Section 2: This Guidebook: Purpose, Process and What We Learned

2017 San Antonio Digital Inclusion Summit

Members of community-wide digital inclusion coalitions address digital inequities through their own programs, through partnerships within the community and by acting as one unified entity setting goals, educating and advocating.

From our conversations with coalition leaders, we distilled the most salient factors deemed critical for sustainable and effective coalition engagement. We developed this Guidebook to share our findings in an effort to aid local communities navigating the development and implementation process for forming a digital inclusion coalition.

The information outlined represents the most common processes identified by leading and emerging digital inclusion coalitions across the U.S. The digital divides present in your community and the local digital inclusion ecosystem will direct the exact path for your coalition.

We invite you to use this Guidebook as a reference tool as you explore the prospects for coalition creation or progression. It is intended to be beneficial to digital inclusion coalitions at all stages of maturity.


In late 2017 we interviewed six digital inclusion leaders across five states to gather insight about how community-wide digital inclusion coalitions formed. We then held small working group sessions to validate our early findings and to dive deeper into framing the value of coalition engagement. The information compiled in this Guidebook represents feedback from these sessions as well as recommendations for all digital inclusion coalitions. The digital inclusion leaders represent coalitions in various stages of development. We summarize the findings throughout this Guidebook in an effort to provide straightforward recommendations about the nuts and bolts, strategies and opportunities related to forming a coalition in your community.

Coalitions bring together a diverse group of community stakeholders working on behalf of populations who have been excluded from advances in modern information and communication technologies (ICTs). In the seven years since the release of the National Broadband Plan, home broadband access gaps persist, according to research by the Pew Research Center.4 Gaps in digital literacy and device access also endure amid assumptions that digital equity is inevitable in the nation where much of the world’s leading ICTs were created. Members of community-wide digital inclusion coalitions address digital inequities through their own programs, through partnerships within the community and by acting as one unified entity setting goals, educating and advocating.

Who We Talked To

During the past six years, a handful of organizations fitting the community-wide digital inclusion coalition definition have emerged in the following cities across the U.S.: Portland/Multnomah County (OR), Kansas City, San Antonio, Austin, Charlotte and Philadelphia. There are other peer-to-peer networks in various stages of development in localities across the United States.

As of the date of publication, the six coalitions featured in this report meet the definition of a community-wide digital inclusion coalition.

They are:

  • Digital Empowerment Community of Austin (DECA)
  • Charlotte Digital Inclusion Alliance
  • Kansas City Coalition for Digital Inclusion
  • Technology Learning Collaborative (Philadelphia)
  • Portland/Multnomah County Digital Inclusion Network
  • San Antonio Digital Inclusion Coalition

Additional peer-to-peer digital inclusion networks that also meet the definition we offer:

  • Connect Chicago
  • Detroit Digital Justice Coalition
  • Technology Literacy Collaborative (Twin Cities)
  • New Mexico Digital Inclusion Network
  • Get Connected Oakland

The six community-wide digital inclusion coalitions are far from identical. They were created at different times, by different organizers–ranging from mayors to library executives to nonprofit leaders–for a variety of reasons. Their key participants, strategies and operating styles are as varied as their communities.

Table of Starting Years for Six Community-Wide Digital Inclusion Coalitions

Starting Years for Six Community-Wide Digital Inclusion Coalitions

What We Learned: The Big Takeaways

  • Digital inclusion coalitions exist to promote conversation, professional development, strategically aligned programming and advocacy.
  • Coalitions should meet regularly, set goals and progress toward those goals through strategically identified activities.
  • A coalition’s leaders should include local voices that lend trust, credibility and a community-centric perspective to the coalition’s efforts.
  • All coalitions need resources to thrive (particularly funding) to pay for the coordination of coalition efforts.
  • Coalitions are increasing awareness of digital inclusion, local barriers and current approaches to the work.
  • Coalition leaders often do not view their activities as advocacy, but they do educate local policy makers and community leaders.
  • Coalitions strive to meet the needs of their members through peer-to-peer sharing, collaborative goal setting, awareness and resource development.
  • Coalitions themselves often do not conduct digital inclusion programming, but members of the coalitions form partnerships, strengthening their programming.
  • Leaders agree that local government participation is important to success, but there are advantages and disadvantages to their participation.