Communities Connect News

June 5, 2013

The University of Washington Information School, a Communities Connect Network (CCN) partner, recently prepared a Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) Grant End Report. Within the report, individual subrecipient accomplishments are highlighted as well as recommendations for the future of CCN. Below is the executive summary. 

Executive Summary: Washington State BTOP Grant End Report

The Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP) provided grants ranging from $18,938 to $50,288 to 22 community technology centers (CTC) located in the state of Washington. The grants provided support for hands-on technology access and training for low-income and underserved residents. The BTOP grant also provided funding for activities related to capacity building for the CTCs and for the Communities Connect Network, a project which seeks to help community organizations expand access to technology across Washington State. At the completion of the grants, significant progress in digital inclusion has been made through the efforts of the community technology centers and others involved in the project.

Community technology center accomplishments

During the two-year grant period, the twenty-two community technology centers (CTC) awarded funding made significant improvements to the community technology services at their organizations. Grantees purchased and installed new computer equipment, made connectivity upgrades, developed and refined curriculum, offered new classes, improved websites, purchased new technical equipment, and hired staff. With these upgrades to their centers, these organizations were able to significantly increase access to community technology across Washington State.

  • Operating hours per week for all locations increased by 326 during the grant.
  • The total number of public work stations increased overall by 299, with the BTOP grants supporting the replacement of 240 of these.
  • Volunteer hours increased by 4,734 hours, or approximately 215 hours per center.
  • The average number of client visits per week increased by 4,533, an average of 206 additional visits per center.

As a result of these activities, clients using CTC resources were able to engage in important online activities, receive training, and experience significant improvements in their lives.

  • 614 new classes were offered during the grant, with a total of 126,100 training hours provided to clients across the state.
  • 5,500 clients used the centers to search for employment; 88 reported having found a new job.
  • 22,000 clients used the centers for educational purposes, with 167 actually receiving a GED as a result.
  • 1,800 clients used the centers to access legal and law related services, including 660 who actually attended court proceedings by video conferencing.

Capacity building

Care was taken with the grantees to help them improve the sustainability of their programs. All of the community centers were provided with a needs assessment, evaluation, plans and other capacity building activities through consultation and training provided by the University of Washington. They were also provided with training in evaluation and fundraising.

In addition, grantees made efforts toward sustainability of their programs by engaging in resource sharing, partnering with other community organizations, and increasing the visibility of their public computing centers through outreach activities. Outreach activities include staff presentations to schools and other community centers, attending community events, local news media promotion, and creating brochures promoting services.

Communities Connect Network activities

The Communities Connect Network grew out of a program begun in 1999 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a way for community organizations to receive funding for using technology to help community members improve their lives, increase their knowledge, and meet basic needs. It was created as part of a vision for a self-organized, self-sustaining network for those who were interested and passionate about community technology efforts.

Through Communities Connect Network, a celebration of digital inclusion was held to spotlight the BTOP grant accomplishments in the community. Communities Connect Network also led the Washington State Digital Inclusion Summit to bring leaders and providers together to discuss and share ideas about digital inclusion efforts.

In 2013, the Communities Connect Network conducted a survey of community technology centers in Washington to learn about those organizations and how Communities Connect Network can best serve them. The survey is a continuation of a survey conducted in 2006 and provides a comparison of community technology in Washington over time.

The survey found that the CCN resources community technology centers most were most likely to use are the online directory of other community technology centers across the state, sample curriculum for digital literacy classes available for downloading, and webinars for technology center staff or volunteers on providing digital literacy instruction.

Since no other organization in Washington offers support for community technology centers, we recommend that additional resources be found and invested in the CCN to allow it to continue to operate. Without CCN, community technology centers are very limited in their ability to leverage resources, develop new partnerships, and engage in planning and evaluation activities that will promote their sustainability.

April 4, 2013

On March 14, the Communities Connect Network helped convene the first Washington State Digital Inclusion Summit, bringing together nearly 100 participants from the non-profit, private, and public sectors to exchange best practices and trends in the field of work that includes digital and online information literacy, broadband adoption, and public access to information technology. Laura Breeden, Program Director for Public Computing and Broadband Adoption in the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), provided an excellent keynote highlighting national digital inclusion programs and efforts. Her address set the stage for a day full of activity and knowledge-sharing in an unconference setting.

Laura Breeden

After the keynote address, participants had the opportunity to pitch ideas for conference sessions. Ideas were voted upon, and the topics with the most votes became sessions. Selected topics were:

  • Help Seattle Public Library design next generation digital literacy services
  • Digital literacy for re-entry from prisons
  • Should Internet access be a public utility?
  • Digital literacy services for homebound
  • Intersection of race, hip hop and digital media
  • Civic Voice curriculum for youth
  • Low-income access to email & text messaging
  • What is digital literacy?
  • Pathway to training and health
  • Relevant content and adoption models for immigrants
  • Free Microsoft Tech training through libraries
  • The computing divide beyond digital literacy
  • Big-brained Superheroes (a youth technology training program)
  • Comcast Internet Essential: reaching families

Participants self-selected into sessions during morning and afternoon time slots. The sessions were lively and interactive. The inclusive atmosphere of the unconference allowed for many voices, and participants benefited from hearing a variety of people and perspectives. The conference ended with a reception, poster session, and informal networking. Participants left with new connections and innovative ideas to increase digital inclusion in Washington state.

In the coming weeks, links to photos and notes from the Summit will be posted here: To read tweets from the Summit, search for #DISummit13.

View Laura Breeden's Keynote here:

View photos from the Summit on the CCN Facebook page.

March 7, 2013

Laura Breeden will give the keynote address at the Washington State Digital Inclusion Summit. Ms. Breeden serves as Program Director for Public Computing and Broadband Adoption in the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Under her leadership, the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) has awarded more than $452 million for projects to make essential computer and Internet services more available, affordable, and useful. Since 1983, Ms. Breeden has worked to advance the use of modern digital communications for the public good, and she will provide a national perspective on technology adoption trends and disparities. View the press release here.

January 31, 2013

The Technology Matching Fund (the TMF) program, established in 1997, supports community's efforts to close the digital divide and encourage a technology-healthy city. The program provides grants where the community's contribution of volunteer labor, materials, professional services, or cash is "matched" by the Technology Matching Fund. This program is administered by the Community Technology Program of the City's Department of Information Technology and is funded with cable franchise fees. The Fund honors the memory of Bill Wright, a Central District community leader who embodied our goal of creating digital opportunity for all and using technology tools to build strong neighborhoods.

The grants are for organizations serving residents of Seattle, and are available for up to $20,000. Grant applications should describe how the funds will be used to increase technology literacy and access, or to increase civic engagement.

TMF Workshop 
Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

For application and more information, visit

December 6, 2012

Here are a few interesting stats about visitors to the Communities Connect Network Web Portal:

Since January 1, 2012:

  • The Portal has received 7,789 visits.
  • We've had 21,286 page views.
  • The CCN Training page has had 391 views 
  • Most direct referrals are from (191), followed by (184), (97), then (85).

How did you find us?

October 26, 2012

Recent Highlights from some of our CCNP BTOP Public Computing Centers:

Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC)
More than 150 participants attended CISC’s 2nd Annual Tech Health Day. Thanks to staff and volunteers, it was a resounding success. In addition, via this event, the International Community Technology Center (ICTC) was able to establish continue partnerships with Center Stone and Seattle Public Library. 

Using the technology available in Helping Link’s computer lab, Summer Youth Program students created signage and wrote speeches for the “Save Little Saigon” campaign. They presented their speeches at a City Council public hearing on the Yesler Terrace Redevelopment; a video of their appearance can be seen on YouTube (

La Conner Regional Library
The La Conner Library helped senior adults learn to use computers effectively to connect with family via e-mail.  

The final Youth Access Corps (YAC) program launched in September 2012 with over 15 students enrolled. Students will work towards achieving 27 community service hours and learn technology skills. Additionally, a new job seeker club launched this quarter at Rainier Vista, and attendance has been strong.

Puyallup Public Library
The Puyallup Public Library purchased 6 new digital cameras, with which teens have created an online slideshow of a recent library event.

Yakama Nation Library
The library acquired new Mac computers, and has trained staff to support users. More students have been learning about online classes for college.

October 10, 2012

YTECH, a program of Communities Connect Network Partner Metrocenter YMCA, is one of the recipients of the first Colleen Willoughby Youth Civic Education Awards! Offered by City Club, the award includes a $500 cash prize and recognition at an upcoming ceremony and the 2013 Guiding Lights weekend.

YTECH created a series of innovative and in-demand civic engagement curriculum programs for youth: Civic Voice. These programs are project-based service learning guides that explore community issues. Young people use digital media to tell stories, share their voice and develop action plans to spark dialogue and change in their communities. This curriculum is available to all organizations for a small fee. For more information and to preview the curriuclum, see YTECH's curriculum page.

September 19, 2012

In late August, 2012, CCN Senior Project Director Leslie Rae Schmitz and Outreach Coordinator Amy Hirotaka visited the Yakama Nation Library and La Casa Hogar, both located in the Yakima region of Washington state. They began the day visiting the Yakama Nation Library and meeting with Lab Assistant Michael Sekaquaptewa, who gave them a tour of the library and cultural center. Nearly every station in the library's computer lab was in use with people representing a variety of ages. 

Michael also showed them the fascinating Nipo Strongheart collection. Nipo Strongheart was a Yakama Nation tribal member who starred in and acted as an advisor on many Hollywood films from 1914-1952, and left the Yakama Nation his valuable book, manuscript, and magazine collection. 

After the tour, Carole Folsom-Hill, Executive Director of La Casa Hogar, and Luz Monry, Program Director, met Amy, Leslie, and Michael for lunch at the Yakama Nation's Heritage Inn Restaurant. They discussed the successful implementation of Broadband Technology Opportunities Program-funded technology in their respective labs and brainstormed about possible partnerships.

To learn more about Yakama Nation Library's programs, see our May 2012 e-newsletter.

With Carole and Luz, Leslie and Amy visited one of La Casa Hogar's satellite training sites, located in Catholic Charities Housing in Wapato. They chatted with class participants who were learning basic computer skills. The women felt more confident now that they had mastered searching on the Internet and setting up email accounts.

The group also visited the YWCA, where La Casa Hogar also provides computer classes to women staying in the on-site shelter. Staff there reported that that the classes integrate well into the life skills program.

The main La Casa Hogar site, located in downtown Yakima, serves as a “second home” to immigrant women and their families, providing assistance and instruction on a variety of important skills: English language learning, basic computer skills, GED preparation, driving, and citizenship. La Casa Hogar provides an innovative model for providing training to immigrant women because of the integration of childcare into nearly every class they provide. 

To learn more about La Casa Hogar, stay tuned for this month's e-newsletter. It will be available here on Monday, September 24, 2012.

Senior Project Director Leslie Rae Schmitz in front of La Casa Hogar

August 29, 2012

This program is a multicultural integrative approach to youth job readiness training for low-income families with youth with disabilities who are English language learners enrolled in special education in Seattle Schools. 20 youth are enrolled in this valuable program, which covers workplace expectations, hygiene, conflict resolution, and appropriate communication in the work place and the use of computers and assistive technology. The program includes 12 hours of Parent Training to school engagement to support student attendance and academic engagement, and monitor their child’s progress in school and job readiness skills. It also includes training to parents in accessing the SOURCE to view their youth’s attendance and academic progress. For many parents this is an introduction to technology, such as basic computer skills, access to internet, create their first email account to correspond to school and other agencies they might be working with, in addition parents will become familiar with electronic resources with the use of computers and access to the broadband. Students and their families learn specific assistive technology skills they might need at school and work place to facilitate their leaning and their job.

Youth learning job readiness skills on adaptive equipment at the STAR Center, an assistive technology universal access computer center

Youth learning job readiness skills on adaptive equipment at the STAR Center, an assistive technology universal access computer center.

Made possible through a grant from the City of Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) and CCNP Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) funding, the program takes place at the STAR Center, a universal design computer lab where students have access to state-of-the-art computers and integrate technology in their learning. Ginger Kwan, Director of Open Doors for Multicultural Families and Oscar Escalante STAR Center Director joined forces to provide these valuable skills to 20 youths in four languages. Open Doors staff includes four cultural brokers in Chinese, Spanish, Somali, and Vietnamese and STAR Center includes a Technology teacher, an Independent Living Skills specialist, and an administration support staff. For more information on this program, contact Oscar Escalante.

Article submitted by Oscar Escalante, Director of the STAR Center

August 7, 2012

Connecting Justice Communities is the blog of Pro Bono Net, a nonprofit leader in increasing access to justice through innovative uses of technology and collaboration. They have posted an interview with the Northwest Justice Project's Sue Encherman and Daniel Ediger about the series of videos they are creating for the Communites Connect Network. 

August 1, 2012

The Communities Connect Network has nominated the Edith Bishel Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired (Kennewick) and the Special Technology Access Resource Center (Seattle) for the Federal Communications Commission Chairman's Awards for Advancement in Accessibility. Here is an expert from the application:

As CCN members, the STAR and Edith Bishel Centers are part of a statewide coalition of public and private organizations supporting Washington State as a leader in digital inclusion. Both organizations have contributed to the breadth and depth of CCN services available to underserved populations throughout Washington State. In addition, their efforts to promote consumer empowerment in their respective high-need populations have led to greater access, application and adoption of technology that prior to their involvement with the CCN was not possible. Through focused efforts aimed at user empowerment, STAR and Edith Bishel Center clients have become true consumers of technology and information, enabling active participation in a number of online applications.   

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski will recognize winners and honorable mentions at a ceremony held in October 2012 at the FCC’s headquarters.

Communities Connect Network Nomination

Washington State Broadband Office Letter of Support

July 26, 2012

The Northwest Justice Project created its eighth video, titled: “Public Healthcare for Children & Youth in Washington State.” This video was produced with Sara Zier, a Staff Attorney and Soros Justice Fellow at TeamChild in Tacoma. It will soon be posted on

The video explains the public healthcare benefits that are available for children and youth who already receive some public medical assistance in Washington State.  It explains the “Early & Periodic, Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment” (EPSDT) benefits, including how to apply, what it covers, and how to apply for a fair hearing if EPSDT benefits are denied.  The video raises awareness about kids’ rights to receive all medically necessary health care, including regular and preventative care.

The videos have been added to two playlists on NJP’s YouTube Channel, both “Public Benefits and Economic Security” and “Youth Advocacy (with TeamChild).”

The videos can be viewed by clicking on the links below:   

NJP: Public Healthcare for Children & Youth in Washington State

NJP: Asistencia Médica Pública para los Niños y Jóvenes en el estado de Washington

These videos make use of YouTube’s unique “annotations” link-button feature.  When watching the first 15 seconds of the English version, you can select the Spanish language version by clicking on the red button in the upper right-hand corner and vice-versa. You can also watch NJP’s related video about “Fair Hearing Basics” by clicking on the yellow button within the video screen at 3:45 (English) or 6:00 (Spanish).

June 26, 2012

On June 26, 2012, the Kalispel Tribal Court and the Communities Connect Network celebrated the successful implementation of videoconferencing systems installed in the Tribal Court and the Pend Oreille District Court. This system, implemented by Court Analyst Evin Olsen, and additional public computers have been installed through funding from the Communities Connect Network Project and fulfilled a goal of the state JusticeNet group. Tribal Business Council Chair Glen Nenema, Tribal Court Administrator Cathy Kintner-Christie, and other tribal representatives welcomed Sheila Collins from the Governor's Office, State Representative John McCoy, and other government and non-profit representatives. Look for a full write-up in our next e-Newsletter at the end of July. To learn more, download the press release.

Kalispel Tribal Court Demonstration

Pictured above: Court Analyst Evin Olson uses Skype to videoconference with Laura Breeden, representing the NTIA and the US Department of Commerce. Representative John McCoy views the demonstration.

June 4, 2012

Ethiopian Heritage high school students learned to create a Wii game, with instruction from CCNP Partner Peter Gruebaum of SDK Bridge. This curriculum was created in partnership with Horn of Africa Services and MMRTI, both CCNP BTOP recipients. 

YouTube video of class

May 21, 2012

CCNP Partners the City of Seattle and Metrocenter YMCA, along with FUSE Labs Microsoft Research, are working together to get a better understanding of how people between the ages of 14 and 25 use technology for community or political activities with the goal of improving local community web sites such as Puget SoundOff.

This questionnaire is completely voluntary. Responses are confidential and used only for the purposes of the research project. The questionnaire takes about 20 minutes to complete and all survey respondents are entered into the Microsoft sweepstakes and eligible to win software and games. The survey can be accessed here:

April 19, 2012

Grant funds now available to build community through technology! 

The Online Boost Project is designed to help community and neighborhood groups implement a short term project that will increase their ability to post and manage online content, and foster more diverse participation. In coordination with the Seattle Communities Online initiative, we are seeking opportunities to enhance:

·         Increased awareness of community issues;

·         Increased community participation in problem solving; and

·         Increased interaction with government.

Online Boost grantees will have access to:

·         Up to $1000 mini-grants for a quick, specific project to be completed within 3 months.

·         Workshop (required in order to receive funding) where participants would leave the workshops know what resources are out there, what their plan of action will be, and how to go about implementing.

·         Mentorship and networking opportunities.

The deadline is Tuesday, May 15 at midnight.  The application is submitted online and all interested groups must register in order to access the application.  You can register at:  If you have already registered for another grant with the City, you can log in with your user ID and password and select “Funding Opportunities” and then “Online Boost Grant.”

For help using the online system, contact or by phone at 206-233-7877.

April 16, 2012

The Local Technology Planning Team grant program will award funds to projects and entities that best address the following tasks:

  • Improve the inventory of data, studies, and other resources to enhance the deployment of broadband technology.
  • Create a shared, structured, and formalized process for the collection and dissemination of information critical for the successful deployment of broadband infrastructure and technologies.
  • Identify and benchmark regional or community specific information and broadband performance needs, requirements, and interests.
  • Develop region or community specific broadband deployment and monitoring plans to address the specific needs, requirements, and interests.
  • Develop strategies for public/private collaboration to increase efficiency of delivering services to the public.

Use the link to find more information and application materials. All grant application materials must be submitted by 5 p.m. May 31, 2012.

April 11, 2012

Though December 2011, BTOP recipients installed more than 29,500 new workstations in public computing centers in 36 states, reaching nearly 84% of the total program goal to install 35,000 new or upgraded public workstations. To learn more, visit the NTIA's website.

February 9, 2012

All this week, the NTIA blog will feature stories about BTOP Partners across the country. From their blog post:

The Broadband Technology Opportunities Program is producing jobs, driving growth, providing tools for economic empowerment and improving lives across the country. That was the takeaway from a recent panel discussion at the annual State of the Net conference held in Washington, D.C. last month. The conference, which is organized by the Advisory Committee to the Congressional Internet Caucus, explores the biggest technology policy issues of the day. This year’s conference included a panel devoted to BTOP, a Recovery Act program administered by NTIA that is investing in roughly 230 projects to increase broadband access and adoption around the country.

Their case studies feature both infrastructure projects and digital inclusion projects like the Communities Connect Network Project.

January 30, 2012

We are pleased to announce that EdLab Group has hired a Senior Project Director for Digital Inclusion, Leslie Rae Schmitz. She will be working closely with our partners and staff to continue and broaden the work we are engaged in through the Communities Connect Network. Find out more about Leslie in this month's CCN Newsletter.