create / 2015

Urban Futures Lab: Reimagining LA’s Civic and Creative Capital

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Public Matters

Urban Futures Lab is a multi-year fellowship training, mentorship and employment program for young adults (18-26) from low-income communities of color in LA. Fellows are trained as interdisciplinary creative community problem solvers and future civic leaders as they work on projects to strengthen LA neighborhoods. Fellows develop career and community-building skills and networks through projects addressing arts, culture and equitable development, community health, and neighborhood identity.


In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South LA
  • South Bay
  • LAUSD
  • Pilipino Workers Center; Historic Filipinotown; LA County. Elysian Valley; LA County. East Los Angeles Renaissance Academy; East Los Angeles; LA County.

How do you plan to use these resources to make change?

  • Engage residents and stakeholders
  • Implement a pilot or new project
  • Expand a pilot or a program
  • Mobilize for systems change
  • Advocate with policymakers and leaders

How will your proposal improve the following “Create” metrics?

  • Employment in the creative industries
  • Arts establishments per capita
  • Jobs per capita
  • Gini coefficient
  • Measures of cultural and global economic influence (“soft power”) (Dream Metric)
  • Recruiting and retention rates for local higher education institutions (Dream Metric)
  • Percentage of graduates from local higher education institutions that remain in LA County 5 years after graduating (Dream Metric)

Describe in greater detail how you will make LA the best place to create.

Urban Futures Lab creates work that matters. It reimagines Los Angeles’ civic and creative capital by altering how young adults from under-resourced communities of color access opportunities that employ their inventiveness and support their professional aspirations. The Lab provides young adult Fellows with career-building skills that simultaneously strengthen the region through work of social consequence. It prepares Fellows to pursue higher-earning professions that require varied skill sets through direct work on Public Matters projects. Unlike conventional service learning or workforce development programs that focus on “the job, ” the Lab focuses on Fellows’ career arcs.

Young adults have the financial imperative to work, the desire to pursue meaningful work, but lack outlets, professional networks, or structure. Often, those pursuing higher education don’t have access to paid civic opportunities. Most young adults lack the on-going mentorship and support essential for their educational and professional growth. For those who desire to work in cross-disciplinary fields or create their own jobs, the challenges are even greater. They are even more formidable for young adults from resource-poor LA neighborhoods.

Through Urban Futures Lab, Public Matters senior staff act as project leaders and mentors, guiding Fellows’ work in LA neighborhoods. Fellows work in project-based teams, interacting with Public Matters’ vast network of multi-sector partners and collaborators.

Urban Futures Lab Fellows are paid living wages to use creative, visual and critical thinking skills in neighborhood-based projects. Fellows participate in regular expert-led workshops and trainings. Concentrated summer labs and retreats add in-depth learning. Fellows gain career and life skills that include:

• Project Conceptualization, Design, and Implementation • Leadership and Communication • Community Engagement and Relationship Building • Public Speaking, Performances and Presentations • Mentoring • Creative Skills (including Media Production, Social Marketing + Design) • Personal and Community Health • Cultural and Economic Development

Anticipated projects include Hidden Hi Fi, an arts and cultural economic development project in Historic Filipinotown; an urban planning and design project with East LA high school students; assisting the LA Kitchen to develop a line of healthy, affordable snacks; and Market Makeovers that address healthy food access.

Please explain how you will evaluate your work.

We will evaluate two tracks: Fellows’ learning/career development and Fellows’ impact on LA neighborhoods.

We will evaluate learning/career development at various points during a Fellows’ tenure through metrics including: contribution to projects; quality of work; partner/client feedback. We will gauge written, verbal and visual communication skills, time management, project implementation and capacity for independent work. Fellows will maintain a portfolio with client references and their own reflections, allowing us to track their progress.

To assess Public Matters and Fellows’ impact on neighborhoods, we will use evaluation methods that track their contributions as part of Public Matters’ projects. In general, we employ mixed-methods evaluations – quantitative (surveys) and qualitative data (structured interviews and direct observation). Fellows will participate as both subjects and participants in our research, and thereby expand their own research skill set.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)
  • Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support