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Cynthia Harnisch

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Social Media for Social Good

Posted: 09/22/10 04:02 PM ET

Los Angeles' Skid Row is widely recognized as the homeless capital of the world where thousands of people are without shelter every night. But what is invisible in this equation are the children of the inner city -- 30,000 of them living within a two and a half mile radius of downtown Los Angeles. Given the circumstances in which these children live, they are at risk of failing in school and failing in life. The public school system, which should be a safety net and a safe haven for these children, is failing them too. With drastic budget cuts that just keep on coming, public education is bare bones. The arts -- which help children learn, thrive and dream -- are virtually nonexistent in Los Angeles' schools.

That's where Inner-City Arts, a learning oasis in the heart of Skid Row, comes in. First opened in 1989, Inner-City Arts provides free arts instruction by professional teaching artists in specialized studio and theater spaces to elementary, middle and high school students. Creating a bridge between the studio and the classroom, Inner-City Arts draws on the power of arts education to measurably improve academic and personal outcomes for children and youth, especially those students with limited English proficiency.

I have often said that Los Angeles is only as healthy, strong and viable as its least privileged child. The conversation about human potential in our city must begin by recognizing this fact. At Inner-City Arts one of our most important roles is to actively participate in this discussion and advocate for disadvantaged children.

That's why I was so thrilled when the organizers of Social Media Week LA approached Inner-City Arts to be their inaugural nonprofit beneficiary and created the "twelethon" to harness the power of social media for social good. The themes of Social Media Week -- community and creativity -- are perfectly aligned with the goals of Inner-City Arts.

The twelethon site was created not only as a site for creative expression but as a means to raise awareness about -- and funds for -- Inner-City Arts. As the social good aspect of Social Media Week and an opportunity for all participants to make financial contributions, it is a thread tying the entire conference together. Just like every tweet, every post, every email can go viral, every time we introduce a child to the arts we introduce the possibility to transform that child's life, and in turn can transform this great city of ours.

The future of Los Angeles depends on helping all of our children reach their human potential, especially those who are most at risk, by providing access to the arts and the endless possibilities they offer. Inner-City Arts is an investment in the youth of Los Angeles and an important part of the ongoing redevelopment of downtown Los Angeles. We applaud Social Media Week for capitalizing on the potential of the modern medium of social media to generate some good old-fashioned social good.