2014 Grants Challenge

Big Citizen HUB – A new organization for new leaders

This project is launching the first cohort of new leaders - our Big Citizens - beginning with 75 middle school students in January 2015.


Please describe yourself.

Solo actor (just us on this project!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

This project is launching the first cohort of new leaders - our Big Citizens - beginning with 75 middle school students in January 2015.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a population of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

Central LA

East LA

South LA

South Bay


What is your idea/project in more detail?

The mission of Big Citizen HUB is to build a community of Big Citizens, expanding the social capital of youth through curiosity, gratitude, team, and adventure. Big Citizen HUB, a project of Community Partners, will bring together young people, ages 8-24, outside of school, from all over Los Angeles to learn a common civic language, engage in dialogue, and build community to investigate local and global challenges ranging from poverty to environmental issues. We will convene on Saturdays between January and August. Big Citizens (ages 8-18) will form diverse teams, serve a minimum of 100 hours, and complete team-based projects while learning from Youth Workers (near-peer mentors and team leaders, ages 19-24), trained by Big Citizen HUB.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Big Citizens will work through issues in monthly modules that incorporate interactive learning, active service, and individual and team reflection.

What does that look like? Here’s a "month in the life" of a Big Citizen, exploring the issue of homelessness:

- Saturday #1: Curiosity (Interactive Learning)

Big Citizens come together to learn about homelessness, sharing their own understanding of the issue and personal experiences, and hearing the perspectives of others. Teams travel to different locations across the city (Skid Row, South LA, Santa Monica) to learn from organizations addressing homelessness.

- Saturday #2: Adventure (Service)

The day begins with a community dialogue, sharing thoughts about the issue they explored the prior Saturday, including any new experiences or perspectives that were gained during the week. Teams travel to various service sites (possibly the Downtown Women’s Shelter or the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank) and spend the day engaging in active service to address homelessness.

- Saturday #3: Gratitude (Reflection)

The day begins with a group dialogue, reflecting on last week’s service projects and the organizations they learned about earlier in the month. Youth Workers lead Big Citizens in public speaking workshop. Teams prepare presentations documenting details of the service and organizations they learned from. Homelessness month concludes with a Community Meeting of Big Citizens, parents, and community partners, where Big Citizens present to the larger group.

During the final months of the program, teams work together to explore a topic of their choosing, developing service projects to address their issue. Upon completion of the program, Big Citizens graduate earning the President’s Volunteer Service Award and Youth Workers earn Big Citizen HUB’s Youth Development Professional Certification.

In January 2015 Big Citizen HUB will launch with 75 middle school participants (Big Citizens) and 14 team leaders (Youth Workers). Big Citizen HUB will grow to almost 450 participants annually within five years, increasing the amount of middle schoolers and adding teams of high school aged and elementary participants. In fiscal year 2020, a total of 1,300 Big Citizens will have experienced the program.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CONNECT today? In 2050?

Today, Big Citizen HUB brings together youth from different neighborhoods, providing a common culture with which to relate, common experience with which to connect, opportunity for dialogue that explores differences in experience and perspective – all while learning important life skills and leadership skills that are necessary for success in school and the workforce. This type of opportunity currently does not exist in our city, where young people can come together from all over and meet new people through positive experiences.

In addition, the success of our program is based on partnerships with organizations that serve and address our most pressing community issues. We aim to meaningfully engage with at least 30 external partners in 2015. Aside from learning from, serving with, and connecting on the issues these organizations address, there is one very important outcome that we expect from this type of engagement: Adults begin to see youth as thoughtful, engaged, and valued participants in our communities. In turn, this change in perception allows youth to gain motivation to succeed in school, participate in their community, and feel optimistic about the future.

In 2020, 1300 youth will have participated in Big Citizen HUB, so imagine how many youth, community leaders, and parents will be involved by 2050. Imagine what the middle school students who were Big Citizens in 2015 will be doing by 2050. They’ll be voters, business leaders, social entrepreneurs, public officials, teachers, and possibly parents of the 36th cohort of Big Citizens. They’ll support public transportation, utilize social media in new and powerful ways, and will regularly connect with others outside of their neighborhood. Big Citizen HUB will be the best place for youth in Los Angeles to learn about issues that affect our local and global communities, to practice the skills needed to solve problems, and to connect with and feel comfortable with people of different backgrounds.

Whom will your project benefit?

In 2015, Big Citizen HUB will engage 75 middle school students as Big Citizens, 14 near peer mentors as Youth Workers (19-24 year olds), and 30 community organizations. In this first year we anticipate about 80% of Big Citizens coming from low income families, with a racial breakdown as follows: 70% Latino, 15% Asian, 5% African American, 5% Caucasian, and 5% multiracial. We will utilize existing partnerships to recruit Big Citizens from the following areas: Boyle Heights, West LA, South LA, Watts, and Pico Union. We will work to create new partnerships in additional areas of L.A. to ensure diversity of our youth. Diversity is a key component of our program and a large factor in how beneficial the program will be.

Our Youth Workers benefit from a rigorous training that we provide, focused on positive youth development practices, curriculum design, workshop facilitation, team building, conflict resolution, and asset mapping. Our Youth Development Professional Certification will be valuable as our Youth Workers move on, looking for full-time positions with other youth development organizations.

The community organizations we partner with benefit in a couple ways. First, many will have the opportunity to receive 75 young and enthusiastic volunteers for a full day of Saturday service. Second, they get the opportunity to share what they do with a number of new faces – Big Citizens, Youth Workers, parents, and other community members being engaged. They can share the problem they address, how they address it, what kind of impact they have on the community, and how others can get involved. It’s an amazing opportunity to connect with people who may not have come across their organization outside of Big Citizen HUB.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

While we are a “solo actor” on this application, we would not be here without the insight from our supporters and partnerships with local organizations. Here we’d like to highlight two partnerships that are helping to ensure our success:

- The City Year Inc. Western Region is supporting our work to recruit qualified Youth Workers. Our program is dependent upon bringing in committed near peer mentors to lead teams of Big Citizens. Our partnership with City Year allows us access to a large pool of 19-24 year olds who have interest in youth development and service, who have been vetted by a team of people with the expertise of recruiting people with the skill set we need.

- The Red Shield Youth and Community Center is providing us with the facilities with which to run our office. In return, we provide the Red Shield’s staff with youth development training and coaching. In addition, all Big Citizens will become members of the center.

How will your project impact the LA2050 CONNECT metrics?

Rates of volunteerism

Number of public transit riders

Percentage of Angelenos that volunteer informally (Dream Metric)

Total number of social media friends (Dream Metric)

Residential segregation (Dream Metric)

Making connections between youth and adults

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

Rates of Volunteerism: In 2015, Big Citizen HUB will engage 75 youth and 14 Youth Workers in monthly service opportunities.

Number of Public Transit Riders: Our program design requires our youth to meet at one central location each Saturday. From there, Youth Workers lead Big Citizens on adventures to various community organizations across the city by utilizing public transportation. For some participants, riding public transit will be a new experience, and with us, they'll learn the ins-and-outs of the transit system.

Percentage of Angelenos that Volunteer Informally (Dream Metric): Participating in a program, like Big Citizen HUB, where service is a regular activity will help to create positive associations with volunteering, helping to make it a life-long habit. Youth Service America has found that, “Volunteering in one's youth leads to a lifetime of service and philanthropy. Most adults involved in community service and/or philanthropy started as children.”

Total Number of Social Media Friends (Dream Metric): Young people are primed to utilize social media, even more so than email and other means of communication. As they meet new people through this program, social media can be the best way to stay in touch, particularly when two people live on opposite sides of the city. In addition, as information literacy (as defined by 21st Century Learning Skills) is part of our curriculum, we will work with Big Citizens to use social media to share information in ways beyond informal communication with friends.

Residential Segregation (Dream Metric): What makes our organization unique is that we are bringing together youth from many neighborhoods across LA to build positive relationships. As a group, we will explore organizations in various neighborhoods, providing our youth with the opportunity to go to areas of the city they haven’t been before.

Other – Making Connections Between Youth and Adults: The Search Institute has identified building blocks of healthy development that help youth grow up healthy, caring, and responsible. For adolescents, the Search Institute has identified 40 Development Assets. One is that young people should receive support from three or more non-parent adults. Big Citizen HUB provides Big Citizens with the opportunity to build healthy relationships with team leaders and staff, while participating in healthy activities.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

Big Citizen HUB will measure the experience of Big Citizens through pre-, mid- and post surveys and interviews to identify participant assets and growth areas and program efficacy. We’ll also use surveys to understand the experience of Youth Workers and community partners, and the perspectives of parents of Big Citizens.

As we utilize an inclusive curriculum focused on character strengths and growth mindset, we expect that our surveys will demonstrate changes in attitude, knowledge, and behavior of our participating youth. Some specific outcomes in 2015 include:

- 90% of Big Citizens can identify a problem in their community and have tangible skills and plans for solving problems in their communities

- 90% of Big Citizens will make friends with people from different backgrounds because of Big Citizen HUB

- 75% will do things as Big Citizens they had previously thought they were incapable of

- 75% of Big Citizens will find increased ability to work with others as a part of a team

- 75% of service partners will agree or strongly agree that they would work with Big Citizens again

Big Citizen HUB is structured as a pipeline program for civic engagement. As a student experiences the program from 3rd to 12th grade, they will participate in age-appropriate activities that relate to each social issue, becoming more proficient in each topic as they become older. When a Big Citizen returns for a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or even 10th year, (s)he will have a new role with additional leadership and skill building opportunities.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

1. Increasingly, Americans, particularly young people, are losing faith in public institutions. This is evidenced in voter turnout, high school graduation and volunteer rates. A disengaged population quickly becomes a disenfranchised population. Specifically in Los Angeles, there are several related problems plaguing adolescents, including low overall academic achievement, gang violence, a lack of programs geared for middle school students, and racial and socioeconomic divides in the city. The large-scale challenges - social, environmental, economic - facing our globally connected world will require local, person-to-person participation and solutions. Adolescence is a key strategic time to engage youth in leadership, civic engagement and service initiatives - after which welfare dependency, limited productivity, and other social problems become life patterns for those who are not engaged. If we hope to move beyond the partisanship and gridlock that characterizes so much of American politics, we must start in the elementary, middle and high school years.

2. Working in the field of education and youth development, we noticed there’s a gap – there are not many organizations bringing youth together from all parts of the city. When you look at what it takes to be successful in the workplace, hard skills are certainly important. But what’s equally important, and what often makes one person a better leader, is the ability to collaborate, solve problems, think critically, and communicate with others. Those skills can only be fully honed when one has the opportunity to work with and learn from those who have different backgrounds than their own. As we learn to relate to others and build meaningful relationships with those who are different from ourselves, we become able to see things from many perspectives, alter our style of communication to be most effective in various situations, and work successfully on all kinds of teams. People who can do these things well become great leaders in their workplace, as well as our communities. Most leadership theorists believe that the skills critical for effective leadership, including the capacity to understand and interact with others, are developed most deeply in adolescence and young adulthood. Big Citizen HUB is providing the space necessary for young people to convene and practice engagement with diverse groups of peers.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

To implement our project in the next 12 months, we have set the following goals:

Goal 1: Secure donated space for Saturday programming by October 2014

Goal 2: Recruit and enroll 75 Big Citizens by December 2014

Goal 3: Recruit and commit 14 Youth Workers by November 2014

Goal 4: Design 75% of program modules by October 2014

Goal 5: Launch Big Citizen HUB programming in January 2015

Goal 6: Implement 23 programmed days by August 2015, including opening day, graduation, Youth Worker orientation and trainings

Goal 7: Retain 80% of Big Citizens (60 students), each serving 100 hours, for a total of 6000 hours of service to Los Angeles in the first program year

Goal 8: Engage a total of 30 external partners

Progress towards goals is as follows:

- As of July 2014 we have secured space in the Pico Union neighborhood.

- Recruitment of Big Citizens will occur between September and November 2014, utilizing existing relationships between Big Citizen HUB staff and schools across Los Angeles.

- We have partnerships with youth development organizations that are supporting our recruitment of 19-24 year old Youth Workers.

- Our Advisory Committee, a group of youth development professionals, has been working with us since October 2013 and is helping to build out our programming.

- As we build out the programming, we will reach out to local organizations that address the social issues we plan to explore. These partners can support both our interactive learning and service days.

- Our staff has extensive experience in running youth development programs, building partnerships with people and organizations, and managing the day-to-day operations of a program.

We are confident that this project is achievable within the next 12 months.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

1. The LA2050 community has already established that connecting Angelenos is a huge challenge for a variety of reasons. We at Big Citizen HUB propose to connect youth from across Los Angeles in a meaningful way that not only expands the social capital of youth, but will have a long-term impact on the city and how people interact with those from different backgrounds and neighborhoods. We are confident that we have the programming, organizational culture, and tools in place to make that happen. However, we recognize that the logistics involved with bringing together young people from many neighborhoods may be a challenge for us. Our strategy for doing this successfully is the following: Our daily meeting space is located in Pico Union off the Metro Red Line. For participants who don’t have parents that can bring them each Saturday, we will have public transit pick-up spots in major areas (South LA, Watts, and Boyle Heights) in order for some of our youth to be chaperoned by a Youth Worker.

2. The second challenge we anticipate is maintaining high retention rates during the summer months. It is important that our program runs from January through early August, providing meaningful activities for youth during out of school time. However, we do realize that summer family vacations and other activities may negatively affect the retention rates of both our Big Citizens and Youth Workers. Our strategy for ensuring success in this area is the following:

- Big Citizens are required to undergo a rigorous recruitment process which helps us communicate expectations, understand their interest in the program, gauge commitment levels, and engage their parents.

- Our program is designed to incorporate some of the most exciting elements into the summer months. At this point, they will feel connected to their team and want to contribute meaningfully to the final project. They graduate from the program in August, receiving the President’s Volunteer Service Award if they have met all necessary requirements.

- Youth Workers also undergo a rigorous application process, as well as in-depth training. In August, after completing all requirements, Youth Workers receive the Big Citizen HUB’s Youth Development Professional Certification as well as the final portion of their volunteer stipend. These incentives should secure the commitment we need for the full 8 months of programming.