LIFTopolis-LA 2016

By Jacqueline Rodriguez on June 1, 2016

Categories: Events, Our Work


Frustration, anger, disappointment and hopelessness. These were just some of the words our guests used to describe how they felt upon completing LIFTopolis-LA.

LIFTopolis-LA is a simulation of the social services system that gives grant makers, nonprofit leaders, elected officials and social investors the chance to experience what our members experience when they try to navigate the overly-complicated social service system of Los Angeles.

LIFT-Los Angeles’ Development Director Jessica Vom Steeg believes that LIFTopolis-LA is an event like no other.

“People in LA are inundated with going to events. LIFTopolis-LA provides an experience that makes a lasting impression. For better or for worse – it makes a person feel things that might make them question, might make them uncomfortable, but our hope is that it makes people think, ‘What can I do to make this system better?’”

The event is divided into session. The first is the actual simulation, where guests are made to roleplay as a citizen of LIFTopolis-LA and left alone to navigate the social service system with the hardships their new oddities bring. Guests are given the unique opportunity to walk in the shoes of the community members and parents that LIFT serves across our offices and see what life is really like when the deck is stacked against you.

The second session of our event is a debrief. This year we brought some of our favorite industry leaders and innovators to partake in a panel discussion and audience Q&A. We were honored to have Madeleine Brand, Jessica Jackley, Dr. Manuel Pastor, Jan Perry and Herb K. Schultz as participants on our panel.

Our panelists discussed the importance of supporting agencies like LIFT that are willing to advocate for marginalized community members, and to truly empathize with the pain that is experienced by our members when the social services system fails them.

Once the panel was completed, our guests were eager to express how deeply this event moved them. LIFT provided a space for them to express these frustrations by having a huge black board were people wrote down their thoughts and feelings

Jason Valdez, LA Program Coordinator, believes that LIFTopolis-LA was able to raise awareness of how important it is for all of us to work together to help fix the flaws in these systems.

“Because of LIFTopolis-LA, our guests gained a small taste of the frustrations low-income families face on a daily basis. With the fiery emotions of the night, we hope our guests return to their agencies, foundations and/or government offices to continue the conversation of change through empathy and relationships.”


LIFTopolis-LA would have not been a success without the support of our beloved partners at Bank of America, NewProfit, A Woman’s Nation, Southern California Grantmakers, United Way Greater Los Angeles, The Aspen Institute , The Leonetti/O’Connell Family Foundation and 501 See 3.

About the Author

Jacqueline Rodriguez

Jacqueline’s responsibilities include assisting LIFT’s CEO and Chief Cities Officer. In this new role, she provides administrative support, coordinates board meetings and supports with special projects. Jacqueline started at LIFT as a AmeriCorps Vista Development Fellow. Jacqueline LIFTs because she grew up in a low-income community. She is a local of Los Angeles and has experienced Read More