Over 100 years ago, United Way L.A. started as a community chest, working in 37 neighborhoods across Los Angeles to support neighbors. In 2024, we are returning to our roots with a renewed neighborhood approach that begins in the Pico-Union community.

Last month, nearly 60 community partners and residents from Pico-Union joined us in a community dialogue where we could hear directly from them about the community’s strengths, and opportunities to build shared prosperity and mutual aid projects together. We did this through an asset strength-based approach that focused on the existing opportunities, talents and strengths of the community. This helped set the foundation to develop pilot projects with community members designed to advance shared prosperity for all of our neighbors in this vibrant community. 

The asset mapping process helps us identify and often locate geographically the community’s assets and strengths.

Throughout history, during major crises, neighbors have been the ones who have shown up to help. When aid is delayed, people come together to find solutions. Many of us did just that during the pandemic. We can create the solutions our families and neighbors need to overcome generational poverty and boost prosperity for future generations.

With the support of our partners at MasterCard, we learned about the power of the collective economic spending patterns of the Pico-Union residents. Our collaboration with the USC Neighborhood Data For Social Change also helped us understand Pico-Union’s diversity and find areas of improvement. And we worked closely with Dr. Alfredo Carlos from Cal State Dominguez Hills on the asset mapping with community members which included community conversations, individual interviews, and a survey responded to by almost 500 people that allowed us to understand this vibrant and high-potential community better. We can’t wait to share what we learned with you! Below are samples of the findings and data that we used to ground and center the communities’ input during the December dialogue. 

Economic power

An example of some of the findings that emerged from our asset mapping includes findings on the economic power of neighborhoods. For example, through this process, we found out that Pico-Union residents have more collective buying power as a community compared to similar neighborhoods across L.A. County? Approximately $1.66B.

The residents spent an estimated $594M in food and groceries in 2023, but unfortunately, only 27% of that spending stays locally. During the community conversation, residents expressed their desire to keep that buying power within the community by establishing food and services businesses that can be owned and operated by members of Pico-Union so residents can buy groceries and food from their neighbors. Opening a farmers market where people from the neighborhood can sell their food and goods is a project they are very excited about as it will keep more money within the community.

Talents and Skills

We learned that Pico-Union residents’ top skills and talents are in agriculture and planting, culinary and cooking skills, arts and crafts, and teaching and fitness, to name a few. 

 Community leaders and residents believe a good idea would be to create shared spaces for community events, a local farmer market, festivals, local crafters, and a safe street vendor place.

Areas of improvement

During last month’s conversation, community leaders and residents also agreed on some areas where there’s opportunity for growth. Among the top areas of improvement, they want to work together to ensure food safety for everyone in the community, as well as improve the beautification of common areas, such as creating more community gardens and having spaces to gather. 

We can’t wait to start working with our community partners and leaders on the projects residents are excited to put into action by implementing the four main pillars of our neighborhood approach: shared prosperity, mutual aid, community beautification, and community-owned shared spaces. 

Pico Union is our first neighborhood and we will be scaling into other neighborhoods across the county through this year. Let’s make it happen together! 



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