What does it take to get at least some basic insight into Native American communities? For one major company, it took at least 11 visits to cities across the U.S., discussions with Indian organizations and an assessment of Indian needs related to company resources.
For Jay Grimm, director of the Denver Indian Center (DIC), Comcast’s initiative in Indian country is a sign the company “gets it” in a way few large corporations have done in terms of understanding the Native community.
Comcast/NBC Universal gave DIC a two-year $30,000 grant to be used for youth leadership development, and provided e-mail responses about Comcast’s programs in the Indian world.
Grimm said the grant at DIC would be used for general business skills, graphic design, digital literacy and a number of other activities to foster growth.
“Jay and his team are doing terrific work in all those areas and we look forward to partnering with them throughout the year in many ways beyond this financial support,” said Cindy Parsons, Comcast vice president of public relations.
To Comcast, diversity is important so the company can “reflect the communities we serve,” she said, noting the “remarkable increase in Native Americans living in urban areas, many of them being Comcast markets.”
“It’s important that we support organizations like the Denver Indian Center, who are doing so much for urban Indians. And the Denver Indian Center is a perfect fit for Comcast in terms of our focus areas of digital literacy, youth leadership development and community service,” she said.
During the current year, a Comcast official dealing with contributions made trips to Denver and other Indian lands and communities in and near Longmont, Colorado; Albuquerque; Gallup, New Mexico; Tucson, Arizona; Minneapolis; St. Paul, Minnesota; Portland, Oregon; Seattle; Bellingham, Washington; and Hollywood, Florida.
“Comcast, unlike other corporate foundations, has become very acquainted with Indian country to assure they are aware of the needs of our people,” Grimm said, noting the company is “aware of the importance of building relationships. This can result in increased foundation dollars to our people.”
Grimm said that the company also provided a grant “to assist with increasing awareness of our American Indian community by developing a public service announcement that will air nationally. This will be done from a strength-based approach to increase a positive image of our people,” he added.
The support is welcome, but it’s not the only project the company has in Indian country for youth. Others Parsons cited as having received funding in the last 18 months are the Digital Connectors Program at the Native American Youth and Family Center in Portland; a two-year technology grant for the after-school program at Little Earth of United Tribes in Minneapolis; and such national sponsorships as those for the National Indian Child Welfare Association conference, the UNITY youth conference, and the American Indian College Fund annual gala in October.
A company publication, Comcast Voices, described Comcast/NBCUniversal’s progress since the two companies joined in early 2011 by noting that “while we’ve made real progress in delivering on our diversity commitments, we know those efforts remain a work in process.”
NBCUniversal attended the 25th Annual Reservation Economic Summit (RES 2011) and American Indian Business Trade Fair, attended by American Indian and Indigenous entrepreneurs and economic decision-makers as well as government and corporate executives and buyers.
Comcast plans to launch 10 new independent channels over the next eight years, eight of which will be African American or Latino owned and/or operated, and Comcast has reached agreement to expand the reach of eight Hispanic networks by more than 14 million subscribers, according to the company publication.
Among other minority-oriented undertakings, Comcast plans to boost the reach of an Asian pop culture channel by more than 2 million subscribers and two African-American-owned networks by a combined 2.3 million new homes, the company said.
In an ongoing program, Comcast said the company has helped more than 160,000 low-income families get online to bring the internet into their homes, but decided that bridging the digital divide would also require digital literacy training and it established a learning center website.