2020 Grants Challenge

Using Stories to Create Community for Under-resourced Groups

Idea by LiteraTea

To realize our mission of enriching the lives of underserved Angelenos, especially seniors, recent immigrants and the homebound, we need to directly reach and receive the endorsement of decision makers at relevant organizations. Financial support will also help fund tailored programs for these groups, including specific courses, ancillary content and instructional videos. Finally, to sustain the program after the project period, we will train staff and volunteers in technological and programmatic elements so they can operate independently.


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

County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Expand existing program

What is the need you’re responding to?

LiteraTea delivers story sharing and writing instruction at scale while building a supportive community with profiles, member matching, live chats and workshops. Ad and spam free, the site is supported by low, possibly subsidized subscriptions.

1.8 million older adults live in LA , of whom ~30% report being lonely, which can cause harms on par with smoking or inactivity. Similarly, 10% of the county reports serious difficulty leaving home, and 54% speak languages other than English. Given these magnitudes and existing services, we hope to supply a marginal, positive service to these communities with tailored content and specific outreach programs.

LiteaTea's infrastructure can accommodate thousands of simultaneous users; the content needs to be expanded. For example, we would translate our proven tools into their languages, and we would create new modules, like memoir, for seniors. To do so, we need to recruit experts and influencers from these groups into our community.

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

This project would increase LA area organizations' awareness and use of LiteraTea. In doing so, it will let us leverage our existing platform with tailored content and underscore how virtual community can complement existing services to accommodate these under-resourced groups.

LiteraTea, a self-financed startup, is led by Celeste Davidson and Adam Simon, who have combined their talents to build a unique website. Celeste oversees content and instruction, being an award-winning, best selling author. and a certified teacher in Secondary English. She als has a USC MBA and is an Ed Tech PhD student.

Adam runs the technology and operations. He is a political science PhD. with two books and many peer-reviewed articles, who has spent twenty years researching community and citizenship while teaching at UCLA, University of Washington and Yale. He also began writing computer code in third grade, attending MIT, before graduating UCLA in Communications.

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

Direct Impact: 450

Indirect Impact: 27,000

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

LiteraTea is an excellent resource for data collection among constituent populations via content analysis, surveys and polls. This data could help assess the needs of individuals within these groups, and, ultimately, inform Los Angeles area policy decisions.

Additionally, the scalable nature of this platform makes it extensible to organizations and individuals nationally, and internationally. English is the world’s most influential language in terms of academia and business, spoken by three-quarters of the world’s population, with 949 million internet users. LiteraTea could serve as a platform for English language development, and both intercultural and intracultural understanding through stories, the “currency of human interaction”.

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

LiteraTea's mission began when we witnessed the devastating effects that social isolation and diminished agency caused in our own families, the result of chronic illness and age-related lack of mobility. Our backgrounds in education, publishing, business and technology, helped us imagine and build a bold enterprise: a supportive online platform where a diverse group of Angelenos could confidently express themselves, learn from, and connect with others through stories.

This project would see LiteraTea become an infrastructure for interventions that address the needs of underserved groups: partly by producing new lessons and videos tailored to specific needs. For example, we could work with senior organizations to develop content on memoir, by leveraging the site's existing architecture and ease of use, as well as LiteraTea's unique, pedagogically cutting-edge, scaffolding tools. Veterans’ groups may incorporate specific writing prompts and host live video workshops that serve therapeutic goals. School enrichment programs may focus on cooperative writing or practice for English language learners.

Our first measures of success will include institutional and individual member numbers, hours spent on the site, and other specifics such as the number and quality of stories as well as the number and depth of intramember interactions. In all, we see success as a vibrant community of people connecting with each other, learning from and enjoying stories, so they feel more empowered, connected and happy.

Which of the CONNECT metrics will your submission impact?​

Social and emotional support

Disability access and inclusion

Immigrant integration

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 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

Strategy assistance and implementation