connect Winner / 2014
Dream Big With @movelatransit
Please describe yourself.
Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)
In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.
We want to take our organizing campaign’s ground game up a notch with a digital media platform and strategy.
Does your project impact Los Angeles County?Yes (benefits all of LA County)
Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?
- Central LA
- East LA
- South LA
- San Gabriel Valley
- San Fernando Valley
- South Bay
What is your idea/project in more detail?
Game-changing transportation investment is transforming Los Angeles County and it’s just the beginning! Transportation is the spine around which cities get built and investments in transit, walking and biking can reinvent neighborhoods, making our county a more sustainable, healthy and prosperous place. Move LA is like the Johnny Appleseed of transit — we are seeding a countywide public conversation about what to build next and to find out which ideas take root. This conversation couldn’t be more fundamental to LA’s future. We ask you to help us fund a digital media campaign that allows us to engage more Angelenos and prompt them to contribute meaningfully to this civic process. LA is a big place. We need to work together to make it great.
What will you do to implement this idea/project?
As the coalition of business, labor and environmental groups instrumental in getting the Measure R half-cent sales tax on the ballot in 2008 — the game-changing investment in transit referred to above — Move LA has street cred in building coalitions and consensus. Every year since Measure R won (with 67% of the vote!) our coalition has gathered at an annual “transportation conversation” that draws elected officials, agency leaders and other influencers as well as ordinary citizens. The 500-plus people who come together are champions of more sustainable and affordable transportation and housing choices in walkable, bikeable neighborhoods.
We’re implementing an ambitious campaign to keep this conversation going and take it deep into the grassroots with a canvass that’s helping us meet people in neighborhoods. At the grasstops, we’re co-convening cities in partnership with LA County’s five most active councils of government. We’re also taking this conversation on the road to meet with coalition partners and to cultivate new ones. We’ve got a good game at the grasstops, but we need resources for the technology, tools and talent that will allow us to implement a digital platform for even broader grassroots engagement. Social media and the analytics that make these communications tools effective will help us to connect with people who can carry on the conversation with their neighbors. We need these tools to identify people who really care about these issues, and to cultivate local champions who will like us and share our messages on Twitter and Facebook, and spread the word in other ways.
We are working with NationBuilder — a company we met at an LA 2050 discussion about social connectedness — to integrate our database with our donor base, and with our website, email, social media and supporters recruited by our canvass. We want to hire a digital media strategist who can help us design an integrated social communications plan that works in sync with our grasstops game and helps us orchestrate a campaign that inspires action and motivates engagement. We want to hire a half-time social media manager to help the whole staff implement the plan.
How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CONNECT today? In 2050?
With transformational transit investments: Southern California has long been infamous as a place without a center, growing ever outward into a disorganized, disaggregated, diverse region that sprawls over 191 cities and 38,000 square miles of heavily trafficked roads and single-family neighborhoods. The distance between jobs and housing — especially affordable housing — has exacerbated not only traffic and air pollution but also a lack of social cohesion. We spend so much time driving we barely have time for family and friends, and until fairly recently it was unlikely very many Angelenos would connect on public transit, in public spaces, or while walking or biking down the street. Investment in transit, bike lanes and wider sidewalks, however, is changing the tenor of life in our neighborhoods, providing a landscape where we can watch the parade of life go by and literally bump into each other, providing a sense of shared space and civic culture.
By getting our “mojo” back: The success of Measure R in creating game-changing resources to help solve seemingly intractable problems has inspired elected officials to work together to make Los Angeles a better place. This belief that we can work together and make a real difference is what we call “mojo,” and LA’s got its mojo back! We want many more Angelenos to hear and be inspired by this story. Elected officials have begun talking about the possibility of another sales tax on the 2016 ballot and we want many more Angelenos to be involved in these discussions: What should be funded? More light rail? BRT? Grand Boulevards? Shared-use mobility hubs? Places to walk and bike? Complete streets? Green streets? All of the above?
Making the dream a reality is a decades-long process that involves a multitude of decisions, many of which are very, very local. We are constructing 100 rail stations and a dozen new transit lines through many neighborhoods. We need to talk about how to do this. How should we connect neighborhoods with stations? What about the gentrification that can occur in neighborhoods once transit provides fast and easy access to jobs, shops, culture and entertainment? Will people who use transit the most still be able to live near it? How big and dense should new development be? How can we preserve single-family neighborhoods?
By working together on these issues we can ensure that LA becomes a much better place to connect.
Whom will your project benefit?
Connecting the people of Los Angeles County around a sustainable transportation and neighborhood agenda will benefit everyone — because we all sit in the same traffic, breathe the same air, and feel the impact of global warming. Sustainable transportation and development can reduce all this negative fallout even as the population grows — meantime increasing access to opportunity in terms of jobs, education, fresh food, health care, entertainment, culture, parks and recreation, our friends and neighbors. Moreover, the zero- and near-zero emission technologies we are promoting will allow us to move freight to and from the ports without having to sentence those who live along our heavily trafficked goods movement corridors to intolerably high rates of asthma and other chronic illness.
Not everyone needs to live in a walkable transit-oriented neighborhood — cars (privately owned or shared) will likely be a part of the LA landscape for decades to come. But providing more transportation and housing choices is essential for an increasingly diverse population that includes aging baby boomers, a millennial generation saddled with student debt and that can’t afford to own cars, and the rapidly increasing cohort of single-person households. Moreover, making it possible for more people of all ages and incomes to live in places where they don’t need to drive as much or own as many cars can will also help increase disposable income. People who can get by with one less car save about $10,000/year, according to the American Automobile Association, enabling them to save up for college or a down payment on a home. And for people who can’t afford a car, a robust transit system and the ability to get to stops and stations on foot or on bike offers both more affordable mobility and better access to opportunity.
The construction and operation of an expanded transportation system also creates good union jobs with good wages. LA Metro’s project labor agreements and construction careers program ensures that a share of all construction jobs will go to people who are struggling to make a living in LA’s low-income communities. Moreover, in addition to careers in construction and operation, additional jobs are created in the professional, scientific and technical services sector, and in retail — providing a boost to the regional and local economies and to local businesses countywide.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
NationBuilder and a digital media strategist are the partners we believe are essential to making this larger outreach and engagement effort as robust as possible – we have signed a contract with NationBuilder and are interviewing strategists now. Our goal is to use a digital media platform to leverage all our partnerships in order to collaborate with as many people as possible. Move LA began as a coalition of business, labor and environmental interests working in collaboration with government agencies and elected officials, and the coalition has continued to expand to include: faith-based organizations, public health advocates, bike and pedestrian activists, tenants rights activists, academics, affordable housers, design professionals, architects, developers, student organizations, community-based groups, neighborhood organizations, and funders.
Our outreach plan (discussed above) includes organizing and staging convenings in partnership with the five biggest councils of government (which represent most of the cities in the county), and we are organizing events with Latino leaders, the Urban League, Community Health Councils, environmental health and environmental justice groups, and all of the business organizations and community groups interested in clean goods movement. We’re scheduling presentations to the LA Business Council, the building trades and LA County Federation of Labor, to seniors and the disabled, engineering groups, and to the LA chapters of the Urban Land Institute, American Institute of Architects, the American Planning Association, and the American Society of Landscape Architects. We will meet with the movie studios, the LA County Museum of Arts, the Dodgers, area hospitals, and other large employers who have sponsored our work in the past. We are planning a student transportation summit. We are a founding member of a regional equity collaborative – of national nonprofits, community-based organizations and funders – that will be involved. And all the while our on-the-ground canvass operation will continue to knock on doors throughout the county.
Most of these partners have been with us in the trenches since Measure R. We add new partners often but not all in this list are confirmed and we hope to keep discovering more. The three factors critical to the success of this collaboration are: 1) sufficient resources; 2) a smart strategy that effectively engages our partners; 3) our ability to sustain the organizing effort over time.
How will your project impact the LA2050 “Connect” metrics?
- Median travel time to work
- Attendance at cultural events
- Number of public transit riders
- Participation in neighborhood councils
- Percentage of Angelenos that volunteer informally (Dream Metric)
- Government responsiveness to residents’ needs (Dream Metric)
- Transit-accessible housing and employment (the share of housing units and percentage of jobs that are located within a half-mile of transit) (Dream Metric)
- Total number of social media friends (Dream Metric)
Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.
Move LA’s use of social media will impact: Total number of Move LA’s social media friends • We are a small shop with a big mission that has not had the resources to dedicate to social media. But we will find a way! Government responsiveness to residents’ needs • Creating a robust public dialogue with government is the goal of our project. We are consensus-builders who can help communicate a clear message to decision-makers. Participation on neighborhood councils • Neighborhood councils as well as neighbors are keenly interested in all the issues we are talking about — since they affect daily life as well as property values. We would definitely expect to see participation increase in neighborhoods where new lines and stations are being constructed, and even more so in neighborhoods with hot real estate markets. Percentage of Angelenos that volunteer informally • We want to create more volunteer opportunities at Move LA, but the needle really moves when people aren’t spending so much time driving and have more time to volunteer for a whole host of good works.
Building a truly robust transit system will impact: Median travel time to work • It’s difficult to calculate the degree to which sustainable transportation will reduce travel times, because even as traffic is reduced, the population will continues to grow, adding more congestion. While bus may not necessarily reduce median travel times, most rail transit does, and both bus and rail make it possible for transit riders to read, work, answer emails and talk on the phone! Moreover, transit-oriented neighborhoods allow jobs and housing to be co-located in more compact mixed-use settings where people can also walk and bike —and we are building support for these neighborhoods. Attendance at cultural events • LACMA and organizations such as Arts LA are strong transit supporters who believe transit expansion is essential to improving access to the arts. Number of public transit riders • The LA Times recently reported that a new USC study found people who lived within a half mile of the Expo Line tripled their transit ridership and reduced their driving by 40% after Expo opened. Transit-accessible housing and employment: • According to the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) by 2035 we can expect 87% of all jobs and 82% of all housing in the 6-county region to be near transit. SCAG acknowledges that this is largely because of LA County’s transit expansion.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project.
It should be relatively simple, using the analytics that a digital media platform like NationBuilder makes possible, to determine the extent to which we have broadened our reach. We can easily keep track of how many people open our emails, how many we have engaged in online discussions, and how many have not only opened our emails but also clicked through and taken action — such as signing a letter or petition, liking or re-tweeting us or donating to Move LA. We can count our Twitter followers and our friends on Facebook, and the people who attend our next transportation conversation — will it top our best attendance, a standing-room-only crowd of more than 600? We can assess the traffic to our website, subscriptions to our monthly newsletter, and number of comments on our blog. We can assess whether we have truly built support for investment in more transportation options and housing where people of all ages and incomes can live by the numbers of people who sign our petitions, donate or take other actions on social media.
We will measure success using these metrics: • Increased traffic on our website • Extent of comments on our blog • Subscriptions to our monthly newsletter • Move LA staff’s participation in on-line discussions — not only on our blog but on other blogs • Number of friends on Facebook • Number of followers on Twitter • Number of people who sign an online pro-transit petition • Number of champions we identify and empower to engage in dialogue and action
What two lessons have informed your solution or project?
Lesson #1: It has become increasingly clear that a large government agency like LA Metro, with its diverse board, has great difficulty engaging people at the grassroots. Metro does a good job of reaching out to a neighborhood when a new station is proposed, and a good job of reaching out to cities through their councils of government in order to get input on projects they want funded. But Metro is less adept at reaching out to people across the county in order to involve them in shaping the next round of transit investments. We have concluded that it’s much easier for nongovernmental organizations, like Move LA, to dream big about what can be accomplished and to engage people in that discussion.
Perhaps the best of these moments was in 2007, when the Westside of Los Angeles was paralyzed with gridlock, and LA Metro said the agency had zero funding to build our way out of traffic congestion with a new transit system. Move LA Executive Director Denny Zane, who has had a long career in government as mayor and city councilmember in Santa Monica, vowed to find a solution. He called together a group of “influencers” — from business, labor and the nonprofit world, and including a pollster, a political strategist and LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. On that fateful day this group decided it was possible to win voter approval for an LA County sales tax measure for transportation — even though the greatest recession since the Great Depression was threatening on the horizon. Denny likes to say he ventured into these unknown waters because while he knew a lot about elections he was only just starting to learn about transportation. Innocence can be a blessing. If he hadn’t been so audacious there wouldn’t be five new transit lines under construction with more to come — proving it can be effective to dream big.
Lesson #2: Don’t be afraid to go to the voters. Measure R proved with the 67% vote that a supermajority of LA County voters want to expand our transportation choices — proving that together we can do big things and that politicians will follow when voters take the lead.
Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.
We believe that bringing LA County to a consensus around a development program for transit is totally doable and that key elements are already in place. We have a credible coalition that has stayed together and that keeps getting bigger, we have a big list of supporters, a great work program and a great pitch about the enormous potential of reinventing Los Angeles County as a more equitable and sustainable place. We have already begun a real-time outreach and engagement program, we have a contract with NationBuilder, and we have the conviction that digital engagement will succeed in amplifying our ability to reach out and involve more citizens. We see this digital strategy as a tool for implementing our larger goal of building a consensus around the next big investment in transit, and we’ve begun talking with several seasoned digital strategists who are eager to work with us. Having identified a chink in our armor — the expertise and technology that we lack — the only thing that’s holding us back is the lack of funds to bring a digital strategist to our team.
Here’s a quarterly timeline: July-September 2014: transition our database to NationBuilder, train staff on using it, and putting out an RFP for a digital strategist October –December 2014: work with the digital strategist we have chosen to develop our online outreach program, the roles and work programs for staff members and the goals that define success; advertise for someone to fill a new staff position as social media organizer January –March 2015: Hire a social media organizer and launch an outreach program involving all our staff April – June 2015: Implement our digital strategy July – September 2015: Continue implementing and begin assessing the strategy’s effectiveness.
Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?
Challenge #1 will be learning to use new technology and digital outreach strategies, and maintaining a commitment to use them. Move LA has achieved success organizing and communicating the old-fashioned way — via telephone, in-person meetings, emails, direct mail, a canvass. Our staff believes there aren’t enough hours in the day to dedicate time to Twitter and Facebook, especially because most of our colleagues in government either don’t engage via social media or delegate these activities to their staff. Dedicating time to being active on social media and to cultivating dialogue on blogs will take some getting used to, but we recognize that even online relationships take time and consistent effort. We do believe, however, that if we are able to hire a digital strategist who can help us see this investment of time and energy in the context of a larger digital media plan with goals and analytics to track and measure our success that we’ll see the value of our efforts.
Challenge #2 will be staff capacity: Move LA is a small organization with a very big mission — organizing the County of Los Angeles. There are but five of us plus three part-time consultants and one part-time staff member who is a volunteer as well as our Leadership Board president. But a grant from LA 2050 will help launch us on this new trajectory by enabling us to hire the strategist and part-time social media organizer. Together we will have to find the online champions who can also become volunteers and perhaps take on some of this work. Moreover, our online strategy is sure to increase our donor base, perhaps enabling us to hire more staff.
What resources does your project need?
- Network/relationship support
- Money (financial capital)
- Volunteers/staff (human capital)
- Publicity/awareness (social capital)
- Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)
- Community outreach