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Social Change Organizations Unite to Fund Digital Equity Advocacy in California

The Digital Equity Pooled Fund aims to position equity at the forefront of how broadband infrastructure dollars are spent in California by ensuring digital equity advocates and communities most affected by the digital divide can make their voices heard in critical regulatory processes.

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 24, 2022 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- Three social change organizations are partnering on a new and unique approach to philanthropy by funding and advancing digital equity advocacy in California through the Digital Equity Pooled Fund. The inaugural recipients of the Fund's $100,000 grants are The Utility Reform Network (TURN) and the Center for Accessible Technology (CforAT), two organizations leading digital equity efforts in California.

The new collaboration is coordinated by the Michelson 20MM Foundation in partnership with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) and California Community Foundation (CCF). It will position equity at the forefront of how broadband infrastructure dollars are spent in California. It will ensure digital equity advocates and communities most affected by the digital divide can make their voices heard in critical regulatory processes at the state and federal levels. The challenges facing underserved populations are exacerbated by digital inequity gaps which impact their ability to access education, healthcare, employment, civic participation, and more.

The invite-only grants provide technical assistance and training for digital equity advocates, local municipalities, and counties. They also institutionalize support for sustained community engagement at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on broadband, digital literacy, and beyond; build the capacity of local grassroots organizations to engage on digital equity issues; and foster philanthropic affinity groups, creating space to educate philanthropy on opportunities to support systems change strategies.

"By pooling our funds to support ongoing, hands-on technical support for community-based organizations and local governments to participate in the state's critical regulatory processes, we are making a shared investment in leveling the playing field for the people and communities most affected by the digital divide," said Shayna Englin, Director of CCF's Digital Equity Initiative. "In the coming year, we anticipate a significant shift in the balance of voices heard at the California Public Utilities Commission in favor of community and equity."

As the only independent statewide utility consumer advocacy organization in California, TURN's work centers on advocating for affordable and dependable utility services, and standing up for consumers across the state as an independent and unbiased voice. TURN's Voice for Broadband Equity Project, directly supported by the fund, will provide training and technical assistance to BIPOC-led and BIPOC- and low-income-serving organizations who want to participate in proceedings at CPUC.

"Support from the Digital Equity Pooled Fund is critical to enabling TURN to bring diverse community voices from Los Angeles, the Central Valley, and throughout California to impact policy making at CPUC, to ensure that telecom carriers are held accountable to reaching state residents without affordable, high-speed internet service," stated Mark W. Toney, Executive Director of TURN.

Concurrently, CforAT represents people with disabilities before the CPUC for both telecommunications policy and energy policy. They are working to ensure that telecommunications services are accessible, wireless access is expanded, utility services are affordable, and changes in these arenas are effectively communicated among individuals with access and functional needs.

"For decades, the profit motives of large incumbent internet service providers like AT&T and Comcast have deprived people with disabilities, households of color, and low-income households of the broadband services that are critical to success in today's economy," said Paul Goodman, Legal Counsel for CforAT. "CforAT has always believed that decisions about communities' needs and solutions are best made by communities themselves. CforAT is honored to have the opportunity to help communities build capacity to advocate for broadband policies that place the needs of community members above shareholder dividends."

Through their Digital Equity Technical Assistance Project, CforAT will house a technical assistance center to support sustained community engagement concerning broadband, digital literacy, and beyond. The center will also provide additional resources, including office hours and a review of community comments.

"Today, digital equity is fundamental to access education, healthcare, employment, political participation, and other basic rights. For too long, policy development and decision-making has been monopolized by corporate interests," said Phillip J. Kim, CEO of the Michelson 20MM Foundation. "These projects will help ensure underserved communities are central to these conversations."

To learn more about the fund's grantmaking priorities and the growing list of philanthropic partners, visit the Digital Equity Pooled Fund page.

Contact: Cristal Mojica, cristal@20mm.org

About Michelson 20MM Foundation

Based in Los Angeles, the Michelson 20MM Foundation 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. To learn more, visit 20mm.org.

About Silicon Valley Community Foundation

Silicon Valley Community Foundation helps build and strengthen the community by bringing together people and organizations who want to strengthen the common good. SVCF is a regional catalyst, connector, and collaborator. Through advocacy, research, policy, and grantmaking, SVCF seeks systemic solutions to drive enduring community change.

About California Community Foundation

California Community Foundation is driven to find long-term, systemic solutions addressing the root causes of the most pressing issues facing Los Angeles County. Since 2000, CCF has given more than $200 million in discretionary grants, impacting hundreds of thousands of lives and helping to transform entire communities. Every one of those grants represented the legacy of a donor who was dedicated to creating a healthier, more prosperous and empowered LA.

Media Contact

Cristal Mojica, Michelson 20MM Foundation, 1 213-269-5777, cristal@20mm.org

SOURCE Digital Equity Pooled Fund

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