This decade began with a series of corruption scandals that rocked several Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) communities and created a sense of urgency around the lack of civic engagement opportunities and infrastructure necessary to hold electeds accountable. In response, the initial Southeast Los Angeles Collaborative (Collaborative) was formed in 2011 and worked collaboratively to prevent future scandals by strengthening civic engagement opportunities that empower community. The California Community Foundation’s initial investment funded the Southeast Rio Vista YMCA (YMCA) to lead a 12 month Civic Engagement Collaborative and collaboratively produce a three year strategic plan among the following nonprofit partners: Families in Schools (FIS), Human Services Association HSA, East Los Angeles Community College, Southeast Community Development Corporation, Alliance for a Better Community (ABC), First 5 Los Angeles, and the Oldtimers Foundation. Although all funded activities were completed, the partners ultimately discontinued the Collaborative’s formal work as the resources necessary to sustain the effort were not in place. However, the SELA Collaborative continued to advance the region’s interests by developing program partnerships, sharing best practices, and supporting policies that benefit community.
In March 2016, Supervisor Hilda Solis and the Weingart Foundation reinvigorated the SELA Collaborative by organizing a bus tour attended by local community leaders and philanthropy to better understand the region’s needs. During the tour, the previous work to build the region’s civic engagement infrastructure was highlighted which encouraged the Weingart Foundation to approach the Collaborative to develop a strategic plan that expanded upon its original civic engagement vision in order to meet current community needs. The Collaborative has since revised the strategic plan of the 2013 and reengaged various philanthropic partners, such as the California Community Foundation.
The Southeast Los Angeles Collaborative (SELA Collaborative) is comprised of eleven core agencies that leverage their expertise to support and empower SELA residents.
An informed, engaged and empowered SELA community.
Strengthen SELA’s nonprofit sector to maximize the power of community to address local issues.
Target Cities and Unincorporated Areas
- Bell Gardens
- Huntington Park
- South Gate
- Walnut Park
- High percentage of Latino residents with low socioeconomic status
- Large immigrant population
- Low levels of adult educational attainment
- Common socio-economic history
- Historical Government lack of accountability
Southeast Los Angeles is a vibrant community with a long and demonstrated history of resilience, self-reliance and commitment to the region. Key community assets upon which the Collaborative will build upon include:
- Younger residents attend post-secondary institutions at higher rates than their parents;
- More job opportunities due to diverse industries, increased business activity and proximity to regional job center;
- Population growth has spurred housing development which, in turn, brings more jobs.
While there are promising assets upon which to build within the Southeast Los Angeles community, there are significant structural barriers that limit the maximization of the region’s potential and progress. They are as follows:
- Lack of Infrastructure: Limited capacity to serve residents, a limited number of CBOs directly serving the area, and limited government resources;
- Low Civic Engagement: Lack of elected official accountability, minimal advocacy efforts, low voter turnout and a large non-citizen population; and
- Significant levels of resident need: Strong reliance on safety net services due to socioeconomic status, underperforming schools, high levels of unemployment and underemployment, a pattern of neglect, and children ages 0-5 without access to services.
Theory of Change
- When civil society is strong, communities are strong and political leaders are more accountable to the needs of their constituency.
- Increasing nonprofit capacity and sustainability will lead to better outcomes across all sectors.
Theory of Action
- When SELA nonprofits are sustainable and civically engaged, have a regional identity, and are driven by data, the nonprofit sector will be stronger and more impactful in the region.
- The local community should be empowered to develop local solutions to local problems that leverage assets and collective
- We are not simply engaging in a series of tangentially connected activities but are movement building.
- Build a regional identity, brand, and communication plan across a diverse set of stakeholders that advances the Southeast Los Angeles cities.
Strategic Priority #1: Nonprofit Capacity
- Goal: To strengthen the Nonprofit sector’s capacity in the region.
Strategic Priority #2: Civic Engagement
- Goal: To promote the active engagement of Southeast Los Angeles residents in civic life and empower to seek and effect positive change in their neighborhoods, cities and the region.
Strategic Priority #3: Research
- Goal: To inform, support and promote a body of research reflecting the assets, opportunities and challenges of SELA that can be used to drive regional discourse and solutions.
With the uncertainty regarding federal health care, immigration, education and other crucial federal social supports that the SELA community depends upon, there is no more crucial a time to invest in the strengthening and expansion of the region’s social infrastructure–namely, the nonprofit and civic engagement infrastructure–to ensure that the region not only attracts greater public and private investment but is also well-prepared to protect the existing programs and services that many residents depend upon daily.