Los Angeles Urban League

Restoring California’s Promise feat. Blair Taylor

Los Angeles Urban League CEO Blair Taylor knew that someone needed to rethink and rebuild public services in the Park Mesa Heights neighborhood in central Los Angeles as he watched the area spiral downward. Public safety, education, health, and other services were all in dire need of attention.

By betting the L.A. Urban League’s 86 years of credibility and social capital on his ability to transform how social problems were addressed, Taylor stepped up and broke through traditional silos that had kept hope for Park Mesa at bay for years. He convinced the chief of police, superintendent of schools and mayor to agree to his proposal for a bold effort to holistically address the needs of a troubled community.

Within three years, through the coordinated engagement of over 100 local providers from all sectors, the neighborhood saw a 17 percent reduction in violent crimes and an 80 percent decrease in homicides.

Under a unique partnership between L. A. Urban League, University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, and the Tom & Ethel Bradley Foundation, Crenshaw High School graduation rates increased from 41% in 2006-07 to 65% in 2008-09, while truancy rates decreased by 10%. Parents who were fleeing from the troubled school have now seen a substantial turnaround and enrollment is increasing.

The L.A. Urban League’s effort, called Neighborhoods@Work, is what one might call a “civic realigner” in that it envisions and then helps to implement a reshuffling across the existing actors of a social system. LAUL is now expanding its work to facilitate new approaches to employment, housing and youth services.