Social Connectedness / 2013
At thrdPlace our idea for LA2050 is to provide the digital infrastructure for community development
At thrdPlace, our idea for LA2050 is to provide the digital infrastructure for community development: to connect stakeholders around shared interests and improve identity in all of our communities. More than anything, thrdPlace is the story of you and me. ThrdPlace represents your family and friends and neighbors. We all want the ability to affect change where we have need.
At thrdPlace, we see a new way for us all to develop our shared communities. Each of us can create a movement to develop local community solutions were individually we only saw problems.
ThrdPlace is managed by a group of Angelenos, made of Urban Planners, Cause Marketers and Software Developers. Day after day, we see community needs that go unaddressed, community members who want to help but are unable, and resources that can impact these needs left uncaptured. Despite our expertise, too often we are frustrated by a lack of innovation in community development. The LA2050 Challenge is evidence that we are not alone.
ThrdPlace uses social technology to connect diverse community stakeholders around shared interests. For Profits, Non Profits and Community Members use thrdPlace to work together to resource and execute projects based on these shared needs. Thrdplace is the infrastructure that elevates that local need through story; organizes the funds, supplies and volunteers within a community needed to execute a solution; and connects stakeholders that share an interest in supporting.
The data generated on ThrdPlace, by its users (both organizations and individuals), is made available back to those users. Open data enables everyone to benefit from the collective activity of Angelenos and ultimately create a city that better reflects our needs as citizens. These data provide new insights to evaluate community need and activity against a variety of macro indicators from voting, to graduation rates and public safety. The improvement of local communities can and should be the throughline that connects all stakeholders within Los Angeles.
Specifically, ThrdPlace impacts the three Social Connectedness indicators.
Volunteerism: thrdPlace is a volunteer creation engine designed to engage the 9.8 million citizens of Los Angeles. thrdPlace brings volunteer opportunities directly to citizens through a variety of digital channels. We create high rates of engagement by delivering stories of local need, peer involvement and a direct call to action. ThrdPlace enables all community stakeholders and their existing programming, to tap into the uncaptured energy and resources available within our local communities. Because our mission at thrdPlace is so closely aligned with LA2050’s goals, we envision an opportunity for LA 2050’s project submissions to use thrdPlace as a centralized platform to expand their capacity and achieve their goals.
Civic and Social Engagement: Building physical community is the best way to develop inter-personal relationships. ThrdPlace brings shared interest in local issues to the forefront of citizen attention. It provides the opportunity for collaboration and exploration across stakeholders both on and offline.
Voting: Locally engaged citizens vote. Participating in a local project creates a sense of ownership and identity within community. The act of building relationships, taking ownership, and sharing ideas for local solutions leads to a population more likely to vote.
ThrdPlace has already successfully facilitated collaboration across sectors. Brands in both the public and private sector see thrdPlace as a market to interface and deepen relationships with local communities (and their consumers). Envision Charlotte, for example, is collaboration between the City of Charlotte, a local Non-Profit and local commercial businesses (incl. Duke Energy, Verizon and Wells Fargo). Envision Charlotte is finalizing a partnership thrdPlace. They are activating local businesses and individuals to document, connect and resource projects within a regional sustainability action plan. Businesses are sharing their internal initiatives and supporting local projects started by citizens. Citizens are starting projects based on their local needs and driving support from their fellow citizens and local businesses. And communities are connecting through their shared goal.
ThrdPlace views Social Connectedness as the common denominator needed for LA2050 to achieve its goals across all of its indicators. ThrdPlace increases Angelenos civil and social engagement, voting rates and volunteerism.
Working together, we can share the collective vision of a successful Los Angeles and serve as a model for engagement and development for cities around the world.
(To learn more about thrdPlace please visit us here: http://thrdplace.com/blog/)
What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?
To date, the most important achievement of thrdPlace is our viability. In one year, thrdPlace has built a web platform for its service at www.thrdPlace.com. Mobile will launch in April 2013. ThrdPlace has developed the nascent business from a startup to a platform with a global footprint of impact. And thrdPlace has achieve all of this with a limited investment...just $45K.
In January 2012, the two co-founders were accepted to startup accelerator StartEngine (www.StartEngine.com). In March 2012, thrdPlace sold its first, pilot services to Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods used thrdPlace to manage an international, workforce volunteer campaign across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. To execute that campaign, Whole Foods identified, vetted and collaborated with over 200 Non Profits all on thrdPlace.
Since the pilot, thrdPlace has secured technology and distribution partnerships with ESRI and ADi Global. ESRI (www.ESRI.com) is global leader in geo-data mapping and visualization with $1B+ in annual revenue and 500K global clients. ESRI signed thrdPlace to its Partner Program because their clients face challenges in community outreach. ESRI is contracted to provide mapping and data analytics software to thrdPlace as well as distirbute thrdPlace to its existing clients. Similarly, ADi Global (www.ADi.com) is contracted to distribute thrdPlace to its existing clients. ADi is a global leader in supply chain and philanthropic efficiencies. Their 300K clients around the globe face the same challenges in community outreach as ESRI’s clients. ADi, therefore, integrates thrdPlace into its salesforce and distribute thrdPlace on our behalf.
Furthermore, HUB Los Angeles (www.theHUBLA.com) invited thrdPlace and its co-founders to be founding members in its membership club. HUB Los Angeles is dedicated to build the local, sustainable economy in Los Angeles and beyond. ThrdPlace and HUB are working together to certify Certified B Corporations and Benefit Corporations, display their impact on surrounding communities and invite community members to optimize their impact in LA.
April 3, 2013 thrdPlace will demo its services alongside Mayor Antonio Villarigosa as he debuts his MYLA311 App. The Mayor’s mobile application will enable Angelenos to report issues in community development like potholes, illegal trash dumping and burst downed power lines directly to City officials for repair. ThrdPlace is 1 of 7 technologies invited by HUB Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce to promote emerging civic engagement tools Angelenos can use to develop their communities.
ThrdPlace has achieved a lot in a short period of time with little money. What’s more, industry leaders like StartEngine, ESRI, ADi Global, HUB Los Angeles and the LA Chamber of Commerce have all vetted thrdPlace. And all of these industry leaders promote thrdPlace due to its potential to impact community development.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
ThrdPlace is the infrastructure that allows others to scale, connect and create change. There are a number existing relationships, that will and already are leveraging thrdPlace within Los Angeles.
For Profits – Whole Foods, HUB Los Angeles, CornerStone OnDemand, California Pizza Kitchen, City National Bank, BiomimicryLA and TOMS Shoes, among others. Non Profits – Social Justice Learning Institute, LA River Revitalization Corporation, CicLAvia, Habitat for Humanity, Los Angeles Regional Collaborative (LARC) and United Way, among others.
Public Offices & Utilities – LA USD, Inglewood USD, Mayors Office, LA Chamber of Commerce, LA Food Policy Council, SoCal Edison.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?
ThrdPlace will evaluate the success of its grant from LA2050 with its Impact Index. The purpose of the Index is to rank Los Angeles and the interests of Angelenos based on key performance indices. Currently, thrdPlace reports the success of projects. Reports detail resources contributed, community partners, social media engagements and the demographics of their contributors. The index will be integrated into the story of each project so that each user understands that they are contributing to a cause larger than him or herself.
ThrdPlace will use the grant from LA2050 to improve its tracking and reporting capabilities. To do this, thrdPlace aggregates indices for individual contributors and project creators as well as individual projects and campaigns (or, groups of similar projects). What’s more, the Index aggregates indices at the city, regional, state and national level. The aggregated indices will be used to assign a letter grade to each project or city, for example, based on its performance. The index will is sortable by indicator, region and time. The index enables all community stakeholders to understand the gaps and clusters – or, more specifically, how to move leadership and resources to areas of need within community development.
Whole Kids Foundation, for example, is chartered to distribute grants to edible, school gardens in Los Angeles. On thrdPlace the Foundation can discover schools that fit the Foundations criteria and are actively building gardens. After finding schools in need of resources, the Foundation uses thrdPlace to donate funds. Before they submit the donation they receive a notice: “Did you know … if you submit your contribution, you will immediately improve the ranking of urban gardens in Los Angeles from a C+ to a B and the access of Angelenos to fresh, organic food from a D to a C-? To donate…click ‘Submit.’”
Thereafter, the Foundation receives updates about the project throughout the lifecycle of the garden build. Updates include social media and analytics that provide primary data and rich storytelling media that they can use to promote their outreach. After the gardens are completed they receive detailed report of the impact they created. What’s more, the Foundation can now determine which projects or project participants to continue to support with donations through thrdPlace.
Lastly, the Foundation compares the impact they created with outcomes they are chartered to develop for local communities. The Foundation uses the map and analytic tools of thrdPlace to compare the output – the edible school garden – against outcomes – voting or volunteerism, for example – sourced from census data or market reports on thrdPlace. Ultimately, the Index enables the Foundation to strategically target their community outreach to ensure they remain true to their charter and their communities document continued improvement.
How will your project benefit Los Angeles?
ThrdPlace benefits Los Angeles by telling the story of its identity and connecting the diverse stakeholders that live within and contribute to it.
Los Angeles is a metropolis that represents many, different communities. Angelenos live in Hollywood because they identify with the people that live, work and play in Hollywood. The same can be said about Venice Beach.
Angelenos invest in the metropolis with their vote, taxes and consumption. Our Governing bodies allocate of those limited funds by prioritizing the needs of the metropolis with the needs of the individual communities. But, Angelenos also invest socially. They invest in the long-term growth of communities as they build homes, patron local businesses, be-friend neighbors and leisure in public parks. We need and want to be part of developing our communities. thrdPlace is the platform that enables each and every Angeleno to tell his or her own story, mobilize the resources around them, and be part of developing their community.
The story of D’Artagnan Scorza of Inglewood is not unlike many Angelenos. Over the years, D’Artagnan has witnessed a lack of development in his community. The City and businesses were not investing and long-term residents were moving away. As he looked around Inglewood, he could see dozens of outdoor, black-top basketball courts remain empty throughout the day and at night serve as a hub for criminal activity. The courts that were built as a recreational space and a community asset now served as a liability. Instead of giving over the identity of Inglewood to criminals, D’Artagnan decided not to move away but to invest in his community.
To do this, D’Artagnan and his Non Profit, Social Justice Learning Institute, began to build urban gardens. D’Artagnan rallied his community to build an urban garden on top of one of the courts. As a result, the community now has a garden built by its community members, outfitted by For Profits and maintained by his Non Profit. The garden provides local residents free access to fresh, organic food. Because of D’Artagnan’s investment in his community, he changed the identity of his local park. Social Justice Learning Institute is now using thrdPlace for their 100 Seeds of Change Campaign. The goal of this initiative is to transform Inglewood into a healthy living community by empowering residents to grow their own food in a collaborative, local network. The comprehensive, citywide plan enlists community members – particularly, local youths – to create 100 urban gardens located at Inglewood homes, schools and parks.
D’Artagnan is an example of one Angeleno. His actions can and are being replicated across our city. With thrdPlace, all those micro-movements can connect and together develop our city to be a true reflection of its citizens.
What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?
Success for Social Connectedness is determined by the ability of every Angeleno to affect positive change in his or her own community. In 2050, Angelenos citizens have become a volunteer army for community development; and Social Connectedness is rated by LA2050 as green. For Profits, Non Profits, and Community Members work together to address community needs across all LA2050 indicators. ThrdPlace develops Los Angeles as a (Digital) City as Platform to apply the activity (both on and offline) of every willing citizen in the development of our shared communities. Los Angeles stakeholders use thrdPlace to monitor the pulse of Angelenos and the health of our shared city.
At thrdPlace we believe, like LA2050, that education is the silver bullet to improve social connectedness. Consider a future where every school has used thrdPlace to build a community garden. During the week, students learn life sciences as they turn school grounds into gardens. On the weekend, community members join to learn how to maintain and harvest these gardens. The community gains access to produce through community supported agriculture (CSA) boxes from schools full of native plants from permaculture gardens to organic fruits, vegetables, and fish from high-yield aquaponics gardens. Each harvest provides a new opportunity for community stakeholders to participate. Consider a young entrepreneur who contributes a proposed aquaponics garden on some underused land. A local building supply store contributes irrigation supplies; a local activist group contributes garden training and oversight; and the community – school children, parents, and teachers – contribute funds, supplies and volunteer hours. Each harvest provides an opportunity for community stakeholders to forge new relationships with one another. They share ideas and find support to take on larger issues like decreasing rates of adolescent diabetes and increase graduation rates. They discover ways replicate success from one school to the next. In this way, projects like a community garden do more than grow food, they create the social fabric and cultural community more akin to a village than a sprawling metropolis.
Los Angeles Unified School District is the second largest landowner in Los Angeles County. Similarly, other potential hubs of community life, including parks, canyons, beaches and office parks, can catalyze the transformation of community assets into hubs of community action. A great example of one potential thrdPlace client that represents the vast potential of thrdPlace and LA2050 is the Los Angeles Revitalization Corporation (http://www.lariver.org/). With over 300 points of intersection between the river and the surrounding community, let’s see if we can do more together than we could ever do alone. We hope to see you on the river…