LA2050 Grants Challenge applications are open now through June 28th, 2024.
2023 Grants Challenge

What Connects Us

To celebrate Zocalo's 20th birthday we are embarking on What Connects Us, a robust series of programs and digital content that will introduce new approaches to the critical conversations Zocalo is known for, catalyzed by cultural experiences. The series will feature a kaleidoscope of perspectives on the ideas, places, and questions that are central to the approachable intellectual space Zocalo has created in Los Angeles, and, like everything we do, will be entirely free and open to the public, with as few barriers to participation as possible.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Access to Creative Industry Employment (sponsored by the Snap Foundation)

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

Central LA

San Gabriel Valley

South LA

West LA

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

At Zocalo's founding in 2003, the public square was under threat from technology, social stratification, and the idea that more and more Americans were "bowling alone." Today's dangers to the public square are more insidious and complex, but also more readily visible. In Los Angeles, we see them in rising inequality, in mistrust in our leaders, and in our challenges surmounting a host of problems with any kind of consensus, from climate change to improving education. But over the past two decades, as the public sphere became ever more polarized, segregated, and mean, Zocalo has pulled hard in the other direction, creating a welcoming public space where people of vastly different backgrounds, experiences, and expertises learn from each other. What Connects Us will ask: What conversations can bring Angelenos together? What ideas can provoke curiosity and cultivate greater cohesion? What questions can spark solutions to the gravest, most deeply rooted issues we face?

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

What Connects Us is a Zocalo Inquiry-a signature programs series and digital content package focused on a single theme, and housed on a dedicated section of Zocalo's website. This Inquiry will explore a broad range of subjects, including the question of how to bring Angelenos together in conversation about the most urgent issues of our time. Free programs will take place across L.A. County in partnership with a broad range of cultural organizations and collaborators, many of which will also be event locations. They include LA Plaza Cocina in Downtown L.A., Destination Crenshaw in Leimert Park, WasteLAnd and Raven Chacon, the Kinsey African American Art & History Collection at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, USC Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, and Mythili Prakash. The organizations we are working with span food, visual art, urban planning, performance, and more in order to reflect the diversity of Los Angeles County, and to bring as many perspectives and voices into the conversation as possible. Our digital content package features a three-part series of essays and commissioned artwork that explores the past, present, and future of the public square and of Los Angeles. It will include short, scholarly takes from thought leaders, pieces in conversation with classic Zocalo content, and a blend of essays with embedded visuals and audio to explore place, community, and history.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Success for What Connects Us will mean a better-connected L.A. County, with people and organizations from across its vast spread having met and exchanged ideas and perspectives. The ultimate aim is to build civic pride and cohesion around a shared vision of L.A.'s future. We are celebrating 20 years of Zocalo creating a space for Angelenos to come together and reflect on big issues and ideas. Success will mean sparking new discussions around where we want Los Angeles to be 20 years from now, and what the city needs for its people and cultural organizations to get there. In the immediate term, we anticipate vibrant content, shared across many platforms by many people and organizations, and a rich section on our website that is a resource for many; we estimate 1,500 attendees at in-person events and over 53,500 reading and watching online. In the long term, we expect our work will help L.A. feel like its problems are not insurmountable-and together we have the capacity to solve them.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Our content is free and our programs are open to the public. We believe metrics tell part-but not all-of the story. We keep detailed records of in-person event attendance and streams/downloads across platforms. And we track the readership of individual pieces, the open rates and traffic of our email newsletters, social media reach, and overall website traffic. In addition to raw numbers, we continually assess audience diversity (ethnic, geographic, educational, economic). We review the makeup of our online audiences and survey our online and in-person audiences for demographic information. What Connects Us also will measure its success in how well it engages Angelenos who are new to Zocalo, and in our project's impact on the tenor and content of the discourse around Los Angeles today. We know that Zocalo discussions often reverberate beyond our walls, and we anticipate that What Connects Us will help create a city that is more compassionate, optimistic, and cohesive.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 55,000

Indirect Impact: 100,000