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Collective action: Building Healthy Communities

Building Healthy Communities: City Heights
June 2011
Case study: Staples Center Community Benefits Agreement
Youth Empowerment Focus protest helps Crawford keep principal
Youth Council members roll out travel-plan change
Mid-City CAN Coordinating Council members commit to giving
Meet the grantees: SDOP advocates for youth, health collaboration
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Case study: Staples Center Community Benefits Agreement

Hailed by business, community and labor leaders alike, this Community Benefits Agreement negotiated by Strategic Actions for a Just Economy and the Figueroa Coalition for Economic Justice made national headlines and became a model for cities across the country. Provisions for living wage jobs, affordable housing and environmental improvements ensured that the expansion of Staples Center, now known as L.A. Live, would bring tangible benefits to the community.

To view the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy website and this policy, click here.

Youth Empowerment Focus protest helps Crawford keep principal

Youth Empowerment Focus Protest

Jessimena Wilkins, an ACLU member and Youth Empowerment Focus youth leader, was among nearly 80 people attended the June 2 protest at the San Diego Unified School Board meeting.

On June 2, a collaboration of nearly 80 students, parents, teachers and principals attended a protest about principal cuts at Crawford High Educational Complex in City Heights.

Currently, the campus has four schools and a principal for each one. The school district planned to cut that number in half.

The protestors demanded that the complex be given a more equitable number of principals next year, which would be more in line with other small schools in the San Diego Unified School District.

Youth Empowerment Focus co-founders Iddo M. Gelle and Faiza Ahmed coordinated the protest with the help of ACLU members, students and teachers. Youth Empowerment Focus is a member of Mid-City CAN in the School Attendance Momentum Team and Gelle is one of the team's co-chairs along with Carolyn Smyth from the International Rescue Committee.

The Crawford community was very upset and felt that the school board was practicing unequal allocation of school funding, Gelle wrote in an email.

Ahmed put it more bluntly.

"It's not just Crawford; it's our community as well," she said. "They are attacking City Heights."

But transforming that outrage into action wasn't easy. Three vans and seven cars were necessary to transport protestors to the San Diego Unified School Board meeting. The group also created T-shirts and felt wristbands that were color-coded to indicate support for an individual principal or teacher. All this was accomplished in less than a week.

Protestors chanted, "Hey,hey! Ho, ho! Discriminations gotta go! Hey, hey! Ho, ho! We are Crawford you know!"

The group kept protestors outside during the beginning of the school board meeting to maximize media exposure.

The reaction was immediate.

The school board decided to add a third principal to Crawford's budget for next year. But Gelle and Ahmed know that school district's tight budget demands vigilance.

"Every time a board makes a decision that isn't fair, we are there," Ahmed said.

Youth Council members
roll out travel-plan change

Mid-City CAN Youth Council LogoFor Youth Council Members Deana Mercado and Grecia Lopez a trip to Northern California provided the right opportunity to put what they learned about collective action into practice.
The pair and the other members of the youth council who are planning to attend a youth convening in Sacramento - with the other Building Healthy Community sites - were concerned that driving to the event would be too time consuming, potentially unsafe, and cut into summer school hours for some of the youth.
That inspired Deana to write an email on behalf of the group on June 8 and send it to James Keddy, Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of The California Endowment, several members of Mid-City CAN and other convening organizers.
The reaction was immediate - the group is now flying to the meeting
"Since the convening is about youth, it was good that our voices were heard," Deana said.
Keddy said that he was "happy they reached out."
"When I saw that there was a real need, I definitely wanted to make sure that the youth leadership of San Diego was present," he said.
Keddy hopes that the group contacts him again in the future if an issue like this arises again, he said.
Other Southern California BHC Hubs were thankful, too.

A member of the Santa Ana hub phoned and said that members there had been concerned as well, but didn't want to make waves, said Mid-City CAN's Youth Organizer Mark Tran.

For Deana and Grecia, it was a valuable lesson that asserting themselves is not just a theoretical exercise. The experience also impressed them with the organizers' willingness to change course.

"We were heard," Deana said. "Our concerns were listened to, not just dismissed."

Grecia, left, and Deana

Grecia Lopez (left) and Deana Mercado

Mid-City CAN Coordinating Council members commit to giving

In June, the Mid-City CAN Coordinating Council members committed to giving to support Mid-City CAN, with most members donating $20. Rosa Olascoaga gave $209 on behalf of herself and the Youth Council Members.
The giving goes beyond the monetary support, wrote Mid-City CAN Coordinating Council Co-Chair Michelle Zive in an email.

"This is important on a number of levels," she wrote.
"First, it shows the commitment of the council to Mid-City
Michelle Zive

Michelle Zive

CAN. Second, it proves to funders that we have a governing body who believes in the organization, and if we believe, then funders and the community can believe in our good works. Finally, we can be role models to the rest of the community and collaborative to feel good giving as well. Once again, just another reason to love Mid-City CAN."

To read the Coordinating Council minutes for June, click here.

The election season for new Coordinating Council begins July 12 at the Networking Council. Mid-City CAN members will elect three resident representatives and two organizational representatives to the Coordinating Council in December.


To read more about the election process, refer to the

newly revised Mid-City CAN Governance Guidelines and keep an eye out for applications.


Join us for Building Healthy Communities Advocacy and Lobbying training by the Alliance for Justice on July 22 and 23. To RSVP and for more information, click here.

Meet the grantees: SDOP advocates for youth, health collaboration

San Diego Organizing Project news conference

Much of San Diego Organizing Project's work relates to health care. This is a news conference the group did about the Affordable Care Act in 2010.


San Diego Organizing Project has been seeking to raise the voices of residents in "powerful ways" for more than 30 years.


The faith-based community organization started in 1979 and is part of the PICO network, which has 50 groups working in 17 states.


SDOP has two major initiatives that are funded by The California Endowment, for 2011-13, and coordinated through Mid-City CAN:


One initiative is creating a youth development office that would help government agencies coordinate and share resources


The other is creating a model health-care project that addresses safety-net populations in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act of 2010.


"The organizing work that we do [begins with] taking groups of people to a research or learning phase," said Jose Arenas, SDOP executive director.


Most of that research is done through community gatherings and interviews.


For both projects, SDOP focuses on collaboration and seeks to "make sure that the voice and experience of people is heard in powerful ways," he said.


The goal of the health-care work is to increase access for at-risk groups, such as children and Medicaid recipients, through partnerships among community healthy centers.


"We've been doing a ton of work trying to figure out what the local health-care delivery system is capable of," he said.


But that is just the first step.


"If you do create something new, could we imagine proposing something - a delivery system  - that puts the voice and experience of patients first, which is kind of radical?" he asked. "It is kind of almost a built in advocacy until it is created."


SDOP is also pushing for a youth development office that would connect groups like the San Diego Unified School District, county agencies, such as Health and Human Services, probation and other social services and city agencies, such as law enforcement, parks and recreation department and libraries.


"It would create something that just is missing - a real focus on youth in San Diego," he said.


The idea for a youth department stemmed from a spike in violence about four years ago and was supported by research that the group did, Arenas said.


"We found out that the main systems that touch the lives of youth and families in San Diego, for the most part, at least at the really highest levels, there was really no coordination or collaboration and sharing of resources," he said. "That was really pretty clear."


San Diego's investment in youth development was lagging, as well, he said.


"It's pretty stark for a major city," he said.


The group also looked at comparable cities, including Oakland, Richmond, San Jose, Phoenix and Sacramento.


"We quickly saw that a lot of these places were looking at the idea of systems integration and youth development," he said. "As budgets were getting tighter, people were saying, 'We can't do it all by ourselves.'"


SDOP has been working with leaders from the City of San Diego, the County and schools and the philanthropic sector on this project.


"We are hoping that in the next 12 months we've got something," he said.


The youth office would be a mechanism for finding a permanent revenue source for youth development, he said.


"Most of our services are focused on trying to intervene, but youth development would be focused on the whole kid, to create opportunities for youth and families," Arenas said. "It's a larger focus on prevention."


The youth and health-care initiatives have goals that go beyond the individuals they help.


"The development of youth, ultimately, we believe it leads to the development of community, of place, he said. "And the whole idea behind a place-based initiative [like Building Healthy Communities] is that place matters."


Jose Arenas,
executive director,
(619) 285-0797 x204

San Diego Organizing Project
4305 University Ave. Suite 530


The California Endowment

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Quotation (Left)

The Mid-City Community Advocacy Network's mission is to create a safe, productive,Quotation (Right)
and healthy community through collaboration, advocacy, and organizing.

Fiscal sponsor Mission Edge San Diego.