The Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles (VPCGLA) offered a series of “Youth Challenge” Grants to our coalition member organizations that are engaged in community-based nonprofit work. The projects were designed to foster collaboration, communication, and long-term partnership among the organizations, in an effort to increase and maintain youth engagement and leadership. These youth-driven projects offered young people a place to express their opinions and identify solutions to the violence that they themselves encounter every day. This non-traditional, youth-based approach culminated in the Youth Challenge Fair, in which young people spoke out, performed, engaged with policymakers, promoted legislation affecting them and their communities, and educated each other in a fun, supportive setting. The results of this project included increased networking and partnership among community-based organizations, increased empowerment among youth, and a foundation for ongoing, long-term change both in the lives of the youth and on a systems level.
Violence Prevention Coalition of Los Angeles - Los Angeles, California, United States
In the Violence Prevention Coalition’s meetings, member organizations and community representatives repeatedly expressed the need to consider youth development in order to fully address the issue of community safety. So we sought to create a program that truly engaged youth, while also connecting them to services, and as a result we developed an innovative approach that empowered youth and encouraged engagement. We did this by offering funding to youth-driven projects done in collaboration with community-based organizations. We are particularly proud of the decision to require collaboration among service organizations, as it had the unexpected result of not only increasing involvement, but also increasing ongoing partnership. Additionally, by involving Violence Prevention Coalition members in the process, we were able to use existing community resources and networks, rather than having to start over and work from the ground up.
Because the Violence Prevention Coalition consists of members representing schools, universities, law enforcement, community-based organizations, medical institutions, media, and community leaders, the program design by definition included community involvement and input. The mission of the Violence Prevention Coalition itself is to be a powerful, unified voice and resource for member organizations that are committed to developing healthy, safe communities. We dedicate ourselves to advocating for a prevention-based approach to eliminating violence and creating social equity. We do this through several methods, including disseminating research; identifying and promoting best practices; convening trainings, workshops, and conferences; and providing a link between individuals, community organizations and policymakers. Ultimately, through all of these different avenues, we create a platform for members to promote comprehensive intervention and prevention approaches on a systemic level to eliminate violence and its impact on the health and well-being of the communities of Los Angeles.
We promoted our Youth Challenge Fair through a combination of social media outlets, regular newsletter communication among members, and leveraging our membership’s own communication abilities to reach out to their communities, clients, and members to bring attention and engagement to the project. Additionally, the Violence Prevention Coalition developed an ad-hoc committee of members to review Youth challenge applications to ensure that proposed presentations were diverse, youth-driven, and included collaboration among organizations. Finally, we organized and promoted the culminating event, securing space, sponsors, handling logistics, and ensuring that there were support services and referral opportunities available.
In addition to measuring youth and community participation and turnout for the event, our ad-hoc Youth Challenge Committee, including Billie Weiss from UCLA’s School of Public Policy conducted a brief evaluation of the project as a whole. This included surveys among youth participants and participating community organizations, who reported an extremely positive experience.
We continue to publicize the success of the project as a way to keep it in the public consciousness so that we will already have publicity as we go into planning for this coming year. We have also already secured the funding necessary to offer it again this year. Our goal is to make the lead-up events and the culminating fair an annual event, growing in size, and eventually including our own awards ceremony as part of the festivities, to further engage policymakers and city leaders and increase their awareness of the community efforts on display.
By leveraging the strengths and resources of our member organizations in an innovative and collaborative way, we were able to have a significant and far-reaching impact. Some highlights include the Fair itself, which promoted greater access to community services; a series of school-based lead-up fairs focusing on healthy relationships among teens and at-risk youth, and an Open Mike event on Father’s Day that emphasized the need for healthy families if we are to raise healthy children. These events – all part of the Youth Challenge Project -- impacted hundreds of youth and their families, and promoted long-term change in attitudes and behaviors. Additionally, all events were facilitated by collaborating members, using their existing relationships and building stronger ties among organizations who continue to partner together. Based on last year’s success, we will be offering the Youth Challenge Grants to our members again in the coming months.