Policy and Advocacy Thrive with Partnerships Across the Community

When Richard Ramirez isn’t serving as vice chair of Connect 313’s policy, advocacy and ecosystem committee, he’s busy at DTE Energy as head of innovation and technology, and IT corporate social responsibility activities. 

As such, he’s gotten a bird’s eye view of the benefits of digital access and connectivity and conversely, the significant challenges to neighborhoods and residents encountering digital gaps.  

In late 2021, a DTE colleague tapped Ramirez to gauge his interest in supporting Connect 313. She believed the organization’s mission to close Detroit’s digital divide aligned perfectly with Ramirez’s passion for tech equity. He agreed.

Now, Ramirez will lend his penchant for giving back to the community – something he learned from his parents while hopscotching across Texas – to support the efforts of the policy committee’s previous work and fully understand what’s happening at local, state and federal levels to address the digital divide.  

“It’s critical that we recognize the constructs supporting city, county and state organizations, and policies being enacted to help provide access to digital equipment, support digital literacy and enable digital connectivity. Then we can figure out where new policy is needed, or whether we augment and advocate for current policies to have broader and deeper impact here,” Ramirez said.

What’s more, Ramirez sees this role as an opportunity to help ensure activation happens outside of a vacuum and in the right places. 

“For me, this role is best approached collaboratively, both with partners in the community, and across other committees within Connect 313. In that way we can leverage opportunities and connect the dots for folks so that more people can achieve their maximum potential.” 

Ramirez says he will measure success by the degree to which he has motivated people to action, created change and positioned Connect 313 as a model for organizations pursuing similar goals. 

Detroit has been home to Ramirez and his family for nine years, after his wife’s career brought them to the city. But he fondly remembers his time camping as a child in Texas and his parents teaching him to always leave a place better than how he found it. That’s part of his impetus today. 

“That lesson has always resonated with me. Whether it’s the natural world or the community around me, finding ways in which to make people’s lives better and richer brings such joy to our own lives.”