One of the greatest challenges in abolishing the digital divide centers around poor data and a lack of awareness of each community’s broadband needs, particularly among historically underserved communities. By continually failing to uplift and listen to the voices of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities, in particular, we, as a society, perpetuate limited opportunities for economic growth and fail to provide what is a basic human right and should be a public utility: the internet.

For this reason, the Michelson 20MM Foundation is proud to award a 2022 Digital Equity Michelson Spark Grant to NextGen Policy, with whom we will partner on the Digital Equity Non-Profit Capacity Building and Advocacy Project. Through the project, NextGen, a California nonprofit that tackles racial and economic inequities head-on, will implement a grassroots approach to ensure the digital equity needs of historically digitally redlined communities are met. They will do so by establishing a working group of non-profit stakeholders and equipping them with the skills necessary to understand and uplift the needs of their communities. Additionally, NextGen will meet with policymakers and the Commissioners of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in an effort to thoroughly understand active policy initiatives and current CPUC proceedings, which NextGen will then flow down to the non-profit stakeholders so that they can effectively uplift the needs of their communities. 

In addition to the grassroots efforts, NextGen will also actively engage Governor Gavin Newsom’s Office on digital equity initiatives. Ultimately, NextGen intends to create a pathway to work with the Governor’s Office on the digital equity needs of California’s communities, while also establishing an opportunity for non-profit stakeholders to directly advocate for their communities. As a result, the state’s historic broadband investments will be deployed all the more effectively, positioning equity at the forefront of all implementation efforts. 

“Ensuring that the organizations and individuals who have boots on the ground and know the needs of their communities have the opportunity to fight for their community’s right to participate in what should be a public utility is vital in bridging the digital divide,” said Miguel Leon, Digital Equity Senior Program Manager. “We hope that NextGen Policy’s effort will serve as a scalable model across the country.” 

Please join us in welcoming NextGen as a Spark Grantee. We look forward to sharing the effects of the Digital Equity Non-Profit Capacity Building and Advocacy Project in the future.

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation seeking to accelerate progress towards a more just world through grantmaking, operating programs, and impact investing. Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.

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