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  • Writer's pictureLizeth Antonio

Strengthening Community Relationships

Updated: 2 days ago

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How can we lay down foundations for a stronger community?


Through their projects, Microgrant Leaders are able to foster community building and create inclusivity while sparking new ideas of opportunities for civic engagement which often leads to their participants applying to the program to lead their own project. 


Among the many examples of community connection through the Microgrant program is Gabriela Solano. In 2022, Gabriela came to know of the Wellbeing Microgrant program through recommendation from FLU (Familias Latinas Unidas) members and their networks. She was awarded a grant to lead free knitting workshops where Spanish speaking mothers could find support among their peers. Through her workshops she inspired two of her participants to apply to the Microgrant Program: Adriana Policarpo and Laura Hernandez. Both Adriana and Laura led projects fostering community and learning- their projects impacted their participants through holding a welcoming space to openly participate without the interference of a language barrier.


Through the planning of the Pico Wellbeing Project, the City of Santa Monica’s Office of Civic Wellbeing and City Planners worked collaboratively with the neighborhood to identify a deep approach to inclusivity in impacting residents and community members through a city planning process. The work began through connecting with local community leaders and groups with the purpose of including the voices, perspectives, and needs of the underserved communities within Santa Monica. 


The Pico Wellbeing Project’s various activities (community events, neighborhood analysis, focus groups, and piloting the first round of the Wellbeing Microgrant Program), helped to highlight for the City government a clear need in the community to create more opportunities for people no matter their citizenship status, native language, or socioeconomic status.


Two parent groups that helped shape the Wellbeing Microgrant Program are: Familias Latinas Unidas (FLU) parent group and Parent Connection Group (PCG) of Virginia Avenue Park. 


FLU was formed by (majority immigrant) Latino parents living in the Pico Neighborhood seeking to learn how to help their children navigate the school system and foster opportunities for their future. The group also advocates for immigration rights, language access, and equity. PCG connects the Black parents in the Santa Monica community and advocates for equal access towards educational opportunities for their children as well as advocates for equity, cultural awareness and affordable housing. Through their values they: bring resources, engage in civic participation, and create cultural events highlighting their heritages.


Representatives from FLU and PCG participated as panelists in the Wellbeing Summit in November 2019 at the Santa Monica College Center for Design and Media where they spoke about community leadership, the inequities faced by underserved communities, and the strategies they are taking to organize local parents and communities.


Over the years, both groups have helped to promote the Wellbeing Microgrant Program and individual members from FLU and PCG were awarded to lead Wellbeing projects of their own. 


In the pilot round of Wellbeing Microgrants, members from FLU and PCG led projects ranging from creating craft paper flowers and knitting to release stress, to cooking classes and recipe sharing, to building intercultural dialogue.


Their participation in the program encouraged them to reach beyond their initial project and create opportunities for their future

  • 18% of recipients reapplied to the program and received a second grant. 

  • 23% of recipients lead projects impacting economic opportunities

  • At least 4% microgrant recipients went on to open a small business. 

  • At least 2 recipients became featured artisans in a collective created by 18th Street Arts Center.


Building relationships with local community members- especially underserved communities- allows us to identify important issues and build new leadership pipelines. When we create spaces for inclusivity we can build towards accessibility and create opportunities that may not have existed before.


How would you foster community relationships and promote accessibility?

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