BTOP – Impact Beyond the Numbers
Over the past three years, ZeroDivide has worked to increase access to high-speed Internet and provide critical training to assure effective use of digital tools in underserved communities. In 2010, because of its substantial experience and success funding community technology initiatives, ZeroDivide was granted more than $2 million from the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program (BTOP) to administer a program, called Generation ZD, designed to support organizations striving to improve broadband access for community members with limited or no access to digital and information technology at home.
At the onset of the program, ZeroDivide chose eight organizations to participate in its BTOP program:
Access Humboldt, CA
Community Media Access Partnership (CMAP TV), CA
Reel Grrls, WA;
Tribal Digital Village (SCTDV), Palla Reservation, CA
Over the course of our BTOP work with Generation ZD, the training and outreach programs implemented by these organizations have reached nearly 16,000 youth and adults and produced countless hours of community-driven media.
But ZeroDivide’s work across six western states—in communities as diverse as Native American reservations in southern California, the urban cores of Portland and Seattle, and some of the most rural and remote communities in Hawaii—sought to go beyond the numbers.
We can count the miles of cable infrastructure constructed and the number of new broadband subscribers, but some things aren’t so easy to count. Assuring that our most underserved communities have and use broadband technology has been a key focus area for ZeroDivide for the past 15 years; but with the BTOP program, we also wanted to demonstrate the enhanced impact community-based organizations can have on their communities through increased organizational, technological and programmatic capacity.
As our three-year cycle with BTOP drew to a close, ZeroDivide conducted an evaluation of its technical assistance and capacity-building efforts with the participating organizations through interviews, staff surveys and a comprehensive review of all organizational reports submitted since the inception of the award.
Here are two of the key highlights we’d like to share from our findings—we’ll share more in a second post next week:
1) ZeroDivide provided an access pathway to federal funding for eight communities.
Many readers know that acquiring, and accurately managing and reporting on, federal grant funds can oftentimes be an arduous process. ZeroDivide’s technical assistance in leading application efforts, providing matching dollars and coordinating narrative and financial reports proved to be most valuable for the organizations.
The application and reporting processes would have been too burdensome for the organizations to take on independently, and most organizations reported that the multi-year BTOP monies and ZeroDivide’s match provided a financial stability that is highly valued in the context of primarily single-year grant cycles. These dollars often resulted in expanded and consistent staffing patterns and aided in efforts to raise additional funds for programming.
These dollars also proved to be significant to the organizations in two additional areas:
Expanding Existing Program Reach. For those organizations already conducting youth media programming, such as Community Media Access Partnership (CMAP), Portland Community Media (PCM), Reel Grrls and Spy Hop were able to offer more programming than they otherwise could. And, in doing so, they expanded their reach to youth who do not have easy access to broadband and digital technologies at home: youth who are homeless; who are immigrants and refugees; and youth who live in rural and Native American communities.
Experimenting With and Initiating Programming. For those organizations that did not have fully-developed youth media programming prior to receiving the grant, such as Access Humboldt and Akakü, their funding supported the design and implementation of new programs. Importantly, the multi-year funding allowed them the opportunity to conduct experiments and refine their programs to best fit their local communities’ needs and assets.
2) Innovative program strategies were developed through cross-pollination.
Many of the innovative ideas that were developed through this program have the potential to increase access to and adoption of broadband among youth and their communities. A significant example of this is the spread across the organizations of the Mojo Kit initially developed by Akakü as a principal tool in their youth citizen journalism program. This mobile journalism production tool includes a wifi-enabled iPod, an external microphone, a camera base and lens, and a charging unit.
After development, both Access Humboldt and Tribal Digital Village Project adopted and refined the kits to meet their own project and community needs. In the case of Tribal Digital Village Project, they have utilized the kit to capture oral histories and document events for their tribal web repository. And, inspired by the Mojo Kits, Spy Hop and Reel Grrls are exploring ways to use similar tools to provide their programming to youth in rural areas and on reservations, youth with disabilities and incarcerated youth.
Increased youth media organizations’ commitment to improving community broadband access and adoption through their programming. Spy Hop and Reel Grrls, grantees with the most well-established youth media programming and the least experience with broadband-specific efforts, have gained a new appreciation for the needs of youth in their communities. This new “lens” on their work is shaping the development of new programming, designed to provide media creation experiences to youth who would otherwise not have broadband access at home.
BTOP funding helped community access stations in their efforts to expand their media distribution models beyond cable. Specifically, Access Humboldt, Akakü and CMAP explored the use of websites, YouTube and Facebook as alternative broadcasting methods for the media assets produced in their BTOP-funded programs. Access Humboldt also initiated online archiving of their media assets. As the center of the media landscape continues to shift further away from analog television broadcasting, these proactive changes are essential for the continued relevance of these organizations in their communities.
“By giving local voices access to digital media production and distribution outlets, including online archiving, GenZD offers a respectful, place-based and sustainable bridge from legacy analog communication systems to a fully connected broadband media future.” Access Humboldt Staff
We’ll post the next round of findings next week, and invite you to stay tuned to read even more from our work with Generation ZD.