The Nation's First
Websites mentioned in this survey:
Task Force Websites:
Special thanks to Tom Atlee of the The Co-Intelligence Institute who created this survey; David Sunfellow, James Gregory, Linda Becker and Sherry Stultz of NHNE, The NHNE Y2K Report, wild2k, and The Sedona Y2K Task Force, who compiled the data, created this website, tested links, and conducted the statistical analysis; Steve Davis of Coalition 2000 who double-checked the data for accuracy; and Liza Christian, former Executive Director of The Rogue Valley Task Force, Sheri Nakken, of The Western Nevada County Y2K Preparedness Network, Seth Carmichael, of Y2K Youth Action Network, Halim Dunsky, of The Y2K Community Project, Dusty Rhodes, of Y2K in East Texas, and many others who provided valuable feedback and/or helped circulate this survey via their mailing lists.
All Comments concerning this website can be directed to David Sunfellow at email@example.com. All comments concerning the various perspectives contained in this survey can be directed to the authors in question.
The Senate Special Committee on
the Y2K Technology Problem
On Tuesday, May 4th, 1999, Tom Atlee of the The Co-Intelligence Institute circulated an article that he and Rosa Zubizarreta, co-founder of the Oakland 2001 Y2K Task Force, had written. After reading the article, which consisted of an upbeat summary of various Y2K efforts around the country, David Sunfellow, Director of The Sedona Y2K Task Force and publisher of The NHNE Y2K Report, wrote Tom saying that the efforts of his local task force, and the efforts of many other grassroots organizations he had heard from, were having a much more difficult time motivating their local communities than the groups Tom and Rosa had written about. David wondered how current the information was in Tom and Rosa's article (Tom indicated the article had been written a month earlier) and suggested that it might be a good idea to poll groups to find out how, exactly, their efforrts were going. Tom agreed and drafted a survey. The first draft was shared with several key Y2K organizers for feedback, and then the survey was sent out to numerous online Y2K mailing lists. This website houses the responses we received from this survey.
By David Sunfellow
The Y2K Grassroots Community Preparedness Survey took place over the course of 11 days -- from May 8th to May 19th. It was conducted exclusively online with two primary goals: 1. To give grassroot organizers a clear idea what was happening around the country on the level of individual and community preparedness; 2. To share this information with John Koskinen, Senator Bennett, and other influential leaders. Once we learned that Senator Bennett's Year 2000 Subcommittee was holding a special hearing on individual and community preparedness on May 25th, we set May 20th as our target date, which was when Tania Calhoun, the woman responsible for organizing the May 25th hearing, requested that all written testimonies be completed. Because of this self-imposed deadline, we did not have time to contact all of the grassroots organizations that are presently using the Internet to further their work.
After the survey questions were formulated, they were sent to a handful of influential Y2K organizers and posted to Tom Atlee and David Sunfellow's mailing lists. Tom's list presently reaches about 500 people, while David's lists reach about 2400 people. The survey questions were then picked up by several smaller grassroots Y2K mailing lists -- in New York, Vermont, California, Washington State, Washington D.C., Texas and elsewhere -- and circulated among their members. Combined, these lists reached at least 700 more people, or about 3600 people total.
100 people -- from 29 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, and Australia -- responded. Their answers form the basis of this survey.
77 of these people allowed us to post their names, addresses, and comments publicly, while the remaining 23 asked for us to keep their names and addresses private.
Since this survey consists of feedback from people who are actively seeking to inform and mobilize their local communities, it contains a wealth of difficult to acquire, "in-the-trenches" information concerning how grassroots efforts are unfolding all over the nation. It describes how efforts are going in various regions of the country, offers lessons learned and practical suggestions for organizing other parts of the country, and contains the most current, comprehensive database of Y2K organizers presently available (names, email addresses, website addresses, phone and fax numbers, and mailing addresses).
While this survey contains information concerning a wide variety of topics, several main themes emerge:
Most grassroot organizers report that efforts to organize their local community are becoming increasingly difficult, that public interest in Y2K preparations have declined (several organizers mention March as a turning point -- this is when local interest in Y2K began to plummet), and very little progress has been made with city governments since January.
On the other hand, a significant number of organizers feel their efforts are bearing fruit -- especially on the level of working with city governments. Many report that strong alliances have been formed between grassroots organizations and city governments and that significant progress is made being because of this cooperation.
Whether their efforts are bearing fruit or not, nearly all grassroots organizers lament the way the federal government and corporate leaders are handling Y2K. Again and again, they say that grassroots efforts, all over the country, are suffering -- and in many cases, being seriously threatened -- by the "don't worry, we'll have everything fixed" refrain coming from government and corporate circles. Comparing potential Y2K disruptions to a mild winter storm, has also made it extremely difficult to mobilize community-wide responses to potential Y2K failures. Most organizers believe this analogy is false, misleading, and creating a dangerous sense of complacency in the public at large which, in turn, is making their job extremely difficult.
Many organizers are expecting a major resurgence of interest in Y2K as July, October, and December approach and the public at large begins to realize how serious the situation is. These organizers are concerned that there will not be enough time or resources to effectively deal with this last minute, possibly panic-driven resurgence of interest. They want to see all levels of society prepare now, while there is still time, and urge government agencies, corporations, and news organizations to be more honest and forthright in their reporting.
Finally, many Y2K organizers view Y2K as one of a growing number of threats to our current way of life. They believe communities need to be more "resilient" to meet whatever happens. By this they mean that solutions should be community-oriented, self-sufficient, earth-friendly, decentralized, and involve all sectors of each community in real dialogue -- both for the short term through Y2K, and for the long-term into the next millennium. Simple top-down or technological solutions may not be capable of handling the complexity and unpredictability of problems like Y2K.
Who are these people and how are they helping themselves and their communities prepare for Y2K?
Most of the people who responded to this survey identified themselves as "community organizers" -- people who are actively engaged in the day-to-day activity of informing and mobilizing their local communities. In addition, at least 19 of these respondents are the directors of their local task forces and many serve as public speakers, webmasters, business people and journalists.
Here is a breakdown of how our survey respondents described themselves (the survey allowed them to choose as many different categories as applied to them):
Community organizers = 64
Ordinary citizens = 53
Public Speakers = 50
Maintainers of websites = 28
Business persons = 22
Task Force Directors = 19
Journalists = 16
Programmers & Y2K Project Coordinators = 7
Publishers = 7
Government officials = 4
Something else (teachers, emergency management officials, Y2K researchers, consultants, educators and information suppliers, radio announcers, etc.) = 22
After identifying who the respondents were and how they were helping their communities, the survey then asked how their efforts were going. Here are their answers:
1. In general, since January, has your Y2K community organizing work been going:
a) better = 24
b) about the same = 23
c) worse = 43
other = 5
no answer = 5
2. Has public interest in Y2K preparedness:
a) increased = 20
b) stayed about the same = 11
c) decreased = 56
other = 3
no answer = 10
3. Have relationships with your local government about Y2K:
a) moved ahead well = 32
b) not changed much since January = 37
c) slacked off or gotten worse = 12
other = 3
no answer = 16
The fourth and final question on the survey asked if there was anything else about your Y2K community work that you would like Y2K Czar John Koskinen, national Y2K organizers and/or other local Y2K groups to know? While many survey respondents described efforts in their local communities, offered advice, and talked about other issues important to them, most (55 organizers) loudly lamented the way the federal government has been handling Y2K. As mentioned above, these organizers believed the government's handling of Y2K was not only misleading the American public, but could lead to serious, widespread, and dire consequences if not immediately addressed. Here are a few examples:
"The government and major industry leaders have done a remarkable job in calming the public about the potential risks associated with Y2K to the point that there seems a disregard for the need for any preparation. The message comes across as: NO disruptions, NO worries, NO need. Could this possibly be a case of oversell? I see a considerable drop in interest in preparing contingency plans among citizens, businesses, and even the city and county emergency response agencies. Please be aware that the message is being received as ALL CLEAR. My concern is that in our haste to avoid panic, we have instead induced a SOMA-like state of complacency. Danger exists with either extreme, let us not substitute one overreaction with another."
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