DigitalC Hosts Beer at the Barn to Promote New MidTown Tech Hive

Wed 1/17 @ 5:30-7PM

Over the past decade the increase in professionals working at home has led to the coworking phenomenon. Basically, it’s a shared workplace bringing together individuals who need a desk or an office without huge overhead.

Sensing an opportunity, DigitalC is set to open its new coworking space (and its new location) MidTown Tech Hive next month at 6815 Euclid Avenue, which is in the Cleveland Health-Tech Corridor. The venue fits perfectly into the nonprofit’s missions to catalyze innovative technology for community impact by offering inclusive and creative space to cowork, root a company, hold events and take technology skill building classes.

An information-based Beer at the Barn affair about MidTown Tech Hive takes place Wed 1/17 at Dunham Tavern’s Barn.

CoolClevelant talked to DigitalC Technology in the Neighborhood department head Liz Lazar about the nonprofit’s move into a new coworking space.

CoolCleveland: Let’s start out talking about DigitalC.

Liz Lazar: We’re a nonprofit organization formed about a year and a half ago that grew out of another organization called OneCommunity. Our mission is largely to catalyze technology for community impact, or to leverage technology for community impact. I know those sound like buzzwords, but really we’re just trying to bring technology into the greater Cleveland community. We do that in a number of ways. I head up a pillar in our organization called Technology in the Neighborhoods. That’s where this neighborhood Tech Hive kind of fits. I also run some programs around bringing Internet access and visible skills training to underserved Cleveland residents.

CC: So in layman’s terms, what is DigitalC providing the community?

LL: We’re providing access and knowledge about technology for members of our community. That’s everybody from residents to nonprofits. That’s working with data and then underserved community members who maybe don’t have any digital literacy skills or who don’t have access to technology. Cleveland is the third least connected city in the country, meaning Internet connectivity, so that’s not a very positive place for us to be. It’s a big part of our mission just to get us off that list.

CC: How is DigitalC going about achieving its mission?

LL: We have a program that we piloted last year called Connect the Unconnected. This is a partnership with technology provider Siklu. They have what’s called millimeter-wave technology that provides very robust Internet speeds wirelessly. We’ve actually connected six CMHA facilities, along with Lutheran Men’s Shelter on Lakeside and Stepstone Academy, to a high-speed broadband network. Once we brought the access online to these technology partnerships, we also began running digital literacy training classes. (CMHA) residents that participated in those three-week training classes earn a refurbished desktop PC for their apartment.

CC: Tell us about the ReStart program.

LL: This is a technology skills-building program. It takes people who are basically at any level on the digital literacy spectrum — you could be pretty much digitally illiterate, never been on a computer, don’t know how to operate a computer — and they can enter into the basic digital literacy class. That’s the foundation class in that program and work your way up to an A+ certification, which is pretty much like help desk certification required for an entry-level position in IT. So really the ReStart program’s goal is to take people from digital illiteracy all the way up to technology employment if they’re interested.

CC: So ReStart is for those looking for jobs in IT?

LL: You don’t necessarily have to be interested in working in technology to get into the program. You could just want to build your digital literacy skills. We did some research and worked with partners in the community to find out what kind of digital skills are heavily required across sectors across Northeast Ohio. Things like Excel kept popping up, so we made Microsoft Office certification a part of the ReStart program.

CC: So how does MidTown Tech Hive fit into DigitalC?

LL: MidTown Tech Hive is really our first foray into working and bringing technology physically into the neighborhoods. We want to create an innovation and collaboration space that isn’t inclusive to just people already interested or involved in entrepreneurship and technology. It should be a space that we’re trying to create that is open to everybody in the community and makes technology accessible to people in the community. One of the things I’ve learned in running training classes and working with residents is people naturally feel an intimidation factor about technology. They don’t feel like they have the aptitude for it. They don’t feel like it’s a world that’s open and available for them. And in the matter of a couple of weeks, through a basic digital literacy training course, you see a mindset shift occur in people. That’s what we’re trying to do, show these people that technology isn’t intimidating. It’s available to them and it’s something they can grasp and utilize. It can improve their lives in countless ways. So we wanted to create this space that feels inclusive in that way. We want to provide opportunities for residents that traditionally haven’t had them.

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