2018 Grants Challenge

Connecting Angelenos to the Coalitions Shaping a Fair, Vibrant, and Sustainable Los Angeles

Idea by LA Forward

LA Forward connects Angelenos with the organizers, policy experts, and coalitions based in disadvantaged communities in order to build a movement for a just, democratic, and sustainable Los Angeles.


Please describe the activation your organization seeks to launch.

LA Forward will expand its civic education programs—ballot guides, the LA Forwards & Backwards podcast, collateral like civic trading cards—to reach more than 100,000 Angelenos. These media will draw thousands to live actions—election parties, podcast events, classes, and trainings. Hundreds will grow as leaders through our campaign taskforces, policy research committee, and teams that use art, events, video, and media to raise consciousness of our region’s challenges and coalition efforts.

Which of the CONNECT metrics will your activation impact?​

Government responsiveness to residents’ needs

Residential segregation

Voting rates

Will your proposal impact any other LA2050 goal categories?​

LA is the healthiest place to LIVE

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

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles

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

Increase participation in political processes

Connect Angelenos with impactful volunteer opportunities

Civic education

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

We have amazing coalitions working on some of our biggest problems but people don’t know about their work, don’t know how to get involved, and there is not an easy entry point to participating. Without a sense of a viable path toward solving our problems and creating solutions, it’s no wonder that voting rates are low and government isn’t as responsive to residents’ needs as it should be. LA is incredibly fragmented and at this key junction, is grappling with how to deal its increasingly post-suburban reality. We need an intentional effort to publicly and civilly debate these challenges and bridge these divides so Angelenos can enjoy affordable housing, transit connectivity, economic opportunity, and a healthy environment in a region that is increasingly resilient.

LA Forward’s approach to increasing voting rates is not premised on the common concept of exhorting people to vote based on civic spirit or any kind of gimmicks. Our theory is that people will vote when they understand what’s at stake in the decisions made by LOCAL elected officials. When they comprehend the region’s big picture challenges and how those relate to their own interests and values, Angelenos will be far more motivated to participate. That’s the purpose of our popular and growing civic media, e.g. ballot guides, the LA Forwards & Backwards podcast, essays, collateral like civic trading cards, digital live steams of events—which aims to reach more than 100,00 Angelenos by 2020.

Second, the path to deeper and enduring involvement requires a transition from the less active form of engagement with media and digital actions like petition-signing to participating in the interactive experiences of events, especially connecting with other people face-to-face. On its own, media can increase government responsiveness by letting officials know their actions are being tracked, but media’s greatest power can be as a funnel to draw people into hands-on work. That’s the purpose of our growing number of live actions—election parties, podcast events, classes, trainings, “take action” fairs, and neighborhood hangouts in places like parks, bars, cafes, & co-working spaces.

Third, as community organizing experts like Marshall Ganz have shown, the only way to sustain mass involvement is by building organizations that enable individuals to take on increasing leadership responsibilities toward common purposes. We know that people are satisfied by participating in different ways and that the best way to be involved is with a group small enough that they can form meaningful relationships with each other. LA Forward is cultivating volunteer-led teams specific to various issues and methods of engagement. The main job of LA Forward’s staff and top leadership will be to act as organizers—coaching volunteers to step up into leadership roles, providing guidance, and facilitating connections and trainings as necessary.

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

LA Forward engages our young, educated, and multiracial constituency with high-quality media, events, and digital activation of our 7,000 person email list. We empower newcomers to get involved in this work directly. Our Investing in Our Communities Taskforce is working to increase school funding through canvassing for signatures. Another group—Equitable Urbanists—represents us in housing and transit-related coalitions such as ACT-LA and speaking up in public forums of all kinds—social media, periodicals, government hearings. We’re working with Metro to achieve impact at the County scale and pushing for the spread of affordable housing, especially for the homeless. We have small groups actively participating in coalitions to ban oil drilling near homes, to legalize street vending, and to redirect spending from incarceration and policing to community-based interventions.

Our growing Policy Committee, made up of experts from our board as well as newly activated participants, is responsible for our ballot guides, which reach more than 50,000 people each electoral cycle. We're growing a team of creative professionals who will use their talents in art, design, video, and other forms of media to raise consciousness of our region’s challenges and coalition efforts, on the model of our podcast has more than 30,000 downloads. And we have an expanding group of budding leaders who have already planned neighborhood hangouts, election parties, and Live Podcast events.

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

We will first define success through qualitative assessment of our programs by our internal leadership, program participants, and peer organizations. This first happens informally because we’ve built an organizational culture that prizes asking questions and soliciting feedback. We will explore how to create meaningful but unobtrusive assessments of programs through practices like surveys.

Second, we will measure success by the number of people involved at each level of our work—as viewers of our media (emails, podcasts, ballot guides, etc), as attendees at our live actions, as creators of our programs, and as leaders of our volunteer teams. We aim to reach 500,000 downloads of our podcast(s) by 2020, with at least 50,000 distinct listeners. We aspire for our ballot guides to reach at least 60,000 people each electoral cycle, with at least 20,000 of those being direct downloads of the full guide. By 2020, we plan to have engaged 3,000 people at in-person events and to have involved 250 people in the work of our volunteer teams. Finally, we intend to have recruited and coached 50 people as leaders of our various teams.

Two years is a short time frame to gauge systemic changes in civic engagement, much less for issues such as residential segregation. However, we will search out other indicators to evaluate the success of our work such as increases in down-ballot voting on propositions and the number of people who’ve attend city hearing and contacted their elected officials.

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

By 2023, we aspire for LA Forward to be a universally known and widely respected hub for connecting people across the county to coalitions based in disadvantaged communities that working for a fair, vibrant, and sustainable LA region. As part of this, we will be a genuinely welcome presence and good partner in these coalitions. We will consulted in advance by decisonmakers for our views, just as much as other major groups such as labor, business, developers, and neighborhood associations. And the civic media we produce will be a go-to source for people around the region and across sectors. The LA Forward model of civic media and organizing will become a template for bringing together and engaging people in other regions and cities.