Our Children LA (OCLA)’s founding board grew out of a small group of volunteers who met during the course of their work on a local foundation’s public policy committee. They were dismayed by the difficulties they encountered locating comprehensive accurate information about the needs and challenges affecting the life opportunities of local children. This shared frustration led to numerous brainstorming sessions (around the founder’s dining room table!) that produced an early vision of a free information and advocacy resource center. They foresaw that a “one-stop” website would make it easier for community advocates like themselves to assess information needed to support change. But systems and policy changes take time, and any changes accelerated by the website’s dissemination of shared knowledge was unlikely to significantly impact today’s the children and youth. Our founder felt strongly that a 2-prong approach was needed to catalyze more immediate changes in the lives of regional children and youth, a model that offered positive change opportunities in the lives of today’s youth while working for broader changes tomorrow.
As the OCLA vision matured, it focused on the vast numbers of children and youth who were unconnected to needed services. In 2012, in response to the Los Angeles City Library’s request for a resource guide, Our Children LA’s founder researched and published a citywide Directory of Services for Homeless Youth. This directory was immediately successful and OCLA began to receive calls to expand the directory to include countywide resources. With this encouragement, the founding board began work on the expansion, while developing and testing WIN, (What I Need) an innovative mobile and web app designed for (and with input from ) LA’s homeless youth. OCLA also began to explore the design of a one-stop website that empowers unaccompanied youth, informs the public on the realities of youth homelessness and mobilizes a community working together to create change. New individuals joined the leadership team, offering their talents and leadership skills and helped to shape the vision of employing technology to support youth connections to services. Within 2 years of launch OCLA realized its database could serve adults and families as well and in 2017 began to work on expanding the Directory and WIN to better serve all vulnerable resource insecure populations while maintaining its commitment to serve regional youth. During formation, and beyond, Our Children LA has been gifted with the talents and expertise of a number of valued local professionals whose belief in the vision and offer of professional support to the founders helped transform the concept into reality.
The Vision of Our Children LA: Individuals Change Today, Systems Change Tomorrow
Our Children LA believes in fostering a shared vision of improved dialogue and smarter use of online technologies in support of vulnerable resource insecure youth and adults. We envision an LA where:
- Resource-insecure youth, students, families and adults, as well as other concerned adults are empowered by the use of powerful free tools to find the resources and support they need.
- All members of the community have access to a central repository of balanced, detailed, accurate and up-to-date information on Los Angeles homeless youth.
- An informed public uses their collective voice to make the needs of vulnerable regional youth and adults heard and supports policy, nonprofit, business and individual initiatives that improve their lives.
2015: Our Children LA’s First Steps
- WIN: What I Need: a mobile app designed to empower homeless youth to connect to services they determine that they need.
- The 2015 Directory of Services for Homeless Youth: supporting community efforts to connect unaccompanied youth to needed services
- www.ourchildrenla.org: Our Children's LA's website offering a one-stop community learning and engagement center raising awareness and identifying community risks contributing to the numbers of youth experiencing homelessness. This website also hosts the web-version of WIN, and both the pdf and ongoing updates to the Directory.