The Link Advocates, Governments, Families, and Parks initiative (Link) is working to create a model for collaborative engagement of residents, advocates and government partners to build healthier communities for children and families by engaging meaningfully in a community-driven planning process that lays the foundation for local infrastructure funding. 

The Link model supports community-led organizations in building civic and planning capacity to access funding for parks and other forms of public infrastructure in a way that addresses the priorities of residents and families in the communities where it’s needed the most.  

For years, parents and residents in the First 5 LA’s Best Start communities have elevated concerns that the lack of investment in the built environment – the human-made elements where families live, work, and play – affects early childhood development, learning and family well-being, especially their physical and mental health and social connection, particularly for families that are socially isolated. 

As communities have been working to address these issues, there was a simultaneous shift in the financial and political context in Los Angeles County as it relates to the built environment. Unprecedented public will and investments emerged due to the 2016 passage of Measures A (parks/open space) and M (transportation/mobility) as well as a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors 2017 motion to address food insecurity – the culmination of which has led to a transformative moment for L.A. County.  

In response to this moment, the Los Angeles Funders’ Collaborative, made up of 12 funders including First 5 LA, commissioned the “Measures Matter” report written by the University of Southern California Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (now known as the USC Equity Research Institute). The report identified a key barrier to expanding open space in low-income neighborhoods as a lack of capacity amongst government agencies and community-based organizations as well as a lack of inclusion of residents in the decision-making process. This result of this has been resource distribution to wealthier areas rather than lower-income areas, which directly impacts the health and well-being of kids who do not have access to parks and open spaces as a result of their zip code.  

To enact the strategies outlined in the report, First 5 LA, following a motion from the Board of Commissioners in July of 2019, established a strategic partnership with Resources Legacy Fund (RLF) to form the Link Advocates, Governments, Families, and Parks initiative (Link). The Link initiative was modeled after a successful collaboration to advocate for improvements in Zamora Park in the City of El Monte between members of Best Start El Monte/South El Monte, Trust for Public Land (a nonprofit park developer), and El Monte city officials. The project resulted in funding from The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, $3.7 million grant from the California Natural Resources Agency, and $2.3 million in federal Community Development Block funds obtained by the city. 

1. Build capacity in under-invested communities to leverage funding. 

Link is partnering with four communities that are within the 14 Best Start communities. This will allow Link to pilot various aspects of the program including the creation of multi-sector partnerships and multi-benefit projects. 

2. Ensure that parents and residents have a voice in decision-making and that the funding meets the needs of children and families. 

Link partners are collaborating with parents and residents in the Best Start communities to develop a Community Park Plan. This plan will outline the community’s priorities for park and open space, ensuring that the leveraged funding responds to their needs.  

3. Partner with L.A. County Regional Parks and Open Space District (RPOSD)  to integrate Link into the TAP program for Measure A.

First 5 LA has partnered with RPOSD who oversees the distribution of Measure A funding. As part of this, RPOSD is developing a Technical Assistance Program (TAP) to help municipalities and nonprofits apply for funding. RPOSD is using Link as a potential model for the TAP program.  

Initially, the Link model is being advanced in four of First 5 LA’s Best Start Communities. These communities have an activated group of residents working on policy, systems and environmental changes to benefit families with children ages prenatal to five. The first Link pilot sites include: 

San Gabriel Valley, City of El Monte 

Community Partners: Active SGV and Trust for Public Land 

South East Los Angeles, Cities of Cudahy and Maywood 

Community Partners: Communities for a Better Environment and Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust 

San Fernando Valley, Panorama City 

Community Partners: 
Pacoima Beautiful and the City of Los Angeles 


Community Partners:
Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, T.R.U.S.T. South LA, and Community Coalition

In addition to launching these pilot sites, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation will evaluate how the Link process works and identify lessons learned to apply to Link’s expansion. Link is also working closely with key stakeholders that are providing in-kind resources including the Los Angeles Regional Parks and Open Space District, Enterprise Community Partners and The Water Foundation.

Resources Legacy Fund (RLF) and The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation –– in partnership with First 5 LA –– have committed resources to advance Link. Under the partnership, RLF contributes to and administers a pooled fund that provides grants and contracts to support community-based organizations, technical assistance providers, and program evaluators to deliver on the vision of Link.   



Through these kinds of partnerships, Link funders have the opportunity to improve the lives and public health of millions of people by creating parks, encouraging exercise, reducing pollution, and establishing spaces that welcome all Angelenos to safely enjoy a moment in the outdoors. Link is seeking financial contributions from other funders to increase and enhance the reach of the initiative.  

Find out more about becoming a philanthropic partner: [email protected]  

Best Start Helps to Enhance El Monte Park

Best Start Helps to Enhance El Monte Park

Yadira Lue used to feel hopeless when she would look across the street at Zamora Park from the window of her El Monte home. The poorly illuminated park stained with...