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Organization Overview



Organization Type

  • Public Policy Institute

Issue Areas

  • Civic Engagement
  • Data and Research

Executive Team

A full list of PBI’s executive seen can be viewed here.

Board of Advisers

A full list of PBI’s board of advisers can be viewed here.


The Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) Collaborative is a network of organizations working together to strengthen the capacity of the nonprofit sector and increase civic engagement in Southeast LA. Founded in 2011 by eleven core organizations, the Collaborative seeks to revitalize the communities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Florence-Firestone, Huntington Park, Lynwood, Maywood, South Gate, Vernon, and Walnut Park.

Our “Collaborative Spotlight” series highlights the work and impact of our individual Collaborative members, each of whom have a long history of providing service to the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) region and advocating for its community members. In today’s post, we highlight the work and impact of the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State LA.

Promoting Social Justice and Equality of Opportunity for All Californians

As an organization dedicated to empowering the entire Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) region, the SELA Collaborative understands that data and research must play a key role in creating long-lasting, systemic change. By grounding our work in qualitative research, quantitative research, and community feedback, our Collaborative seeks to create an objective foundation for our programming rooted in the realities of life in Southeast LA.

Today’s spotlighted Collaborative member, The Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State LA (PBI), has played a key role in not only helping the Collaborative build a foundation of data and research, but also ensuring this data is translated into impactful, meaningful programming. PBI is a nonpartisan, presidentially charted institute dedicated to the quest for social justice and equality of opportunity, enlightened civic engagement, and an enhanced quality of life for all Californians. Former California Governor Pat Brown brought the Institute to Cal State LA in 1987, where it is still currently based. Today, the Institute seeks to sustain Governor Brown’s vision and legacy by promoting civic and community engagement, helping to advance an inclusive public policy, connecting with and energizing the Next Generation, and serving as a thought leader on vital issues for the region and the state.

Pat Brown Institute Director Raphael Sonenshein at Event

Inspiring Collective Power in Communities

PBI offers a variety of programs and services that seek to empower and inform all Californians. These programs range from polling initiatives to their Civic University© program, but all are founded on the central idea that a well-informed community is a more active and engaged one. For example, as part of its regular programming slate, PBI hosts candidate debates intended to teach voters about a candidate’s policy priorities and preferred governing styles. These debates often focus on elections and races that directly affect SELA, so they are a key source of information for residents in our communities. At times, PBI’s debates have been the only prominent sources of information for community members on key races. For example, in 2016, the Institute hosted the only general election debate for California’s U.S. Senate race. Since then, PBI has continued to work to ensure community members have the information they need to make informed decisions in critical elections. Most recently, PBI partnered with ABC7, CHIRLA Action Fund, and the California Latino Caucus to host a democratic presidential candidate forum on Latino issues.

As an organization dedicated to promoting civic engagement and inspiring a sense of collective power in communities, PBI was a natural fit to join the SELA Collaborative. For former Associate Director Raquel Beltran, who served as PBI’s primary delegate in the Collaborative, a significant draw was the Collaborative’s regional approach. “The people who live in the community deserve to have its elected and civic leaders think in a comprehensive, regional way. In the Collaborative’s work, we saw that this regional approach could prove highly effective in ensuring SELA can secure its fair share or resources and political representation. Seeing that impact made it easy to decide to join and contribute our skills and experience to this great cause.”

Pat Brown Institute Next Generation Engagement Program Students

Creating a Foundation of Data and Research

PBI played a key role in establishing a strong data foundation for our Collaborative by partnering with the California Community Foundation to host two Summit of Possibilities events, which focused on informing stakeholders about the ways in which Southeast LA can identify, harvest, and develop its unique assets and voice. These Summits produced two reports which have served as key building blocks for our subsequent work: the Central 710 Freeway Corridor Asset Mapping and the SELA Transportation Study. Since then, PBI’s delegates have served in several of the Collaborative’s committees and helped ensure our programming is grounded in data, research, and an objective understanding of the challenges and assets of the SELA region.

The SELA region has seen its fair share of political scandals and challenges, all of which can give root to pessimism and cynicism in our communities. But following in the footsteps of Pat Brown himself, PBI maintains that by unleashing the power of participation and inspiring community members to get involved in their local politics, it is possible to transform communities and build a better tomorrow for future generations. Looking at the lively, spirited discussion at PBI’s candidate forums and the bright, passionate faces of the youth in their Next Generation Engagement (NGE) program, one is inclined to agree. We as a Collaborative look forward to continuing to work with PBI to harness the power of data and hope to help create an informed, engaged, and empowered SELA community.–

Pat Brown Institute Next Generation Engagement Program Students

Pat Brown Institute Delegates in the SELA Collaborative

Dr. Raphael J. Sonenshein

Dr. Raphael J. Sonenshein

Executive Director

Monserrat Ramirez-Mendoza

Monserrat Ramirez-Mendoza

Student Professional

Want to Learn More?

You can learn more about the Pat Brown Institute’s programs, including the Civic University(c) and Next Generation Engagement programs, by visiting their website at

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Read More Collaborative Spotlight Posts

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