Last week I spent my time in Cleveland, Ohio, at the third annual Net Inclusion conference. This gathering, organized by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), is very special. I’m biased because I’m a board member of NDIA, but also because this conference feels like a family reunion. I have been involved in digital literacy work since 2003 and began leading CTN in 2008. In that time I’ve developed relationships that last to this day with everyone I can find who has the same passion I do for closing the digital divide. Nearly all of these people attend the conference, and the number of my surrogate family members grows each year.
Beyond this annual conference, we connect monthly via video conference calls to hear updates from Anglea Siefer, Executive Director of NDIA, learn about pressing policy issues that need our support, and share news from our corners of the country.
At the conference I had the pleasure of sharing CTN’s story of how we diversified our fundraising. This was on a panel with two other NDIA board members, Wanda Davis, Executive Director of the Ashbury Senior Computer Community Center, and Susan Corbett, CEO of Axiom Technologies. We are pictured here with Mark Batson, COO/CIO for The Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland, who facilitated our presentation. I quickly walked through how we started in 2008 with $12,000 in foundation funding and grew our income to a healthy mix of grants (from both foundations and corporations), government contracts, earned income, and individual donors.
Beyond the hugs and catching up with my digital inclusion tribe, other highlights from this conference were many. We traveled by trolley bus to three locations, including a fabulous community learning center called PNC Fairfax Connection, which is fully funded by PNC Bank. I listened to a panel of speakers representing housing authorities across the country and the work they’ve done to help ensure that their residents get access to the technology training needed to be successful at school and work. We attended a screening of Dividing Lines, a short film telling the story of three people and how their lives have been impacted by having, or not having, access to high-speed internet. After the screening we heard from Susan Crawford, the John A. Reilly Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and author of Captive Audience. Her powerful talk had us riled up and ready to cause a ruckus.
I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference, which will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina. Stay up to date on NDIA and their activities by joining for free as an affiliate here. Better yet, join as a subscriber (sliding scale) and attend those monthly conference calls. I’m continually inspired and energized by the amazing work happening across the country to include underserved communities in the digital revolution!