Cyber Community Coalition Building Guide

Toolkit BannerCybersecurity is widely acknowledged as an essential activity, as reinforced by President Obama in the Cyberspace Policy Review. We have crafted this toolkit as a means to establish an effective and efficient cyber-safe community coalition to take on your part in securing cyberspace.  The toolkit details several key steps in the setting up of the coalition, as well as widely available tools and resources to guide its development.   
Vision/Mission Statement
Most developed community cyber coalitions have built their effort around a mutually accepted vision and mission statements. This process serves two purposes. First, clear vision and mission statements expresses to stakeholders and public citizens what it hopes to achieve and how it will achieve it. Secondly, and equally important in the establishment of a community collaboration, the process of developing the vision and statements builds a consensus among the stakeholders and can help to unify the group towards the common goals.  

Rome wasn’t built in a day and rarely are vision and mission statements hashed out in one quick meeting. Taking the time to solidify and finalize the vision and mission of the coalition right helps to avoid later confusion and builds a strong sense of ownership by all participants.

Get Buy in from StakeholdersAs cybersecurity is truly a shared responsibility amongst public and private sectors and private citizens, it is essential to build a coalition with multiple stakeholders. To be successful, key stakeholders need to be at the table early; the coalition needs to develop toward common goals and outcomes that take all stakeholders interests into account.

It is likely that the stakeholders being approached are busy people with many other priorities. Most communities that have undertaken these efforts have found very quickly that despite being busy organizations, institutions and businesses are eager to join these efforts. It is likely that potential stakeholders are already addressing cybersecurity or online safety issues within their companies, institutions or constituencies they serve and they will be interested in joining with others. Often, there is a higher purpose people see, such as protecting children or strengthening and modernizing a community to be a full blown participant in the digital age.  

Think broadly about what stakeholders should be involved. While of course getting organizations involved in technology and security are a good starting point, communities have found support for their efforts across broad spectrums of the business, government and education organizations in their communities. If you have military or other Federal government facilities in the community, be sure to reach out to them as well. They may both have willing stakeholders as well as expertise.
A good way to start is with one-on-one meetings with community leaders to get their buy in. Some communities have made the rounds meeting with leaders with the goal of asking them to attend just one meeting to see if they want to participate further. This is a relatively easy ask. They have found that if people attend one meeting, see who else is involved and gain better understanding of the important role the coalition can play in their community, they will join the effort with enthusiasm.
  • Find a small core from list below to come together and create mission statement and coalition parameters to take to broader audience
  • Start with already established personal relationships, if possible
Initial InvitesPeople in every community are working on this issue, it is just a matter of finding them and bringing them together to work in a more collaborative way. Think broadly as many constituencies in the community have a stake in the issue:
  • K-12 Education institutions – Superintendents, administrators, school counselors, IT directors, technical/charter schools, private schools.
  • Higher Ed- local universities and community colleges especially those with computer security, information security and computer science departments (their staff and students)
  • Local government – Police, Sheriff’s office, municipal and county elected officials involved in public safety or economic development
  • Industry – Corporate leaders in your community in a related field, ISP providers, mobile companies, software development firms
  • Law enforcement experts – Crimes against children officers, school resource officers, crime prevention officers, community liaisons
  • Senior citizens – Local senior center leaders, Area Agency on Aging
  • Chamber of commerce – other local business organizations: lions club, rotary.
  • Non-profit groups that focus on education for children and seniors, neighborhood watch
  • Youth serving organizations: Boys and Girls Clubs, YWCA, YMCA, After School programs.
  • FBI/InfraGard (FBI public private partnership effort) local chapters nationwide
  • Libraries
  • Critical infrastructure - utility companies, water districts, and transportation departments. See list of critical infrastructure components at (ADD URL)
  • State government – Chief Information Security Officer, Department of Education, Attorney General, State Police (crimes against children or fraud specialist)
  • Media outlets – bloggers, journalists, local news
  • Law Professor – specializing in cyber ethics, cyber law, privacy and IP protection.
Resources NeededCommunity coalitions can’t make progress without resources. Resources can come in many ways: donated time, donated money, meeting space (and refreshments), web hosting and other services (email lists, marketing help, etc.). Having participants provide even the smallest support to the effort can help build commitment and ownership.  Even with all the generosity of donated time and specific resources, at some point the project will need funds to pay for program activities.  The resources each project will need will differ based on the activities of the project. When thinking about budgeting, keep the following line items in mind:
  • People/human resources dedicated to the project, including web developer, or a project coordinator
  • A Web site presence for the effort
  • List Serve/project management – to facilitate communications
  • Meeting spaces (if you need to rent)
  • Paid Staffing – unless volunteers are willing and able
    • Website – ($4,000/yr.) webmaster plus hosting fees
    • Coordinator  - $1,200/yr. – Handle list serve admin, securing site for meetings, send out meeting reminders (grad student in IT or Information Assurance is one idea).
ChampionThe group benefits if one or two people are able to be the lead in the community, the face of the organization, and the one(s) who talk to the press. This person can work on recruiting new members and private partners who are willing to sponsor events.

Resources AvailableThe good news is that as communities decide on a way forward, they will not have to start from scratch. There are many free resources available to address specific needs, such as basic awareness raising materials and educational programs. In this tool kit we have included examples of the following:
  • Coalition website plan example
  • Invite template for first meeting
  • Agendas for first meeting
  • Speakers ideas
  • Coalition framework defined w/deliverables
Free StuffThere is also a tremendous amount of ready to use resources on education and awareness, tip sheets and more from a variety of sources including:
Getting StartedIt is beneficial to hold an event in the early stages of the effort; the event brings the community together and educates them about the critical nature of the issue. In some cases, these can be stakeholder meetings to build support for the effort, or it can be an event that educates the community (National Cyber Security Awareness Month events).  Events also provide opportunities for leaders public reinforce their commitment to the effort and get credit for their work.  A few tips for kick-off events are below:
  • Have a Kickoff Event
    • Build the invite list using key partners – Sherriff’s office; Township police, ISD, a non-profit (cyber focused), Chamber of Commerce, schools (K-12 and higher education)
    • Craft a Message and send the invite (see template)
    • Recruit speakers from ‘outside’, i.e.:  DHS, FBI/Infragard, State CIO office, Industry, Attorney General, School leadership etc.
    • Share the vision
    • Raise awareness and recruit workgroup members
      • Have sign up sheets on the tables at the event with workgroup names and mission statements
      • Actively ask attendees to join by filling out form
Structure and Leadership Once an effort has started it won’t be long until there will be a need to have clear organizational structure and leadership. Due to the broad nature of cyber and online security, most communities have developed a working group structure for their coalition. Working groups allow people with specific interests, concerns or expertise to work with their peers to address a segment of the issue in their community. Working groups can take on individual projects and/or work on larger efforts through the lens of their working group. For example, an education and awareness work group might take on creating materials for dissemination in the community or it may coordinate with other groups to get education material disseminated via other workgroups.
  • Create Working Groups to tackle specific areas of projects. Communities have found that working groups is a great way to channel the energy and expertise of community members into an area of the project where they can have an immediate impact. Some of the working groups communities have formed include:
    • Awareness:  Spread the STOP.THINK.CONNECT. Message and other materials throughout the community to improve awareness.
    • Crime Prevention: Create and implement a “Cyber 101” class for small business in the community.
    • Education:  Create and maintain website, speaker list and bring nationally recognized curriculum into classrooms, senior centers and workplaces.
    • Public private partnerships: Educate private partners on the mission of coalition and solicit membership for workgroups and donations for events.
    • Policy: Research best practices for workplace policy relating to cyber safety.
  • Set up a Working group structure that helps to keep the project on track and makes it easier to manage, for example have each group:
    • Meet once a month simultaneously
      • Each group meets separately for 1 hour and then comes together for 30 minutes to discuss projects
        • Projects, people and missions overlap, so this step is helpful for cohesiveness of the overall vision
  • Plan events – using the resources in your group, decide what your communities needs are and have events to meet those needs.  Below are examples of some events held by one group.
    • Some examples:
      • STEM education event for middle school girls
      • Cyber Ethics and Laws for School Administrators
      • “Online Safety for Teens” – teen event
      • “Online Safety for Seniors” – senior citizen event
      • “Online Safety for Kids” – parent event
      • “Cyber security 101 for Small Business”
      • CSAVE events in classrooms
Steering Committee Keeping an all inclusive, collaborative community coalition coordinated and on track takes work. Therefore, having a group that is committed to leadership is important. Creating a Steering Committee is a good way to address that issue. In most cases the Steering Committee is comprised of at least one member, or a chair, of each working group plus a few other key people such as civic or government leaders that are critical to the project’s success. Steering Committee meetings usually involve information sharing about the activities of the working groups and strategic planning. Some communities also have periodic meetings of all stakeholders to keep everybody informed, including the broader community, of what is happening in the effort. There are many options for leadership of the Steering Committee including assigning a chair or co-chairs or rotating leadership on a meeting-by-meeting basis.

Long-Term LeadershipWhile it is suggested that coalitions start by taking on reasonable size projects based on community priorities, it is anticipated that each success will result in wanting to take on more projects and extensive work. At some point, there may be a need to seek funding from government, industry, foundations or others. To do so the coalition would need to have the infrastructure place to accept and account for funds.

There are many options available to meet this need, to include: standing up a nonprofit organization specifically for this effort; being housed in another nonprofit that can provide administration and financial management; or, having it reside in a municipal agency.

Meeting the needs of our communities as they face the challenge of online safety can be done if we all work together. Become a champion today by starting a cyber community coalition.