Dalila Wilson Scott and Ruja Benjamin onstage at the 2023 Project UP summit.
Digital Equity

Working in Community to Create a World of Unlimited Possibilities

By Dalila Wilson-Scott

There’s something transformative about being with people who share a commitment to driving positive change in our world. Comcast had an opportunity to help create space for this community at our 2023 Project UP Summit. Held recently at our headquarters in Philadelphia, the Summit convened hundreds of leaders from nonprofit organizations across the country for programming and discussions focused on deepening the impact of our collective efforts to advance digital equity as a pathway to economic mobility.

Encompassing programs and community partnerships across Comcast, NBCUniversal, and Sky, through Project UP, our $1 billion commitment, we are connecting people to the Internet; providing them with devices; helping them build digital skills; and opening doors for the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, storytellers, and creators.

This year’s Summit leaned into the power of community ─ helping our partners deepen their relationships with each other, discover different ways to collaborate, and gain more inspiration as we continue this important work.

Our two days together were rich with insights about the intersection of equity and innovation, the power of storytelling, and the importance of listening and building trust in our communities. Programming included spotlights from leaders at our nonprofit partners; breakout sessions about Accessing Public Funds for Community Benefit and Scaling for Operational Impact; and mainstage panels on justice, opportunity, the future of media, and inspiring the team of tomorrow ─ a conversation with Olympian Jordan Burrough and Paralympian Trevon Jenifer.

It’s never been more clear to me how interconnected our efforts are to close the digital divide and help more people excel in an increasingly digital world. I left our gathering with deep gratitude and so many gems that will continue to stretch my thinking and scale our impact. Here are just a few:

1. Listen to and value the voices and experiences of the people you are aiming to serve. We heard variations of this message during almost every session. It’s a reminder that storytelling is data and we need to use it to inform our work.

2. Have optimism. Here, we can take cues from young people. They have great energy, a sense of urgency, and are actively refuting what many of us have come to accept. We need that type of approach to grow impact and get to the next level.

3. Commit to making the honey. During our fireside chat, Professor Ruha Benjamin, author of Viral Justice and Princeton University professor, shared a brilliant anecdote about bees in her yard toiling to fill a hive with honey, though they will not survive the winter. She explained that we often must commit to making the honey, even if we may never taste it. What we do to advance digital equity isn’t only for us ─ the current generations. It’s building a stronger foundation that will benefit those to come. Even if we don’t see the full fruit of our labor, the work is still worth it.

4. “Hope is a discipline.” That quote from community organizer Mariame Kaba is a throughline for our work, and perhaps a lifeline for many of us at some point during our journeys. Hope requires focus, intentionality, authenticity, and execution. We’re not going to build a more equitable world without it.

5. Be pragmatic and be visionary. As Ruha said, despite what many may think, these are not competing interests. We have a responsibility to address the current challenges of our communities, and we also have an opportunity to change the narrative about what we can achieve.

During the Summit’s closing panel, Jordan, U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist in wrestling and Trevon, U.S. Paralympic Gold Medalist in wheelchair basketball, spoke about the type of community it takes to win gold. For Trevon, it includes people who help you stay focused, aim higher, and understand that “we’re going after something greater than we have.”

That was a perfect reminder for the commitment we share and for this moment in time. Let’s imagine more for our world, and work together to create that future of unlimited possibilities for us all.

Dalila Wilson-Scott is Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer for Comcast Corporation and President of the Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation.