KanREN: Empowering local community through connection and collaboration
KanREN, the Kansas state research and education network, connects government and community anchor institutions to more than just the internet; it connects them to the greater community.
When Jim Wisdom, the IT Director for the City of Lawrence, reached out to inquire about the potential of connecting the police department and other local anchors together, KanREN was quick to support his vision. Wisdom immediately saw value in partnering with KanREN, with its community focus and commitment to expedited solutions. “[Wisdom] saw us as a partner in the opportunity to stitch all of these institutions together and set the foundation for potential collaboration,” shares Cort Buffington, Executive Director of KanREN. With Wisdom becoming a key champion, the project expanded to connect the public library, the local hospital, and eventually the county government.
"Technology is not the big story here—the importance of this project was bringing people together."
— Cort Buffington, Executive Director of KanREN.
“One of lessons we learned was that each of our community anchor institutions is part of two communities - a community of other organizations like them (libraries are part of a larger library community, hospitals are part of a larger hospital community) and the physical community where they’re all located,” Buffington shares. “By and large, what we learned was that not just in Lawrence, but everywhere, most community anchor institutions don’t know or don’t communicate with others within their physical community; they’re still struggling to come together.”
One clear illustration of the power of these newly-enabled connections in the City of Lawrence is through the critical backup for it emergency 911 and dispatch services. KanREN was able to create connections for Johnson County, Kansas City PD, City of Lawrence, and Kansas University Public Safety to Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), which provides emergency 911 backup and dispatch.
The connection allows these institutions to ensure that this critical service is always available to residents even in the case of local failure. “Technology is not the big story here—the importance of this project was bringing people together,” says Buffington. In a similar vein, with the resiliency of KanREN’s connection, the Lawrence Public Library has been able to provide essential internet connectivity in long multi-day outages.
These connections forged between local leaders and community anchor institutions is a foundation for limitless future collaborations. “They never realized how much they have in common until they were in a room together,” says Buffington. “Our part in creating a physical network to connect them is just the glue that brought them together.”
Check out a recent Twitter feed to see how KanREN keeps their community connected!