The Benton Foundation has often served as a laboratory for exploring the potential of new communications technologies and techniques to help solve social problems. The intent has been to incubate these projects and build them to independence, as in the case of Connect for Kids, or bring them full-circle to completion, as in the case of Benton projects Open Studio and Debate America. Many valuable lessons have been learned from these cutting-edge initiatives, lessons we share with our nonprofit colleagues. Our Strategic Communications for Nonprofits capacity building toolkit documents some of these lessons.
Digital Divide Network
The Benton Foundation's signature initiative over the last two years has been the 21st century skills initiative that highlights and promotes strategic interventions to raise the skills of underserved youth and young adults, enhancing their employability and strengthening civic engagement through new media. In February 2004, Benton launched the Center for Media & Community. It is established at the Education Development Center, with the goal of continuing to expand our work around the digital divide and promoting 21st Century literacy. Two Benton projects became part of the new center: Digital Divide Network and Digital Opportunity Channel.
As a nonprofit leader in addressing the digital divide, the Benton Foundation serves as producer and coordinator of the Digital Divide Network (DDN). Strong industry partnerships have helped foster an environment in which strategic integration of digital divide initiatives is possible with nonprofits and governments.
At the DDN, the digital divide is examined from many perspectives. The website offers a range of information, tools and resources that help practictioners stay on top of digital divide developments. It also serves as forum where practictioners can share their experiences with colleagues around the world. DDN looks at the causes and effects of the divide from four distinct angles: technology access, literacy and learning, content, and economic development. In each of these areas, particular attention is paid to the role of local individuals and organizations when it comes to bridging the divide. The articles and resources catalogued in DDN are the result of research and writing by the Benton Foundation and submissions by individuals and organizations actively involved in bridging the divide. DDN's content is dynamic and is subject to ongoing review for timeliness, relevance, and other factors.
The Digital Divide Network sponsors the Digital Opportunity Channel in conjunction with One World International. The mission of Digital Opportunity Channel is to educate a global audience on the use of information and communication technology (ICT) as a tool for promoting digital opportunity for all, leading to sustainable development and better quality of life. The channel sees itself serving as a tool for organizations and individuals working in ICT and digital divide efforts.
Visit the project at www.digitaldividenetwork.org
Connect for Kids
For years, the Benton Foundation has played a leading role as producer and strategist in national children's campaigns. We are proud that Connect for Kids, the online project for affecting public policy and practice for children and families launched by the foundation in 1996, was successfully incubated, becoming an independent nonprofit in January 2003. Connect for Kids, an award-winning multimedia project, is still helping adults make their communities better places for families and children. The site offers a place on the Internet for adults—parents, grandparents, educators, policymakers and others—who want to become more active citizens, from volunteering to voting with kids in mind.
Visit Connect for Kids at www.connectforkids.org.
OneWorld United States
OneWorld United States publishes U.S. and international perspectives on global issues gathered from OneWorld partners worldwide. We select from OneWorld's vast network of nongovernmental organizations, development-oriented news services, foundations, and research institutions the news and views considered to be of the greatest interest to a U.S. audience. The OneWorld U.S. edition seeks to provide balanced and accurate coverage, identify sources, and provide access to original documents, through links to partner websites. Through links to OneWorld.net, U.S. readers can easily access in-depth information organized into guides on topics and countries. OneWorld United States also provides outreach and support to U.S.-based nonprofit organizations that share our global values and want to participate in our network.
OneWorld US at us.oneworld.net.
Sound Partners for Community Health
Sound Partners for Community Health was a program of the Benton Foundation and funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Sound Partners increased public awareness of specific health issues and facilitate citizens' involvement in making decisions affecting health care by fostering partnerships between public broadcasters, community organizations and additional media entities. By utilizing a variety of programming and community engagement techniques, the alliances supported by Sound Partners helped equip individuals to participate in community problem-solving around local health issues. Visit the archived project at www.soundpartners.org. Read Local Voices for Healthy Communities for the story of ten years of Sound Partners and for highlights of its replicable qualities as seen through vignettes about three grantees.