connect / 2014
Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Arroyo S.E.C.O. (Sustainable Economies Community Organization)
We want to make Los Angeles a sharing city model, connected by time banking, and empowered to share resources, knowledge and solutions.
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 make Los Angeles a sharing city model, connected by time banking, and empowered to share resources, knowledge and solutions.
Does your project impact Los Angeles County?Yes (benefits a region of LA County)
Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?
- Central LA
- East LA
- South LA
- San Gabriel Valley
What is your idea/project in more detail?
Through our work we know that sharing leads to more connected, resilient and sustainable communities. As part of Shareable’s Sharing Cities Network, we seek to make LA a model sharing city by 2050 with a Sharing City Blueprint and a ShareFest kick-off event. Featuring sharing strategies and solutions at every level of civic life - from neighbor to community, local government, education, business and finance, this open source guide will demonstrate how to enrich our social fabric through sharing. Our ShareFest will promote the blueprint’s completion and offer hands-on programming, workshops, panels, skillshares, vendors and entertainment designed to galvanize community leaders around a shared vision of a more connected LA.
What will you do to implement this idea/project?
To draft a blueprint of this scale, we will work closely with our partner Shareable and the Sharing Cities Network, as well as community collaborators, experts and consultants. We will research, conduct interviews, hold focus groups and brainstorm with the community. We will include what has been successful from our own work and can be expanded. We will champion best practices from other innovators, solicit diverse interests and input, and look for opportunities to connect with other groups that are aligned with our vision. We will pay close attention to the unique opportunities in Los Angeles and look for the most agile and effective tools. Finally we will work with a creative team to produce an accessible and transformative document that offers a community-based strategy for helping LA evolve into a sharing city model. We will then work with Shareable to promote the blueprint internationally as an open source guide.
We will also plan a one-day ShareFest drawing on the social capital of our existing community of changemakers, sharing economy pioneers and local emerging leaders. We will design programming that offers something for the novice, the inducted and the devotee with sharing strategies that are affordable, do-able and effective. We will coordinate educators, speakers, entertainment, vendors, volunteers and security. We will secure the appropriate event permits and insurance. Will will invite everyone in the community to participate, including our local elected officials.
We will secure the necessary administration to support both arms of the project, as well as develop the partnerships critical for blueprint research, ShareFest planning and programming. We will work with city and neighborhood officials to grow time banking in the city in our continued effort to empower the local community leaders who will carry forward this ambitious but achievable vision.
How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CONNECT today? In 2050?
Several recently published studies and articles highlight the importance of social connections in regards to health and happiness. The basis for any form of social connection is sharing: sharing a moment, sharing a meal, sharing a purpose. But according to The Atlantic, as a society, “We volunteer less. We entertain guests at our homes less…And we have fewer and fewer close friends with whom we’d share the intimate details of our lives.”
It is increasingly more difficult to form the relationships that lead to meaningful connections in our over-scheduled, high stress urban lives, or to create the trust needed to ask for help or share with another person. Too often we struggle with financial pressures; the high cost of housing, food, and transportation in LA can overshadow our basic human need for social connection and can lead to great isolation.
For the past 6 years, we have actively worked to build the relationships that lead to deep and meaningful social connections through sharing time, resources, and knowledge. Through time banking we increase connectedness as well as access to resources in creative ways: ● Neighborhood Fruit Harvest ● Garden Groups and Barnraisings ● Metro Group (that promotes mass transit) ● Craft Club ● Cookbook Club ● Dog Cooperative ● Community Revolving Loan Fund ● Local Economy Incubator ● Parent Support Network ● Film Screenings ● Dance Parties ● Monthly Neighborhood Potlucks ● Salons and Lectures
The basis of our work is already trying to make LA the best place to connect. Our blueprint is the roadmap for achieving this goal.
Our project will expand the reach of our successful sharing strategies, grow our network of time banks and strengthen communities where our programs already exist. It will teach communities how to create meaningful work, share helpful resources that increase quality of life and pathways to civic engagement. With our Sharefest as a welcoming party we will create a place for all Angelenos to embrace the city we envision by 2050: a more connected and collaborative place, with equal opportunities for shared housing, food, transportation, work, education, and finance. By cultivating inspiration and nurturing emerging leaders at this event we are investing in the renewable resources needed to power our movement for years to come. And as more people understand and come to value the effects of sharing as they learn how to connect the dots, they will in turn seek even more opportunities to connect.
Whom will your project benefit?
Our project has the potential to benefit each and every community in Los Angeles and this is our long term goal.
In six years we have grown from a handful of neighborhoods to 21, organically and at the consistent request of community members who are disillusioned with business as usual. Because sharing strategies of this nature are often informal, require very little infrastructure for impact and can be implemented by average men, women and children, we see enormous opportunities to transform the fabric of LA one neighborhood at a time.
We want this blueprint to offer solutions for neighborhoods struggling with access to food and employment, communities that have historically been told they do not have a place at the social decision making table, for the kids who need meaningful after school activities to avoid delinquency, for the small businesses that benefit from a strong local economy, for the nonprofit organizations that desperately need volunteers to serve their clients, for our local elected officials who need innovative solutions to persistent community problems, for visitors who come to this great city with the preconceived notion that we move too fast, care only about money and have no soul.
This blueprint will address a lion share of the complex social issues our city faces through incredibly organic and simple strategies and help guide “the powers that be” towards them so we can effectively move this vision forward together.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
Our confirmed collaborators are the Arroyo Seco Network of Time Banks members (www.asntb.com), Shareable (www.shareable.net), The Sharing Cities Network (www.shareable.net/sharing-cities), and Cooperative Development consultant and expert, Sarah Manski (www.PosiPair.com).
The ASNTB is the foundation of our work and infuses everything we do with social capital. Drawing on our 1,300 individual members and over 40 organizational and nonprofit members for expertise, experience and manpower, we will leverage thousands of volunteer hours for time credits. We will call on them heavily as stakeholders during the blueprint process and as volunteers, vendors, speakers, panelists and leaders at ShareFest.
Shareable provides us with inspiration and network support from other experienced sharing advocates. We have worked with them on map jams, ShareFests, and a series of workshops for our Local Economy Incubator. We will work closely with them and the Sharing Cities Network for blueprint development so our framework is flexible enough to serve cities everywhere. They will help us promote the blueprint and ShareFest.
Sarah Manski brings years of activism, research and implementation to our project. She will lead the development of a cooperative strategy for Los Angeles, incorporating both grassroots and high-level partnership models such as the Cleveland Model to our blueprint as a means of democratizing wealth and greater access to more sustaining work for Angelenos.
We also hope to consult with the Sustainable Economies Legal Center (www.theselc.org) in our continued work with them to making sharing economy solutions available to all who want them. Critical to the success of our 501c3 paperwork, SELC is currently working on an economic blueprint for the Bay Area. They will help us navigate sharing law.
We will also reach out to local community leaders and our network of sharing economy pioneers, consultants and experts for input on the blueprint.
The factors critical to our collaborative success are: shared vision, respect and reciprocity. Shared vision ensures we are pulling in the same direction - towards an interconnected, livable city where people from all walks of life can thrive. Respect allows for us to share our diverse perspectives, ideas and solutions. Reciprocity allows us to focus on community, not individual betterment, and meaningful exchange rather than service or charity.
How will your project impact the LA2050 “Connect” metrics?
- Rates of volunteerism
- Adults getting sufficient social & emotional support
- 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)
- Total number of social media friends (Dream Metric)
- Attendance at public/open street gatherings (Dream Metric)
Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.
Our most effective service delivery model, program and community tool is time banking. Matching untapped resources with unmet needs, Time Banking is a pay-it-forward system that encourages volunteerism through the exchange of time. Our members, who number over 1300, volunteer 24,740 hours each year through individual exchange and our own sponsored events, as well as broader cultural events and community activities, such as tutoring and library programs, community gardens, food swapping, community revitalization efforts and prison re-entry projects. This powerful community-building tool combats poverty and isolation by teaching people to leverage existing resources through relationship building, advocacy work and creative problem-solving within their own neighborhoods.
When people connect to share, they experience a better quality of life largely because of the sense of inclusion they experience and the community building that inevitably follows. Our network is constantly growing as the demand for time banking in LA grows. In part, this project seeks to help LA become empowered to support time banking in every neighborhood and community where it is wanted and needed. This project will provide more concrete ways for our members to volunteer, in planning and carrying out the ShareFest, and in contributing to the development and implementation of the civic goals outlined in our blueprint.
Our Metro Pass program, which encourages use of public transportation by giving substantial cost discounts, has doubled each year, to more than 200 participants. We expect this project will give more visibility to our already existing sharing economy strategies, such as time-banking and our community revolving loan fund, and assist us in growing these programs.
We also consistently see our members transform over time from isolated individuals into connected, motivated community leaders. Recently several of them secured seats on the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council. Though they did this independently of the time bank, they undoubtedly are greatly influenced by the skills, knowledge and ideas that have come from membership. Connected people care more about their communities and we hope to push them forward into civic leadership.
ShareFest will connect the wider Angelenos community to the sharing economy in the creation of a new public commons for free. This increase in involvement will allow us to develop ideas identified in the blueprint and take them to scale.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project.
Connection, Collaboration, Completion.
For Arroyo S.E.C.O. success is defined by connection. All of the work we do is built around bringing people together to allow the organic development of ideas, partnerships and actions that ultimately lead to community building and revitalization. With this particular project, the blueprint has the potential to bridge divides that have historically led to the duplication of efforts, loss of organizational history and quiet death of grassroots strategies as committed community leaders and pioneers retire from their activism. The blueprint is a unique opportunity to consolidate, celebrate and preserve all of the vital information and proven work that is being done around the world.
So our first measure of success is the completion of the blueprint. In the coming years, we will track the number of blueprint digital downloads and solicit feedback from cities who implement the blueprint in their sharing work. And we will continue our work to bring the blueprint’s vision to fruition in Los Angeles over the next decade.
Secondly we will measure our success through social capital. We define this by the number connections we make and the partnerships formed to complete our project. We will also measure the number of time credits employed in the research, planning and execution stages of both the blueprint and the ShareFest as a model for pairing social and federal capital in civic planning.
Finally, we will measure the success of our collaborative efforts on the ShareFest in the form of partners and sponsors, workshops presented, skills shared (i.e. fruit harvesting, microfinance, community organizing, ride sharing, etc.), attendees and volunteers.
What two lessons have informed your solution or project?
Lesson #1: Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
Lesson #2: Everyone has something to give.
Both are especially true in terms of our economy and the fraying fabric of our communities. As so many of us struggle to survive in broken systems - the economy, education, housing, transportation and food to name a few - the old paradigm of competition and consumption simply cannot survive indefinitely. We also know that the mainstream economy and systems undervalue if not marginalize and exclude many of us from meaningful civic engagement. With few services to draw from, numerous segments of the population such as families, the underemployed, the elderly, people with disabilities, informal (family) caregivers, recent college graduates, veterans, immigrants, freelancers, and artists are expected to largely fend for themselves. We are very clear that relying on the broken political system to solve our current problems is no longer tenable.
We know from our work that recognizing our interconnectedness is essential to both our own personal happiness as well as the survival of our planet for future generations. We also know that though every person has valuable skills, knowledge and experience to share, most people do not feel capable of effecting great change on a community level. So without true recourse, we have come to the conclusion that empowering the common citizen is the true path to community transformation.
We hope to ask each person who comes in contact with this project: Do you think you can change the system?
Some people might say no, but for those who say yes, we seek to provide them with the support, resources and connections they need to become agents of change. Our blueprint seeks to make this information even more accessible so even those who do not interact with our organization can pick up these solutions and move them forward within their own circles of influence.
So to answer Einstein’s call, we think outside of the box, we cross-pollinate with other groups and we give our communities of changemakers room to incubate exceptional and innovative ideas. We do not follow the usual templates for civic work but instead say to ourselves, “What can we create today?”
We believe building sharing cities will be a necessity in the years to come and we think LA is the best city to pioneer this concept. If we can make LA a sharing city it can be done anywhere.
Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.
The core group that we’ve assembled to complete this project have an established track record of successful program implementation. As collaborative partners, we have 5 years of experience working together and have guided the growth of the time bank network from a grassroots community into a nonprofit organization fully committed to systems change. We have leveraged the social capital of numerous community partners, activists and leaders. We have sourced and secured grant funding, educated ourselves deeply on the sharing economy and are currently poised as LA’s sharing economy leader. Regularly sought for our expertise by emerging sharing advocates and established movement pioneers, we are confident they will rally around our project and provide us with support, information and promotion.
We will also draw on the large, active and dedicated membership base of the time bank. Our members have an astounding track record of pitching in to get things done, as evidenced by the thousands of exchanges they make every year to provide services to each other and our communities. And our members are excited to grow our work and spread the word about the sharing economy.
From dance parties and film shows to consensus trainings and repurpose fairs, we are DIY’ers who readily create events and connect people without spending money. But we’re also not afraid to raise federal dollars when we need them. We carried out a crowdfunding campaign to launch our community revolving loan fund, and can depend on our members and friends to contribute when we need them.
With a dynamic leadership team, an international community of supporters and followers, a well-rooted membership base, and new nonprofit in place, we have the infrastructure, enthusiasm and know-how to create a dynamic plan and clear path to LA as Sharing City model.
Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?
As with most community organizing work, one of the biggest challenges that we face is ambivalence. So many of us are struggling to make ends meet that looking above our immediate needs often proves an obstacle to community involvement. So in the larger sense of the blueprint’s success, we need to create more opportunities for average citizens to experience a profound paradigm shift in valuation and community.
We believe one of the easiest ways to achieve this is through connection. As social psychology demonstrates, proximity breeds affinity. So the closer we become as neighbors, the more comfortable we become as a community and the more we see ourselves as active, integral and influential members of society. Growing our time bank network and its activities is essential to helping more people gravitate towards it. We continue to grow our ranks each month which means that fresh new ideas and social capital infuse our efforts. Our blueprint will focus especially on creating more community-based opportunities for people to interact and share, which will in turn lead to the paradigm shift our vision requires to succeed.
The second challenge is the common perception of the sharing economy as a way to either get something for free or booking on Airbnb instead of with a hotel. While personal for-profit ventures like Lyft, Uber, Airbnb, VRBO and the like provide people with more access to income and alternatives to transportation and short-term housing, they don’t necessarily transform our communities. They certainly have a place at our blueprint table when we consider civic strategies for transportation and housing and can provide some inspiration for how to make our strategies and programs just as recognizable, desirable and motivating to the average Angeleno. We have nothing against them and see them as enriching the consumer ecosystem but they are limited and not a great representation of connection and sharing.
A major part of this project is communicating effectively to stakeholders and educating them about true sharing strategies. The blueprint will be created with everyone in mind, including community members who currently have no connection to the sharing economy.
What resources does your project need?
- Network/relationship support
- Money (financial capital)
- Publicity/awareness (social capital)
- Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)
- Community outreach