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New Community-Driven City Program Helps Participants Learn Technology, Address Neighborhood Challenges

Published: 2/21/2024

On a cool October evening at the Future LB Youth Employment Center, a full spectrum of Long Beach residents – parents, teachers, tech experts, business people, City staffers, residents and students of all ages – gathered to mark a significant milestone.  

They helped themselves to some tasty food, chatting amiably with family and friends. Soon, the students among them would participate in their last workshop, then receive their certificates of completion, and finally celebrate -- but not for too long. Their immersion in a new City program – Long Beach Collaboratory (LB Co-Lab) – had just wrapped up, but the opportunity for these graduates to help their communities had just begun. 

This evening was the culmination of nine LB Co-Lab workshops conducted over eight months, in which 27 participants from four Long Beach neighborhoods learned about new technologies that can be implemented to solve issues within their communities. 

"The participants are here because they want to learn about technology, they're interested in careers in technology, or they're just interested in helping their communities out," said Ryan Kurtzman, Smart Cities Program Manager within the
Long Beach Department of Technology & Innovation. "We give participants agency not only to identify neighborhood problems, but also to pick the solutions that the City will deploy to solve these challenges."

After partaking in dinner and casual conversation, the participants immediately broke into four groups, based on which of four neighborhoods they were affiliated with; Hamilton, Ramona Park, Willmore, and the Lower Westside. The groups were joined by local technology vendors and City staff to wrap up discussions about the solutions they all worked together to achieve. 

These four neighborhoods were chosen by City officials based on five criteria: 1) how COVID impacted the neighborhood, 2) the size of the neighborhood's young adult population, 3) the neighborhood's unemployment rate, 4) the average level of educational attainment, and 5) "digital divide" -- the gap between what digital technologies are available and what a community has access to.  

To qualify for LB Co-Lab, participants were required to have some sort of affiliation with one of the neighborhoods, through residence, employment, school study, business ownership, or a family member. 

The first few workshops had participants focus on problems in their communities that could be solved through technological enhancements. Each neighborhood was awarded a $35,000 budget to pilot a technology solution. In the Hamilton neighborhood, pedestrian safety issues were identified. LB Co-Lab participants chose a proposal from a vendor of a smart lighting system solution to improve safety while walking through the local park. 

A smart lighting system was a chosen solution at Silverado Park in Westside to increase safety, and in the Willmore neighborhood, a multi-modal data sensor was identified to help improve pedestrian and cyclist safety. Ramona Park LB Co-Lab participants identified internet connectivity as their priority.

LB Co-Lab is funded by a $70,000 allocation from the Long Beach Recovery Act, and a $150,000 grant from the Knight Foundation Donor Advised Fund held at the Long Beach Community Foundation. The City partnered with Pacific Gateway Workforce Innovation Network to provide participants with access to technology training, professional certificates and career development.

LB Co-Lab is proved to be effective at providing the doers in the community with the education, technology, and connections to address neighborhood issues. 

Gillian Doplemore, 19, participated in LB Co-Lab with her mother, on behalf of Ramona Park. "Mom kind of pa

ssed it on to me," said Doplemore. "She's President of the Collins Neighborhood Association. We've done a lot of community work side by side.”

"LB Co-Lab is great for getting the community involved and interacting with the government," Doplemore added. "It's great for these four communities to feel like their voice is heard, and have an opportunity to solve a problem in their community."  

The City hopes that LB Co-Lab will be a model for similar programs nationwide. "We're certainly looking to do this program again," said Ryan Kurtzman. "The program ends today, but the technology projects that are being implemented are just getting started."   

Learn more about the City’s LB Co-Lab program along with other technology and digital resources by visiting https://www.longbeach.gov/smartcity/projects/

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