Social Connectedness / 2013
Future Leaders Initiative Listen to the Leaders of Tomorrow.
By 2050, the youth of today will be the generation that inherits Los Angeles. They will be the ones making decisions about the city's economy, transportation, housing, education, and everything that impacts Los Angelenos 37 years from now. One of them may even be the mayor in 2050. So why are we not listening to them?
Youth Speak Collective (YSC) will address this issue of social connectedness and apathy using our Future Leaders Initiative, a youth-driven leadership training campaign that pairs high school students throughout the City of Los Angeles with business and community professionals. Over the course of six months, each student will participate in an intensive training, mentoring and civic learning curriculum with their paired professional, in preparation to be one of Los Angeles's future 2050 leaders. Students will learn about civic engagement, social entrepreneurship, and creative leadership from their mentoring professionals, culminating in a service-learning project where each youth/adult pair work together to solve a Los Angeles community issue.
It is our belief that youth are simply not given enough credit. When given the opportunity, they have the drive and ability to surprise us with amazing ideas. Through genuine listening , strategic mentoring and engaged coaching, we can tap into the fresh outlook and wisdom of youth in our currently estranged communities. The guidance and mentorship of invested, caring adults can help transform Los Angeles into a socially connected, civically active community.
The following outline briefly summarizes the actions steps of the Future Leaders Initiative.
• Pair 50 high school students and 50 professionals from the five core areas in Los Angeles: South Los Angeles, East Los Angeles, Central Los Angeles, West Los Angeles, and San Fernando Valley
• Professionals will mentor, train, and coach youth for six months using a “Community Impact” curriculum
• Professionals will meet with the youth for at least eight hours a month
• Students will be tasked with selecting a real world problem in their community to solve through a service learning project
• After completion of curriculum, students will be required to select a nonprofit partner that is working to address the community problem they have selected to resolve in order to leverage outreach and implementation of their service learning project
• Service learning projects will involve local elected offices, small businesses, and community groups to maximize social connectedness and impact
• Program will culminate in a Future Leaders conference where all participating students and professionals gather to present their projects and solutions to Los Angeles stakeholders, such as city officials, business executives, and nonprofit leaders.
What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?
YSC's greatest achievement is actually following through on our youth-driven philosophy. We listen carefully to what the youth want and need and work with them to implement their ideas. This youth/adult collaboration has created effective programs that youth gravitate toward and has brought about the following achievements in just seven short years.
• Project Kawazoe - A drought-tolerant, Japanese-inspired pocket park in Pacoima, designed and built by students in the community.
• Club Futbolito - A free club soccer program for at-risk youth, serving over 1000 players
• Pacoima Neighborhood Partnership – A founding member of a community led forum of over 50 community members, nonprofits, for-profits, elected offices, law enforcement, educators and students who meet monthly to discuss community issues and come up with viable solutions
• Creation of ten murals and developing more in the Northeast San Fernando Valley
• Project Youth Green - a four-acre community garden and activity space in the heart of Pacoima
• Youth Speak Media Solutions - A social enterprise that provides youth with jobs in the digital arts and film industry
• Creation of over twenty marketing films for local businesses and Los Angeles based nonprofits
• Creative Tech Center - An arts center and open computer lab in the Northeast San Fernando Valley
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
We plan to work with and actively collaborate with the following nonprofit partners: Youth Justice Coalition, Proyecto Pastoral, Boys and Girls Club of Venice, and Unusual Suspects Theatre Company. We plan to reach out to other organizations throughout Los Angeles in our target communities once the campaign is funded.
We plan to partner also with many excellent and established leadership programs: New Leaders Council, HUB-Los Angeles, Coro Southern California, LURN-Leadership for Urban Renewal Now, LA Leadership Network, Executive Service Corps and the Center for Nonprofit Management. Through these prominent leadership development organizations we plan to recruit adult allies and mentors for our youth across Los Angeles.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?
Social Connectedness attempts to measure the frequency of contact with others, quality of personal relationships, and civic and social engagement. We project that these short term goals will make a powerful impact throughout Los Angeles.
Outcome #1: One hundred percent of students should be able to demonstrate problem-solving and project management skills through the completion of a service learning project. Evidence of this will be present in the quality and presentation of each service-learning project at the Future Leaders conference. Attending community and business leaders will evaluate the projects at the conference. These scores and qualitative comments will be collected and aggregated by the Program Coordinator.
Outcome #2: Eighty percent of both students and adults should feel a desire to be more civic-minded. At the end of the program, all participants will be required to complete a post-survey evaluating their interest in volunteerism, voting and social engagement.
Outcome #3: Sixty percent of business and community leaders at the Future Leaders conference will see the value of the youth-driven solutions presented to combat current community issues. This will be evaluated by how many of the student solutions are actually integrated and implemented by Los Angeles' current leaders.
How will your project benefit Los Angeles?
The Future Leaders Initiative has both an immediate and long-term impact in Los Angeles. The 100 individuals initially involved in the program will feel an immediate social connectedness to each other and their community. This inter-generational relationship building will make a powerful impact across generations. The mentorship relationship provides professionals with an important volunteer opportunity that has an effect long after the mentorship is over. The student finds an adult ally that actually listens and cares about what they have to say and contribute. To give voice is to give a stake in the public discourse, and that is what the Future Leaders Initiative strives to do.
As adult stakeholders, participating professionals may be inspired to volunteer more or become more involved in local government. As young stakeholders, students will become more civic-minded, attend more volunteer events and be motivated to simply vote in order to get their voice heard. And with involvement of many community partners throughout the process, we are breathing new life into a city where people care, citizens care, and neighbors talk to each other.
In the long-term, the same students who were active in the program may be the next business executives, city councilmembers or nonprofit leaders of 2050. They already have experience in collaborating and communicating with one another due to their work within the Future Leaders Initiative so the social connectedness is already present. These are the individuals that others follow. If they set a good example and affect change in their social spheres, a domino effect of social awareness, civic engagement, and increased volunteerism among Los Angelenos city-wide is possible. We are simply asking for adults to listen and for the youth to take action.
What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?
The year 2050 would be characterized by social engagement, strong community values and collaborations. They are the keys to connectedness and the weapons against apathy. We believe that by connecting youth, adult allies, nonprofits, and local businesses, we can tackle all of the LA2050 indicators and link parts of Los Angeles through its residents.
Success in 2050 would be a model for other major cities. We would see more engaged citizens, increased voter turnout, and triple the amount of volunteers at nonprofits. All businesses would incorporate strong philanthropic values into their corporate structure and nonprofits would actively partner with each other to continue striving toward social connectedness.
Success in 2050 means that our youth leaders of today become our next city council members of Los Angeles and leading nonprofits and businesses that make real lasting impact. They are the next leaders in science, art and social welfare who give back to the same communities where they grew up. The year 2050 would be vibrant with social bonds that also make a community impact, whether great or small.