Back in April, The Patterson Foundation (TPF) began the exploration phase of a new initiative, Digital Access for All (DA4A). The DA4A team started diving into reports and research, and conducting interviews with national, regional, and local thought leaders to understand the many facets of the issues contributing to the digital divide in a holistic way.
The primary objective was to learn as much as we could. Then, share our newly found knowledge and engage in meaningful discussion with interested local parties to see what possibilities might emerge to achieve our shared aspiration of digital access for all.
With each interview we conducted, two questions were always asked before we concluded: What else should we be exploring? and Who else should we talk with? These interviews became the academic equivalent of a mythical hydra, where each one would lead to several more connections and valuable research to absorb. Additionally, we promised to stay connected as our work continued to expand. Locally, we promised to get back in touch and share our learnings.
On November 20, we hosted our first webversation (TPF’s version of an interactive webinar) entitled, “Digital Access for All: Where we are now and where we might go.” More than 20 community leaders from our region joined the DA4A team to share insights from the past six months.
In 90 minutes on a Thursday morning, everyone in attendance participated in what could only be described as a rich and robust learning and sharing experience. Through our framework of The Three Essential Elements of Digital Access (Connectivity, Devices, Skills/Support), the DA4A team shared an overview of our exploration and our most critical lessons learned, pausing for comments and insights from participants along the way.
Then, the true magic happened. We all engaged in an activity called Rose, Thorn, Bud. We explored things that were already going well in our area concerning digital access (Roses), what barriers or pain points currently stand in our way (Thorns), and then what promising opportunities or possibilities are emerging that could lead to meaningful change (Buds).
Through that highly engaging conversation, we came to understand how important the issue of digital access is, especially within disadvantaged communities. We also discovered that many committed community leaders within our region are addressing the challenge of bridging the digital divide and creating a place where people, regardless of circumstance, have the digital access necessary to fully participate in today’s digital society.