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Kansas Profile – Now That’s Rural: Christina Long, NetWorked – Digital Ready

Nov. 3, 2021

By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University

Are you ready? Are you ready to advance your business in the race to a modern digital environment? Today we’ll learn about a new digital, online initiative to support rural businesses.

Logo, Networked -- Digital ReadyLast week we met Christina Long, strategic director for NetWorked – Partnership for Community Investment. She facilitates monthly online convenings during which participants can learn about resources to help businesses and communities. The get-togethers are conducted on Zoom and archived on the NetWorked website.

“We are bringing networks together that may not typically have a way to naturally connect,” Christina said. “We learn about resources and information that we can take back to our communities to activate strong community changes.”

Monthly topics have included the Kansas Community Investment Fund, the Kansas Leadership Center transformation grants and programs, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas Healthify and Pathway grant, food access and food insecurity as addressed by the Rural Grocery Initiative, and the Kansas Healthy Food Initiative.

Along with NetWork Kansas and other partners, these programs have assisted and invested in small businesses across the state – even in communities as small as the store in the rural community of Mildred, population 28 people. Now, that’s rural.

Now there is another, brand new resource to help small businesses. It was highlighted during a recent online session.

“NetWork Kansas is partnering with Rural Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and Verizon to offer this new program,” said Steve Radley, NetWork Kansas CEO. It is called the Verizon Small Business Digital Ready program. As of Oct. 1, this program is available for free online. Verizon has stated a goal that, by 2030, the company would provide 1 million small businesses with resources to help those businesses thrive in the digital economy.

Evelyn McKinney of Rural LISC explained the Verizon Small Business Digital Ready program at the NetWorked convening. LISC was founded by the Ford Foundation in 1979. Evelyn is part of the Rural LISC team.

“Rural LISC is focused on making our rural communities great places to live, work, play and innovate,” she said. LISC operates through a set of localized partners referred to as business development organizations.

“(NetWork Kansas) is one of our stellar rural-serving (business development organizations),” Evelyn said. “Now, NetWork Kansas and Verizon are bringing something special to all small business owners.”

The program is described as an integrated platform to provide curriculum, coaching and community, curated for small business needs. The guiding principles for this initiative are that it should be personalized, integrated, guided, scalable and authentic.

The program consists of online content and curriculum, one-to-one coaching and mentoring, small business community-building, and incentives, through a unified dashboard.

The service is free. The first step is for business owners to register online, at which point they will be taken to an introductory landing page. The second step is an onboarding page where the business owner provides information so the program can be targeted to the company’s needs. The third step is a customized learning dashboard that reflects a customized learning plan.

“Everything is addressed and delivered through a small business lens,” said LISC staff member Karleen Porcena. “You’re not going to feel like you’re in a classroom. These are bite-sized learning modules. You don’t have to sit through a two-hour lecture.”

The curriculum is focused on three elements: Customers, operations, and money.

Modules include branding, search engine optimization, online growth marketing, resiliency, cybersecurity, financing, and much more. “Content is great, but people need additional resources after getting that content,” Karleen said.

“Entrepreneurship is economic empowerment,” Steve said. “It is so critical that disadvantaged geographies and disadvantaged populations have the opportunity to be entrepreneurs and have the necessary resources available to them.”

For more information, see www.verizon.com/about/responsibility/digital-inclusion/small-business-training or www.networkedforchange.com.

Are you ready? Are you equipped for your business to move forward in the digital world? We commend Christina Long, Steve Radley and all those involved with NetWorked and the Verizon Small Business Digital Ready platform for making a difference by bringing these new resources to Kansas.

To small business owners, we can say: Ready, set, go!

Audio and text files of Kansas Profiles are available at http://www.kansasprofile.com. For more information about the Huck Boyd Institute, interested persons can visit http://www.huckboydinstitute.org.


The mission of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development is to enhance rural development by helping rural people help themselves. The Kansas Profile radio series and columns are produced with assistance from the K-State Research and Extension Department of Communications News Media Services unit. A photo of Ron Wilson is available at  http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/news/sty/RonWilson.htm.  Audio and text files of Kansas Profiles are available at http://www.kansasprofile.com. For more information about the Huck Boyd Institute, interested persons can visit http://www.huckboydinstitute.org.

At a glance

Christina Long facilitates a monthly online business development resource for small businesses known as NetWorked – Partnership for Community Investment. Recently, participants learned about the Verizon Small Business Digital Ready program, which provides training, coaching and more.


Huck Boyd Institute

Written by

Ron Wilson

Ron Wilson

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