L to R :Ricky Petty, Lynda Charles, Jaime-Lee Bradshaw, Scott Hansel, Charlotte Pelton, Kelly Powell, Gregory Demetriades

Award celebrates work to provide technology equity to vulnerable communities

November 19 2021 – Community Partners of South Florida (CPSFL) received the Nonprofit Innovation Award at Nonprofits First’s 2021 Hats Off Nonprofit Awards on October 5, 2021 for the organization’s work closing Palm Beach County’s “digital divide,” the gap between those who have access to computers and the internet and those who do not. The awards were presented by Nonprofits First, and the Nonprofit Innovation Award, presented this year by Florida Power & Light Company, recognizes creative and nontraditional approaches to solving community challenges.

The challenge CPSFL is solving is inequitable technology access and education in Palm Beach County’s vulnerable communities. According to the 2014-2018 US Census American Community Survey in Palm Beach County, 17 percent, or 92,000 households, were not connected to high-speed internet. Further breakdown of the statistics shows those households earn 2.3 times less income, are 4 times less likely to have at least a bachelor’s degree and were expected to live 8.4 years less. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the issue, with the internet becoming a vital resource as schools and workplaces went remote, and access to nearly everything from telemedicine, to e-commerce, to virtual social interaction.

With a grant from Quantum Foundation, in partnership with Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties, CPSFL the launched the Digital Inclusion Program—the innovation recognized by community leaders at the 2021 Hats Off Nonprofit Awards. Successful program delivery relies on collaboration from multiple partners including the School District of Palm Beach County and the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County. CPSFL deploys three full-time technology navigators and a project manager to work directly with residents in their homes or at community sites to provide internet service, devices, training, tech support, and educational content. Residents in the program’s target areas, including western communities of Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay, Riviera Beach, and West Palm Beach, are provided with needed services — either access to Wi-Fi, hardware to connect, education, or all these things on a case-by-case basis.

“Technology and digital literacy are quickly becoming the newest disparity leaving our most disconnected neighborhoods behind, causing detrimental consequences,” said Jaime-Lee Bradshaw, CPSFL’s chief strategy officer. “Access to broadband and having digital skills have become essential in our daily lives. Removing barriers and empowering residents through training and resources is what true equity looks like. It’s a small but important step toward improving some of the social and economic disparities effecting our community.”

Key audiences for the Digital Inclusion Program are school-age children, families, the unemployed and under-employed, returning citizens, veterans and the homeless. “We all have the same dreams,” said Digital Inclusion Program director, Nick Savage. “We want our kids to successful. We want to be healthy. And we want to have peace. Technology is a key piece to get there because it is about delivering solutions. We can catch dreams at the speed of need!”

ABOUT COMMUNITY PARTNERS OF SOUTH FLORIDA

Community Partners of South Florida is a $16 million comprehensive community development nonprofit agency headquartered in Riviera Beach that provides services to families facing social, emotional, and financial adversity. By using a unique, breakthrough approach integrating housing and financial empowerment, child and family mental health, and community services, Community Partners creates self-sustaining families and communities and serves as a driver for growing its local economy. For more information about Community Partners of South Florida, visit www.cp-cto.org. Community Partners is a proud chartered affiliate of NeighborWorks America, a national, nonpartisan nonprofit striving to make every community a place of opportunity.