The Future-Ready Wireless Infrastructure Initiative of Resilient Communities builds from a tradition of community technology work at New America, in particular partnerships among the Open Technology Institute (OTI) and local coalitions and community groups in Detroit, Brooklyn, and around the world. These partnerships shaped and demonstrated an approach to participatory design, technology training, and build-out of wireless networks by and for communities themselves.
In close partnership with the Allied Media Projects, from 2012-2013 OTI co-developed and piloted Digital Stewardship, an approach to digital skill-sharing and training. The collaborative vision of Digital Stewardship is of local organizers, leaders, and residents as the stewards of digital health for their communities. Wireless networks, as a basic form of digital infrastructure and access, provide a platform for Stewards to apply technological tools, applications, and services to address a range of local needs and goals.
To date, New America has supported over 15 community wireless networks around the world. In 2012, the Red Hook Initiative’s Brooklyn network, which New America supported in early stages, withstood Hurricane Sandy to become a lifeline for the community and a vital resource for local volunteers, residents, and emergency management personnel. Locally built, managed, and maintained -- and designed to draw minimal power and to route around points of failure--this Do-It-Yourself (D.I.Y.) network became an important example of the power of community-led infrastructure in an emergency.
Based on the Red Hook experience and the Digital Stewardship curriculum and approach, Resilient Communities spun off from OTI in 2015 to establish partnerships with other vulnerable communities searching for ways to adjust to the changing climate alongside increasing political and economic insecurity. Our New York and Silicon Valley projects build and scale this approach, providing planners, policymakers, designers, and local leaders the knowledge they need to plan for an uncertain, connected, and distributed future.