The 2019 My LA2050 Grants Challenge has started!

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connect / 2016

Community Circle Space Initiative: Creating a place and sharing a process for authentic connection

Community Circle Space Initiative: Creating a place and sharing a process for authentic connection

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by The Ojai Foundation

Community Circle Space Initiative builds circle spaces and trains community elders to facilitate circle dialogs for Southeast LA residents to share stories, address issues, and resolve conflicts.


Are any other organizations collaborating on this proposal?

Southeast Rio Vista YMCA

Please describe your project proposal.

Collaborating with the local YMCA, community leaders and residents, artists and builders, we will design and build a public circle meeting space and train and support community elders to facilitate circle dialogs for the community in the space we co-create. The project will give elders renewed purpose and provide the community a place and a process for sharing stories, discussing matters of importance, resolving differences, determining action steps, and making authentic connections.

Which of the connect metrics will your proposal impact?​

  • Social & emotional support
  • Cultural events
  • Public/open streets gatherings
  • Government responsiveness to residents’ needs
  • Participation in neighborhood councils
  • Rates of volunteerism
  • Residential segregation
  • Voting rates

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

  • South LA

Describe in greater detail how your proposal will make LA the best place to connect?

Community Circle Space Initiative (CCSI) will make LA the best place to connect by bringing the power of the circle into the Southeast LA City of Maywood. The most densely populated city in LA County, with the highest proportion of immigrants, Maywood has been beset in recent years by government disfunction, corruption, and financial mismanagement, along with high levels of unemployment and gang activity. It is an ideal place to pilot the Community Circle Space Initiative.

CCSI has two components: (1) a structural component - designing and building a simple circular structure using natural building materials, and (2) a process component - training and supporting community elders to facilitate circle-based dialogs within the structure, providing a forum for residents to share stories, discuss matters of importance to them, resolve differences, determine action steps, and make authentic connections.

CCSI is a collaboration between the local community and The Ojai Foundation, a nonprofit with a 35 year history of building circular structures and using the circle dialog practice known as ‘council’ to foster connections. A modern version of ancient dialog practices of indigenous peoples around the world, council involves the use of a few basic elements. The first of these is circular seating. The quality of the circle is that the form itself creates a sense of connectedness. Gathered together in a circle with others we know we are part of something greater than ourselves. In our age of digital/virtual/virtually-anonymous connection, having a space and process to actually come together to connect in circle is perhaps our most pressing need…and deepest yearning. Meeting this need is the purpose of CCSI.

By engaging residents in a collaborative, hands-on process of creating a unique, special place to meet in ceremony, the design and build component of this proposal will instigate the connection CCSI envisions. By training elders to serve as stewards of community dialog, CCSI will reduce the residential segregation they frequently experience, while increasing community participation in all manner of civic activities, cultural events and public gatherings. By establishing a place and a process for residents to listen and speak to one another from the heart, CCSI promises social and emotional support for all who participate. By creating a forum for voicing their needs and collective wisdom, CCSI offers residents the opportunity to mobilize for systemic change and the development of grassroots solutions to civic obstacles, as well as the increased likelihood that those needs will be addressed by government or volunteers. Finally, as a pilot program exemplifying the profound social impact of meeting in circles, CCSI will inspire the creation of community circle spaces in neighborhoods throughout LA and this will truly make LA the best place to connect.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.​

The Community Circle Space Initiative’s objective is to increase connection among residents of Southeast LA. We will use the following metrics to measure our success:

  • Number of elders who participate in and complete training to facilitate councils and restorative circles
  • Number of elders who are facilitating councils and restorative circles at end of year
  • Number of community members who participate in circles
  • Effect on level of participation at neighborhood council meetings
  • Rate of volunteerism
  • Crime rate
  • Number of cultural and street events and level of participation
  • Effect on attendance, academic performance, and suspension rates at local schools
  • Voting rates

We will survey elders and community members at the start of the initiative, during the year, and at end of one year. We will also gather quantitative and qualitative feedback from participants after community circles, as well as from the community at large and from grass roots and city leaders.

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

  • Money
  • Volunteers
  • Advisors/board members
  • Publicity/awareness
  • Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles etc.)
  • Education/training
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support