One of the partners I’m excited to work with on my project in Minnesota is the St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN). SPNN is a national model for community media that empowers underrepresented people to create and engage with media arts. Their mission is “to empower people to use media and communications to better lives, use authentic voice, and build common understanding.”  They fulfill their mission via four cable channels reaching 55,000 St. Paul-Minneapolis homes and programming that serves 4,200 residents.

One of SPPN‘s major programs is the Community Technology Empowerment Project (CTEP), a Twin Cities based AmeriCorps initiative supporting low-income communities and new immigrants. CTEP members help people of all ages use technology to create better educational and economic opportunities while bolstering civic engagement. Their activities promote economic and social equity within the community by directly assisting community members.

Members are assigned to a host site – usually a library, non-profit, employment center, museum, or other organization working with the population CTEP serves. They also have training in leadership and professional development within the context of digital inclusion. In addition to their work with the host sites, they work in small peer groups on a civic engagement project. One group, for example, planned and implemented computer coaching and iPad classes at a site serving deaf and hard of hearing residents. Another group created an animation camp for children whose parents or guardians are attending English Language Learning classes.

Why am I excited to learn from what SPNN and CTEP are doing? What stands out to me is their creative and collaborative approach to learning, teaching, and using technology. The programs address both overarching issues (such as digital inclusion and equity) and individual needs of participants. Their emphasis on community engagement and empowerment gives participants a forum where their voices are heard.

You’ll have a chance to see SPNN and CTEP in action when Minnesota welcomes NDIA affiliates and other friends to Net Inclusion 2017. The conference kicks off on Tuesday, May 16 with tours of local digital inclusion projects. The local conference planning team is finalizing the sites on the itinerary, but Ann Treacy, who is coordinating the visits, recently posted a list of projects being considered for visits.

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