By: Brian Donoghue
One through-line of the programming presented by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) and their community of digital equity advocates at Net Inclusion was a concerted effort to empower local leaders.Ideas and collaborations launched at the conference in San Antonio will shape broadband strategies throughout communities over the next year.
Next Century Cities joined NDIA Research Director Amy Huffman and other national leaders to lead a workshop that equipped community broadband leaders with tools and techniques on broadband advocacy. Local officials and community leaders who are able to advocate for themselves have more opportunities to improve access and adoption.
The expert panel focused on detailed ways for attendees to talk about broadband with policymakers at all levels of government. Additionally, panelists discussed various advocacy strategies, from participating in federal rulemaking to helping their local mayor understand why broadband for all is essential for economic development.
Greg Guice, Director of Public Knowledge’s Government Affairs team, kicked off the panel by sharing guidance on advocacy through educational campaigns. Brandon Forester, MediaJustice’s National Organizer for Internet Rights, and Next Century Cities’ Deputy Director, Brian Donoghue, highlighted examples of best practices from their work with local advocates and communities, including leaving space for those in power to give you what you want gracefully. Coralette Hannon, Director of the Livable Communities team at AARP, highlighted what state offices have found helpful in developing digital equity policy for their residents.
The panel was followed by an energetic question and answer session highlighting the successful partnership between the Pennsylvania Statewide Digital Equity Coalition and the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority as well as the incredible work of the AARP Fraud Watch Network.
The workshop concluded with an interactive tabletop exercise for participants to help attendees apply the learnings from the session. Participants worked in small groups to develop a power map, a tool designed to help identify and visualize resources and obstacles related to an advocacy goal. Power maps help advocates assess the influence potential of community assets to affect policy change. It is also useful for building consensus and focus on the long-term digital equity challenges at the local, state, and federal levels.
Next Century Cities is grateful to the NDIA team for the coordination and support it provides to digital equity advocates across the country. Particular thanks go out to Amy Huffman and Munirih Santiago Jeste, NDIA Senior Programs Manager, for coordinating such an engaging and educational workshop.