Well that's been my impression, based on the sole experience of my local freenet the Vancouver Community Network, VCN. Don't get me wrong they're very ... utilitarian.
VCN Vision Statement
The Vancouver Community Network strives to be an inclusive, multicultural, community-based organization which ensures the free, accessible electronic creation and exchange of the broadest range of information, experience, ideas and wisdom.
VCN Mission Statement
The Vancouver Community Network owns, operates and promotes a free, publicly accessible, non-commercial, community computer utility in the Lower Mainland of BC which provides a public space on the Internet.
To encourage the development of a wide range of electronic community information and communications resources.
To encourage the broadest possible participation of community and non-profit organizations in making their information available on the CommunityNet.
To work with community and non-profit organizations to make VCN a community building tool.
To support individuals and organizations in building and maintaining public space on the Internet internationally.
To work with other BC and Canadian Community Networks, such as Telecommunities Canada, to support Canadian community computer networks.
To educate and encourage the public in the use of the Internet.
To work toward the widest possible public access to the Internet, government and other information through Community Networks, other non-profit organizations, such as libraries, and other public access sites.
To expand the multicultural and inclusive nature of the Vancouver CommunityNet.
To expand and strengthen the membership and user base of VCN.
To build sustainability through ongoing funding, a strong and effective board and staff, and operational and financial accountability.
It's just when it come to engagement they're, they're ... not.
Contrast VCN with the Birmingham: Community Empowerment Network, b:cen, and suddenly my attitude shifts. B:cen is clear, coherent and seemingly contributes to a sense of community, and community economic development.