2018 Grants Challenge

Connect for LA Chinatown - WAPOW Community Media Project

In a changing Chinatown, WAPOW is a community service project connecting a multigenerational, multicultural team of volunteers to create, organize and share local media, events and programs.


Please describe the activation your organization seeks to launch.

In a changing Chinatown, WAPOW uses media to unite and activate diverse stakeholders, as agents for integrative change that increases community power, resilience and engagement.

Engagement is twofold—collaborating with volunteers to create a bilingual quarterly; then sharing knowledge in print, online and at events.

Our goals: raise civic consciousness, celebrate local livelihood, build empathy, and advocate for creative placekeeping, cultural stewardship and sustainable economic development.

Which of the CONNECT metrics will your activation impact?​

Attendance at cultural events

Government responsiveness to residents’ needs

Rates of volunteerism

Will your proposal impact any other LA2050 goal categories?​

LA is the best place to LEARN

LA is the best place to CREATE

LA is the best place to PLAY

LA is the healthiest place to LIVE

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?​

Central LA

San Gabriel Valley

How will your activation mobilize Angelenos?​

Advocate for policy

Digital organizing or activism

Trainings and/or in-person engagements

Create new tools or technologies for greater civic/political engagement

Encourage businesses to change practices

Increase participation in political processes

Influence individual behavior

Connect Angelenos with impactful volunteer opportunities

Increase donations to organizations and causes

Describe in greater detail how your activation will make LA the best place to CONNECT?​

As an immigrant enclave, LA Chinatown has had historic gaps in civic engagement—in part due to linguistic isolation, as more than half of residents are Low English Proficiency. As the neighborhood experiences rapid redevelopment and urban planning, such as the Downtown LA 2040 Community Plan Update, it is urgent now more than ever to educate and engage local residents, small businesses and organizations on how to interact with and be part of positive changes.

WAPOW is a grassroots community multimedia project in the historic cultural urban neighborhood of LA Chinatown that uses narrative arts to advance various objectives including:

- storytelling to promote community building

- civic engagement by raising awareness of urban planning and public services

- providing diverse volunteer opportunities that draw on people’s varied skills in art, translation, writing, event planning, etc.

- promote community building and immigrant integration;

- youth development;

- cultural sharing and stewardship; and

- local small business promotion/economic development.

We achieve objectives by engaging partners in a series of interrelated activities:

WAPOW Magazine - A bilingual quarterly publication, produced by volunteer community contributors, focused on community news and cultural highlights, that also lead conversations on civic issues otherwise not covered in mainstream and ethnic media.

Small Business Outreach and Business Directory: As part of the publication, small businesses may access free or low-cost graphic design or translation services to help broaden their community reach.They will also be able to place advertisements, with ad spaces prioritized for local small businesses. Currently, older legacy businesses struggle to reach newer generations, and newer businesses struggle to reach older generations, in part due to branding or linguistic barriers. Conversations with businesses may also include counseling on how to increase reach—whether by adding translation or trying online marketing. Concurrently, we will be developing a small business directory that will feature older and new businesses to capture the different types of businesses in Chinatown.

Community Engagement Events - in person events at local venues to engage the public in meaningful interactions and dialogues. Opportunities include movie screenings, housing rights workshops, community panels on local issues, and cultural activities.

The project’s new storytelling platform is a vehicle for community building around important issues of shared interest. It also provides new ways to access community resources, and opportunities for people to activate and connect—either actively as volunteers or event-goers, or passively as readers. The focus on storytelling helps build empathy and mutual understanding across different generations, experiences, histories and perspectives, toward building community cohesion and resilience.

How will your activation engage Angelenos to make LA the best place to CONNECT​

WAPOW’s bilingual coverage and events connect in many ways: resources - With real estate speculation squeezing small businesses and residents—95 percent are renters, and about a quarter are fixed-income seniors—WAPOW is a tool, training locals on City planning processes and highlighting available supports—e.g., tenant rights and small business assistance. each other - As demographics change, WAPOW shares stories about people and places to celebrate local heritage, build empathy across cultures and generations, and encourage community-building and stewardship. Every quarter, we choose a theme to guide conversation around issues otherwise not covered by mainstream or ethnic media. In Issue 2, “Family Traditions,” we brought Chinatown chefs from different backgrounds around a dinner conversation on their family traditions. In Issue 3, “Roots,” we held a tour of LA State Historic Park, and guest speaker Robert Garcia of the former Chinatown Yards Alliance, shared his experience with the coalition that fought for the park. In Issue 4, we'll celebrate New Chinatown’s 80th Anniversary, and ask locals their hopes for the next 80 years, to start conversation on community visioning. volunteer opportunities - WAPOW is a collaborative project, successful because it leverages contributors’ strengths to contribute in ways that are meaningful—through artwork, language competencies, people skills, event planning, cooking, etc. It will continue engaging different partners.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your activation.​

WAPOW is meant to engage a multigenerational audience. As such, our metrics will vary across population groups. Engagement with younger folks may be through social media engagement. For older generations, because a major issue is illiteracy and digital redlining, impact is measured qualitatively—such as how the magazine has been valuable for exposing the community to new civic engagement knowledge.

-Institutional partnerships (e.g., distribution at events for Chinese American Museum, C.A.C.A., CAUSE, AAAJ, API Forward Movement, Chinatown Service Center, OCA-GLA, LA State Historic Park, etc.)

-Social media reach and interaction/mentions with other accounts

-Reader survey, including a question asking whether WAPOW increased awareness of community affairs

-Advertising and small business engagement, tracked by coupons

-Volunteer hours

-Attendance at events, typically 100-150 per quarter

While harder to track, the impact of WAPOW also includes:

-New linkages to resources. On several occasions, many readers have commented that the bilingual Resources Directory page has been the most valuable.

-Conversations on civic matters. When a local hospital closed, WAPOW sent a student to Alpine Park to monitor resident reactions. Of 6 seniors interviewed, half did not know about the closure, and several commented that the services were lacking.

-Every Launch Event provides networking opportunities in the communitiy.

Where do you hope this activation or your organization will be in five years?

We hope to create a headquarter space in Chinatown for WAPOW that is open for community use as a media lab, focused on supporting multimedia and storytelling and intergenerational community-building. Part of the programming includes:

- Art supply store to support local artists, design firms and Elementary students

- Participation and buy-in from local residents, businesses, institutions new and old. There are many community organizations that are doing great work. All of them need media production to share their work and tell the story.

- Partnership with educational institutions - primary, secondary, and post-secondary education; as well as local archival institutions like Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, which has a lot of raw materials waiting to be produced/finished into stories for broader consumption.

- Workshops focused on sustaining and remixing cultural traditions

- Gathering space for community groups to meet and use equipment (Wifi, software, etc.), while incubating and marketing their Chinatown-serving projects

- Computer lab space for elders to learn technology and possibly work with Visual Communications to organize a Digital Histories program that teaches seniors to make movies about their own lives