2014 Grants Challenge

Securing a Sustainable and Empowered Los Angeles

Creating a healthy and sustainable LA through research and leadership development.


Please describe yourself.

Proposed collaboration (we want to work with partners!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

The LA Sustainability Collaborative facilitates student research, informs stakeholders, and advances solutions to emerging local environment

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

Central LA

East LA

South LA

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South Bay


What is your idea/project in more detail?

LASC is dedicated to creating a more sustainable LA by facilitating research, informing stakeholders and providing solutions to emerging environmental challenges. Our project aims to accomplish the following key endeavors:

Senior Fellows- Grant fellowships to 4 Senior Fellows, each assigned to guide research in each of our initiative areas: Protecting Our Water, Reinventing Our Streets, Re-Powering Our Cities, and Fostering Innovation in Sustainability.

New Student Fellowship- Support 10 new student research project, with at least two in each initiative area.

New Leaders in Sustainability (NLS)- Develop a 4 month leadership development program to empower and train young professionals with skills to solve environmental issues facing LA.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

LASC will implement this idea through the following activities:

a. Senior Fellows: Hire four temporary or part time “Senior Fellows” to be managed and coached by LASC Board and staff to oversee research and programs under each initiative area. Senior Fellows will be young professionals or graduate students, with demonstrated interest in Southern California sustainability issues. Each Senior Fellow’s job description is as follows:

i. Perform continual oversight over multiple Research Fellows.

ii. Identify and propose outreach and advocacy campaigns to advance each initiative area.

iii. Work with current partner organizations and agencies to identify next steps, outreach opportunities, and additional research needed.

iv. Identify/draft at least two new research ideas per initiative, network with potential partners, and solicit student interest.

b. New Leaders in Sustainability (NLS)

i. The NLS Program will fill a critical need in Southern California by helping train, empower, and launch new leaders within the environmental community. This would be the region’s first program of its kind. The NLS program will provide participants with access to leading industry experts, policy makers, and advocates; opportunities to attend and participate in policy briefings with regional stakeholders; and professional mentoring.

ii. NLS will provide participants with:

1. access to experts , policy makers, and other professionals;

2. one-on-one mentoring opportunities;

3. access to leadership and advocacy training seminars and meetings; and

4. an opportunity to organize policy/community briefings in collaboration with partner organizations. NLS participants will be selected from applicants with demonstrated interest in local sustainability and environmental advocacy.

c. Organizational Development

i. Expand awareness of LASC’s mission and impact through increased education, fundraising, and public outreach

ii. Support a 2-day strategic planning workshop for LASC Board, staff, and partners to

develop and start implementing new 5-year strategy. This will allow us to analyze our growth over the last 5 years and identify how best to advance LASC’s mission and sustainability in Los Angeles in the future.

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

LASC’s mission is directly in line with the goals and metrics of LA2050. We are not only making LA the best place to live, but also to play, connect, create, and learn today and into the future. We prepare our region’s future leaders with the tools and guidance needed to transform LA into a place with low obesity rates; clean air and water; access to local and healthy food; and plenty of green space Furthermore, our collaborations with academia, local government, non-governmental organizations, private businesses, and community groups, create invaluable partnerships which attract young and up-and-coming researchers and thought-leaders to Los Angeles’s growing environmental movement. By doing so, we will encourage innovative thinking, creative solutions, and exciting new partnerships to ensure LA will be more sustainable in 2050 than ever before.

To date, LASC has funded and coached 17 graduate Fellows to research emerging, current, and local environmental issues. Each Fellow is required to identify opportunities to use their research to educate the public and advance our initiatives. Current projects include research on how to improve local food policy, create ways (including using alleys and freeways) to increase the number of urban parks, and identify best practices to conserve and protect water resources. Previous fellows identified how to reform parking policies, increase biking, and minimize air pollution exposure through urban design and traffic management strategies. Additionally, Fellows identified specific strategies emergency response and coastal agencies ought to employ to prevent and address the threat of a major oil spill off our coast.

All of our past and current Fellows’ research helps make LA the best place to be today and in the future. In the next year, with your support, LASC will create four new quality entry-level LA-based green jobs, fund 8-10 new research Fellowships, and pilot our New Leaders in Sustainability Program, which will provide our region’s future leaders with the tools and guidance needed to make LA the healthiest place to live by 2050. By then, LASC will have supported hundreds, if not thousands, of student research Fellowships, provided working experience and mentorship to our region’s young professionals, and training new sustainability leaders to make LA a healthy and vibrant environment. Additionally, LASC will lead the nation with the original model and headquarters for numerous Sustainability Collaboratives.

Whom will your project benefit?

Over the next year, expanded LASC operations will benefit current fellows, a new class of 12-15 NLS participants, as well as LASC’s current and future partners and staff, which includes 4 Senior Fellows and 8-10 Research Fellows. With your support, LASC will create original research and policy recommendations, which will advance our initiatives and benefit all those who live, work, learn and play in the City of LA.

Current Research Fellows, students at 5 southern California based universities, will benefit from expanded support to educate the public and advocate for change based on their findings. These projects include how to improve demand side water management, increase wetlands resiliency in the face of climate change, reduce air pollution through urban design, and create a revitalized network of green alleyways. Current partners include the LA Food Policy Council and South Park BID.

New hires, new fellowship recipients, and participants of the NLS program will receive a valuable opportunity to develop their careers by working with preeminent experts in their fields of interest, actively engaging and contributing to the missions of respected environmental organizations in the region, and making a direct and substantive impact.

In the long term, your support allows LASC’s work to benefit Angelenos, and also helps LA continue to lead the nation with innovative solutions, best management practices, quality research, top environmental professionals, and a successful model to create a resilient, healthy, vibrant, and sustainable city.

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

LASC collaborates with professionals in academia, government and the non-profit sector to identify current and emerging environmental and sustainability issues that impact the Los Angeles region and pinpoint research needed to address those issues. We then partner with those experts to fund and guide student Research Fellows, to identify and advocate for solutions revealed through their research. Current partnerships include Los Angeles City Council District 7, UCLA Institute of Environment and Sustainability, UCLA Luskin School of Pubic Affairs, Los Angeles Food Policy Council, and South Park Business Improvement District.

Future partnerships depend on which issues are identified through topics/issues we decide to address, and can vary accordingly. We are currently exploring opportunities to collaborate with the LA Unified School District to update their sustainability plans. Some organizations we have partnered with in the past and would do so again include: Los Angeles Waterkeeper, Environment Now, City of Los Angeles City Council, UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, USC Center for Sustainable Cities, CicLAvia, Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, California Center for Sustainable Communities, The Bay Foundation, Heal the Bay, TreePeople, and EarthJustice.

Collaboration, as our name suggests, is the foundation of our work. Our mission to create a more sustainable LA cannot be done alone and we strive to establish long lasting relationships with leaders in government, nonprofits, academia, and businesses.

While we have yet to identify partners for this grant period, we expect they will be confirmed within one to three months after the grant is awarded. Three factors that are critical to the success of our proposed collaborations are 1) adequate funding to staff our initiative areas with Senior Fellows; 2) growth and expansion in the number of Research Fellowships; and 3) sufficient operational revenue to support growing staffing needs.

How will your project impact the LA2050 LIVE metrics?

Access to healthy food

Exposure to air toxins

Percent of imported water

Obesity rates

Walk/bike/transit score

Acres and miles of polluted waterways

Percentage of LA communities that are resilient (Dream Metric)

Percentage of tree canopy cover (Dream Metric)

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

LASC's mission is to create a sustainable Los Angeles. To do so, LASC works with local partners and funds graduate student research fellowships to answer questions and identify policy recommendations to emerging sustainability challenges including: securing a sustainable LA food shed, identifying sources of air toxins and controls to reduce exposure, securing a reliable local water supply and methods for water conservation, creating complete streets, and analyzing water quality and how to ensure safe drinking water and waterways. The research topics listed only covers those that LASC has worked on thus far, and does not include future research areas LASC will address.

Our Fellow’s projects on air pollution, water quality and conservation, and biking all satisfy several of the LA2050’s “Live” metrics. Additionally, LASC just partnered with the Los Angeles Food Council to hire a Fellow to address access to healthy, affordable food. Specifically, the student will develop a tool for increasing the effectiveness and coordination of food policy advocacy efforts across issue areas by better understanding systemic causes impacting food system outcomes and their policy/regulatory drivers. This project will be used as a component of a facilitated discussion at an upcoming interdisciplinary food system symposium at UCLA.

We support students to complete relevant, quality, and most importantly, applicable sustainability related research projects. LASC creates new entry-level green jobs and operates a system that allows seamless transitions between higher education institutions and the workforce by providing professional guidance and experience to students. LASC prepares LA residents to develop and contribute their skills, talents, and abilities to society. LASC capitalizes on its relationships with higher education facilities to foster new businesses, advance research, and spur innovation.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

We will measure success by evaluating the growth of the organization within its core programs. Specifically, LASC will analyze if we are able to 1) create 8-10 new research projects, 2) partner with 8-12 new collaborators, 3) fund 8-15 graduate students, 4) hire 4 people into entry-level positions, 5) coordinate 8-10 policy briefings, and 6) enroll, train, and help 12-15 students graduate through our NLS program.

These indicators will demonstrate our ability to expand our initiatives’ impact by building on previous projects and partnerships, creating new collaborations, and further minimizing the gap between academic research and real world issues. Additionally, LASC will continue to create a smooth transition for students to gain employable skills and experience. The more experienced sustainability experts we train the more we can ensure Angelenos have increased access to healthy foods, reduced exposure to air toxins, minimized water imports, and improved quality of life.

LASC has grown leaps and bounds since it was founded. We planned our success through a well thought out a 5 year strategic plan to expand our initiatives, fund more students, and partner with more groups. Now we need to look at the next 5 years: another indicator of success will be our ability to develop a new road map and start implementing it. Support from the Goldhirsh Foundation will be our first large grant creating a significant opportunity for growth and a strong foundation for success.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

LASC was founded in 2009 by seven young professionals immersed in the Southern California sustainability movement. In addition to unique and fresh ideas, each founding Board Member has distinct expertise from a wide range of professions, including academia, business, law, advocacy, public affairs and communications. We collectively identified two gaps within the local environmental movement: 1) environmental advocates need sound research to make informed decisions and 2) graduate students need real-world working experience. The Los Angeles Sustainability Collaborative (LASC) is the solution: we lead practical academic research and foster tomorrow’s urban environmentalists.

LASC was founded in 2009 by seven young professionals immersed in the Southern California sustainability movement. In addition to unique and fresh ideas, each founding Board Member has distinct expertise from a wide range of professions, including academia, business, law, advocacy, public affairs and communications. We collectively identified two gaps within the local environmental movement: 1) environmental advocates need sound research to make informed decisions and 2) graduate students need real-world working experience. The Los Angeles Sustainability Collaborative (LASC) is the solution: we lead practical academic research and foster tomorrow’s urban environmentalists.

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

LASC has already established a great working foundation in which to grow. All Board Members and staff are in our 20’s and 30’s and are passionate and committed. As with all our big decisions, applying for this grant was strategic. Since Board Members hold full time jobs, the best way to use LA2050 funds is to hire more young professionals to manage our initiatives. This will create new quality green jobs for our region, provide our Board with more experience managing staff, and allow LASC to support more students and advocates. With a dedicated staff person for each initiative, we will be able to identify more opportunities for research, partnerships, and advocacy.

Through our RFP process (to select students for Fellowships), we already have a great network of universities and other groups in which to advertise new positions and a process to assess applicants’ strengths. Additionally, we continuously have a list of emerging and current local sustainability issues that we would address if we had increased capacity. We use our funds efficiently, are nimble, eager to learn, and are prepared to take on this challenge.

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

Two challenges LASC may face during this grant period are 1) changing partner priorities and 2) general organization growing pains. Creating a sustainable and resilient LA through collaboration is ambitious and sometimes partners, Technical Advisory Committee members, and other experts need more time to provide feedback to students. We value our partners’ time and ameliorate these issues by preparing conservative timelines and encouraging open discussions about commitments. Another way we will address this challenge is by preparing LASC staff to take on a larger portion of the work needed to finalize research project, coordinate meetings, briefings, etc. This way, we can ensure partners’ participate to the fullest extent without negatively impacting our mission, goals, and timelines.

Another challenge our Board will continue to face is finding the balance between growing organically and growing strategically. Unforeseen opportunities and issues come up and we are learning to be flexible while keeping the end goal in mind. After 5 years, we have had Board members change jobs, start families, and become more or less involved. To address these growing pains, we established an Advisory Board of Directors of seasoned environmental professionals to help guide LASC’s organizational growth, hired a part time staff to help with day to day tasks, and are adding additional Board members to ensure our growth is successful.

What resources does your project need?

Network/relationship support

Money (financial capital)

Volunteers/staff (human capital)

Publicity/awareness (social capital)

Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)


Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)

Community outreach

Quality improvement research