Digital Bridges: Multiple Avenues to Empowering Impact
Digital Bridges Pittsburgh is a social enterprise on a mission to support vibrant communities by providing educational programs and services focused on key skills. They prioritize entrepreneurship, technology, leadership, and social-emotional skills as a means to reduce poverty, build equity, encourage individualized learning, improve employability, and nurture strong social connections.
Digital Bridges Pittsburgh was established in 2017. With signature educational programs in entrepreneurship, technology, and leadership for both adult and youth students, Digital Bridges is a mobile organization that operates out of existing classroom or meeting locations, typically in partnership with established organizations. This is born out of the belief that meeting people where it is familiar and convenient is vital to building trusting relationships and expanding access.
Having proven their curriculum and educational model for the past several years, Digital Bridges encountered growing demand for greater access to their programming. There was a vital need for the organization to develop from a microbusiness into a scalable organization. This included the growth of a sharable curriculum as well as expanding their ability to offer programming where it is needed the most through building capacity in marketing, technology, and program delivery resources.
The business model for Digital Bridges includes both a limited liability corporation (LLC), that protects curriculum and other intellectual property created by Founder Connie Capiotis, and a fiscal sponsorship through an organization called New Sun Rising. This model affords Digital Bridges the opportunity to pursue for-profit activities while still serving people in areas with the most need. Since their inception, Digital Bridges has provided over 500 students with access to educational programming often under-taught in schools, yet critically important paths to sustainable careers.
When Digital Bridges teamed up with Curio412, we started the process of creating a blended strategy that would leverage diverse strengths of the business model. This model affords Digital Bridges the opportunity to serve organizations and individuals who would not otherwise have access to these programs. Grant funding is used to run specific programs in traditionally underserved communities. In beginning the project, it was decided that our strategy for growth should create a diverse portfolio of support and be framed around three areas:
Responsiveness to Communities Served
Ability to Offer Programming Where it is Needed Most
A Blended Approach
Initially, Curio412 worked with Digital Bridges to build a project plan inclusive of a stakeholder network and a “big picture” of priorities for program needs. This allowed us to understand the relationships among resources, activities, outcomes, and impact. We then conducted prospect research inclusive of both grant and earned income opportunities.
Through fiscal sponsorship, multiple opportunities for grant funding were identified through public, private, and corporate foundations as well as government agencies.
Through Digital Bridges’ LLC we not only pursued small business grants, but opportunities to develop a scalable curriculum that could be more broadly shared. This will enable Digital Bridges to create an earned income stream that can contribute to improving access to under-taught curriculum through increased organizational capacity and the ability to reach students beyond Digital Bridges’ facilitation.
Gaining Support through Impact-Driven Communications
In order to demonstrate the past success of programming, Curio412 worked with the Digital Bridges team to leverage their impact management strategy. Each of Digital Bridges’ programs are assessed in multiple ways to measure the level and quality of success. Foundational to the key impact indicators are attendance, student evaluation and observation, and community feedback.
While specific data points provide numbers on demographics, change in knowledge or skills, and top areas of learning, we never want to report on data without a story. Further elements of Digital Bridges’ story were gathered through direct observation and collected in collaboration with community partners.
These data-driven stories were communicated through written grants, one-on-one stakeholder meetings, and more. Comments directly from students in Digital Bridges programs include: “I learned how to manage money and myself. I like that we learned about ourselves and not just how to become and build a business but how to manage it.” “I learned how to prepare a script and how to deliver what I’m saying. I also learned how you make money on YouTube.” Adult entrepreneurs regularly comment that they are learning skills that they are able to take directly back to their business. Their programs couldn’t ask for higher compliments or better market feedback that our programs are both needed and desired.
This blended approach will form the foundation for a continuous work in progress - a strategy for growth utilizing all the strengths of Digital Bridges. Through our work together, Digital Bridges will receive 1) a living project plan to keep growth on track 2) consistent support in scaling business growth and 3) a partner in improving access to transformational education.
Digital Bridges is truly social entrepreneurship at its best and we can’t wait to see them grow on a much larger scale.
Curio412 is a consultancy for businesses and nonprofits who want to improve their bottom line, build relationships, and scale meaningful impact. We believe in creating lasting impact. Which is why we share knowledge and tell stories to keep nonprofits, business, social enterprises, and charitable organizations informed about current trends, ideas, and impact.