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FOCUS ON Connecting California

Mar 9, 2021 | 20 Million Minds

Launched in 2020 under Michelson 20MM’s Digital Equity Initiative, the Connecting California: Solving the Digital Divide learning series offers insights from business leaders, digital equity practitioners, philanthropic investors, and government officials—all representing different facets of the landscape devoted to building equitable solutions to the digital divides at local, state, and national levels.

“The Digital Divide: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” launched the Connecting California series on August 6, 2020. The conversation sought to build a foundation for understanding contexts and precedents in digital (in)equity. Panelists included Lande Ajose, California Governor Gavin Newsom’s senior policy adviser for higher education; Jeanne Holm, deputy mayor for budget and innovation for the city of Los Angeles; and other leading practitioners in digital equity and inclusion.

By bringing together digital equity practitioners, philanthropic investors, and policymakers from San Jose, Chicago, Detroit, and Los Angeles, “We were able to get these people out of their silos a little bit and have that conversation where they discover real commonalities around what they are doing,” says Phillip J. Kim of Michelson 20MM Foundation.

“Stronger Together: The Role of Cross-Sector Partnerships in Digital Equity” took place on September 17 and focused on understanding how effective public-private partnerships can be designed and implemented at the local and regional levels. Panelists included California State Senator Lena A. Gonzalez; Jennie Huang Bennett, CFO for the city of Chicago; and digital innovation experts from Los Angeles, Detroit, and the Bay Area.

COVID-19 illuminated the widespread effects of digital inequities: Whether it’s access to a device, high-speed internet, or digital literacy, many of the nation’s systemic problems can be traced to the same root cause. “Philanthropy Post-COVID: Where Do We Go From Here?” took place on November 19 and brought grantmakers, public-private liaisons, and venture investors into the conversation to discuss how society can increase digital equity in a postCOVID world. Panelists included Jarrett Barrios, senior vice president of strategic community and programmatic initiatives for the California Community Foundation; Adrianne B. Furniss, executive director and trustee of the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society; David Rattray, president and CEO of UNITE-LA; Priyanka Sharma, project director at World Education Inc. and co-director of Digital US; Leon Wilson, chief of digital innovation and chief information officer at the Cleveland Foundation; and Jory Wolf, vice president of digital innovation at Magellan Advisors.

Find out more about the diverse areas in which Michelson Philanthropies are engaged, and Alya and Dr. Michelson’s commitment to “make the world a little less unfair” in our 2021 Impact Report.