Photo: Pathways Forward: Learnings and Takeaways in Digital Access" National Philanthropy Scan Report Phase 2, Webversation 11/17/23

"Pathways Forward: Learnings and Takeaways in Digital Access" National Philanthropy Scan Report Phase 2, Webversation 11/17/23

Posted on November 29, 2023 by Andrew Spector, TPF Fellow 2023/24
On November 17, The Patterson Foundation (TPF) brought together 30 people representing 27 funders from across the United States and Canada for the "Pathways Forward: Learnings and Takeaways in Digital Access" National Philanthropy Scan Report, Phase 2, Webversation. The purpose of the Webversation was to share the report, discuss strategy in response to the report, increase connective tissue between digital access funders, and explore the ways funders are moving work in digital access forward.

"Pathways Forward: Learnings and Takeaways in Digital Access" is the result of eight virtual funder-to-funder workshops co-hosted by The Patterson Foundation, Digital Access for All, and The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading from October 2022 to June 2023. Those workshops addressed a variety of topics, including multi-sector and multi-organization collaboration, the intersections between digital access and education and healthcare, leveraging data, and a systems-change approach. The report summarizes each workshop and shares key learnings. In this blog post, we shared our top five takeaways from the report.

The webversation included a presentation on the report from Cheri Coryea, TPF Initiative Lead for Digital Access for All, a breakout discussion on the report, and a panel with Q&A. Panelists were Cathy Lee, Director of Education and Career Success at the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Kate Machet, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Government Relations at Essex County Community Foundation in Massachusetts, and Veatrice Farrell, Director of Digital Inclusion Project at Community Foundation of Tampa Bay.

Panelists highlighted the importance of a long-term, collaborative approach to digital access work. Indeed, the three essential elements of digital access are 1) devices, 2) connectivity, and 3) skills/support. Devices are expensive and time-bound in their lifespan, which means funder collaboratives and government funding can be helpful. Connectivity benefits from collaboration with Internet Service Providers and often requires immense funding support, which, like with devices, can benefit from funder collaboratives and government funding. Skills/support takes time and community proximity, which makes collaboration across nonprofits key.

At the end of the panel, we received a question about the status of digital access legislation. The uncertainty of federal funding rollout by state from the 2021 $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Job Act reinforced the importance of a multi-sector and multi-organization approach to digital access work.

As the Digital Equity Act (DEA) of 2021 established $60 million for states to develop their State Digital Equity Plan and $42.45 billion from the National Telecommunications Administration (NTIA) to create the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program (BEAD), participants realized this is a unique opportunity for funders of all sectors to collaboratively work in the space of digital equity on behalf of asset-limited families. This type of federal funding is unprecedented and is scheduled to end in May 2026. Unless extended, staying connected and sharing organizational gaps is even more important for strengthening people, organizations, and communities that continue to be impacted by the Digital Divide.

A large majority of participants communicated a desire to stay connected following the Webversation, and the impact of the time we spent together supported the importance of the national reach of work in the Digital Access for All Initiative. We look forward to continuing to create innovative, collaborative, and connecting spaces for that to happen.

Leave a comment

You are commenting as guest.