Health Resources in Action (HRiA) has joined forces with MassINC and the Collins Center at UMass Boston to launch Digital POWER – People Organizing & Working for Equitable Recovery.
Digital POWER partners with municipalities to design, administer, and execute the digital equity planning process as a certified vendor for the recently launched Municipal Digital Equity Planning Program (MDEPP). Administered by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI), MDEPP will provide support and funding for municipalities across the Commonwealth to engage in planning activities to bridge the digital divide.
There is no cost to the municipality—vendor services related to this work are completely covered through the MDEPP program. Municipalities must independently apply to the program.
Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis. Once municipalities have submitted their application, they can select to work with Digital POWER. Municipalities are encouraged to apply promptly to ensure sufficient planning time before federal recovery funding is released to support implementation.
Robust and reliable digital infrastructure is vital for residents to access basic resources and for communities to remain competitive in a technology-driven economy. The COVID-19 pandemic put into even sharper relief the gaps in digital access and ability within the state, exposing clear areas for investment.
The goal of the Municipal Digital Equity Planning Program is to enable municipalities, or other local bodies of government, to engage in digital equity planning activities with the goal of bridging the digital divide. Planning activities will result in strategic documents that identify the community’s needs, interest, and key assets. These items will be used to create a framework to guide future municipal decision-making activities that increase access and usage of the internet for the populations most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through this program, municipalities have the option to choose between two approaches:
Digital Equity Planning Charrette
An intensive 2-day workshop for municipalities with limited staff capacity, knowledge, or activities related to digital equity.
- Workshop preparation. The Digital POWER team will work with municipal staff to assess the current digital equity landscape in their community, identify stakeholders, and formulate key questions and goals for the workshop sessions.
- Workshop administration. We will guide municipal officials, community leaders, and other stakeholders through the workshop, ensuring productive and efficient discussions and outcomes.
- Report of recommendations. After the workshop, we will prepare a report for municipal officials and community stakeholders outlining detailed key learnings and actionable next steps.
- Opportunities to re-engage. As municipalities move further along in the digital equity implementation, especially as federal funding is released, we will continue to be a resource throughout implementation and scaling.
Digital Equity Plan
A comprehensive planning exercise, similar to a chapter in a municipal master plan.
- Existing conditions analysis. The Digital POWER team will produce a detailed overview of digital access and equity gaps in the target community using all available local, regional, state, and federal data.
- Robust community engagement process. Using methods tailored to municipal needs, we will begin a community-centered engagement process, including a community survey, focus groups, one-on-one or small group interviews with organizational stakeholders, and public community meetings. The goal is broad participation throughout the planning process.
- Data synthesis & recommendation development. We will review and distill findings from the existing conditions analysis and the community engagement process to identify key themes, opportunities for improvement, and areas for investment.
- Report. The team will develop a clear and thorough report outlining key findings, recommendations, and actionable next steps.
- Continued partnership and funding opportunities. We will ensure municipalities are primed to identify and secure federal recovery funding for digital equity projects as they become available. Continue to consult with municipalities as they transition to independent implementation of the planning process.
Once your plan is completed, our team can guide you on putting your plan into action. With additional resources, we can advise and provide support in implementation, monitoring, evaluation, and more.
As a certified MDEPP vendor, Digital POWER collaboratively partners with municipalities on their digital equity planning processes. Building from our ARPA POWER initiative, our team brings to the table a comprehensive toolkit—including research, polling, community engagement, policy implementation, and more—helping you to unlock the potential for greater digital equity in your municipality.
The three mission-driven partners comprising Digital POWER share a collective 105 years of experience untangling communities’ most entrenched challenges throughout the Commonwealth. With a track record of steadfast partnership, expertise spanning policy through practice, and community-centered approaches, the Digital POWER partners can help your municipality create a highly actionable and effective plan to achieve digital equity.
MassINC’s mission is to make Massachusetts a place of civic vitality and inclusive economic opportunity by providing residents the nonpartisan research, reporting, analysis, and civic engagement necessary to understand policy choices, inform decision making, and hold the government accountable.
The Edward J. Collins, Jr. Center for Public Management is dedicated to improving efficiency, effectiveness, governance, and accountability at all levels of government, with a particular focus on state and local government.
Health Resources in Action (HRiA)’s mission is to help people live healthier lives and create healthy communities through prevention, health promotion, policy and research.
Meet the team:
- Sarah Concannon, Director of Municipal Services