The building and nurturing of partnerships are critical to the success of digital inclusion initiatives and to the work of the Digital Inclusion Corps. Many sessions of this year’s Net Inclusion conference were discussions about working successfully with other organizations, and it’s a topic I’ve been thinking about a great deal throughout this project.
I recently read an article by Hannah Buckland, Director of Library Services at Leech Lake Tribal College entitled Minnesota’s tribal libraries: Fostering digital inclusion. The entire piece raises good points, and one paragraph in particular stood out to me:
But in tribal libraries, this concept of “inclusion” can be deceptive: Simply including tribes within existing non-tribal frameworks undermines sovereignty. Instead, digital inclusion efforts in tribal communities must start from the ground and build their way up. The digital-inclusion-services tribal libraries implement are rooted in each tribe’s specific needs, strengths, environments, histories, sociopolitical contexts, economic development plans, and future goals.
Local context is essential. That’s true for all work in this area, particularly projects and partnerships with tribal communities; the inclusion part of digital inclusion will look different for each individual, community, and region. Partnerships can make projects more effective and efficient, but only if the local context is recognized, respected, and integrated into the work. Priorities, strategies, implementation, and sustainability plans should originate with and be owned by each community.