LA2050′s annual Grants Challenge kicked off this week with a twist. For the first time in program history, voters can voice their thoughts at physical ballot locations across the city.
LA2050′s community initiative allows Angelenos to vote for the future change in their county. The challenge, centered around the theme “Join the Movement: Vote For A Better L.A.,” will provide nearly two million dollars to support various programs across the city.
Founded by the Goldhirsh Foundation in 2011 to promote civic activism and help carve the path to Los Angeles’ future, the LA2050 Grants’ Challenge allows the public to vote for what metrics matter the most to them. The organization has tallied over 600,000 votes over the past decade and funded nearly nine million dollars in charity work to 117 organizations.
While the online portal is still available, ballot stations will also be made available at the Santa Monica Pier, Griffith Park Observatory, Mariachi Plaza, Leimert Park Plaza, Hollywood Farmers’ Market, Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), Theodore Payne Foundation, Los Angeles Central Library, Los Angeles Zoo and Randy’s Donuts.
“Having these pop ups, it’s a way for us to engage new people and get the message out; but it also is part of our efforts to bridge the digital divide,” said LeAnn Kelch Melendez, a social innovation manager with the Goldhirsh Foundation.
Tara Roth, president of the Goldhirsh Foundation, credits their impact to their emphasis towards marketing, design and storytelling.
“There were so many issues that are very challenging, too, emotionally challenging and intellectually challenging,” Roth said. “I think that when you can simplify an issue and make it almost beautiful and inviting to learn about and then to continue to follow and become invested in [it] — I think that’s really powerful.”
Last year, approximately $2.8 million was given out to 37 different organizations across L.A.
“This is a very authentic activation and support mechanism for the people who are on the frontlines of our communities,” Roth said. “It provides them with the social capital and the human capital to then either grow and expand that or pilot test and pivot.”
Sina Miri traveled to Randy’s Donuts this morning. Miri filed safety and transportation as his top two priorities, but not without concern for the voting process.
“One of the problems with a lot of the ballots and the voting is they’re very focused on [just] getting their votes,” Miri said. “There’s not enough focus put on breaking down those votes into something a little bit more granular because people vote for everything to be cheaper without thinking of the consequences.”
Shein Varnado, a frequent visitor to the area from Detroit, said he thinks the unhoused crisis should take top percent. “I see homelessness as a real big issue in this city … it’s everywhere,” Varnado said.
Voting will last until May 8. Afterward, various nonprofit organizations, social enterprises and government agencies that specialize in the issues chosen by city residents as the top issues can submit proposals to LA2050 from May 15 to June 23 for funding consideration.
A former version of this article incorrectly referred to LeAnn Kelch Melendez as a program manager. This article has been updated to reflect her position correctly. Annenberg Media regrets this error.