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Mobilizing Communities

This series explores the opportunities and challenges of using mobile technologies to engage and organize communities, produced in partnership with the California Endowment.

In 2011, Pew Research found that only 35% of American adults owned a smartphone. Just three years later, smartphone ownership has nearly doubled to 58%, with 90% of American adults owning some type of cell phone.

Pew Research also found in 2013 that 72% of all online American adults use social media sites like Facebook, up from only 8% in 2005. Even President Obama is "hip to all these things"; he's hosted Twitter chatsGoogle+ hangouts, a live Q&A on Tumblr, and an "Ask Me Anything" thread on Reddit.

But this increased connectedness doesn't necessarily translate to increased engagement on a local level. Especially in a sprawling, decentralized city like Los Angeles, growing a sense of community has proven difficult.

"Compared to the nation, Angelenos are less likely to be involved in groups, less likely to engage in organizational activism, less likely to vote, less likely to be engaged in faith-based organizations, less likely to socialize informally, and less likely to be trusting," writes LA2050, citing a 2003 study by the USC Center on Philanthropy & Public Policy Research.

Community organizations already know that engaging the communities of Los Angeles will require ingenuity, teamwork, and persistence. But how does technology fit into the picture?

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