Opportunities - Digital Equity

The Office of the President Seeks a Community Engagement & Outreach Partner for the Digital Equity Planning Initiative  

Issued by: Cook County Office of the President 

Funding Source: American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) | Coronavirus State and Local Federal Relief Funding (SLFRF) Program 

Date Issued: Wednesday, January 18, 2023 

Submission Due Date: Tuesday, February 28, 2023 

Anticipated Term: April 2023 through July 2023 

Information Session: A virtual information session was held on Tuesday, January 31, 2023, from 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM Central Time. Please view the presentation below.

Applicant Questions

The response period for new questions closed on February 13, 2023. 

What is the budget amount identified for this project?

We would like to know the true cost of your work. Please review the budget template, as it may guide you in some of the categories to consider while crafting your response.

Given the inclusive process and stated outcomes of this digital equity work, we think this project may take at least 6 months to do well. Are you open to a 6-month timeline, or is the 3 1/2-month timeline set?

For this open call’s scope, we are seeking initial findings to help guide recommendations for the subsequent Digital Equity Action Plan. We understand that there is a need to continue engagement and outreach activities beyond the time constraints of this performance period. Prospective partners responding to this open call are encouraged to submit proposals that adhere to an April – August 2023 timeframe.

Do you have specific boundaries or community areas within the south suburbs that are the highest priority for you to engage? 

The Office of the President is seeking a partner who possesses deep knowledge of gaps in digital equity across Cook County. The scope of this open call covers the entire Cook County footprint, excluding the City of Chicago. Our mission is to address long standing gaps in digital access and equity across areas of high disparity, with a specific focus on the South Suburbs. Our work excludes the City of Chicago, as the City has recently released their Chicago Digital Equity Plan.

Part of our proposal would be to pay community members and leaders for their time and lived expertise. Would this be an acceptable expense? We would be open to paying via gift cards or direct deposit. 

The Office of the President encourages prospective partners to submit application that include creativity in program design.

The work performed in connection with this open call is funded by the American Rescue Act. Incentives for program beneficiaries may be allowed if they are justifiable as a necessary expense and are found to be a proportionate expenditure within the scope of work for this program.

Proposed expenses must be determined allowable under the Uniform Guidance and US Treasury regulations. To note, funding guidelines and mandated compliance items will be discussed upon award. We do not have the expectation that prospective partners responding to this open call will be experts in uniform guidance. However, we share the resource to help inform proposals.

Do you have a preferred survey platform? 

Cook County does not have a preference on which survey platform partners use to perform the intended work.


Submission Instructions

All responses must be submitted no later than Tuesday, February 28, 2023, by 5:00 PM Central Time. All applications must be submitted electronically. Late submissions will not be considered. To submit your response, please complete the accompanying application in its entirety. In addition to answering each prompt, you will need to upload all required documents as attachments. Be sure to complete and upload the budget template provided.  

The County anticipates the following Schedule: 

Open Call posted to County website 

January 18, 2023 

Pre-Proposal Conference 

January 31, 2023 

Inquiry Deadline 

February 10, 2023 

Response to Inquiries 

Posted on rolling basis until February 13, 2023 

Proposal Due Date 

February 28, 2023 

Evaluation of Proposals 

February 28 – March 15, 2023 

Contract Award 

March 31, 2023 

Project Kick-Off 

April 17, 2023 

Project Completion 

July 31, 202

Call Details:  

Funding Source 

The Cook County Office of the President (OOP) is providing funding under the U.S. Department of Treasury’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) program, to address a myriad of economic issues caused and exacerbated by the unprecedented pandemic. Cook County Government has allocated a substantial commitment of ARPA funds to support the development of a Digital Equity Plan. Award recipients of ARPA funding are responsible for adhering to Federal award guidelines in the Uniform Guidance, a set of federal rules including administrative requirements, cost principles, and audit guidelines that apply to federal money. 

All amounts paid from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) are subject to the procurement restrictions set forth in the Uniform Guidance, and the guidelines detailed in the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Final Rule. The full federal procurement standards can be found in 2 CFR 200.317 through 2 CFR 200.327. A summary of the procurement guidelines is detailed in the attached Personal Services Agreement. 



Cook County Government recognizes that the digital divide disproportionately impacts many of its residents. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, President Preckwinkle identified disparities in access to reliable and safe internet as a burden that impacts economic prosperity and opportunity, especially among low-income households. Those disparities were further exacerbated as residents across Cook County adapted to a new normal during the pandemic. Now, it is even more evident how important connection is in the digital world. Although there have been strides to improve access, barriers like the affordability of the internet, limited availability of devices, and knowledge of digital platforms still prevent many families from full participation in the digital world. Minimal participation in the digital world leaves Cook County residents at risk of being left behind in digital services and our internet-based economy, significantly impacting their quality of life.  

Existing research shows that nearly half (43%) of unconnected Illinois households reside in Cook County. Furthermore, 17% of Black and Latine households in Cook County lack a computer. Additionally, Cook County borders neighboring DuPage, Lake, Kane, and Will Counties, indicating a need for a regional digital equity plan that prepares residents, institutions, organizations, and businesses for economic growth opportunities across county borders. By advancing the digital equity goals of digital infrastructure, digital proficiency, digital accessibility, and digital security and safety, Cook County residents can actively and equitably participate in the internet economy. But to ensure active and equitable participation, more data and information is needed to help guide decision-making and help Cook County residents realize all the benefits technology access brings. Cook County will need more informed data specifically related to digital equity to determine immediate and sustainable solutions to address the longstanding gaps across the County, especially in the Southland.   

President Preckwinkle plans to address these issues through the Digital Equity Planning program. This newly funded initiative endeavors to close this digital divide for its residents and achieve an equitable approach toward access and literacy across the digital landscape. To reach this goal, Cook County will develop a Digital Equity Action Plan, prioritizing resident input as the primary driver of strategic direction. The Digital Equity Planning program has outlined three primary objectives that are imperative to successfully authoring the Digital Equity Action Plan:   

  • engage residents, institutions, organizations, businesses, and other stakeholders to identify needs, interests, and digital aptitude 

  • conduct a comprehensive inventory of Cook County’s existing broadband access and digital skill-building infrastructure  

  • identify actionable policy recommendations to promote affordable access, encourage public/private partnerships, and increase security and privacy   

This Open Call for Proposals is explicitly working to address Suburban Cook County with an emphasis on the Southland communities. The output and outcomes of this project scope will inform the County’s approach to engagement and coordination across the region.   



The purpose of this open call is to identify a strong community partner to lead engagement efforts on behalf of the Office of the President and the Digital Equity Planning initiative. This partner will work directly with stakeholders at every level, prioritizing South Suburban neighborhoods. The main objective for the selected partner will be to facilitate informative dialogue that captures the current state of the digital landscape in Cook County. As this is a public facing role, the partner will need to possess a high degree of emotional intelligence and exhibit cultural competence when interacting with Cook County’s diverse communities. The selected partner will be responsible for development of all data collection materials and reporting needs. 

Ultimately, the selected partner will analyze stakeholder feedback and then synthesize into thoughtfully delineated recommendations that will be codified into the Digital Equity Action Plan. The selected partner will play an integral role in collaborating with other Digital Equity Planning staff, partners, and stakeholders, such as the Council on Digital Equity (CODE).  


Scope of Services

The proposed scope of services is as follows. However, the candidate is encouraged to suggest modifications or additions, if it is believed, to better meet the objectives of this project.  

  1. Design survey tool and data analysis process 

  1. Design (print and digital) marketing tools for all community engagement and outreach  

  1. Engage as many Suburban Cook County residents as possible to collect qualitative and quantitative data, related to their experience with digital technologies, with greater emphasis on data collection across Southland communities  

  2. Continuously document process and approach to community engagement, including: 

    • tool development, communication strategy, analysis of target geographic area, challenges and success with data collection, stakeholder success stories, development of case studies, data analysis and reporting 

  3. Recruit community champions of digital equity for future participation in events, engagement activities, and educational opportunities   

  4. Align public messaging, in partnership with the Cook County Director of Digital Equity, to the purpose of the digital equity plan, policy implications, creative expression, as well as maintaining cultural competence  

  5. Track outreach metrics including number of individuals invited, program attendance, location of event and Cook County Commissioner district, and number of residents.

    • All metric collection will be to establish baseline data that will inform digital equity plan.  

  6. Track and document reasons for any reticence for participation among stakeholders 

  7. Schedule and actively participate in regular meetings with Cook County Director of Digital Equity, Council on Digital Equity (CODE), and other stakeholders as requested    

  1. Develop public-facing dashboard with quarterly reporting, highlighting community engagement progress  

  1. Create a communication strategy and model that will enable Cook County to easily support other community engagement activities in the future  

  1. Create draft report to be presented to Digital Equity Plan staff and make necessary changes to finalize report  

  1. Create final report to be included in Digital Equity Plan 

  1. Adhere to Cook County language access policy for all public facing materials   


Commitment to Equity

Equity means full inclusion of all residents in the economic, social, and political life of Cook County, regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, age, ability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, neighborhood of residence or other characteristics. 

Cook County Office of the President (OOP) has remained committed to an equitable distribution model in its disbursement of COVID-19 funding and program implementation. The selected partner will be responsible for working with Cook County and its partners to ensure that resident voice, especially from historically underrepresented communities and other Cook County suburban stakeholders are reflected and prioritized in data collection efforts through this project performance period.  


Eligibility & Selection Criteria

a. Eligibility

The awarded organization must have the organizational capacity to conduct the work described in this application and have the fiscal and contracting capacity, as well as the accounting and administrative controls necessary to effectively manage a large federal grant award. Requirements include financial stability, fiscal solvency, ability to provide separate reporting for use of funds, and staff to oversee the scope of work and comply with the agreement.  

b. Evaluation Process

An evaluation committee comprised of County personnel and other stakeholders will evaluate all complete submissions in accordance with the selection criteria detailed below. Each eligible applicant will be evaluated on the strengths of the application, the responsiveness to the selection criteria, as well as in the context of the larger goals of the Cook County Digital Equity Planning initiative. Successful applicants must be ready to proceed with the proposed program within a reasonable period of time upon selection, with initial program activities expected to begin by April 2023. Cook County reserves the right to reject any application if such application is incomplete, deemed inadequate or is otherwise not in the best interest of the County. This evaluation process may result in a short-list of submissions. The evaluation committee, at its option, may request that all or short-listed applicants make a presentation, submit clarifications, provide references, respond to questions, or consider alternative approaches. 

c. Selection Criteria

Candidates will be scored and selected based upon the following criteria: 



Overall Quality of Application  

  • Quality of the application and thoroughness of submission, including proposed strategic plan, approach to developing survey tool and data collection, project management and methodology, including demonstrated understanding of the County’s needs, goals, and objectives.  



Qualifications and Experience 

  • Qualifications and specialized experience demonstrated through past experiences in stakeholder engagement, cultural competency, designing survey tools and developing evaluation processes.  



Budget and Financial Stability 

  • Clearly defined budget submission and ability to demonstrate good financial standing as it pertains to successfully completing this project.  



Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Approach  

  • Proposed approaches and/or resources that addresses diversity, equity, and inclusion (language, disability, etc.) 

  • Demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion  



Data Collection and Analysis, Reporting, and Recommendations 

  • Demonstrated quality and feasibility of approach to reporting, recommendations, data collection and analysis   



Submission Details

Information Session: 

The Digital Equity Director will conduct a virtual information session on Tuesday, January 31, 2023, from 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM Central Time. Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to attend. Registration is required. Please register by clicking here. Registrants will receive an email confirmation and a calendar invite after registration is complete.  

Deadlines for Submission: 

All responses must be submitted no later than Wednesday, February 28, 2023, by 5:00pm Central Time. All applications must be submitted electronically. Late submissions will not be considered. To submit your response, please complete the application by clicking here. Please be sure to upload all required attachments.  



General Guidelines  

  1. Applicants shall comply with all laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, disability, religion, age, sexual orientation; and/or any other legally protected classification group. 
  2. All submitted applications and related materials shall become and remain the exclusive property of the Cook County Office of the President (OOP) 
  3. OOP is not liable for any costs incurred by the Applicant prior to the Partner and OOP signing the Agreement. 
  4. An authorized representative of the organization shall submit the application and certification and such completion and submission of an application constitutes agreement with subsequent contracting requirements and with conditions of participation in the Cook County Digital Equity Planning initiative as funded under the American Rescue Plan Act  
  5. OOP reserves the right to reject any and all proposals that are deemed not responsive to its goals under the Cook County Digital Equity Initiative. 

Summary of Contract Terms and Conditions  

The following summary outlines terms and conditions that will be used as the basis for developing subrecipient agreements with the selected partner.  

  1. Funding:The Digital Equity Planning initiative is supported by funds from the U.S. Department of Treasury, under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) program. 
  2. Method of Payment: Selected Partner must submit invoices to OOP in such detail as OOP requests and on a monthly basis. OOP will process payment within forty-five (45) days after receipt of invoices. Advance payments will be considered where needed. 
  3. Award Budget: OOP and Selected Partner shall jointly develop a detailed budget that is based upon and consistent with the funding source(s). Any revisions of a line item in the working budget shall be subject to approval by OOP. 
  4. Award Qualifications: Selected Partner shall ensure that all agents, employees, and subrecipients or subcontractors performing the services agreed upon, meet and maintain any licensure, certification and accreditation required to carry out such services. 
  5. Monitoring and Compliance: Review and evaluation of the program will be performed, and regular contact with the selected partner will be maintained to both maximize program coordination and adhere to federal guidelines.  
  6. Reporting: Selected Partner shall submit monthly, quarterly and/or final reports pursuant to U.S. Treasury ARPA reporting requirements and Cook County requirements as developed by OOP. Additionally, throughout the entire process, the Selected Partner will collect data necessary for federal reporting guidelines and data Cook County specifies for Program metrics. 
  7. Legal Requirements: Compliance with the Uniform Guidance and County legal requirements will be required.