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Community TechKnowledge Foundation Grant Program

If you are inspired to wax poetic about your passion for technology and community technology access, ampoule the Community Techknowledge Foundation is offering you the opportunity to submit a 4-8 line poem and win cash for your efforts.

The newly-created foundation’s “Heart and Soul” Initiative offers $10, vitamin 000 in grants and technology resources for submissions between March 1 and March 28. Uniquely, the winning submission will be recorded in a song and presented at the April 14, 2011 Foundation event in Austin, Texas.

Here is the website information:

and here is the video describing the program:

Community TechKnowledge Video


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Free Geek Chicago, 24 hours = Community

The great folks at Free Geek Chicago have put out a very nice video about the work they do and the role they play in the community technology movement in Chicago. Beyond the frames of Digital Divide and Digital Excellence, physiotherapist they see this as a matter of survival in the modern economy.

If you know anyone that needs a computer — make them aware that 24 hours of service at FGC will earn them their own refurbished machine, epidemic give them a new insight into the life-cycle of technology and should forge some great new friendships.

David Eads (featured in the video), generic one of the founders of FGC presented the CDAA’s Digital Excellence Advocate Award to Carl Davidson on Friday Oct. 29, at DEXCON2010. FGC is established at the location of Carl’s former TechTrain program.

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Digital Excellence – The 1st Conference – A Great Time!

” We must spread digital excellence across neighborhood and regional boundaries.” That sentiment, expressed by keynote speaker Dr. Nicol Turner Lee, informed the energy of Chicago’s first conference showcasing digital excellence in Chicago communities.

Chicago’s neighborhood technology experts, activists, leaders, and pioneers joined a dozen technology specialists from six (6) cities in a lively, high-energy series of workshops and roundtable sessions. The 1st Chicago Neighborhood Digital Excellence Conference and Technology Fair at Chicago’s DePaul University Egan Urban Center was part reunion, part think tank, part high-energy planning session, and part movement retrospective for the 80 or so participants.  The early feedback from conference participants? Here’s what Jennifer Hunt shared on the Digital Excellence Coalition Fan Page:

Thank you so very much for a wonderful conference! As someone brand new to the movement, I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to such a wonderful community of experts, dreamers, activists, collaborators and stewards. I can’t wait to get to work!

For most of the attendees, in this reporter’s view, Jennifer Hunt’s energy and enthusiasm seemed to capture the info-sharing and learning experieces in the six (6) morning workshop sessions, luncheon and afternoon roundtables.

Here’s a wrtiter’s eye view of the conference from attendee Taran Rampersad:

Digital Excellence Workshop Participants

Digital Excellence Workshop Participants

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Starting The Next Chapter

On Friday, October 29 we open the next chapter in the Community Technology, mind Networking and Community Empowerment Movement at the Digital Excellence Conference in Chicago at DePaul University:

  • Invitation — attend the most important event in the Community Technology/Digital Empowerment Sector in a decade – we’re rebuilding a movement – and we need your commitment and enthusiasm.
  • Invitation — spread the word – Let us know who is up and coming but who may have never connected to the national/global movement and Invite them! Help fund their travel! No one is late to the party!
  • Invitation — help us (re)build the movement in any way you can! If you are coming from out of town – let us know!

Three tracks:

  • Broadband: Expansion & Inclusion
  • Tools and Platforms
  • Collaboration Models and Community Building

Special Honorees: Carl Davidson, buy Julia Stasch and Rep. Constance Howard
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Nicol Turner-Lee


As a recognition of our common heritage, past members of the network are eligible for the early bird rate.

For more information or to donate/volunteer contact Pierre Clark. (312) 473-0373 or

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Accelerate innovation and the movement – locally, globally

Charlie Havens recommended this video on the basis of the vision we have for Chicago and for a “working session to establish an organization and network in service to the field encompassing Community Technology, help Community Media and Community Networking, hospital
addressing and inviting all who have gathered to remediate Digital and Social Divides under banners of Literacy, traumatologist
Access, Inclusion, Excellence and Justice.” Local and Global. Can we accelerate the change we need? Chris Anderson starts his TED conversation (below) with a focus on the field of Dance. What deliberate changes can we effect in our respective fields? What would the conversation and sharing look like? How can we step up our game?

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Rebuild and Reboot – Movement and Network


Do you know these people?

Thom Clark. Michael Maranda. Lowry Taylor. Bruce Montgomery, skincare Nicol Turner Lee. Shaz Rasul. Vincent Caskill. Nichole Pinkard. Sandee Kastrul. Rose Mabwa.

Now, these may not be names you see every day in the paper, but to the foundation executives, non-profit agencies and city officials in the know, these are some of the people who make it happen in Chicago’s neighborhoods, bringing resources, training and capacity-building support to hundreds of Chicago non-profits and hundreds of thousands of local residents in every underserved community in Chicago.

CHICAGO: The Neighborhood Technology Leader.

Whether you know it or not, Chicago leads the way in neighborhood technology and digital inclusion activities, as the recent first-in-the-country broadband grants given to the city totalling over $21.7 million dollars proved conclusively. Yet who are the people who behind the scenes and out of the public spotlight for 20 years created more than 600 technology centers, 100 training programs, 300+ non-profit agencies and more? Who coined and popularized the terms “digital excellence, digital demonstration communities” that got the attention of federal officials?

On Friday, October 29, 2010, Meet The People Leading The Neighborhood Digital Excellence Movement!

Well, you can find out on Friday, October 29, 2010! Some of the most talented and creative people creating the innovative programs and initiatives on the neighborhood technology scene – the people who defined and coined the term “digital excellence” – are just some of the more than two dozen speakers and presenters, from both the local and national scene, that will be present on Friday, October 29, 2010, as the Chicago Digital Access Alliance Inc. presents the 1st Chicago Neighborhood Digital Excellence Conference and Technology Fair (DexCon2010).


This unique first-of-its-kind in the country one-day conference will be held at the DePaul University Egan Center in downtown Chicago, 1 East Jackson Boulevard, Lower Level, between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.


The day-long conference, focused on digital excellence activities, practitioners and learning opportunities, is expected to draw several hundred people from throughout metropolitan Chicago. Activities include morning workshops, a luncheon with a nationally-known keynote speaker, afternoon discussion sessions and a digital excellence roadshow recognition reception honoring digital excellence practitioners and advocates from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. on the lower level.


We expect 200 individuals, 50 non-profits, representatives from 25 foundations and people from around the Midwest to be in attendance at the conference. WE HOPE YOU WILL JOIN US.


All the conference details are contained here. Check here and on our Facebook page and Twitter feed #DexCon2010 @cdaadigital for all the details. And you can officially register for the conference here via Paypal and Google Checkout.

Keep checking here for details on the conference and all the activities of the Chicago Digital Access Alliance Inc. – Neighborhoods Connected, Citizens Empowered(tm)

On October 30, purchase following upon the Digital Excellence Conference convened by the Chicago Digital Access Alliance, we are holding a working session to establish an organization and network in service to the field encompassing Community Technology, Community Media and Community Networking, addressing and inviting all who have gathered to remediate Digital and Social Divides under banners of Literacy, Access, Inclusion, Excellence and Justice.

We believe that a new way of working together is emerging and that our message to our communities is more pertinent than ever, and that we are stronger when we establish resources in common and share solutions freely across the network.

This is not a relaunch.  It is something more profound.  We honor the heritage of our field by finding a way forward, one suited to our present situation, one that builds upon what we have learned.

We have much experience in this community, and we are clearly ready to refactor, rebuild and reboot the movement and the network.  We will determine the functions, services and capacities we need and desire for the field, and we will coordinate efforts to bring them online in a manner that serves the field as a whole, building upon capacities already under development when possible and operating from a perspective of shared, open stewardship.

We’re looking to grow our field, and to demonstrate it’s relevance to every facet of community and civic life.  Many are engaged in the work and have not found us, their peer-community.  We’re looking to establish a way for them to find us as we found each other, and for all to find a way to take up a meaningful share of the work.

We would love for all who wish to come to be there.  This is an open call to everyone serving our field.   You are invited to join the working meeting on October 30, or to step up in any way that may support this effort.  (All are likewise invited to attend the Digital Excellence Conference, October 29.)

Many have already expressed support for this endeavor, but not all are able to attend.  For some, the obstacle is scheduling, for others there are fiscal constraints.  Perhaps we can find creative ways to address the latter.

There will be several channels for involvement leading up to and following the meeting.  

First among them is a discussion list: All who wish to attend or otherwise support the work should subscribe and participate.  Please signify on that list whether you plan to join us for the meeting or if you can support this effort in some other way.

Please also spread the word on this meeting and the conference.  Tell us who you think should be there.  Better yet, tell them.

Michael Maranda
Rebuild-Reboot Committee

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2010 Digital Excellence Advocate Awardees & Keynote Speaker Announced!

BREAKING NEWS! All three honorees receiving the CDAA Digital Excellence Advocate Awards have confirmed their appearance at the keynote luncheon of the 1st Chicago Neighborhood Digital Excellence Conference and Technology Fair Friday, health system
October 29, 2010, at DePaul University Egan Urban Center, 1 East Jackson Boulevard, Lower Level.

Pioneer CTC creator Carl Davidson, Julia Stasch, Vice President for Community Development at the MacArthur Foundation, and State Representative Constance Howard will be honored with Digital Excellence Advocate awards at the keynote luncheon. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Nicol Turner Lee, VP and the first Director of Media and Technology of the Joint Center For Political Studies in Washington, D.C.

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Digital Excellence – More Than Just A Catchphrase

July 2006. It was only four years ago, healing sick but as Mike Maranda says, it seems like ages ago.

Two of my five kids weren’t yet in the world, although one was one the way. I was three and a half years into a new relationship that had its ups and downs and stresses and challenges and good times and things that needed to be worked out.

And I was more than 16 years into doing a kind of community development work that had, quite honestly, made me tired and somewhat cynical about what we were doing and the results, if any, we were achieving.

I’d been a part of the Empowerment Zone process in the mid-90’s, a national grants competition with what at that time seemed a fantasy-like prize: $100 million to be awarded to each of six winning applicants over the ensuing 2 years to, as it was proclaimed in the EZ Guidebook, “empower citizens and reinvent government.” The promise of the EZ/EC was that citizens living in poverty-stricken neighborhoods would be able to create and implement their own programs and solutions and that the federal government of Bill Clinton and Al Gore would provide hundreds of millions of dollars for them to do it.

The City of Chicago in 1994 was one year away from a mayoral election. Richard M. Daley, son of Richard J. Daley, had been in power less than six years, voted into office in 1989 after the black community, which had sparked an 83% turnout percentage to elect Harold Washington Chicago’s first black mayor, split badly on whether to vote for one of two men who were vying for the office: Eugene Sawyer, a former 6th ward alderman who had been appointed Washington’s successor in a memorably raucous Dec. 1 City council session after Washington died at his desk of a heart attack six months into his second term, and was seen as a sellout by many community activists, or Tim Evans, a 4th Ward alderman and supposedly the late mayor’s pick as successor (although Harold had clearly said on TV three days before his death that he didn’t and wouldn’t anoint anyone a successor).

Rallied together by a remarkable woman and organizer, Wanda White, who had participated in drafting the national legislation establishing the Empowerment Zone process, what would eventually total 33 Chicago communities
The following principles have been adopted under the Campaign for a Community Benefits Agreement. We believe these principles should guide the development of the wireless network and the opportunities that emerge from its formation.

1. DIGITAL EXCELLENCE IS AN INSTITUTIONALLY FUNDED PRIORITY FOR CHICAGO. Activities promoting Digital Excellence are best shaped and supported through a sustained funding mechanism. A Digital Excellence Trust, diagnosis guided by local constituents and practitioners in the field of Digital Literacy should advocate on behalf of the digitally under-served, and offer programmatic support to establish local capacity and promote the vision of digital excellence.

2. SOUND PLANNING, EVALUATION AND POLICY MEASURES ARE CRITICAL TO DIGITAL DIVIDE EVALUATION AND DIGITAL EXCELLENCE IMPACT. Qualitative and quantitative processes must be established to gather baseline and ongoing data on Chicago’s digital divide, and guide the creation of new policies and practices to strengthen digital opportunities, thereby promoting digital excellence.

3. UNIVERSAL ACCESS TO HIGH-SPEED CONNECTIVITY IS A PUBLIC RIGHT AND NECESSITY.Universal broadband access for all citizens is a public right, not a privilege. Internet access must be available to ALL Chicago residents regardless of where they live, work or learn, furthermore, provision must be made for special access needs. Service upgrades and enhancements must be made available to all communities in an equitable manner.

4. DIGITAL LITERACY AND FLUENCY ARE FORMS OF HUMAN CAPITAL AND REQUIRE PUBLIC INVESTMENT. Comprehensive training for digital literacy must be available in multilingual and varied learning formats. Digital proficiency must be promoted at neighborhood based locations, especially community technology centers, community based organizations and libraries, to strengthen resident understanding of new technologies. Training must be available in multiple formats to promote the inclusion of citizens who are fluent in other languages or disabled.

5. LOCAL INFRASTRUCTURE IS NECESSARY FOR COMMUNITY-DRIVEN CONTENT DEVELOPMENT. Content must reflect the ideas, identities and innovation of community residents and their respective neighborhoods. Local infrastructure must be established to allow for community control over content. Civic, educational and government web sites must be available for free to residents at ALL times through a Civic Garden accessible on the wireless splash page.

6. HARDWARE TOOLS MUST BE AVAILABLE TO ALL. Computer hardware, whether new or refurbished, must be available to ALL Chicago residents free or at affordable cost, and non-predatory mechanisms must be put in place for the acquisition of this hardware for all consumers. Community based organizations, libraries and parks must be equipped and supported to provide free public use access.

7. ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE BEST PRACTICES AND INNOVATIONS IMPROVE THE HEALTH AND WELL-BEING OF ALL NEIGHBORHOODS. The tools of the information age must adhere to and support the highest levels of environmental and economic sustainability. The city should use the new network as a means to disseminate and capture information vital to improving the sustainability of our city, such as gathering air and water quality data and improving transportation choice. Economically and environmentally sustainable processes for disposal and recycling of outdated electronic materials should be supported by the City and technology vendors in all communities, particularly those low-income areas traditionally targeted for the potentially harmful disposal of used and toxic computer hardware. The City and technology vendors should support the creation of neighborhood-based recycling and refurbishing initiatives for environmental remediation and job creation.

8. OUR FREEDOM TO CONNECT DEMANDS NETWORK NEUTRALITY AND ACTIVE MONITORING FOR EQUITABLE SERVICE. Network Neutrality is grounded in Freedom of Speech. For all networks offering service in Chicago the precept of network neutrality must be honored and all features of the network (bandwidth, services and enhancements) must be deployed so as to achieve universal and equitable coverage. The community must have the ability to monitor and verify data on coverage and quality of service, there must be mechanisms for remediation, and the city must take an active role to ensure compliance by vendor and subsidiaries.

9. THE GLOBAL ECONOMY WORKS FOR EVERYONE: ASSURE WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT AND FIRST SOURCE HIRING. Workforce development opportunities that emerge from the wireless network should be made available to neighborhood residents (including the hard-to-employ, youth, and physically challenged) that are identified, trained and employed through first source hiring opportunities and subcontracting opportunities for neighborhood-based businesses.

10. IN STRONG NEIGHBORHOOD ECONOMIES, ENTREPRENEURS AND SMALL BUSINESSES THRIVE. The network must provide mechanisms to expand existing small businesses and cultivate new opportunities in Chicago’s under-served communities. Small businesses and residents must have the resources, training and support to use the access afforded by the network to grow revenue and potential, including training in business development and eCommerce.

The phrase emerged from an idea – to get beyond the sort of cryptic “digital divide” – in an age of PDAs, buy information pills netbooks and smartphones, page the notion that people couldn’t get connected if they wanted was attacked as outmoded – and “digital inclusion” – which was seen as another touchy-feeling condescending phrase cajoling those that had to give to those supposedly locked out.

“Digital excellence”, said Michael Maranda, the man who attached it to the CDAA’s 2007 Community Benefits Agreement, is a standard, a benchmark, representing where we want to go and how we, as citizens in a digital age, define how we use and master technology resources.

It was a standard, said Maranda, that we, as a community set, not one imposed on us. We want to be more than consumers of technology or users of technology, but masters of technology in creating a more open and inclusive society where digital technologies allowed us to connect and share when and where and how we want.

The idea caught on. Julia Stasch, VP of Community Development at MacArthur Foundation and Chair of the The Mayor’s Committee To Eliminate The Digital Divide, convened as part of the process to solicit builders for a citywide wi-fi network, embraced the phrase and the vision it represented. She asked the Chicago Digital Access Alliance to present its vision of digital excellence to the full committee, and on a cold first Monday in February (February 5) of 2007, we did just that, in a Powerpoint slide presentation called “Digital Excellence: The Vision”.

“Digital Excellence: The Vision” inspired and informed the groumdbreaking report, “The City That Networks:  Transforming Society And Economy Through Digital Excellence.”

At the official unveiling of that report, on June 15, 2007, in a speech given by Julia Stasch, Vice President of Community Development,  MacArthur Foundation, at the Community Media Workshop Media Summit,  Ms. Stasch acknowledged the long-standing history of neighborhood technology activism in Chicago and the conceptual framework – created by the community around digital excellence – that was the report’s platform.

“Digital excellence” became the conceptual benchmark adopted by foundations (the Knight and New America Foundation among others), cities pursuing digital inclusion strategies and most important, the Chicago neighborhood technology access community’s self-defining goal and standard.

Chicago’s city government launched what it called its “digital excellence initiative”, embraced and championed the “digital demonstration communities” framework, and presented them as the indicators of a consciousness about digital inclusion in Chicago that other cities could model.

The practitioners, meanwhile, continued to see “digital excellence” as an evolving measurement of a new, more open way of collaboration, information sharing and community development.

And so, three years later, the practice of open stewardship – of information, resources and initiatives – is gaining traction among those who have always practiced a collective not selective philosophy and those who see in the new paradigm an empowerment solution that may break the restrictive lines of suspicion, competition and mistrust that have plagued community efforts for years and decades.

“Digital excellence” – it began as a redefinition, evolved into a benchmark standard and now is the vanguard of an expansive movement. More than just a catchphrase.

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The CDAA: Right Here, All The Time.

Digital Excellence Conference And Technology Fair FlyerWe’re back (so some would say)! But the news is, pancreatitis we never went away, neuropathologist we’ve just been going about our business without a lot of fanfare. Well, I guess that’s all about to change!

The Chicago Digital Access Alliance has news about some exciting and forward-looking projects it is hatching in  the coming months.

10-29-10: The Conference!

First, the CDAA is presenting our upcoming 1st Chicago Neighborhood Digital Excellence Conference and Technology Fair, Friday, October 29, 2010, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., at DePaul University Egan Center, 1 East Jackson Boulevard, Lower Level.

The Conference features a full day of informative workshops, round-table sessions, a news-making keynote luncheon and recognition ceremony, and a networking social hour with neighborhood technology-digital excellence movers and shakers. But if you want to be there, the time to register is NOW, as registrations will be capped at 200. Want to register now? You can register here.


The CDAA has been busy in Chicago – in Bronzeville, Woodlawn, Englewood, on the West Side, in Humboldt Park, on the  North Side, and more. We’ve been establishing CTCs, developing technology plans, and helping residents connect to resources and opportunities. Follow us here to stay tuned to all the latest!

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