Empowering our community through digital literacy and meaningful connections at Twitter NeighborNest

Friday, 2 December 2016

Over the past year and a half since the NeighborNest opened, we’ve watched children grow taller, families persevere through challenges, and volunteers get more connected to community. Everyone is threaded together by our mission to learn, connect, and grow together. We will conclude this blog series by taking a closer look at the people who have been part of the NeighborNest programs day-to-day and the community that has formed as a result.

Youth, families, and adult learners from all walks of life have accessed services at the NeighborNest and exemplified a relentless commitment to continued learning. We’ve seen participants who have never touched a computer face this challenge by taking a basic computer skills class for the first time and then continue to come back to refine their skills. “It’s nice to get to know myself more, keep learning…and maybe dream a bit,” shared a workshop participant. Another client obtained her Python certification by taking advantage of the NeighborNest’s computer lab hours, child care service and guidance from a volunteer engineer — week after week, she came in to do University of Michigan’s self-guided class through Coursera. We were thrilled when she shared her accomplishment with us and brought us a copy of her certificate, along with a cherry pie!

I joined the team before there were rogue crayon marks on the walls and the paint was fresh. The NeighborNest was a blank slate, and it was exciting to see how access to technology and training could create positive impact. While this has been a critical component, it also became clear that one of the greatest strengths of the NeighborNest is how it facilitates human connection. Our family-friendly learning center has become a fertile ground for fostering ties within the community as we’ve witnessed in various interactions, whether two parents chatting about their children in our kitchen over snacks, a staff member working on a resume with a job seeker, or various nonprofit professionals connecting and exchanging best practices. It is a welcoming and safe space for everyone to come as they are.

Twitter employees have equally demonstrated a craving for connection and expressed how the NeighborNest has become a sanctuary for them, a place where they can share their expertise but also learn from others and get to know the neighborhood better. A motivation shared with us was: “I need to do something about all this privilege. I want to get involved on a regular basis and I’m so grateful that my manager is receptive to this, one of the main reasons I joined Twitter is that it’s doing something for the community.” Our employees with limited teaching experience end up volunteering to lead classes, develop curriculum, and support various nonprofits beyond the NeighborNest. Other volunteers, initially hesitant working with kids, also eventually keep coming back to help teach coding, provide back up child care or support arts and crafts with families.

I am fortunate to be part of realizing the NeighborNest vision to be a diverse community that creates new possibilities for everyone through technology and a love for learning. Our philosophy is to meet everyone where they are at and above all, honor the strengths of every individual that comes through our doors. We still have a lot of work ahead, but we remain excited and committed to continue empowering our community through digital literacy and meaningful connections. Our collaboration with nonprofit partners, community members, volunteers and friends across sectors is the heart of what we do and we look forward to forging ahead.