connect / 2020

Social Distancing Together: Reflecting on life under COVID-19 and imagining a more vibrant and resilient LA

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Shared_Studios (LA_Portal)

Housed in a gold shipping container equipped with A/V technology, the LA_Portal is a pop-up community space for Angelenos to come together, share their experiences with COVID-19, and explore ways to create a more vibrant and resilient city. The LA_Portal will move between neighborhoods, hosting dialogues and cultural programming with 45+ Portal sites around the world. It is free, open to the public, and co-created with LA arts and civic partners. Dialogues will be recorded to track impact, inspire other cities, and capture this moment in time.

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

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • Westside
  • South Bay
  • County of Los Angeles
  • City of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Expand existing program

If you are submitting a collaborative proposal, please describe the specific role of partner organizations in the project.

Shared_Studios is not applying with another organization but will work directly with LA-based organizations to co-author and co-create hyperlocal programming with local arts and civic organizations. These cultural connections are designed to showcase local organizations and community groups and connect residents to similar groups around the world. Past site partners for the LA_Portal have included Grand Park, the Los Angeles Law Library, CSU Dominguez Hills School of Art + Design, Mercado La Paloma, and Community Services Unlimited. We have also developed onsite relationships and partnerships nurtured on a block-by-block basis, most often programmed in concert with people we meet onsite.

What is the need you’re responding to?

COVID-19 has accelerated the atomization and breakdown of our local and global communities. It has exposed existing fault lines in race and class. After social distancing tapers, there will be long-term impacts in how we gather and think about public space. We must use this moment to come together, be intentional in building community, and push LA to become more vibrant, inclusive, and resilient.

We are offering a space for Angelenos to gather and share mutual experiences - from stories of loss to sharing newly-honed creative skills - with communities around the world. We believe these dialogues will remind residents of the importance of public spaces, help reweave the disrupted community fabric, and activate a sense of global togetherness.

Due to its size, diversity, and cultural significance, LA is an ideal partner to lead these multi- and cross-lingual conversations. We will share these stories with our global network, and position LA as a model for bottom-up community engagement.

Why is this project important to the work of your organization?

Shared_Studios uses structured dialogues to build empathy and community on a global scale. We maintain 45 sites - from refugee camps to tech hubs - and co-create meaningful programming with each host community.

Since 2017 the LA_Portal has been hosted across the city, forging deep relationships with local organizations and site partners, including Grand Park and Mercado La Paloma. Connections have included Oaxacan youth orchestra performances and a beats exchange with Erbil, Iraq, among many others.

From 2017-18, the LA_Portal was part of a research initiative with Yale to better understand the relationship between Americans and local police. The Portals Policing Project hosted open recorded dialogues between U.S. cities as a means of data collection and generative exchange. Each dialogue was bookended by written surveys and helped communities define their own narratives and create connected political spaces. We will replicate a similar structure in LA.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?

Direct impact
Indirect impact

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

Impact on Environment and Physical Space: The LA_Portal will temporarily reshape existing public spaces by serving as a pop-up resource where people can gather in small groups while flexibly modeling responsible and integrate health-sensitive public activity

Description of Population: It is critical to bring the Portal to a range of neighborhoods and communities that cross race, nationality, language, and class barriers, with an emphasis on neighborhoods that lack high-speed internet access. These could include Downtown LA, South Los Angeles, Hyde Park/Inglewood, Pacoima/Sylmar, among others.

Policy Impact: We will crowdsource stories, ideas, and policy recommendations that articulate how LA residents envision the future of the city.

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

Our vision is for Angelenos to come together, reflect upon their individual and shared experiences with COVID-19, and share their vision for the future of LA. We will measure our impact by:

Number of communities and participants to measure scale: Depending on budget, the LA_Portal can visit up to 8 communities in LA. The Portal could spend 2-4 weeks and host 200-400 community members at each site. A portion of participants will engage in structured, recorded conversations on COVID-19, sharing ideas for the future of LA.

Questionnaires to measure resident sentiment: Participants can opt to share further information about their conversation in the Portal through a post-Portal questionnaire. Portals are staffed locally to track participation and distribute questionnaires.

Collection of oral histories to capture this place and moment in time: Using a confession booth format, select participants will share their stories and experiences under quarantine or working on the front lines of COVID-19 response.

Connections between policymakers and local leaders to compile best practices and ideas: These connections surface specific practices, approaches, and policy ideas on how to best build community in LA.

Deliverables: The stories, ideas, and recommendations surfaced from these conversations will become a summary report and proposal on how to make LA a more resilient, inclusive, and vibrant place to live. We will also compile recorded oral histories to turn into one or more series of videos.

Which of the connect metrics will your submission impact?​

  • Social and emotional support
  • Public arts and cultural events
  • Residential segregation

Are there any other LA2050 goal categories that your proposal will impact?

  • LA is the best place to LEARN
  • LA is the best place to CREATE
  • LA is the healthiest place to LIVE

Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?

  • Access to the LA2050 community
  • Host public events or gatherings
  • Communications support
  • Strategy assistance and implementation