Digital inequity uniquely impacts entire communities at a time, cutting them off from their ability to participate in many integral aspects of modern-day life. When many of us can access the internet at will via devices at home and on the go, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that countless low-income communities of color in California have been digitally redlined for decades.

Recognizing this reality, the Michelson 20MM Foundation sought the help of digital equity advocates with a “boots on the ground” focus throughout the state, who are distinctly positioned to identify solutions that will or will not have the potential to both serve their communities and be scaled throughout California. These advocates, our Spark Community Advisors, will inform the 2023 Digital Equity Spark Grants funding cycle as we set out to identify and fund solutions that will further our Focus Areas:

  • Digital Equity as a Social Determinant of Health: Efforts that address digital inequity through its impact as a social determinant of health, and that can be a promising practice to be scaled across the state.
  • Eliminating Digital Discrimination: Projects that highlight the needs and uplift the voices of historically digitally redlined and underserved communities in California. These efforts help address the impact that inadequate broadband has in areas that may superficially appear to be served and  provide tools to combat digital discrimination and to promote equal access to broadband throughout California.
  • Policy Advocacy and Civic Engagement: Efforts that increase civic participation in digital equity policy-making and regulatory processes at the local, regional, or state-level (including the education of state policy-makers on key digital equity issues).
  • Digital Equity in Tribal Communities: Projects that help Tribal Communities bridge the digital divide.

Please welcome the 2023 Digital Equity advisors:

Anna Teresa Dahan
Senior Director of Advocacy, Policy, and Community Engagement, Great Public Schools Now

Anna Teresa DahanWith two decades of experience in Los Angeles local government, education, non-profit management and politics, Ana Teresa Dahan is the Senior Director of Advocacy, Policy and Community Engagement at Great Public Schools Now.

She has worked at all levels of management at the Los Angeles Unified School District and was responsible for implementation of Proposition 39 and the Public School Choice Resolution. She was also a founding staff member of the California Charter Schools Association. In 2014, she was a pivotal member of the campaign that elected City of Los Angeles Council President Nury Martinez. Dahan  previously served as former Mayor Garcetti’s sole appointee on the City of Los Angeles Ethics Commission. She has also served on the City of Los Angeles Commission on the Status of Women and 2021 LAUSD Redistricting Commission.

Dahan is a K-12 graduate of the Los Angeles Unified School District, received her bachelors of science in political science from UCLA and her law degree from Loyola Law School.

Natalie Gonzalez
Deputy Director, Digital Equity Initiative, California Community Foundation 

Natalie GonzalezNatalie Gonzalez is the Deputy Director of the Digital Equity Initiative. The Digital Equity Initiative is a multi-year project of the California Community Foundation (CCF) that will seed a digital equity movement in Los Angeles County with the power and capacity to successfully advocate for fast, reliable, and affordable broadband for all Angelenos. Prior to working in the digital equity space, Gonzalez worked within the Public Policy and Civic Engagement department at CCF, supporting strategic partnerships, advocacy, local, and state initiatives, specifically the COVID-19 Community Health Project. With over eight years in the nonprofit sector, Gonzalez has served as Director of Engagement at Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Conejo Valley (BGCGCV), providing support to youth development programs and services throughout Los Angeles and Ventura counties. She has helped establish nationally recognized programs that promote youth empowerment, civic engagement, and leadership among under-resourced communities. Recently, Gonzalez supported a county-wide initiative to mobilize young voters and increase voter turnout through grassroots organizing and social media activations. Gonzalez received her B.A. in Sociology from the University of California, Merced.

Christopher Mitchell
Director, Community Broadband Networks Initiative, Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Christopher MitchellChristopher Mitchell is the Director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) in Minneapolis. Mitchell is a leading national expert on community networks, Internet access, and local broadband policies.

Mitchell built, the comprehensive online clearinghouse of information about local government policies to improve Internet access. Its interactive community broadband network map tracks more than 600 such networks. He also hosts audio and video shows online, including Community Broadband Bits and Connect This!

Public Knowledge presented Christopher with its Internet Protocol award in 2021, which honors those who have made significant contributions to Internet policy. In 2019, the Coalition for Local Internet Choice gave Mitchell its “Indispensable” Award and the Blandin Foundation of Minnesota presented him with a “Courageous Leadership” award. In 2015, the White House used Mitchell’s research as building blocks in a National Economic Council report encouraging community networks. He was honored as one of the 2012 Top 25 in Public Sector Technology by Government Technology, which honors the top “Doers, Drivers, and Dreamers” in the nation each year. Christopher helped to found Next Century Cities and served as Director of Policy for its first five years.

He earned a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Macalester College.

We are deeply appreciative of these three experts for sharing their knowledge of digital inequities and California’s impacted communities with us and look forward to announcing the projects that will be funded, informed by their recommendations!

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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