Social enterprise or B-corps

Public Matters

Public Matters believes the arts and creativity are levers for social change. We aim to bridge the trust gap between institutions and marginalized communities of color by designing strategies that transform the culture, practice and experience of civic participation, making it accessible to all.

4 Submitted Ideas

  • PLAY ·2024 Grants Challenge

    Good Mischief for Greener Communities

    LA County’s 2021 climate study identified East LA as a community vulnerable to extreme heat; more green space and tree canopy can help. But the community won’t get what it needs to help cool the area; chronic, systemic barriers to neighborhood self-determination stand in the way. Good Mischief can clear a path forward, bringing less soul-suck and more conspiratorial joy to civic participation and the quest for greener communities, ultimately expanding power to realize thermal equity among the most environmentally burdened people in LA County.

  • PLAY ·2020 Grants Challenge
    🎉 Winner

    University Park Slow Jams

    Every year LA’s streets are becoming less safe for people who walk, especially children. University Park Slow Jams is a creative call to action for safer streets. The project builds a network of local advocates—groups, schools, parents, youth—to draw attention to traffic violence, build capacity, and propose solutions. Slow Jams are a multifaceted education, engagement, and leadership development strategy that enable local stakeholders to participate in creative public acts; document safety conditions; and take action to achieve street safety.

  • CREATE ·2015 Grants Challenge

    Urban Futures Lab: Reimagining LA’s Civic and Creative Capital

    Urban Futures Lab is a multi-year fellowship training, mentorship and employment program for young adults (18-26) from low-income communities of color in LA. Fellows are trained as interdisciplinary creative community problem solvers and future civic leaders as they work on projects to strengthen LA neighborhoods. Fellows develop career and community-building skills and networks through projects addressing arts, culture and equitable development, community health, and neighborhood identity.

  • 2013 Grants Challenge
    🎉 Winner

    Market Makeovers: NextGen Leaders

    Public Matters is not after the quick fix. We’re in it for the long run. We believe a great idea will become an effective solution only if the community it seeks to help takes ownership of it. Market Makeovers: NextGen Leaders proposes to evolve young leaders from within their communities to drive long-term sustainable change in the places they live. Specifically, we are asking LA 2050 to fund a group of emerging adult community leaders (age 18-24) to transform the food landscape, food behaviors and health outcomes in East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights, building on an existing infrastructure within which they’ve worked for the past three years. These NextGen Leaders are deeply committed to the work of improving the health outcomes of their community, having already invested some serious sweat equity, received extensive training in health, leadership, public speaking and media production, and transformed local stores. For them, it’s personal; the work they do impacts the health of their families, friends and loved ones. LA 2050 funds would take their leadership development to the next level so that they have increased opportunities and greater capacity to bring about meaningful, sustainable community transformation. Public Matters has been greening food deserts through Market Makeovers since 2007 – one corner store at a time. We started in South L.A. with the Healthy Eating Active Communities Initiative and for the past three years, have been doing Market Makeovers in East L.A. and Boyle Heights through Proyecto MercadoFRESCO, a project of UCLA-USC Center for Population Health and Health Disparities. In recent years, there have been numerous “corner store conversions” (as they’re known in public health circles) to address the “grocery gap” in “food deserts,” areas that have limited access to quality, healthy food; an overabundance of fast food; and high rates of chronic conditions related to poor diet. Typical corner store conversions involve some physical transformation of existing stores, the addition of healthier inventory (usually fresh fruits and vegetables), and some marketing of the new items. Shortly thereafter, the stores are left to their own devices. As an intervention strategy, Market Makeovers are another order of magnitude, aiming for community transformation. They encompass education; community engagement and relationship building; business training for storeowners/operators; store transformation; and social marketing to change health behaviors and increase fresh fruit and vegetable consumption. Local youth and residents play a central role in the hands-on work of transforming markets, educating the community about the benefits of fruits and vegetables, and promoting the Market Makeover stores. They implement the solution, and in so doing take ownership of it. Market Makeovers are not just about supply; they’re also about creating demand. You have to make sure you have community buy-in, that if you stock those fruits and vegetables, locals will buy (and eat) them, so that healthy food retail becomes viable. That’s where the NextGen Leaders come in; LA 2050 funds would enable them to pick up where conventional corner store conversions leave off, after the fanfare of the grand re-opening dies down: to promote transformed MercadoFRESCO stores in East L.A. and Boyle Heights so that healthy food retail takes root, becomes the norm, and results in improved health outcomes. LA 2050 funds will provide NextGen Leaders with additional training and opportunities for leadership development so that they can work directly with Public Matters, Nathan Cheng Consulting, municipal and community partners to shape the project. NextGen Leaders will receive training in store operations, marketing, graphic design and visual literacy so they can assist the stores with retail presentation and merchandising, create in-store graphics and displays and social marketing campaigns to promote healthy food behaviors. They will plan, promote and conduct community events: public presentations in schools and local organizations, cooking demos at the markets, and video screenings. They will access local leaders and participate in community meetings and decision-making processes. They will become the public faces of the project and lead East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights to a healthier 2050.