2019 Grants Challenge

LA 101 Guide

Idea by LA Forward

Building on the success of our own ballot guides and the national Indivisible Guide, we’ll create the LA 101 Guide and make the center of a 10-month campaign to convey how local government really works and how you can make a difference. It’ll cover key elected and appointed officials, the main levers of powers, how can average citizens make an impact, and more. It’ll be available through multiple languages and media, including an interactive website and serialized social media posts.


Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

LA Voice

Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.

LA Forward is rooted in the belief that all our lives are linked, wherever we reside and work in our county. We rise and fall together. So we believe in bringing people together to collectively shift the systems that have held us back and produced injustice.

Ben and Jessica’s story illuminates how that works in practice. Living on the Westside and raising two small children, they’d been civically disconnected before 2016. Working for a solar energy company and a UCLA autism clinic, they’d assumed things were on track to get better nationally and locally. Their only form of civic engagement was voting in major elections. And while they used LA Forward’s ballot guide for local and state propositions, their attention was on national issues.

Jolted by the 2016 election, they knew they wanted to get involved but they didn’t know how. After a few frustrating attempts at involvement with local chapters of national groups, they came to a LA Forward house party about Civics101 and decided to become LA Forward members. At first, they felt like they didn’t know what they were doing. But they were glad for the community, including people with more civic experience. They went from attending marches to registering voters at marches to actually empowering the parents of their kids’ classmates to gathering hundreds signatures for a key ballot initiatives. They joined LA Forward’s core leadership team and lead our coalition-based work to decriminalize street vending statewide and actually build homes for the homeless.

They found a sense of purpose and community. They were empowered to educate and organize their friends, co-workers, and fellow parents. One result of this new engagement was to help people like Marisol, a street vendor and activist in Boyle Heights, to finally be able to earn a living without fear of harassment and deportation, to know there was a chance her son’s school might be fully funded, that her homeless neighbors would finally have a roof over their heads and a bed to sleep in. Even though LA’s great geographical and social distance still separates these families—they haven’t met in person and may never do so—their lives have been intertwined for good, to their mutual benefit.

*Names have been changed

Which of the CONNECT metrics will your submission impact?​​

Government responsiveness to residents’ needs

Participation in neighborhood councils

Voting rates

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

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles

How will your project make LA the best place to CONNECT?

LA101 builds on our experience creating guides to ballot propositions in the last four local elections (reaching 100,000 people), producing a podcast about major local issues (30,000 downloads) and hosting a dozen workshops on LA 101 for Indivisible-style groups and classes at a Silver Lake community center.

We envision LA101 as a tool that empowers Angelenos to join a conversation with elected officials, decision-makers, and local government over the policies that will determine the future of our region.

Without knowledge of how local government works, there’s no possibility of impacting it. By illuminating the workings of the city, the guide and workshops will pave the way for greater involvement. When Angelenos learn effective ways to voice their views, they’ll have the confidence and know-how necessary not only to participate in local elections, but to do the mundane and crucial civic work of calling elected officials, showing up to council hearings, meeting with government staffers, joining neighborhood councils, and volunteering with advocacy organizations.

Our Plan

Instead of dropping the entire guide at once, we’ll release it in installments starting with the most basic information and moving to increasingly detailed and sophisticated sections on the workings of local government. This approach, inspired by the agile software development model, will allow us to produce results quickly and to adjust our ongoing work in response to feedback. It will also provide multiple opportunities to garner public attention.

LA101 will cover:

* Major elected and appointed officials and what they do

* The different city departments, what they’re responsible for, and how they impact your life

* How the public can effectively weigh in throughout the process including how to reach elected officials, the art of public comments and lobby visits, fundamentals of building relationships and coalitions

* And much more...

We envision the guide’s main home as an interactive website that lets people use the guide however they prefer—whether that’s getting a quick answer to one question or gaining a comprehensive understanding of the local governmental system from A to Z.

Installments will also be rolled out as serialized social media posts, and we’ll create a Vox-style video about the first installment to publicize the guide. To reach an audience that matches LA’s diversity we will collaborate with a wide variety of community groups in our network to hold workshops across the county. We’ll hire a grassroots, community-focused PR firm to pitch stories on LA101 to regional, neighborhood, and ethnic media.


Jun-Aug'19: Contract outreach lead, researchers, writers, and designers, recruit community partners & develop first content chunks

Sep-Dec'19: Release first installments of LA 101 accompanied by PR, press & community outreach. Host first 10 workshops in communities around LA

Jan-May'20: Release one installment per month & host monthly workshops

In what stage of innovation is this project?​

Post-pilot (testing an expansion of concept after initially successful pilot)

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

The goal of the LA 101 guide is to make Los Angeles a more civically engaged place by giving people the knowledge to participate in civic life.

To succeed, at a minimum, our project will need to reach hundreds of thousands of Angelenos. We will carefully measure how many people see the guide—through tracking traffic to the website, video views, social media engagement, and downloads, as well as the number of people who attend workshops. Our goal is that those people will mirror LA’s geographic and demographic diversity.

The ultimate definition of success is the extent to which the LA101 guide can increase civic engagement—how many people are sending in comments on pending policies, calling elected officials, showing up to council hearings, meeting with the staff of elected offices, joining neighborhood councils, volunteering with advocacy groups, voting and getting their friends to vote, especially on local candidates and measures.

It’s difficult to assess causation in a place as large as Los Angeles but we will create surveys to ask workshop and online participants about their behavior and that of their social circles to see how it changes from before their contact with the guide to a year later.