Photo: Register for the DA4A National Philanthropy Scan Webversation happening 11/17/23

New Digital Access Report – “Pathways Forward: Learnings and Takeaways in Digital Access”

Posted on November 04, 2023 by Andrew Spector, TPF Fellow 2023/24

From October 2022 to June 2023, The Patterson Foundation's (TPF) Digital Access for All initiative and The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR) co-hosted a series of eight virtual funder-to-funder workshops to connect and share digital access learnings across the country from a funders perspective. The workshops brought together 343 people representing 122 funders from across 32 states.

These workshops were a follow-up to TPF’s early Phase 1 2022 National Philanthropy Scan report, Society and Philanthropy in Action: Creating New Realities in Digital Access, a multi-sector learning journey exploring how thought leaders, government, businesses, and nonprofits operate and invest in the Digital Access space.

The workshops were titled:

  1. Discovering Pathways for Astonishing Success in Connectivity
  2. Multi-Sector Collaborations in Digital Access: No One Said it Would Be Easy
  3. Digital Access and Devices: Scaling the Work Domestically and Internationally with Corporate and Nonprofit Partners
  4. Digital Access and Telehealth: What’s Working, What are the Challenges, and What are the Opportunities?
  5. Digital Access and Data: How can Funders Bridging the Digital Divide use Data to Drive Strategy and Impact?
  6. Breaking Digital Access Barriers in Education by Catalyzing Effective Community Ecosystems
  7. Leave No Human Behind: How are Funders Closing the Gap in Digital Literacy?
  8. What it Means to Drive Systems Change in Digital Access
There were countless learnings shared across the eight workshops that supported strengthening the digital access efforts of funders from across the country. With that being said, our top five takeaways are:
  1. It’s highly valuable to create spaces for learning, sharing, and connecting around digital access. We have a lot to learn from each other, and sharing stories of successes and challenges was instructive for our paths forward.
  2. Multi-sector and multi-organization collaboration is key to successful digital access efforts. There is a unique value to each sector: philanthropy can innovate, pilot, and take risks; government has size and funding; businesses, particularly internet service providers, can provide in-kind support; and higher education can support with research and evaluation. Having different organizations is valuable, too. Each organization can play a distinctive role in an overall strategy. Three or more partners were cited as the right quantity for collaboration. Funder collaboratives are powerful.
  3. While connectivity, literacy, and devices remain the core three elements of digital access work, it is also important to consider systems-level and long-term approaches that include policy and advocacy as well as ecosystem building.
  4. Data is valuable for identifying areas of need, developing a targeted strategy, measuring outcomes, and continuously improving. If we can understand and track digital access across geography and other demographics, grantmaking can be more strategic.
  5. Digital access intersects with other key issue areas. For instance, as virtual healthcare and education opportunities increase, only those with digital access can benefit. This can be an invitation to other funders who might not have previously considered funding digital access.

We’re enthusiastic about the impact of the eight workshops and pleased to share the follow-up report, “Pathways Forward: Learnings and Takeaways in Digital Access.” On November 17th from 12-1pm EST, we’re hosting a webversation to share highlights from the report, further connect funders in the digital access space, reflect together, and discuss digital access strategy moving forward. Interested funders can RSVP here.

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