BIG TABLE: Civic Innovation for Everyone

October 11, 2016

For the third year in a row, LA hosted InnovateLA to celebrate the creativity and entrepreneurship shaping the future of our city.

Given that the level of income inequality in Los Angeles is the highest of all California metro areas, and that LA is home to some of the most extreme divides between rich and poor in all of America — what is the role that innovation plays in bridging the divide between these two experiences of the place we all call home?

In partnership with our friends at Everytable, we hosted a conversation with leaders in business, social impact, creativity, and policy to discuss what’s working, the challenges we’re facing, and what we’re all learning as we set out to equalize opportunity for all Angelenos.

Sam Polk, moderator + co-founder of Everytable

Here are some of our main takeaways from the night:

  1. We are defining LA in real time:

For too long, people would think of Los Angeles and think of palm trees and the Kardashians. But with more and more attention being directed to Los Angeles as a place other than just Hollywood — now recognized as one of America’s best food cities, and a hub for innovation — we have the opportunity to rewrite the story and define the brand of the city where we’re living and building.

One brand territory we discussed was “Angelenos are people who practice what they preach” — recognizing the ability of the people of LA to put thoughts into action, and inspiring other Angelenos to do the same.

2. Don’t give access — give people the tools to create their own access.

In an effort to create opportunities for all Angelenos, we need to create more pipelines not to just entry level work but to leadership positions. We discussed the importance of entrepreneurs not just setting young people up to work for them, but to become them.

3. Innovation as a mental shift

Everytable is completely powered with technology that existed in a pretty similar form 20 years ago — reminding us that innovation isn’t just about the introduction of some new technology, but about inspiring a new behavior or way of looking at the world. By introducing a concept that allows everyone to have healthy, affordable meals that also taste great in neighborhoods across LA, we’re reminded that even the status quo is a human invention that we need to continually push against.

4. Philanthropy is changing.

How do we fund initiatives that bridge the gap between the two LAs? While traditionally philanthropic funding has gone overseas and is generally risk averse — there are some inspiring players in the LA funding scene who are supporting social entrepreneurs taking big risks. The Durfee Foundation — which offers sabbaticals to nonprofit leaders and provides early phase funding — and LA2050, which invites Angelenos to have a say in which local initiatives receive up to $1M. As a new generation of funders enters the LA ecosystem, we’ll see more momentum around funding initiatives that lift all boats locally.

5. Moving beyond being there for each other “in theory”
How do we create experiences for people in these two different sides of LA to come together respectfully, and recognize how much we have to learn from each other? It’s not enough to just say this. We need to really bring people together, foster real connection and build coalitions to create more vibrant, just and innovative city for everyone.

A big thank you to all who came out:

Amy Tran / enso / Brand Impact Lead
Anar Joshi / Everytable / Marketing
Ashley Cordero / REDF / Initiatives Manager
Carla Fernandez / enso / General Manager 
Chris Rico / Innovate LA / President
Clare Fox / LA Food Policy Council / Executive Director
Kirk Souder / enso / Co-founder and Creative Lead
Jason Nichols / enso / Executive Creative Director
Michael Amodeo / Uber / Product Communications
Michael Thomas Martin / xPrize / AI Prize Manager
Molly Purnell / Ilan Dei Studio / Architect and Designer
Natalie Angelillo / OfferUp / VP of Community
Sam Polk / Founder / Everytable
Stu Semigran/ Founder / EduCare Foundation