspen Institute's (http://fieldus.org) microenterprise service provider support program.
12. Identify the organizational assets and strengths of your agency that can be built upon to make the project successful, e.g. project management, expertise in training and technical assistance.
Bear Paw Development has been in existence for 35 years and specializes in economic and microenterprise development. BPDC's staff has managed numerous federal and state grants for local government members of their Federally-recognized Economic Development District. Bear Paw Development manages a growing number of programs for our member entities, programs that typically include public sector financing. Our consistent policy is to assure compliance with the rules and regulations that govern these programs. Our organizational performance is continually evaluated by the myriad of state and federal government agencies who have entrusted our District with fiduciary and performance responsibilities relative to the proper management of their specific programs. These evaluations include, but are not limited to, performance and financial audits, regularly scheduled reporting obligations and frequent communication with the respective agencies.
The Small Business Development Center, established in 1993, is funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide free, confidential, one-on-one business counseling as well as small group training to existing and potential entrepreneurs. Tracey Jette, Director of the SBDC, has been employed in this position since 1998. Beginning in 2002, the SBDC has been and continues to be actively involved in curriculum development for the Community Technology Education Center at Montana State University-Northern. The C-TEC offers free or low-cost training to the community with targeted audiences including seniors, youth and business owners.
13. Describe the specific resources that the agency will provide to the project such as staff, additional funding, etc.
The SBDC Director will manage the Exploratory Learning and Technology Development Lab initiative, with the assistance of BPDC's Loan Officer and Executive Director. The expertise of Sohodojo's founders and Research Directors will be utilized for the infrastructure enhancements as well as the research and development portion of this project. BPDC and Sohodojo together will provide broadband Internet access to the mobile network.
The program income that the SBDC receives for ongoing training events will be invested into the continuation of this important project.
14. Identify major sources of support for the agency within the last two years including, but not limited to, net income from services, private funding, federal funding, and state and local funding.
BPDC receives funding from each of the five counties within our Economic Development District for their membership contributions and project management fees. We receive funding from the State of Montana for management of the Rocky Boy's/Northcentral Montana Regional Water System and for the operation of the SBDC. Federal funding is received from the U.S. Economic Development Administration for planning and the U.S. Small Business Administration for the operation of the SBDC. Private sources of funding include contributions from each financial institution in our district, the Northwest Area Foundation for fiscal management of a grant project to reduce poverty, and Community Reinvestment Fund for the underwriting and management of loans. Program income is derived from training programs, interest income and loan fees from the loan portfolio as well as investment income from our bank accounts.
15. How will you support/maintain the equipment you receive as part of the grant award?
Equipment donated for the Microenterprise Network Exploratory Learning and Technology Development Lab initiative will be maintained utilizing the expertise of the Founders of Sohodojo who will be co-located with BPDC in the Ryan Building. Additional support will be provided by an extension of the existing service contract that BPDC is currently entered into with Syntech, a local computer technical service provider or through Office Equipment Company, a locally authorized HP service technician.
Partnership and Collaboration
16. Identify the partners within the community that support and/or leverage the work of your agency and the people or groups served by those partners.
In small rural communities such as ours in northcentral Montana, collaboration is the key to development of projects that enhance local economies. Therefore, BPDC has formed and maintained partnerships with a number of community partners. The District 4 Human Resource Development Council has representation on our Microbusiness loan review committee as well as our Board of Directors. The Council's goals are to serve, advise, educate, and most importantly, aid society in projects aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty. Havre Area Job Service Workforce Center is another key partner who serves job seekers and area employers. BPDC has cultivated a partnership with MSU-Northern, Havre's four-year university, assisting with projects such as the Community Technology Education Center, Internet Business Incubation Center, NARFI, and the Applied Technology Center. Other key partners include each of the district's Chambers of Commerce who serve the business communities in their respective locations; the Chippewa Cree Community Development Corporation serving members of the Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation; Montana Cooperative Development Center, housed at MSU-Northern, assisting in the development of cooperatives in the state of Montana; Havre Public Schools; and PhillCo Economic Growth Council, the economic development agency for Phillips County. BPDC also maintains close relationships with a number of private businesses including Northwestern Energy, General Electric, Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Railroad, Hill County Electric Cooperative, Triangle Telephone Cooperative and Montana Farmer's Union.
17. Describe the role the partners will play in this project.
BPDC will serve as the project lead and will coordinate all activities of the Microenterprise Network Exploratory Learning and Technology Development Lab initiative. Sohodojo will provide technical assistance, broadband Internet access and expertise in research and development of new and emerging technologies. NARFI will provide the transportation for the portable lab as well as curriculum development and technical assistance.
18. Identify any HP employees or HP organizations that have provided support to your agency.
BPDC has not received support from HP in the past but looks forward to a mutually beneficial relationship in the future.
Web sites for the primary collaborators under the Microenterprise Networks initiative are located at the following URLs:
· Bear Paw Development Corporation: http://bearpaw.org
· Sohodojo: http://sohodojo.com
· North American Rural Futures Institute: http://narfi.org
More information on the strategic vision and technical background for R&D supporting Microenterprise Networks can be found at the following URLs:
Nanocorp, Atomic Theory and the Network Effect
The Yin-Yang of e-Commerce Engines: How Small is
Good Business Webs Will Compete in the Story-driven Marketplaces of the 21st
Two Small Is Good Business Webs Compared
New Economy Venture Capital: A Nanocorp Perspective
Business Webs at Sohodojo: Technology To Support
Sustainable Entrepreneurial Activity in Rural and Distressed Urban Communities
Argonne National Lab at U. Chicago Supports Sohodojo
With Technology Transfer
How Microenterprise Networks can harness the "scatterling effect" to constructively address rural depopulation:
Creatively Rethinking Rural Depopulation: Scattering the Seeds and Reaping the Bounty of the Network Society