New DELL Case Study in JoCI

Daniel Kohn ImageI am excited to share the news that my colleagues, Malana Krongelb, Jie Jiang, and I have an extended version of our Digital Equity Leadership Lab (DELL) case study published in the new issue of The Journal of Community Informatics, which my Co-Editor-In-Chief Peter Johnson and I put online earlier today.

I also hope the case study will be helpful in the broadband policy context, as the Federal Communications Commission has established a Task Force to define and prevent what they are calling “digital discrimination.”

Here is the abstract below.

This paper presents the Digital Equity Leadership Lab in Baltimore, Maryland as a case study of community leadership development to promote digital equity and justice. While several studies of community leadership development exist, few are focused on its role in promoting digital equity and justice. This case study attempts to address this gap in the scholarly literature through the following research question: How might DELL serve as a community-based leadership training model to develop the next wave of digital equity leaders? Through our analysis of interviews with community leaders, outside experts, and community foundation staff, we discovered the following three main findings: (1) bringing national policymakers and advocates together with community leaders is powerful and transformative; (2) digital inequality is a social, not a technological problem; and (3) community leaders need access to a shared platform and to each other to create change. These findings suggest that community leaders can benefit from seeing their work within a digital equity ecosystems framework, which calls attention to the importance the interactions that exist among individuals, populations, communities, and their broader sociotechnical environments that all shape the work to promote more equitable access to technology and social and racial justice. This case study report concludes with recommendations for community leaders, including community foundations, working to uncover systemic discrimination shaping digital inequality today to advance digital equity and justice.

The full paper is open access and available for download on the journal’s website.

(Image above by Daniel Kohn available via a Creative Commons license on Flickr)

Announcing the Launch of Digital Equity Research Center

cropped-DERCI am incredibly grateful to everyone who’s supported me over these past few months since leaving my position at Simmons University, including my colleagues at the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society and the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry where I continue to keep affiliations.

Today, I am incredibly privileged to be able to announce my new role as Founder and Director of the Digital Equity Research Center at the Metropolitan New York Library Council. I am excited to lead this brand new initiative at METRO that will center social, economic, and racial justice in community-based and participatory digital equity research projects. Thank you to Nate Hill and the METRO Board of Trustees for this extraordinary opportunity. Today, we begin.

Here’s a snippet from the press release:

“The Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) is pleased to announce the launch of the Digital Equity Research Center (DERC), a new applied research center with a focus on working with communities to better understand and co-design meaningful responses to local digital equity challenges. DERC provides in-depth, high quality research and analysis to inform digital equity practitioners, policymakers, and philanthropic communities in New York City, Westchester County, and beyond. Toward this goal, DERC engages in community-based and participatory digital equity research to advance social, economic, and racial justice.

DERC assumes digital inequality must include analyses of structural racism, economic injustice, and other forms of oppression in order to understand and address the root causes of the digital divide. Digital equity will not be achieved simply by distributing technology and internet access alone. Therefore, DERC uses critical theoretical insights along with participatory research methods to ensure those most impacted by the digital divide are included, whenever possible, in interventions to promote digital equity and social justice.”

Digital Equity Leadership Lab Case Study Published

DELL Blog Post Cover

I’m super excited to announce that the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation published my case study of their Digital Equity Leadership Lab (DELL) today. The case study began with the following key research question: How might DELL serve as a community-based leadership training model to develop the next wave of digital equity leaders?

Through my interviews with DELL participants, outside experts who led DELL workshop sessions, and Deutsch Foundation staff, I discovered three key findings emerged from my qualitative analysis:

  1. bringing national policymakers and advocates together with community leaders is powerful and transformative;
  2. digital inequality is a social not a technological problem; and
  3. community leaders need access to a shared platform and each other to create change.

Following from these findings the following three recommendations were provided, particularly for other grassroots organizers, philanthropic organizations, policymakers, and other key stakeholders interested in promoting leadership in digital equity and justice initiatives nationwide.

  1. Capacity building and train-the-trainer models are important for community leadership development, but without access to policymakers and advocates on a national level, community leaders may lack a holistic view and understanding of the problems and community- developed solutions to these problems.
  2. Community leadership development programs to promote digital equity and justice must provide support systems for community leaders to come together through a shared infrastructure, including both platforms to share ideas and spaces to convene, to continue the work after the training is over.
  3. Digital inclusion work is vital to help those without access to computers and the internet. However, this work must be rooted in an understanding of how power, privilege, and oppression shape digital inequality, as well as how this knowledge can be used to address systemic barriers to social and racial justice.

Here are links to the Executive Summary and the Full Report.

Many thanks to my CI Lab colleagues, Malana Krongelb and Jie Jiang for their research support with this study and to amalia deloney, Vice President and Director of Digital Equity at the Deutsch Foundation for inviting me to conduct the study.