Looking for Fearless

This fall, I will be tackling a new endeavor: writing a book about the Be Fearless principles that will feature remarkable stories of fearless people and organizations that embody them. The book will be grounded in five principles that together represent keys to creating the “secret sauce” that can bring about transformational change. Being fearless means setting audacious goals, acting urgently and boldly. It means experimenting, taking risks, being willing to strike unlikely alliances and accepting the possibility of failure while still pressing forward.

Since launching our Be Fearless work at the Case Foundation, we’ve highlighted and written about many wonderful stories of fearlessness—those inspiring people and organizations that started with a big bet, took risks, built unlikely partnerships, remained undaunted in the face of failure and used urgency to help conquer fear. These stories run the gamut from those more familiar—from President Kennedy’s moonshot, to two-time Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie’s pioneering work on radioactivity, to modern day Elon Musk—to lesser known contemporary tales of remarkable people and organizations who are doing remarkable things. Many of these are highlighted on the Be Fearless website and featured on social media through events like #FearlessFriday.

We live in a time when the world demands we build innovative, new approaches. And we know there are stories of fearlessness playing out across America and around the world every day. We know that there are many individuals who have lived the principles of Be Fearless through time, but whose stories may not be known. Their stories run the gamut: from business owners to nonprofits leaders, from those trying to make a difference in their communities to those launching a startup. These are the people and organizations who have brought us unique inventions, great discoveries and impacted the lives of others, and they have done so fearlessly.

And that’s where you come in.

We want to learn about these stories so we can highlight their successes, the challenges they overcame and their Be Fearless thinking to both raise the profile of their stories and to provide compelling role models for those who will follow in their footsteps. No matter the focus, no matter the scale, no matter when or where they lived, if you have a compelling story about an individual or an organization that you think embodies the five Be Fearless principles, we want to hear it.

To make it easy to submit the story you want us to know about, we’ve created a simple template that you can find at FindingFearless.org. There, you can post short descriptions of what inspires you—whether it’s from your own journey or that of another individual, nonprofit, corporation or startup—and how they put Be Fearless to work. We have a team of researchers prepared to dig deeper, should we select the story to be highlighted in my book or to lift up through the Case Foundation.

I have no doubt that our Be Fearless work at the Case Foundation and the stories I will highlight in my book will be made better through the contributions of others. I invite you to join us on this exciting Finding Fearless journey.

Four Trends Democratizing Philanthropy

Democratizing philanthropy. Isn’t that a simply wonderful concept? The notion that giving—of your time, talent or treasure—isn’t something just for an elite class of individuals, but for all individuals. That the idea of an “every person” giver and “every day changemaker” has the potential to accelerate social impact. At the Case Foundation, as we celebrate 20 years of changemaking, this very idea has been at the core of our approach. Our anniversary call to action to Get in The Arena is a call to everyone, everywhere to engage as a community of social change agents in any way you can.

From early experiments testing the power of technology to drive more financial donations to social causes, to creating alliances of private-public partners to drive talent and time donations to the nonprofit sector, we’ve been pushing against the status quo of what it means to be a “philanthropist” and how to maximize resources to improve the social condition.

So we were thrilled to see the Giving USA 2017 Report find that charitable donations from America’s individuals, estates, foundations and corporations increased to an estimated $390.05 billion in 2016. That represents a 3.5 percent increase in foundation giving from 2015, a 3.5 percent increase in corporate giving and a 3.9 percent increase in individual giving! And how about this fun fact as evidence that individual giving is democratizing philanthropy—more people give than vote.

Against that history and mission, it was such a pleasure to explore trends in “microgiving”—the opportunity for more individuals to give with small donations—with the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy for a piece on how, with time and technology, more people are turning into philanthropists.

Expanding on what I was able to share in that article, here are my thoughts on four trends that are driving that movement and catalyzing the democratization of philanthropy.

Trend #1: Going mobile and frictionless

In order to truly make giving ubiquitous, donating must be frictionless and easy for people. This quote from Aaron Strout at W20 Group sums it up for me: “The new “Holy Grail” for any business should be to make it as easy as possible for any customer to buy a product or service whenever and wherever they like, with as few clicks as possible. With the evolution of location-based technologies, mobile payment systems and a continual decrease in technology costs, this concept of true ‘frictionless commerce’ is quickly becoming a reality.” And the “business” of giving is no exception. In 2016, online giving increased by almost eight percent, and 17 percent of all online donations came through mobile. I see this trend only growing.

Why? In part because of who is driving online giving: Millennials. The Case Foundation sponsored Millennial Impact Report found that 84 percent of Millennials made donations in 2016. Blackbaud’s Next Generation of American Giving report also found that 62 percent of Millennials expressed interest in making donations on their phones. With Millennials surpassing Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation, their habits and preferences will inevitably drive the future of philanthropy.

We’re also seeing a surge of entrepreneurship and innovation in online platforms aimed at maximizing a seamless experience for users. Check out platforms like Goodworld, on a mission to make it easy to donate in the moment by using a hashtag on social media, or Spotfund or Google’s One Today, all aimed at easing in-the-moment donations when you’re thinking about moving your interest in a social causes to action. And last year’s exciting news from Facebook that users could choose from a list of over 750,000 charities to support by building their own fundraising pages or linking donate buttons to Facebook Live videos. All of these are part of a trend toward simplifying and democratizing philanthropy.

Trend #2: Creating “communities of giving” through crowdsourcing and crowdfunding

In general, people want to belong. To a club, a tribe, a social network, a church, a movement…something bigger than themselves. The beauty of microgiving is that all of the smaller individual donations become part of a larger social cause community driving collective impact.

And technology and tech platforms have made it easier to find your tribe, engage and see your impact. Who can forget the viral activation of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? Clever concept meets social media sharing capability meets information awareness and donation surge. And these “everyday philanthropists” became part of tribe that resulted in the discovery of a new ALS gene, NEK1, known to be among the most common genetic contributors of the disease, and impetus for a new target on drug development. Crowdfunding sites allow people to donate to social ventures year-round. GlobalGiving, Kickstarter, Kiva, Crowdrise and Indiegogo have all gained popularity in recent years, especially among Millennials.  We’ve seen this trend play out through our partnership launching #Giving Tuesday, which hit a record donation sum last year of $168 million from 1.6 million donations around the world.

Trend #3: Conscious capitalism is taking hold

The notion of “conscious capitalism”—aligning your values with your spending, investing and business operations—is moving from niche to mainstream and putting individuals at the core of driving social change alongside profits. Consumers are paying attention to brands that put social impact at the core of their business operations. In fact, 66 percent of global consumers are willing to spend more on products if they’re from a sustainable brand. 73 percent of Millennials express the same preference. That buying behavior is driving profits alongside purpose at companies like Patagonia, Method and Warby Parker.

Similarly, as Impact Investing—investments into companies, organizations and funds with the intention to generate social and environmental impact alongside financial return—has taken hold with the high net worth investor community, large institutional investors and foundations, we are also seeing a trend toward making it more accessible for everyone. Check out Benefit Chicago, an initiative to put $100 million in nonprofit investments in the city to work with investors with as little as $20, or Calvert Community Investment Notes, similarly putting $20 investments to social good, while getting a bond-like return. These kinds of vehicles enable everyday people to be everyday impact investors.

Trend #4: It’s more than money

Money matters, but so does time and talent when it comes to driving social change. Finding ways to tap the extraordinary talent across the nation and “donate” it to social service has opened the aperture of philanthropy and allowed many more people to give. The Case Foundation’s early experiment in this arena—A Billion + Change—tapped into this potential to democratize giving.

Also, through the Case Foundation’s Millennial Impact Report, in partnership with Achieve, we’ve found that employers of the Millennial generation will need to embed talent-giving strategies into their employee retention efforts. Similar to financial donation platforms, technology is and will continue to accelerate and make more accessible this type of giving. Check out NationSwell and Service Year for inspiration.

What trends are you seeing? Share your thoughts on how people are turning their interest into action with us on social media using #GetInTheArena. It’s an exciting issue to follow for many reasons but, for me, because microgiving and small-dollar philanthropy create a global culture of giving. Our CEO, Jean Case, often reminds us that the Greek root definition of the word “philanthropy” is the love of humanity. Imagine a world where decisions—by individuals, investors, government and corporations—are made and measured by their human impact!

Powerful Inspiration Around Every Corner at MCON 2017

If you’re familiar with the annual Millennial Engagement Conference, you’ll know that MCON draws a diverse and inspirational lineup of changemakers. Speakers, attendees and sponsors alike convene around a singular mission—to better understand, activate and showcase the power of the millennial generation to drive social impact. And MCON 2017 was no exception, as everyone in attendance and on stage continued to inspire!

I was particularly happy to sit down briefly with fellow MCON sponsor Blackbaud for a Facebook Live interview to talk about the Case Foundation’s nearly 10 years of work and research on Millennial engagement. However, the real action took place on stage where the entire community could engage directly. There were many great moments throughout the 2-day conference, but let me highlight the top six  “power themes” I saw on display at MCON 2017:

    1. The Power of Networking: Building off of last year’s positive feedback, MCON 2017 included an opening night party—no agenda, no speakers, a pure focus on networking and building connections. This year, participants gathered at National Geographic (thank you, NatGeo!), surrounded by the work and photography of an institution that for more than 100 years has inspired adventurers and scientists to preserve our planet. Social capital—the networks of people we know—is a critical component of any social movement. Get out there and build it, share it and advance the issues you care about!


    1. The Power of Showcasing Movement Practitioners: The Igniting Good Town Hall, hosted by #GivingTuesday, took place just before the official start of MCON. The town hall allowed participants to hear from practitioners and learn about their tactics for building, sustaining and unleashing coalitions of Millennials and others to tackle some of our biggest social issues. The session included diverse groups like the Movember Foundation whose movement has contributed to more than 1200 projects for prostate and testicular cancer and mental health and suicide prevention, and Amnesty International’s 7 million-person global coalition campaigning for a world where human rights are enjoyed by everyone. The town hall provided inspiration, through the sharing of practical information, on the potential to affect social change by building strong coalitions and communities around a common cause. Movement building isn’t easy—it always involves behavior change and disrupting the status quo—so learning from history and those in the trenches now was a powerful feature of MCON 2017.

      Photo courtesy of MCON.


    1. The Power of Storytelling: At the Case Foundation, we are huge believers in the power of what we call “inspirational capital,” showcasing through stories, blogs, film, photos and infographics the images and narratives that convey the real history and ultimate end state of the social causes we are advancing. The imperative of storytelling to build community and catalyze social movements was front and center in the exclusive screening of Crown Heights. An awardee at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, the film tells the true story of Colin Warner, an 18-year-old Brooklyn man wrongfully convicted of a 1980 murder and sentenced to life in prison, and his childhood friend who fights for more than 20 years to reverse the verdict. Nnamdi Asomugha, who stars as the friend to Colin Warner in the film also spoke about the film and its context.

      Photo courtesy of MCON.


    1. The Power of Your Platform: Actress Allison Williams of the HBO show, Girls and most recently the film Get Out, closed out MCON with a powerful discussion about the social issues that she is working to address through the use of her public platform enabled by her celebrity status and increasingly influential voice in Hollywood. She has recognized that as an actress her voice can reach millions, and wants to use her proverbial microphone to push for greater action to drive movements for education, and most recently, chronic racism in the criminal justice system and the negative impact on minorities that enter that system. Bravo Allison!

      Photo courtesy of MCON.


    1. The Power of Personal Engagement: As a sponsor of MCON, the Case Foundation, in partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal created the Peacock Lounge to encourage attendees to share their stories of inspiring change in their communities through the use of innovation and technology. And what we heard was definitely inspiring, from a NASA scientist seeking to be more fearless, to an immigrant translating her past struggle into opportunities for young people currently living in countries in crisis, to a cancer survivor building networks for other survivors to more easily make the transition back after treatment, and many more.

      In the lounge, we gave participants a platform to turn their energy and their interest into action, by inviting them to make a pledge at the ribbon wall, to declare their commitment with a Word Art Portrait, and to share their unique story of taking action in the NBCUniversal Chat Box. And the response was overwhelming. We were thrilled to see that in-person engagement come through online as well, as people shared their videos and their portraits on twitter, facebook and Instagram using #GetInTheArena and #NBCUStoriesThatInspire. We look forward to continuing to share those stories in the coming months, so stay tuned for more great content on our website and at NBCUniversal.


  1. The Power of Data and Research: Finally, MCON would not be complete without the vital research on millennial cause engagement conducted by Achieve and sponsored by The Case Foundation. When you’re in the business of catalyzing social movements, data and research is a key component of both designing your programming and measuring its effect. This year’s  Millennial Impact Report will examine how changing social issues are affecting millenials’ interest and engagement in cause involvement, and how millennials activate with specific social issues based on demographic characteristics. Phase 1 of a three-phase research report was released at MCON 2017. This qualititative research phase with a small cohort of millennials is already revealing that today’s evolving political and social climate is changing the cause behavior of millennials. We’re already excited about the potential for Phase 2, which will be released in September.

Huge thanks and congratulations to Achieve and all the sponsorship partners for another successful year of MCON. The Case Foundation has supported Achieve to bring MCON to the world since 2011, and we’re thrilled to see the content and reach continue to grow and improve every year. For a generation of changemakers, millennials can truly find their tribe at MCON where the speakers, the discussions, the sponsors and their fellow attendees all help to inspire them to get in the arena and translate their interests into action to create change in the world.

Keep sharing your stories of using innovation and technology to inspire change in your community with #GetInTheArena and #NBCUStoriesThatInspire.

Getting In the Arena: Good Ideas and Innovations Often Come From Unexpected Places

Through the first 20 years of the Case Foundation, we’ve covered a lot of ground and been to a lot of places. Along the way, we have found that innovations come from people and places that might surprise you. While news reports focus on the power of Silicon Valley or financial centers like New York and London, we have found numerous great ideas and passionate innovators in places policymakers, funders and trend watchers have often overlooked.

Three U.S. cities are great examples of the excitement and innovation that we have found:

Pittsburgh: In Pittsburgh, we found a unique combination of incubators, accelerators, universities, tech companies and investors, driving this former steel town to experience a resurgence in the form of a technology boom. While many still think of Pittsburgh as the Steel City, the engineer and technology ecosystem that has sprung up in the aftermath of the collapse of the steel industry in the 1980s is one of the reasons that Ford pledged in February to invest $1 billion over five years in a Pittsburgh-based company specializing in artificial intelligence and autonomous car engineering. This community of innovators, incubators and educators is creating a wide range of interesting projects. Pittsburgh innovators we met ranged from Courtney Williamson, founder of AbiliLife, a biomedical company that engineer’s devices for Parkinson’s patients to Vaish Krishnamurthy of CleanRobotics, whose Trash bot uses artificial intelligence to sort recyclables from waste, to Matthew Stanton and Hahna Alexander, cofounders of SolePower*, a technology that uses a foot-powered energy generating insole that can be used to charge portable devices—something of particular interest to the U.S. Army. Even the accelerators in Pittsburgh like AlphaLab Gear bring a unique vision that reflects the best of the region where they are located, supporting hundreds of innovators, expanding understanding of the excellence of the companies in the area and attracting significant outside capital to the region.

Durham: On our recent visit to Durham, we found a renaissance is occurring in the city. Yes, there are tech stories to tout, but the real story is of citizens, companies, institutions and Duke University coming together to invest, expand and reclaim downtown Durham for growth while ensuring that all that defines this community as a thriving, American town includes those who have stayed and those that played a role in making Durham, well…Durham.

At American Underground hundreds of entrepreneurs—from single person startups to ventures like Fidelity Labs, Fidelity’s R&D and innovation catalyst unit—sit side-by-side, creating new companies and pursuing new business ideas in a space where they can also receive the training, accelerator classes and support from Google for Entrepreneurs that rising startups need to take their great ideas to the next level. And we saw the American Tobacco Campus, where local business leaders had transformed the abandoned corporate headquarters of the company that marketed “Lucky Strikes” into a multifaceted center that housed restaurants, businesses and cultural hubs—like the local NPR affiliate and the YMCA—that are helping fuel the dynamic ecosystem that downtown Durham has become.

Detroit: Detroit’s rebirth can only be described as epic. Left for dead by most after the 2008 economic crisis, visionaries like Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert and entrepreneur Tom Kartsotis have helped not only build strong companies, but create thousands of jobs for out-of-work Detroit citizens, giving them an opportunity to prosper as part of the modern economy. Gilbert, who moved Quicken Loans and all of its employees to Detroit, has invested heavily in Detroit real estate, helped dozens of startups, and now employs an estimated 12,500 people. (daveseminara.com) The portraits of those who have found jobs at the companies that have started in Detroit since the Great Recession or started businesses that are fueled by this resurgence highlight how new skills and a new way of thinking about work is being created in the shadows of the once great automobile industry. Detroit’s renaissance is also thanks to the visionary collaboration between the private sector and leading philanthropies, including our colleagues at the Kresge, Ford and Kellogg Foundations. Their work in bringing all sectors of the society to the table is a key to the broad based impact the economic and social revitalization has has had. Detroit has a long way to go, but the new ideas and optimism coming from this city sets a great model for others to follow.

While the names of the local startups and visionaries are often the first thing that one remembers from these trips, one of the great advantages these cities have is community and all the diversity of actors that brings with it. It is as if they have chosen to turn their backs on the “go it alone” mentality and see a competitive advantage in getting as many sectors of their society as engaged as possible. In Pittsburgh, the role of Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, as well the role of Deloitte, Accenture and Barclays in innovation initiatives cannot be left out of a proper telling of the rebirth in Pittsburgh. While touring the American Underground facility in Durham with Doug Speight, the CODE2040 Entrepreneur in Residence and guru behind many Durham startups including Cathedral Leasing, he mentioned that women lead 29 percent of the projects housed in American Underground’s Durham sites and 28 percent are minority led. This was evident as we walked the hallways, and it makes American Underground one of the most diverse incubators in America, reflecting the fabric of the Durham experience. And the breadth of the players involved in rebuilding Detroit—from automobile companies to community organizers and political leaders, to philanthropists and entrepreneurs—highlights both the scale of the task and how they are committed to ensure as many as possible share in the benefits of rebuilding as possible.

This spirit is not limited to the United States. Great ideas and innovation, informed by the unique perspective that different lifestyles and backgrounds bring, are found worldwide.

While touring Africa, we met numerous entrepreneurs who were crafting new innovations informed directly from their personal experiences. In Nairobi, we visited a sanitation company, Sanergy. Sanergy’s vision is bold and robust: attack a massive hygiene and sanitation problem across communities by not only providing toilets to underserved areas, but by building a comprehensive entrepreneurship-driven model that creates jobs in underserved communities. Converting the waste into organic fertilizer, insect-based animal feed, and renewable energy, Sanergy’s model is emblematic of new approaches we saw throughout Africa.

In Iceland, I met Thor Sigfusson, the leader of the Iceland Ocean Cluster. This startup accelerator in Reykjavik houses 80 startups that are building businesses to use 100% of the fish—from salmon skin clothing to cosmetic products made of fish bones to nutrition and medical supplements from organs of the fish. The idea is that if more fisherman could capture value from 100 percent of the fish, they would need less fish take to make a living, leading to more sustainable fishing practices for the whole country. And given that Iceland takes 80 million cod out of their waters, their impact could be significant.

And as co-chair of the U.S.-Palestinian Partnership (UPP), a public/private partnership launched after the Annapolis peace talks, I saw firsthand the progress that can be made when communities are given a chance and the tools to innovate. UPP promoted economic and educational opportunities for the Palestinian people in order to facilitate progress toward a two-state solution, wherein Israel and Palestine can live side by side, in peace, security and prosperity. Linking support of young entrepreneurs by world-class tech companies like Google and Cisco, and launching the first-ever Venture Capital fund in the West Bank, represented hope and promise for new economic activity, particularly in the impressive IT sector in the region. This, coupled with affordable loan programs for small businesses, the building of new youth centers, helping to foster tourism, and leading business delegations, contributed to increase economic activity and helped demonstrate that the West Bank is open for business and that great ideas and innovations come from all places, including the West Bank.

These are just a few of the hundreds of examples of innovators and entrepreneurs who are Getting In the Arena in communities worldwide. We have found innovation in all sectors coming from all corners of the world. As we look forward to the next 20 years of work, we believe that the next great ideas will come from these overlooked people and places and, frankly, this makes us more excited than ever to see what they create and to identify what we can do to support their efforts to get the attention, and investment, they deserve.

*Disclosure: Jean and Steve Case are investors in SolePower. 

Getting in the Arena: Digital Divide, Then and Now

Throughout our 20th year, we will be focusing not only on those heeding our call to the “Get In The Arena” in 2017, but also on how important we have found this principle in all the work the Case Foundation has led throughout its history. And no initiative is more emblematic of this than our work to close the digital divide.

But to bring this lesson to life, we have to go back more than 20 years…

It was the 1990’s. Late one afternoon I sat in my office at America Online and waited while my assistant transferred the call. It was another teacher on the line and I knew why she was calling. I had been receiving a growing number of calls and letters from parents and teachers around the country who mostly shared the same tale: they were deeply concerned about the growing digital divide among neighborhoods and classrooms that left some children advantaged, while others were being left behind. Teachers would point out that some kids in class were using the Internet extensively to prepare papers or augment their classroom learning, often turning in professional-looking reports and homework that had been crafted with best-in-class technology in their homes, while others students were still struggling with the literal “old school” preparation—handwriting, limited resource material to reference, no fancy charts or pictures for their reports. “It’s not fair,” the teacher would plead. “Can’t AOL do something to help these students and families that don’t have access?”

The world has changed a lot since then and, even if you are old enough to remember that period, it is hard to remember what life was like in the 1990’s as the Internet began to explode on the scene. We had introduced America Online to world in late 1989 and then in 1992, it became legal to connect to the Internet—then better known as the World Wide Web—which had previously been accessible only to those in government or academia. We had seen firsthand the divide this teacher was so concerned about and we shared that concern. We set out to engage in a number of initiatives at AOL, including “Net Day” in 1995, designed to wire our nation’s schools to expand access.

But it wasn’t until after I left AOL and co-founded The Case Foundation with my husband, Steve Case, that we finally arrived at what we believed was a big idea—to break down the barriers to access by bringing internet access to key underserved communities.

Not surprisingly, one of the Case Foundation’s first major initiatives was PowerUp, an alliance formed alongside many in the tech industry to create and equip 1000 after school technology centers in low income urban neighborhoods, rural communities and even Indian Reservations. The effort really targeted those we knew had been left out of the tech boom. The Case Foundation provided an initial grant of $10 million to establish PowerUp with half of the grant covering all staff and administrative costs for the program and the other $5 million in the form of direct grants to the community and school based organizations that were the key to the effort’s success. In the end, PowerUp—working not only with the Case Foundation but also with AOL, Cisco Systems, HP, the Waitt Family Foundation and partners like the Boys & Girls Clubs, YMCA, National Urban League and America’s Promise—equipped 957 technology centers covering all 50 states. The collaboration among these many different groups ensured that PowerUp was able to pull the right tools together to meet the unique needs of each community and that each partner—from the community organization to the tech giant—played to their strengths.

And the effort touched millions of lives. 75 percent of the students involved did not have a computer at home, 82 percent of the children who participated were youth-of-color. In the end, this collaborative helped break down the barriers of access and created safe learning spaces where many of the centers reported the children were not only succeeding, but were also bringing their parents in so they could also learn the computer skills they needed to compete and succeed.

This work, along with the work of many others, helped close the digital divide. Almost nine-in-ten American adults now use the internet, with near-saturation usage among those living in households earning $75,000 or more (98 percent), young adults ages 18-29 (99 percent), and those with college degrees (98 percent).

Our work at PowerUp showed we could make a real impact. And we are very proud of the extraordinary inroads that have been made since we kicked off this effort in 1999 as it shows the power of what citizens, institutions and companies can do when they make a big bet, use entrepreneurial approaches and collaborate together to achieve a goal.

While we made great progress, we never forget that the picture is not perfect as disparities remain. Today, internet usage in rural communities lags significantly behind suburban and urban communities (81 percent compared to 90 percent and 89 percent, respectively) and elderly and lower income citizens have less access to the internet than others—with only 64 percent of those over 65 and 79 percent of those earning less than $30,000 a year using the internet according research conducted in 2016 by the Pew Research Center.  And internet speeds in over 25 percent of the country lag so drastically that multiple students in these mostly rural communities cannot be online at the same time in some classrooms and people congregate outside libraries and stores that have high speed connections in scenes similar to what one sees in Cuba.

But today’s more significant divide can be seen in developing countries.  Just last year, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), estimated that 53 percent of the world’s population—3.9 billion people—were not using the Internet, with almost 75 percent of the people of Africa not online. The ITU’s 2016 report goes on to state: “In Asia and the Pacific and the Arab States, the percentage of the population that is not using the Internet is very similar: 58.1 and 58.4 percent, respectively.” In our ever more interconnected world, these statistics show over half the world’s population is unable to take advantage of the information and opportunities we consider commonplace.

And, while this data is concerning, I am heartened by all the new players who are now applying many of the strategies we deployed in the United States to close the digital divide in the developing world. As I mentioned in my examination of the importance of the entrepreneurial spirit, the role the private sector is playing to increase accessibility in frontier markets is impressive.

A great example of this can be seen in the work that Vint Cerf described at SXSW earlier this month. Cerf played a key role in developing the early internet while at the Department of Defense, but he is now the chief internet evangelist at Google and co-founder of the People Centered Internet. He uses his leadership role to engage corporations and public entities to collaborate more effectively to bring connectivity to more people. For example, Cerf is pushing the World Bank to make Internet development a key part of their global infrastructure development efforts. This would not only increase investment in internet infrastructure in underserved regions, but also ensure that when a World Bank funded infrastructure or agriculture project is built, fiber optic cabling and internet accessibility are incorporated in the plan. When combined with his role at Google, where they are experimenting with innovative ways to deliver connectivity such as floating specialized balloons at 60,000 feet to deliver wireless Internet in areas where infrastructure development is less feasible, Cerf has turned from being an inventor of the World Wide Web to a convener of multiple companies, institutions and technologies to expand access to those who have been overlooked.

And there are examples all over the world of unlikely pairings coming together to bridge the digital divide, from non-profits, the government and companies like Cisco working together in Mexico, to the Indian government’s commitment to increase mobile usage nationwide to the work being done in multiple countries across the continent of Africa. Also just as exciting are new innovators that are using new models to overcome traditional barriers, like Jana, a mobile advertising company that provides free Internet access and apps in return for viewers watching advertisements. They now have over 1,000 apps and serve millions of users in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America.

We have come a long way in the last 20 years. And the lessons we learned in shrinking the digital divide in the United States can provide useful insights to those tackling these challenges in developing regions like Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America. To move the needle, we will need a diverse group of actors to Get In The Arena and for industry, government, NGOs, Philanthropy and citizens to collaborate in ways that may initially make some uncomfortable. We have already seen signs that this is happening and will continue to call for even more players to #GetInTheArena and help play a role in addressing the final frontiers of the digital divide.