The California Community Foundation

Eight Cities But One Community: Southeast Los Angeles Initiative

THE PROJECT

In the aftermath of the City of Bell corruption scandal, The California Community Foundation contracted Del Sol Group to conduct a community needs assessment and develop a capacity-building plan to increase civic participation in the Southeast Cities of Los Angeles. Del Sol Group developed a strategy and implemented a plan to engage residents and stakeholders of each of the eight Southeast Cities, which included Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Maywood, South Gate, Walnut Park and Vernon. CCF was looking to promote civic engagement and to increase participation, and to create Leadership Training opportunities.

THE DEL SOL GROUP STRATEGY

With CCF’s investment, Del Sol Group was able to research and assess the civic needs of the area, and gauge the interest in a regional Leadership Development Program. or opportunities for capacity building for residents of the Southeast LA Region. The place-based approach was new to the Southeast because there were only 9 community-based organizations in the entire region of over 312,000 residents. Del Sol Group did intensive strategic work to help redefine and expand their definition of “community,” which went from their local city to encompass their entire region as well. This was accomplished through direct community engagement, small focus groups, church meetings, larger community meetings, and more intimate house meetings. Del Sol Group was able to accurately assess the attitudes and opinion of the residents regarding their community. This was especially important in light of the negative media scrutiny and the general public’s view that these cities were full of corruption, and that the residents were somehow to blame due to their lack of involvement.

THE RESULTS

In the process our work helped redefine the identity of an entire region. Residents went from identifying themselves solely based on the city in which they lived, to also identifying themselves as residents of the “Southeast” – a term for the region that had not been “owned” by residents. Through successful implementation of the project, we built community capacity about “smart policy and planning” through urban planning, joint use planning, community development and economic development opportunities. These types of training, access to information, and access to civic expertise is rare in low-income communities like the Southeast.

This approach yielded a variety of positive outcomes within the greater community, including:

  • The identification of best practices so that participants could be divided up into smaller, city-based groups with the goal of developing and implementing community projects of their own;
  • A cadre of incredible new leaders who also began to redefine themselves as from the Southeast;
  • A community needs assessment and policy recommendations;
  • Through a partnership with California State University Long Beach, CCF created a Leadership Development Training program where participants who complete the program receive a University Level Certificate.