connect / 2014

Re-Ignite Lincoln Heights

Re-Ignite Lincoln Heights

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Leadership through Empowerment, Actin, and Dialogue Inc. (LEAD)

LEAD will facilitate a community needs assessment, voter education and registration campaign, and ignite civic engagement in Lincoln Heights

Please describe yourself.

Proposed collaboration (we want to work with partners!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

LEAD will facilitate a community needs assessment, voter education and registration campaign, and ignite civic engagement in Lincoln Heights

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a region of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Lincoln Heights and Northeast LA

What is your idea/project in more detail?

Lincoln Heights has a rich history of activism and civic engagement. LEAD will re-ignite Lincoln Heights. LEAD will develop a Community Needs Assessment to better understand priorities and social needs of Angelenos in Lincoln Heights. The results of the assessment will give the community, elected officials, and the local neighborhood council quantitative and qualitative data of community priorities, needs, and the social issues where most services and resources are needed. This is the first step in bringing more attention to Lincoln Heights and helping Angelenos shed light on what they really care about. We then will empower the community to become more civically active through voting and participation in their local neighborhood council.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

By reaching out to local organizations, churches, neighborhood councils, and community centers, we will survey a minimum of 300 people. Through our existing program LEAD YouthBuild, a leadership development program that empowers youth ages 18-24 to finish their high school diplomas and connect them to meaningful careers and post-secondary education, we will incorporate community outreach and organizing into our curriculums and give them service-learning experiences that will include surveying people in the community. This project will serve many purposes that include: gathering of important community data, leadership opportunities for young people through hands-on organizational and community outreach experience, and it will shed a positive light on young people who would otherwise be seen as disengaged and at-risk. In partnership with UCLA’s Urban Planning Department, the surveys will be analyzed and data will be compiled together to serve as documented research describing community needs and the gaps between current conditions and desired conditions. The results will then be presented to the community through educational forums where dialogues will be facilitated about civic responsibility and engagement in order to address community needs. LEAD will then launch a voter registration campaign that will register a minimum of 200 people to vote. We will then host a series of workshops and educational forums with the goal of empowering people to become active voters and active participants in local neighborhood council meetings and city council meetings. This is the first step in trying to impact community change is by defining community needs and creating leadership opportunities that will ignite dialogues with those that have the power to make the changes happen. But civic participation does not stop there. LEAD will facilitate and organize working groups between Angelenos of Lincoln Heights, local elected officials, and the local neighborhood council to find common grounds and create strategies and plans that would address community needs. The goal would also be to identify services and resources that currently exist in the community and identify gaps where services and resources are needed.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CONNECT today? In 2050?

When politics and voting is brought up in the community, we commonly hear things like “My vote does not matter,” “One person can’t make a difference,” and “Politicians don’t care about me and what I think about.” Part of the sentiment may derive from the community feeling not fully represented when decision are being made about their community. When you begin to ask people what they personally care about and what solutions they would propose, many times you receive genuine and innovative responses. What if we can restore a voice to the community of Lincoln Heights? What if we can gather enough people together and create dialogues where people begin to discover that they are not alone in wanting community change? What if we can build bridges between elected officials and the neighborhood council and changes begin to happen? Small changes and small victories can lead to big changes and big victories. The community will feel represented. This project will begin to pull out information from the community and make that information carry value. By creating dialogues between community members, the neighborhood council, and elected officials, commonalities can be discovered or produced and evidence of changes happening will ignite the community to want to stay connected and stay active.

Whom will your project benefit?

This project will benefit the community of Lincoln Heights which has a population of about 31,500 people. The community is predominantly Hispanic/Latino with the next largest group of people is Chinese/Asian. The unemployment level is 12.7% and 36% of the population there is living at or below the poverty level. The high school dropout rate in Lincoln Heights is 33%. This project will aim to impact the following groups of people: Young people ages 18 – 24: In addition to the services offered by LEAD YouthBuild, the organizational skills they will develop and community outreach training and experience they will obtain through this project will serve as work experience and leadership experience benefiting them in future employment and/or college enrollment. People ages 25 – 40: This population will be targeted for the community needs assessment, educational forums, and dialogues that will be facilitated. People ages 40 – 75: This population will also be targeted for the community needs assessment, educational forums, and dialogues that will be facilitated. Each of these groups of people have needs and priorities that may be different from other age ranges. For real and long lasting connectedness to happen, all sides need to be heard and all sides need to be part of the dialogues that will take place with local elected officials and the neighborhood council.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

The following is a list potential partners and collaborations: Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council is the body representing the community we currently serve. We will gain support for our LEAD YouthBuild and invite them to become thought partners in the implementation of this project. Our goal is to build a good relationship with the neighborhood council, share their goals with the community and build a bridge for more community participation to happen. L.A. WORKS is a non-profit organization that manages a volunteer action center out of Lincoln Heights. Their goal is to empower Angelenos to address pressing social issues through volunteerism and community collaborations. In partnership, we can create a community volunteer project where people would conduct the community needs assessment surveys. Metro North WorkSource Center serves the area of Northeast Los Angeles. Their facility will be a great place for surveying people. They have on average 30-50 visitors per day. YouthBuild Charter School of California currently serves as our educational partner for LEAD YouthBuild. We will work with them to incorporate a service-learning piece into our educational curriculum that would allow students to gain experience and training in community outreach. UCLA is an existing partner of LEAD YouthBuild and will be helping us build a “College Career Center” for the community. Because of our existing relationship, we are able to reach out to the Urban Planning Department and partner with them in order to compile and analyzing the data generated by the community needs assessment surveys. YouthBuild USA is a national organization comprised of 200+ youth development programs whose mission is to unleash the intelligence and positive energy of low-income youth to rebuild their communities and their lives. We are an affiliate of YouthBuild USA and are able to access and leverage pass-through grants that enhance our educational services, case management services, and leadership development.
We will also reach out to local churches and ask for support in getting the needs assessment surveys filled out by their members.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Connect” metrics?

  • Rates of volunteerism
  • Voting rates by race
  • Participation in neighborhood councils
  • Percentage of Angelenos that volunteer informally (Dream Metric)
  • Government responsiveness to residents’ needs (Dream Metric)
  • Total number of social media friends (Dream Metric)

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

Rates of volunteerism: LEAD YouthBuild will incorporate of this project into our educational curriculum, and we will empower young people to volunteer in the community of Lincoln Heights. At minimum, 65 young people will volunteer and survey the community. At the same time gain leadership skills and job skills. We will invite community members to volunteer and instill in them the idea that service is the first steps they can take in making community change. One way they can serve their community is by attending local neighborhood council meetings and voicing their opinions. Voting rates by race: In 2001, 33.5% of registered casted a ballot. 17.9% of all registered voters’ casted ballots in the 2009 elections. During the 2013 Los Angeles Elections, 16% of all registered voters casted a ballot. It is evident that the number of active voters In Los Angeles has been dropping dramatically. In addition to registering new voters, we will reach out to registered voters that do not vote and find out why. We will identify areas of opportunity where elected officials and neighborhood councils can help address these issues. Lincoln Heights has a population of 31,410 of which 70% is Hispanic/Latino and 25% is Chinese/Asian. Our campaign will focus on these two groups.
Participation in the local neighborhood council: Many people do not know what neighborhood councils are or do. We will create informational packets for community members to get to know the local neighborhood council, their committees, and their meeting schedules. We will include simple ways on how to participate and get involved. Our goal is to increase the attendance of community members at the local neighborhood council meetings. Government responsiveness to community needs: Dialogues will make it possible for the community to become aware of services and resources that currently exists in the community and elected officials and the neighborhood council can become aware of needs. Total number of social media friends: LEAD’s Facebook fan page as 300 likes.. Our twitter account currently has 68 followers. We have created a buzz due to initiating dialogues about social issues like education, leadership development, and workforce development. We use “Twitter Parties” which is the collective use of a “hashtag” within a specified time with the goal of raising awareness. We will introduce this concept to the community of Lincoln heights and Northeast Los Angeles.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

In 12 months, we will activate 100 people in the community of Lincoln Heights in volunteerism and service who would otherwise not do it on their own. This will include surveying people in the community, participating in educational forums, participating in local neighborhood council meetings and city council meetings. Our ultimate goal is to inspire our community members to one day become neighborhood council members themselves. In 12 months we will register a minimum of 200 people to vote of which 80% will be of Hispanic/Latino backgrounds. This will not just increase the number of registered voters but raise the number amongst a demographic that historically votes at low rates. In 12 months, we will empower 25 community members to join local neighborhood council committees and/or run for a neighborhood council seat. In 12 months, we will increase our Facebook likes to 1000. In 12 months, we will increase our twitter followers by 100% (from 68 to 136).

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

During the 2013 mayoral election in Los Angeles, 222,300 people (12.4% of registered voters) voted in Eric Garcetti, the lowest voting numbers for newly elected mayors since the 1930’s. Only 5%-6% percent of the total population made the decision for the entire city. California’s population is about 38 million. Latinos represent about 32% of the California’s adult population but only 16% of them are likely to vote. Non-Hispanic Whites make up 46% of California’s adult population and 66% of them are more likely to vote. These two lessons/issues inform us Hispanics/Latinos in California are less likely to vote than that of Non-Hispanic Whites. By raising the Hispanic/Latino voting by just a few percentages, we can impact local and statewide elections. In the last Los Angeles mayoral election, a small increase in voting percentages could have easily changed the election outcome. What this information is also telling us is that full representation of all people in California is not being reflected in our electoral processes. Our political system is in need of individuals and communities to become more civically active in order for more of the population being represented when decisions are being made and when election are being decided.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

LEAD has built a great reputation locally and nationally and we have been able to build partnership with several individuals and organization. Our goal of putting forth a community needs assessment, followed by a voter registration campaign and dialogues between elected officials, the neighborhood council, and community members are goals that we have the capacity and knowledge to execute. Two members of our Board of Directors are connected to their local neighborhood councils: Hector Huezo is the Chair of the Neighborhood Council Alliance of River Communities and is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate; Albert Ramirez is a member of the Wilmington Neighborhood Council. In addition, another Board Member, Frank Alvarez, is a Senior Organizer with Los Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), with more than 10 years’ experience in community organizing, capacity building, and advocacy. They will help us put together a plan for working with Lincoln Neighborhood Council and help us navigate through local politics. They have years of experience in engaging community members in local politics and will be assets to us in this project. Because of our LEAD YouthBuild Program, we have ongoing programs which we can tap into and use for the benefit of this project. We will be able to leverage multiple streams of funding in conjunction with funding from LA2050. We have built a solid foundation of individual donors and supporters that we can easily tap into for support in this project. We are strategically located in the center of Lincoln Heights and our site is easily accessible to the community.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

One of the barriers we will face is getting the community to become open about sharing their feelings and viewpoints about social issues and what they care about. Within family settings, the workplace, and school, discussing social issues can be tricky and sometimes controversial especially when you encounter people who are really passionate about a particular subject. We will have to develop relationships with community members and leaders and utilize great communication strategies. Partnering up with existing organization and institutions like churches and schools can help us with initiating conversations and we can begin to build trust with community members. The second barrier we will face is skepticism. As mentioned before, many people in Lincoln Heights do not have the best opinions about politics and the way local issues are being addressed. As we explain to people the changes that can come about through volunteerism, voting, and involvement in local politics, people will need to see small accomplishments in order to continue to stay engaged and motivated. We will facilitate the process of dialogues between the community, local elected officials, and the local neighborhood councils in order to show that community that they can be heard if the community continues to be active and connected. Our goal for the first 12 months will be to help the community find solutions for small scale issues and then continue to work with them to tackle bigger community problems. We want to make it visual for the community to see. Based on the information we get back from our surveys, we can show the community what areas of importance can be accomplished sooner and what issues will need continuous community participation in order to affect change. We need to do a lot of positive reinforcement to the people we will work with and the community at large. Posting flyers with positive messages and successes stories will be part of that strategy.

What resources does your project need?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Education/training
  • Community outreach