live / 2019

Manifestworks:

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by ManifestWorks

Our 12-week program consists of hands-on classes with working professionals in film and television who teach participants about every facet of the business — and then share freelance opportunities with those proving ready for work. The life skills and connections we impart lead directly to living-wage jobs and provide the scaffolding for long-term career advancement for people who have lived most of their lives without opportunity.


What does your organization do?

ManifestWorks connects those impacted by foster care, homelessness and incarceration with transformative job opportunities and provides the life and professional skills for long-term success.

Briefly tell us a story that demonstrates how your organization turns inspiration into impact.

Meet Bianca, a ManifestWorks alumni who joined our program in 2018.

“When I started ManifestWorks, I was in a bad place. I was somewhere I never expected to be. I was living in a homeless shelter, and this was after I had been in the Air Force and was a veteran. I had lost hope.

Someone told me about ManifestWorks and said I should apply. I was really cynical, I didn’t believe anything could come of it. I finally got it together to fill out an application, and I remember the interviews were hard and thinking it didn’t go well. When I got in, I was surprised, but still doubtful.

And then I showed up and saw other people who were going through the same thing, and I started to come around. The big moment was when I heard that I didn’t have to focus on my past, but could focus on my potential and my future. That really changed things.

It got me to return to my writing. And got me to enter the Academy Nicholl Fellowship. I got to feel proud that my script is in the top 50 screenplays, among thousands of submissions.

ManifestWorks helped me transition out of survival mode so I could start living and start thriving.

Today, I’ve signed with a manager who represents me, and I have a bunch of scripts I am getting ready to share with the world with my eye on directing my own work. It was a year ago that I was accepted into the program, and as I look back, all of this change couldn’t have happened without ManifestWorks.”

Today, Bianca is a new member of our advisory board, and helps us select our next cohort of participants, in addition to regular class visits to support those following her footsteps. More than just stable housing and consistent income, Bianca has big plans to share her voice. We are so excited to be a part of her journey.

Which of the live metrics will your submission impact?​

  • Number of households below the self-sufficiency standard
  • Rates of homelessness
  • Resilient communities

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

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South LA
  • Westside
  • Antelope Valley

How will your project make LA the best place to live?

ManifestWorks turns real-world experience into learning opportunities for those impacted by foster care, homelessness, and incarceration. Our vision is one of transformation: we believe that living-wage jobs, professional mentors and a community of mutually committed, job-ready adults has profound impacts on individuals, on families and on communities, especially those that have bourne disproportionate impacts rooted in the lack of opportunity and social mobility. Harnessing our ties in film, television, and new media production, partners in Hollywood join us to teach networking, effective communication, leadership, accountability and the basics of production, enough to help participants excel at their first job—while laying the foundation for success in their second. The hands-on, practical focus sparks enthusiasm and engagement, and although we’ll teach our students about every facet of the film business—and more importantly, how to network like a pro—the life skills we impart will serve them no matter what career path they choose.

More than 2/3 of our applicants have mental health or substance abuse diagnoses, less than half receive adequate medical care, virtually all have been exposed to violence while living in high-risk neighborhoods, and studies show that close to 60 percent of those leaving incarceration will return to jail. Chronic unemployment or underemployment impacts all of our applicants, their wages—if they exist—are unsustainable, and many of those we serve have never had a job.

ManifestWorks serves those impacted by incarceration (84%), homelessness (54%) and foster care (18%), with considerable overlap. Applicants come to us from transitional housing, homeless services organizations, youth homeless organizations, post-incarceration transition homes, corrections, parole and probation officers, and employment services organizations.

Currently, ManifestWorks offers two cohorts of its 12-week curriculum a year, one in the Spring, and one in the Fall, and we anticipate adding a third cohort in 2020. In addition to the curriculum, we add a few weeks to screen and interview candidates and hold an orientation prior to beginning each session.

Given our knowledge that living-wage employment, a positive community, and engaged mentors are the most concrete ways to change lives, reduce risky health behaviors and improve long-term outcomes following extensive system contact and homelessness, ManifestWorks offers a unique opportunity towards well-being and personal and professional self-actualization. Our outcomes are unmatched: Not only are they healthier, more self sustaining, more hopeful and earning more money in dynamic and upwardly mobile careers than ever before, but they provide for their families and impact their communities directly. We are literally creating self-sufficiency, providing immediate pathways out of homelessness and fortifying struggling communities with role models, wages and a first chance at opportunity.

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Expand existing program (expanding and continuing ongoing successful projects)

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

Although we also focus on well-being and building a sense of the future, our primary goal is to give participants the tools to earn wages that change lives, and we use the salaries of our applicants against those of our alumni to measure our success. Other benchmarks of our impact include the number of graduates from the program, their wages post-graduation, and their wage growth over time. After more than five years of classes, we are able to access increasing insights about how our alumni fare over time. We plan to continue measuring graduation rates and wages along with important milestones such as:

  • Number of working days per year

  • Sustained upward mobility in one’s’ career

  • Attaining union membership status

  • Personal savings

  • Debt reduction

In Fall 2018, ManifestWorks hired a data consultant to design and implement ongoing tracking of current participants and alumni. We embarked on a data collection through online surveys of current and former ManifestWorks participants. All data were self-reported by participants in response to standardized survey questions on demographics, employment, financial stability, and overall well-being.

The results of the first round of data collection have been staggering, some have been reported in response to question #11. We commit to being fully transparent and letting this data validate our mission and our model. Here are some additional highlights:

  • In the first year after completing the program, 93% of participants report being employed full- or part-time; this rises to 100% of participants after one or more years

  • 89% of participants who completed the program report maintaining or increasing their savings over the past 3 months (40% maintained savings while 49% increased savings)

100% of participants who completed the program report feeling that they have something important to contribute to society (some or all of the time)

One fact that can’t be ignored is that in California, the recidivism rate is over 65% - a costly problem to our society, the people in it and their future earning potential. The recidivism rate for people who complete our program at ManifestWorks is close to zero. And at the same time, we seed significant possibilities for career growth and earned wages. And more than anything else, we provide a pathway for those impacted by foster care, incarceration and homelessness in Los Angeles to a fulfilling career and of realized potential for the first time in their lives.