KeAndra Cylear-Dodds, Metro’s Executive Office of Equity and Race (Courtesy photo)

Since last year, Los Angeles Metro has worked to enhance, reconnect and deepen its relationship with Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) with goals of aligning and coordinating Metro’s current partnerships and to create a structure for the future. This past Friday, December 10, 2020, Metro’s CBO hosted a virtual meeting to discuss the strategy and recommendations with community leaders across Los Angeles.

As stated in the draft, “The CBO Strategy establishes clear and consistent parameters for Metro to continue partnering with CBOs, as appropriate, by formalizing partnership structures and developing mutually beneficial, equity-focused relationships that bring real and tangible benefits to the Agency, CBOs, and Los Angeles region.” The meeting held over Zoom was the first glimpse into a long journey of education and preparation for a better and more cohesive strategy to better serve those in underserved and compromised positions, much like the work done on Metro’s Blue Line which improved much of the programs delivery methods. For nearly two hours, several Metro staff workers who make up Metro’s CBO Partnering Strategy team discussed possibilities while also laying out the purpose, goal, and pre-determined recommendations for the project.

Led by KeAndra Cylear-Dodds, Metro’s executive office of Equity and Race, the meeting began with opening remarks as she welcomed each person and detailed exactly what Metro aims to fix. “The core objective is to increase access to opportunity for all and it recognizes that there are disparities that exist within our community that prevent full access for everyone, so our charge is really to understand and identify those disparities, and then come up with solutions that help address and eliminate those disparities. And so that’s, that’s what we’re working towards,” Cylear-Dodds explained. She continued on to say one of the main pillars of focus, to listen and learn, is largely based on community engagement which fuels CBO partnerships and the reason for the virtual meeting.

According to CBO Partnering Strategy Draft, Metro added the Equity Platform Framework as a recognition of its influential role in Los Angeles and its duty to aid in reversing the disparities Cylear-Dodds spoke of. The draft details the four project phases and was of which Metro builds and maintains successful partnerships. The draft then goes into depth detailing the seven recommendations developed and designed from both internal and external sources to ensure the goals of reaching across the entire agency.

The recommendations listed are to establish a central home for the CBO Partnering Strategy, develop and maintain a comprehensive CBO partner database, use criteria to determine the compensation threshold, establish an internal library of resources and sample templates for CBO partnering, use a standard CBO partner chartering process, train Metro staff how to effectively partner with CBOs, and lastly, build CBOs’ capacity to navigate and partner with Metro.

Elizabeth Carvajal, Senior Director

During the call, listeners were also able to add their additional hopes for recommendations to several Metro staff members including Ayda Safaei, director, Construction Relations and Mitigation Programs, Elizabeth Carvajal, senior director, and Michael Cortez, community relations manager. Many of the recommendations suggested and heard by the team revolved around community involvement, outreach, accessibility, and determining ways to identify programs and proposals that best fit the surrounding community.

“I am hopeful it’s in the right direction, I know we really want to be able to compensate CBOs and bring them to the table, especially on a lot of these opportunities in procurement,” Cortez stated during the meeting. “Also training Metro staff on how to work with CBOs … having Metro understand how to work with the different communities out there is also going to be critical and that’s why we’re advancing that in these recommendations.”

Cylear-Dodds added in her remarks that clarity is going to be very necessary moving forward as well as acknowledgment of the needs of the community when thinking, building, and obtaining partnerships with CBOs. “I really look forward to figuring out how we improve upon this and how we continue to do all this work that’s necessary to move us along in this to a more equitable Metro and processes,” she continued.

Before closing, the group reassured that they would continue to hold virtual meetings to ensure that the strategy programs hit the mark.