The West LA Youth Civic Empowerment Collaborative creates an opportunity for youth leaders in the communities of Venice, Santa Monica, Mar Vista, and Del Rey to conduct action research projects centered on the social issues most important to them. The youth leaders are identified by staff from three organizations: Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica, Mar Vista Family Center, and Safe Place for Youth (SPY). The youth leaders work alongside UCLA undergraduates who receive training from the Social Justice Learning Institute in conducting youth participatory action research projects, as well as in mentoring their peers and near-peers in these methodologies.
Participation in the Collaborative provides youth, largely between the ages of 14-22, with skills of conducting research and community activism. It is intended to empower young people who face structural disenfranchisement as People of Color, low income, immigrants, housing insecure, LGBTQ+, to name a few. Learning how to utilize research to address social injustices can result in greater academic preparation for higher education, and the development of dispositions to be civically engaged within their communities. Upon completion of their projects, the youth leaders join their UCLA counterparts in disseminating the findings from their action research projects through a public forum. As part of their dissemination, the research groups will make recommendations for how to address a social issue present in their neighborhoods, thereby contributing to the health and wellbeing of their communities.