A Great Start to 2022
We have had a A Great Start to 2022 and I’d like to update you on some of our key projects and goals and to invite you to become a member, donor, and active participant in Innovate Chatham’s future success. I’d love you to take out an annual membership or make a donation. It’s easy, pay by credit card or Paypal here: Membership and Donations.
Late last year, a group of Chatham Tech Talk members met in the backroom of Postal Fish, complained about things, and wished we could do something more. That night’s discussion was familiar—we are excited about new technology but see that many in our community are being left far behind. That night we dared each other to actually try to do something difficult and meaningful. We agreed to take a journey to help all Chathamites flourish through technology. In December, we started Innovate Chatham. Chatham Tech Talk is still the forum for members to network and learn about technology, and now we can apply those skills to ‘leveling up’ for our County’s residents.
So, what have we accomplished in the first six months?
- We formed a non-profit corporation in NC, wrote our bylaws, elected a Board of Directors. We obtained: Federal nonprofit 501(c)(3) status, NC charitable donation status, a bank account, a PayPal account, insurance policies, a website, and filed our taxes—the tedious and costly things necessary to become a nonprofit.
- We held an event in January at the Chatham Ag Center for our community understand options to access broadband internet.
- Chatham Tech Talk held an online presentation about cybersecurity from one of our expert members, Chris Murphy.
- We held 2 social events at the new Red Moose Brewing in Pittsboro.
- We networked at House of Hops together with 79West to hear about their innovation space coming soon to Chatham Park.
- We were interviewed for an article in the Chatham News and Record and shared our mission with the community.
- We organized judges for Science Fairs at Chatham County schools and NC Region 5 levels. Some of these kid’s projects won at the National and International Science Fairs.
- For Communities in Schools in Siler City, we organized volunteers to teach computer game development and robotics. Our members are creating a maker space – the Chatham Rabbit Hole – at The Alliance for future community education as well as portable modules to bring to schools or other locations. We also put on two events at Jordan Matthews High School.
- In support of Chatham School of Science and Engineering, we hosted the Innovate Chatham Technology Career Day, and another day for the new Boys and Girls Club in Pittsboro.
- We found math tutors amongst our members (thanks Mike Hills and Don Kalgren) – always in very short supply – for Communities in Schools. And we encouraged and supported 2 students to enter the Congressional App Challenge.
- We met many new members, contacts, partners, and potential partners. We joined the NC Center for Nonprofits, met with Innovate Carolina, various folks in County government, the Chatham Educational Foundation, Dr. Jackson who is the Superintendent of Chatham County Schools, Kramden Institute, Digital Durham, and digital inclusion leaders at the State and National level.
Current Work Plans
Innovate Chatham is currently working in three strategic focus areas:
- Digital Inclusion, which is to help close the availability, access, and adoption gaps related to using the internet and digital communications in Chatham County.
- Technology Education, which is to teach others what we know about technology and technology careers.
- Chatham Tech Talk, which is to share via enjoyable events ideas between experts and with the community related to technology.
What are we up to now?
- We are helping Communities in Schools by finding volunteers to help a second group of kids experiment with robotics and using inexpensive parts at The Alliance.
- We are planning a series of events to get kids in underserved areas excited about STEM.
- We are supplying speaker for the CCS’s summer IT course at Seaforth.
- As part of the Digital Inclusion program we are in the early stages of planning methods and events to help students and families sign up for assistance to access and afford computers and internet service.
- We continue to seek funding to teach basic computer and internet use to residents of Chatham as Jesse Bradley (IC Board Member and digital inclusion expert) does in other counties.
Our biggest challenge:
There are 133(!) Federal digital inclusion programs that your tax dollars have paid for. In order to get a share of this funding each county in NC must have a digital inclusion plan. Out of 100 counties in NC, there are already 42 counties in the state that have a head start on Chatham. 15 of these counties already have their plans completed. Therefore, we have just kicked-off the Chatham Digital Inclusion Plan Coalition together with 10 other organizations. We are working hard to expand involvement and support which is will be necessary to seek funding. The Coalition is currently holding biweekly meetings over Zoom. The next step will be to agree working groups, who can help hands on, who will advise, and who will support. We need to complete our Plan before October 2022, in order to engage political leadership ahead of submissions required at the end of 2022. This is a direct way to ensure that more of the taxes you paid are returned to Chatham County for worthwhile causes.
If you wanted to, how could you help?
We want to succeed in our current projects and we have many opportunities ahead of us to expand our efforts and increase the chances of our mission’s success.
There are two ways that you can help:
- Get involved
So far our core group of 7 has been doing most of the work and self-funding all our efforts. We enjoy this and will continue as long as we can. If you are interested and financially able, we could use your financial support. You or your business can become a member of Innovate Chatham. You can use this link to contribute debit or credit card or PayPal account.
First, make sure you are seeing Innovate Chatham on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Groups (links in the footer, below). Join us at Chatham Tech Talk events on zoom (and in person as as the plague fades). Drag along your friends and colleagues who live or work in Chatham County. Spread the word! Oh, and you can volunteer for any of our projects – Digital Inclusion will be a game changer, but we need lots of folks involved.
What if you want to volunteer with specific projects?
- We have an immediate need to expand our Digital Inclusion Coalition network. If you know of any organization or company working in the county that is involved in any aspect of developing, disseminating, training in technology or supporting people that use technology, or would like to help with the Plan, please share their information with us.
- The community has ongoing needs for science fair judges, math tutors, mentors for robotics clubs, and more. We can connect you or your tech-savvy friends to the right people if you want to help. If you can think of anything else we should do to support our mission, let us know.
- Finally, like all great ideas, your tech interests, stories, and expertise should be shared with others. Let us know if you would like to share via an event in the months ahead. This could be story time over some drinks, a Zoom meeting, a sounding board event, a members-only event, or a public educational event—or some other idea that you have. Please share. We would all love it and we will organize it for you.
- Thanks for reading and for your support. We hope you will help us to help all of Chatham flourish through technology.
Please share this with any others who might be interested in what we are doing.
Comment below or write to me at president [at] innovatechatham.org