Something remarkable has happened in Los Angeles since 1992 – the region transformed from one whose residents were frustrated enough to burn down a city to one where innovative social movements that have forged precedent-setting policies, from community benefits agreements to college and career pathways to carwash worker protections.
How has L.A. risen from the ashes of 1992? A report co-authored by USC PERE’s Manuel Pastor and Liberty Hill Foundation’s Michele Prichard, LA Rising: The 1992 Civil Unrest, the Arc of Social Justice Organizing, and the Lessons for Today’s Movement Building, suggests that from the civil unrest emerged a new set of organizations that has led an arc of organizing grounded in an intentional bridge-building and movement-building approach. The report draws on interviews with over 20 movement leaders, a literature review, and the authors’ own experiences.
L.A. Rising points to ten innovations central to the L.A. model. They include a deep commitment to building power from the bottom-up through multi-racial and multi-ethnic organizing, labor-community alliances, movement building, and scaling up. Of equal importance has been the emphasis on multiple capacities and strategies including an effort to reframe and revision, viable policy innovations, and a willingness to play the inside-outside game. And it could not have happened without the commitment of a key set of funders who were willing to place early bets on grassroots organizing – eventually movement building, themselves, to attract national philanthropic partners.
As our nation looks for a way forward from our economic crisis, political divides, and racial rumblings that occasionally break the surface, it is this type of patient, on-the-ground work that can actually hold economies accountable and reweave the fabric of our tired society. It is through movement building that together we can build a stronger, more inclusive America.