Y2K Task Force Credits Strength to Member Diversity

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If technology is often seen as a culprit in the breakdown of community life and spirit, preparing for technological failure of the kind associated with the Y2K computer glitch is helping to bring community members back together.

That's what's happening in Santa Cruz County, Calif., where more than 50 citizens have formed the Santa Cruz Y2K Community Task Force. Spawned from a somewhat unlikely alliance of grassroots organizers and the business community, the task force has become a leader among national Y2K community preparedness groups.

William Ulrich, a member of the president's national Y2K Council and president of a consulting group providing Y2K-related assistance, helped found the task force and credits diversity of membership with much of its progress.

'Many community groups have a narrow vision -- teaching people how to cook on wood stoves,' he said. 'We have a much broader focus based on a broad diversity of group members.'

The task force considers its main goal to inform and empower its community around the Y2K issue. Members include staff of not-for-profit agencies, doctors, lawyers, psychologists, communications specialists and businesspeople.

With the help of a written charter and formal structure - now used by groups across the country, Ulrich said -- members volunteer to focus their efforts on either awareness or research. Awareness includes orientation of new members, public events, media coordination and emotional support and outreach. Research includes working to determine the potential level of disruption in the power supply, telecommunications, the food supply and transportation that could take place when 2000 rolls in.

Michelle Robbins, executive director of an environmental group, said the task force's mixed membership has allowed it to address this wide variety of issues. 'We're really a diverse organization and pretty unique in that way. Bill Ulrich put out a call to the computer, software, embedded chip industry at the same time we put out a call to the activist community. Since then all types of people have joined.'