2020 Grants Challenge
🎉 Winner

The LA 101 Guide to Local Government and Civic Engagement

Idea by LA Forward

LA 101 is an interactive guide and campaign to help you understand how local government really works, and how you can make a difference with your friends and neighbors. It will cover major local elected and appointed officials and what they do, city and county departments and how they impact your life, the fundamentals of advocacy and organizing, and more. Our goal is for every Angeleno to have the knowledge, tools, and confidence they need to become active in their communities and advocate for an LA that is fair and flourishing for everyone.


Has your proposal changed due to COVID-19?

The pandemic has highlighted the fragility of our social safety net and the critical role that local government can play in protecting the health and well-being of our communities. It’s never been more important to provide regular Angelenos with resources and tools to advocate for policies that ensure a just and equitable recovery.

As two leading members in the Healthy LA coalition — a network of more than 320 local organizations uniting to propose concrete solutions to the many hardships caused by the pandemic — we’ve been on the frontlines pushing for policies to protect vulnerable Angelenos. We’ve learned so much about effective organizing and advocacy over the last three months, and we’re committed to sharing it as widely as possible through LA 101.

Our initial proposal relied largely on digital materials and distribution, so we don’t anticipate major changes. One exception is converting the community workshops we were planning for 2021 into Zoom meetings. Even if in-person meetings are permitted, we’re increasing our plans for digital events after seeing how they broaden the range of people who can participate and allow for easy recording and distribution.

We’re also planning to include additional training on how to organize in a socially distanced world. And we’re exploring ways to speed up the public launch of the LA 101 guide to help equip LA’s diverse communities to participate in the crucial deliberations around how our region navigates and emerges from this crisis.

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

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Expand existing program

Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

Inclusive Action for the City

If you are submitting a collaborative proposal, please describe the specific role of partner organizations in the project.

LA 101 is a true partnership between LA Forward and Inclusive Action. The concept was developed collaboratively, and our plan calls for a near-even split in creating content, recruiting partners, organizing events, and spreading the word.

While certain core tasks will be shared by both organizations, we will focus on areas where we bring unique expertise. For example, Inclusive Action will draw on its experience working alongside low-income communities of color to ensure that the LA 101 guide reaches — and is informed by and speaks to — communities who have historically been shut out of local politics. LA Forward will apply its experience creating and distributing beautifully-designed voter guides and other educational materials that have reached hundreds of thousands of Angelenos.

What is the need you’re responding to?

LA County is home to the largest, most powerful local government in the U.S. by far. We have more people than 42 states and a larger budget than over 180 nations. The County and City of LA have immense influence over nearly every aspect of our daily lives, and yet few Angelenos know the name of their local representatives, much less what they do. That leaves influence over local government to a small minority of insiders and special interest groups. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that there has been a groundswell of interest in politics and activism since 2016, and LA is on the cusp of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform from one of America’s least civically engaged metro areas to one of the most. Tens of thousands of Angelenos are invested in national politics for the first time, but remain overwhelmed by the prospect of getting involved locally. The LA 101 guide will help convert that energy into powerful local organizing to transform our city.

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

LA’s electeds and policies should reflect the people they serve, and LA 101 can help make that happen. The project is led by experienced local advocates with a track record of reaching, teaching, and mobilizing Angelenos at the grassroots and grasstops levels.

Since 2016, LA Forward has published impactful guides on local issues and elections that have reached well over 100,000 people. We’ve hosted dozens of civic education events and in-person LA 101 workshops. And in March 2020, we helped form and lead the Healthy LA Coalition of over 250+ local groups responding to the COVID-19 crisis and advocating for pressing policies needed to protect Angelenos.

As a partner, Inclusive Action for the City (formerly LURN) brings people together to build strong, local economies through advocacy and transformative economic development initiatives. They have been a leading voice for economic justice since 2008, and a leader in the successful citywide effort to legalize and protect street vending.

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

Direct Impact: 50,000

Indirect Impact: 500,000

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

We expect the LA 101 campaign to have a lasting impact on local policies, civic engagement, and the future of the region. By illuminating the workings of the city and county, the LA 101 guide and workshops will pave the way for greater public involvement. When Angelenos learn effective ways to voice their views, they gain the confidence and know-how to do the crucial civic work of calling elected officials, showing up to council hearings, meeting with government staffers, joining neighborhood councils, and participating in local elections. Ultimately, the result we are working toward is a local government that is dramatically more representative of — and responsive to — the people it serves.

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

The goal of LA 101 is to support the people of LA in taking control of the systems and policies that shape their lives. In the short term, that means providing resources that lower barriers to entry for those who want to take their first steps into local activism and civic engagement.

In the medium to long term, our vision is for LA to transform from one of the nation’s least civically engaged places to one of its most. That means higher voter turnout and participation in local elections, and high levels of participation in the workings of City Council and county government, in community groups and neighborhood councils, mutual aid networks, and more.

We will measure how many people see and meaningfully engage with the guide, as well as those who attend workshops and events. It’s vital to us that those engaging with LA 101 mirror LA’s incredible diversity, and we will work with our partners to make sure the guide is reaching and resonating with communities across LA — especially those that are unable to vote in elections and participate through other avenues.

The ultimate definition of success is the extent to which the LA 101 guide can increase civic engagement: how many people are commenting on pending policies, calling elected officials or meeting with their staffs, volunteering with advocacy groups, and voting and getting their friends to vote. We will survey workshop and online participants about their behavior to see how it changes based on their contact with LA 101.

Which of the CONNECT metrics will your submission impact?​

Government responsiveness to residents’ needs

Neighborhood council participation

Voting rates

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

LA is the best place to LEARN

LA is the healthiest place to LIVE

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

Access to the LA2050 community

Host public events or gatherings

Communications support