“El que no habla, dios no lo escucha,” Lupe Valenzuela, Strategy and Technology Operations Director for Chicanos Por La Causa, said during one of the first panels of the 2023 National Digital Inclusion Alliance Net Inclusion conference. “If you do not ask, I cannot hear you.”
Such a simple reminder, yet also one that is so necessary, not just within community advocacy spaces but also within our own daily lives. How do we show up for others? And do we also show up for ourselves?
Each year, the NDIA’s Net Inclusion marks the start of a new season. Not literally speaking (though it certainly already felt like summer in San Antonio, Texas when we landed Monday), but Net Inclusion, the largest gathering of digital equity advocates and professionals in the country, grounds us in our mission, our purpose, and our passion — it’s also the first of many conferences The Enterprise Center has the privilege of both learning from and presenting at in the coming months.
At The Enterprise Center, we strive not only to always ask when needed, but to answer the calls when they come our way. So to pause, gather, and commune with 800 other like-minded individuals from across the country is always both reinvigorating and eye-opening.
This year, we’re honored to have had two TEC team members speak about their experiences at Net Inclusion. Our CEO Deb Socia discussed sustainable programming, Wednesday morning, diving into how to diversify funding sources, persevere, and expand in Fundraising for Sustainable Digital Equity Programs.
At the same time, our COO Geoff Millener was a panelist for Building Local Digital Inclusion Ecosystems, focused on building healthy partner ecosystems — including sharing HCS EdConnect, powered by EPB, and how collaboration has led to providing no-cost, in-home internet to 16,000+ students across Hamilton County.
Later that same day, Mateo Jimenez, our American Connection Corps Fellow, shared his insight on how to attract young, driven, passionate individuals to digital equity work as well as how programs like HCS EdConnect made a difference in his own life.
Beyond the opportunity to share our own insights and expertise, the lessons learned and connections made through Net Inclusion truly help set the tone for our work: What is already being done? Who can we partner with to strengthen these efforts? What insights do you have that you are willing to share? What can we contribute that can help you?
We aim to always ask these questions, so that we can nurture this annual ritual of sharing community knowledge — meaning stories of success as well as the pitfalls and lessons inevitable along the way.
Later this month, Deb will join many of these same colleagues from Net Inclusion for the 25th Annual Rural Development Conference. There, alongside our partners at THRIVE Regional Partnership, NDIA, and Next Century Cities, they will tackle the specific challenges facing rural Americans and their barriers to broadband access.
Next, at ISTE’s educator’s conference in Philadelphia, both Deb and our Boston College research team, led by Dr. Damian Bebell, will present findings from our ongoing HCS EdConnect work, where data points to in-home internet as the missing component to increasing parental school engagement, encouraging family togetherness through shared experiences of connectivity, and much more.
Finally, at Mountain Connect in Denver, we’ll speak alongside partners at Parkridge and with our local Orchard Knob Neighborhood Association, about how a community turned a multi-decade wish list into the Orchard Knob Collaborative, encompassing major stakeholders across the city, leveraging public-private partnerships, and earning a $608K TVA Connected Communities Pilot Grant to address health disparities.
Addressing social determinants of health and eliminating barriers to access, Deb often says, “is both economically viable as well as morally the right thing to do.”
At the same time, in order to do this work sustainably, we must connect with and learn from others who are engaged in similar work. No one person or team has all of the answers, but collectively, there is a depth of experience and creative problem solving that can help us all improve our outcomes. And this is why opportunities like NDIA’s Net Inclusion are such a crucial component of our work. It is a space that invites questions and facilitates solutions.
During the final day of the conference, next year’s conference location was announced: The Enterprise Center is thrilled to finally be able to share publicly that Chattanooga will be the location of Net Inclusion 2024!
We can’t wait to host you – and hear you – for Net Inclusion next year.