As we highlighted in the previous section, digital inclusion programs are most successful when organizations leverage the already-existing relationships in their communities. Digital inclusion movements are dependent on and are most effective when a coalition of community members and organizations are part of the efforts. Moreover, it is imperative that organizations working to create a digitally inclusive society, reach out to trusted community organizations that have an established ties with members of the community. Some of those partnerships include schools, housing authorities, and various community-based organizations that currently engage in work relating to serving marginalized populations.
Trusted Community Members and Spaces
There are various methods that organizations use to get community members to sign up for discount internet offers. Many of the tactics work in tandem with each other and are not as effective in a siloed method. For example, flyers, leaflets and other signage does not work well alone. They are simply a gateway to getting the word out about the discount internet offers or they reinforce verbal conversations.
It is very important to meet community members who are in need of these services in trusted spaces. Some examples include:
- Encourage resident services representatives at housing authorities to talk to their residents about discount internet offers during community events or when new residents move into their housing units.
- Attend parent/teacher events at schools as a method of reinforcing written materials sent home with students.
- Speak directly with community members who use public computers in spaces such as the the public library or community centers.
Interpersonal communication is very important at these events. Community members must trust the messenger in order to have a meaningful conversation about low-cost internet offers. Many practitioners stated that simply having a representative from the ISP at community events is not a strong method for acquiring participants in discount-internet offers programs. The discount internet offers are designed to help a specific population and require one-on-one consultation.
The ISP or organization representative must do their best to understand the circumstances that qualify an individual for the offer and not treat the interaction as an opportunity for a sale. In the words of one of the practitioners, “There has to be a human element.” Having a practitioner who understands not only the low cost offers, but also the eligibility requirements demonstrates the organization's level of buy-in to community members. By inviting the ISP into a trusted space, the organization is choosing to become a single entity in the eyes of the community member. Meaning, due diligence is extremely important for the organization as they will have to act as the face of the program in the eyes of the community member.
Outreach to Community Members
The majority of survey participants stated that it is ineffective to only conduct outreach for discount internet offers via e-pamphlets and fliers. They stated that it is imperative employees and/or volunteers have direct in-person communication with individuals to reinforce and explain written communication.
Additionally, it is important to walk the individual through the sign-up steps. One resource that can be used to help facilitate this process is through the use of EveryoneOn.org. This resource allows individuals to go online on their own devices to see what low-cost internet offers are available in their area. In addition to this online resource, it is important for the local community to have low-cost internet offers listed on various websites including schools, government facilities, libraries and various community organizations.
In addition to online resources, the practitioner may choose to show the community member a simple flyer of the low-cost internet offers available in their area. The practitioner can then provide the next steps to the community member with a simple checklist and/or offer to assist the individual with sign-up. If a resident chooses to simply take the materials home with them, it is important to follow-up with these community members.
Additionally, it is important for practitioners to keep in mind that word of mouth remains the best way for community members to sign up for discount internet offers. One of the practitioners stated the network effect is the best method for disseminating this information. When individuals have a positive experience with practitioners and ISPs, they will tell other friends and family members about the discount internet offer.