2020 Grants Challenge

BYOM - Bring Your Own Mug

Novus Think Tank is seeking support for a community-based living and food insecurity project called BYOM (Bring Your Own Mug). Visitors are encouraged to bring their own mugs to enjoy a coffee, and volunteer in our community garden in exchange for discounted produce or rent subsidization. Visitors are also invited to engage in BYOM's online community, where access to healthy recipe videos and forums can be found.


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

Central LA

South LA

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Research (initial work to identify and understand the problem)

What is the need you’re responding to?

We are social creatures and what makes us human are our communities. Throughout human history our homes, cultures, and cities have reflected this. However, with the increasing prioritization of efficiency and profit, we have stepped away from community-oriented living. Our cities have become funneled to a single purpose: to buy, to shop, and to transport. Absent from this approach is genuine human connection. To buy is to trade, to shop is to connect, and to walk in a city is to enjoy the complexity of the space. To address this increasing disconnection from place and food around us, we have created BYOM: a garden, a coffee shop, a zero waste grocery store, and most importantly, a community.

Why is this project important to the work of your organization?​

Novus Think Tank is an organization that relies on self-agency and intrinsic motivation to tackle a wide variety of issues. We use a committee model to tackle seven different social causes: sustainability, narrative insights, Internet, political polarization, philanthropy, education, and mental health. We seek to use interdisciplinary approaches to solve problems—this means we don’t only think about the environmental benefits of a community garden, we also consider the unique stories that members of the community form, and where their needs may be lacking in terms of housing and education. Our focus is always at the root cause of these issues, and thus the events and material we create reflect that. Through our work in social change, we are active community members ourselves, which gives us a unique, insider perspective on not only what the community may need, but how to best implement an idea in ways that the community will respond well to, and how to tackle the root issues.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?​

Direct Impact: 500

Indirect Impact: 1,000

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

BYOM is intended to tie people to their foods through multiple different mediums, both in a physical space and online. BYOM gardens will fill remnant land spaces in Los Angeles, not only creating a physical community, but reducing carbon footprint and increasing pervious surface cover in areas which are the most polluted and in need. Many low-income communities in LA are minority-inhabited, and disproportionately polluted. Therefore, it is important to tackle sustainable consumption and development through a democratic, community-scale project so that all residents feel they are stakeholders. BYOM not only fights food deserts and food waste, but encourages the community to bond with and learn from one another.

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

We will measure impact in terms of families served. We know that in our first year, reaching people will be difficult due to the fact that the garden needs to be planted and established before we can begin to provide discounted produce. Furthermore, in order to provide rent subsidization for garden volunteers, we first need to form trusting relationships with owners of low-income housing developments in South Central Los Angeles. Therefore, our goal for the first year of BYOM is to reach 100 families, at least 10 of those being through our rent subsidy program. We will pay landlords to develop remnant land within their complexes into community gardens in which residents can contribute volunteer hours, for which they will receive compensation directly to their rent payment portal. BYOM will be able to earn profits through the rent subsidy program by hosting farmers markets directly out of the garden, where produce will be sold at slightly above cost. In years beyond, we hope to increase the number of families reached by 20 percent each year, with a proportionate amount being through the rent subsidy program.

Which of the LIVE metrics will your submission impact?​

Access to healthy food

Food insecurity

Housing affordability

Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?​

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 CONNECT

Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?​

Access to the LA2050 community

Communications support

Capacity, including staff

Strategy assistance and implementation