The Power of Us
Digital equity is one of the most pressing issues of our time – one that requires the leadership, perspectives, and resources of public and private partners working together to drive true change.
Recently, Comcast had the opportunity to convene more than 200 nonprofit and local leaders for the Project UP Partner Summit, a forum focused on empowering everyone across all communities with the skills, resources, and opportunities needed to participate and excel in an increasingly digital world.
Project UP is Comcast’s $1 billion initiative to connect tens of millions of people to the Internet, advance economic mobility, and open doors for the next generation. Through this initiative, we’re investing in and partnering with thousands of local organizations to address inequities and erode economic mobility barriers in communities across the country.
The summit brought us together in person for the first time in over two years for thoughtful and uplifting programming, and perhaps most important – time spent connecting with, learning from, and supporting each other.
From our amazing host, Zinhle Essamuah of NBC News NOW and her Championing Digital Equity fireside chat with Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks; to our conversation about proximate philanthropy with author Edgar Villanueva; to our closing keynote about lessons for scaling for greater impact by Melissa Bradley, Co-Founder of Ureeka and Managing Partner of 1863 Ventures; plus every panel, workshop, and conversation in between – we dove deep, discussing digital skills development, barriers to adoption, and how to increase opportunities for underrepresented innovators, creators, and entrepreneurs.
It was an incredible event full of insights, inspiration, and proof of impact. Days later, I’m still thinking about all that we experienced together, particularly these “power points” that I think will accelerate our collective impact:
1. Power of Story. Throughout the day, I was struck by the profound impact of storytelling. During our Spotlight on Digital Skills discussion, Plinio Ayala, President & CEO of Per Scholas, shared an unforgettable example. While on the 6 train in the Bronx, he met a Per Scholas alum and mother, who – fighting back tears – shared that because of the program, which provides skills training and other resources to individuals often excluded from tech careers, she was now able to pay her rent on time and buy school supplies for her child. “My daughter's life is going to be better because mom now has a future,” she told him. The power of that story influenced Per Scholas’ strategy and was the catalyst for Plinio meeting with the board to gain approval to scale nationally.
2. Power of Intent. From showing up for the people in their community to showing up at this summit, our Project UP partners work with intentionality every day. We chose each partner with that same intentionality and are grateful they also chose us.
3. Power of Proximity. Our partners are trusted leaders and advocates in their local communities. They are on the frontlines. They know who they’re working with and who they’re working for. Those strong, authentic relationships with the people they are serving are key to program adoption and success. As Thoai Nguyen, CEO, Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Coalition said, “If you want to earn people's trust and maintain that you got to bring it every day.” And our partners do.
4. Power of Self-care. Jessica Santana, Co-Founder & CEO of America on Tech reminded us of some important wisdom from poet Audre Lorde: Self-care is not self-indulgent. Rest and restoration are essential as this work requires it.
5. Power of Collaboration. It’s important for us to step into our power, but by working together and helping others unleash their power – we can do so much more. Being together for the past few days really showed us that.
Of course, none of these “power points” would be possible if not for the power of hope. We are committed in our work to address inequities – work that takes strategy, planning, commitment, and heart. Propelling it all is faith that by working together, with public and nonprofit partners, we will be successful in closing the digital divide and achieving true digital equity.
In her remarks, Nancy Chang, Director of Digital Navigation Services for Goodwill Connect, a digital equity collaborative operating across Washington state, said she’s confident that “through partnership and visionary leadership we can supercharge the national digital equity movement.” I couldn’t agree more. That’s the power of us.
It is only by working together that we will drive lasting, generational change toward a stronger, more equitable world and build a future of unlimited possibilities.
Dalila Wilson-Scott is Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer for Comcast Corporation and President of the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation.