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LA CAUSA Summer of Solutions

Project Overview

Los Angeles's premier “Summer of Solutions” – a transformative green economy leadership and long-term, holistic community development program.

Identifying the Problem

Soon after moving to Los Angeles, Casey became aware of the many problems that face the city’s low-income community: lack of access to healthy, fresh food (a phenomenon known as “food deserts”), lack of transportation, lack of sustainable-minded business, and multiple internal challenges related to privilege, oppression and empowerment. He wanted to create a program that would not only provide a deep, transformative experience for its participants, but that would attack these challenges by creating new community organizers and leaders who would use the skills, knowledge and experience they gained during the program to further their own projects and pursuits as well as to educate and empower others.

Creating A Solution

Before moving to Los Angeles, Casey had completed a “Summer of Solutions” program in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Summer of Solutions is a program run by the non-profit Grand Aspirations, and its objective is one that Casey strives to reproduce. The philosophy of Summer of Solutions is one of cyclical empowerment – a model that led to Casey’s own progression as an organizer, his volunteer Media and Partnership work with Grand Aspirations and, ultimately, his creation of the Summer of Solutions program in Los Angeles.

Once Casey decided he wanted to create a Summer of Solutions program in Los Angeles that would address the challenges he had identified, he established a team of fellow Program Leaders and applied to Grand Aspirations to start the program. Since then, he has worked with his team to develop the program, fundraise, advertise, interview and accept applicants, and hold events to promote awareness and help fundraise for the program.

Casey’s program will begin with a week-long training session that includes anti-oppression workshops, team-building exercises, group communication skills, training in nonviolent communication and the "growing edge," long-term visioning for a more perfect world and asset-mapping. Through this intensive training, participants will form teams that then work on different projects within East Los Angeles, including a food justice program, community gardens, bicycle access and advocacy, renewable energy and a green business council. The program will also have workshops throughout the summer that will continue anti-oppression work, foster artistic expression and introduce participants to other organizations doing similar work in Los Angeles.

Once Casey carries out his program, he wants to ensure that the projects he and his team develop will be continued by LA CAUSA (Los Angeles Communities Advocating Unity, Social Justice and Action), a non-profit organization that engages disenfranchised young people and their families from East Los Angeles to take action against the injustices that impact low-income communities of color. And in accordance with the philosophy of cyclical empowerment, Casey also hopes that his program will be replicated throughout Southern California. He plans to invite community organizers from that region to learn about his program. He will then work with those organizers so that the impact of his project will continue to spread long after the program itself has ended.

Lessons Learned

Casey stresses that when working as a team, it is important to not only establish group buy-in from the beginning of a project, but to immediately create group norms that will dictate how the team can work together to maximize efficiency. 

Casey didn't feel comfortable starting a program in a community that he had just moved to, so he knew he needed to find a partner organization in Los Angeles to team up with for the project. Casey chose to work with LA CAUSA and he is very glad he had another organization to help him develop his project. More information about the activities of LA CAUSA can be found here and here!

Get Involved!

There are Summer of Solutions programs every summer all across the United States. Casey encourages you to participate in a program in your city! If you’d like to start your own Summer of Solutions program for next summer, Casey urges you to start planning now. If you’re interested in learning more about Summer of Solutions programs and how you can contribute, send Casey an email. And be sure to follow the Summer of Solutions blog to find out what projects are taking place near you!

Funding

Because the majority of the people who will participate in Casey’s program are from low-income backgrounds, he not only needs the appropriate space and materials for the program, but adequate funds that will allow these individuals to participate. So far, Casey has raised $500, and he is continuing to fundraise in order to cover all the costs of his project. Casey helped organize a benefit concert to raise money for the project, and the funds are being used to provide food and transportation for the participants. Additionally, Grand Aspirations acquired a grant that will provide a stipend for a local youth to participate as a program leader. All of the money Casey raises will go towards providing food, transport and stipends for the participants. Classrooms and materials are all being provided by LA CAUSA.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Netherlands Netherlands 2011

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