The Community Technology Grants, funded by cable franchise provisions, have substantially contributed to expanding local participation in digital society

In the last ten years, 90 Community Technology Grants totaling $ 9,325,474 have been awarded to a diversity of non-profits, local governments, and educational organizations. Some of these include Friends of the Children, The Boys and Girls Club of the Portland Metro Area, Wisdom of the Elders, the Northwest Film Center, public schools, Portland Community College, Mount Hood Community College, and the Multnomah County Library.

These grants have well supported multimedia and digital literacy and the development of programming for the community access channels, as well as expanded uses for the Institutional Network (I-Net).

The Community Technology Grants support projects in the four public benefit areas shown in the Chart below. The chart reflects the percentage of grant funds that have supported each of the public benefit areas over the last 10 years.

Chart 3: Community Technology Grant Public Benefit Type Breakdown

Each of the four public benefit areas is described in more detail below followed by examples of grants in each area:

  • Reducing Disparities for Underserved Communities: Forty-seven grants in this area supported the development of equipment and related training and education for underserved communities, such that they can better participate in the digital society.  The Rockwood Innovation Station, funded in part by a grant with matching funds from Multnomah County Library, provided a “Makerspace”, located at the Rockwood library in a low-income area. It was developed as a collaborative learning environment for underserved youth in East Multnomah County to explore STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), utilize technology and develop interactive data communications over the I-Net.

    Outside the Frame, supported youth transitioning out of homelessness and was designed to change how these youth see themselves and are seen by the public. As a result of this grant, more than 100 youth participated in workshops and became fully trained on how to use film and other video production equipment.
  • Improving Service Delivery: Twenty-eight grants in this area helped improve the delivery or increased the effectiveness, of public or non-profit services. IFARA used a grant for digital video production equipment in order to expand their productions, distributed on the community access channels, related to health issues for individuals in all levels of education, gender/sexual orientation, ethnicity, and culture. They conducted trainings with multiple organizations to use the equipment and worked with their partners to not only be part of the content, but also part of the technical program production for training purposes.

    Film Action Oregon/Hollywood Theater created a media lab with its grant together with Portland Community Media (now Open Signal) at Open School North (OSN) where at-risk youth gain access to technology and media arts instruction. They produced 141 animated and live action media projects, including 31 programs submitted for community access channels.
  • Improving Community Involvement: Twelve grants in this area were for projects that supported or encourage involvement in issues of importance to the community. The Slavic Communities Center of Northwest leveraged its grant with matching funds to create a video platform that gave local Slavic leaders the opportunity to express themselves, as well as help their community members to be more involved and engaged in the city. They developed 12 programs that were submitted to Open Signal as well as a number of videos utilized on social media and YouTube. All focused on the Russian and Ukrainian specific community.

    XRAY.FM gained their own production equipment, and collaborated with MetroEast, to record their radio programs on video to expand distribution on community access channels and other video platforms.  They developed over 160 programs and trained volunteers to operate the video equipment. They indicated having this type of video content also opens up new avenues of sponsorship for their station.
  • Reducing the Cost of a Service or Function:  Three grants in this area supported the provision of non-profit or public services or functions less expensively. MetroEast Community Media used such a grant for development of their program scheduling, asset management and interactive video systems.

Many times, these initial grants lead to sustainability of the initiative so that the program can continue.