City Hall (File photo)

City Hall will host a summit in late 2019 that will invite international experts to discuss how to improve civic wellbeing and inform residents about The Wellbeing Project, which measures the quality of life in Santa Monica.

Mayor Gleam Davis asked City Council on Tuesday to authorize up to $100,000 to fund the Wellbeing Summit, which she said would help residents understand the goals and achievements of The Wellbeing Project. While Council approved the funding unanimously, several councilmembers said the summit, which will be free for residents, should provide tangible results for the community rather than a stage for policy wonks to discuss abstract ideas about wellbeing.

“We are very excited to host the Wellbeing Summit and think it will give us a chance to explore ways as individuals to improve our own wellbeing and that of the community as a whole,” said Julie Rusk, the City’s chief civic wellbeing officer. “We’re hoping there will be interdisciplinary and inspiring conversations and activities drawing on the work being done here locally that people may not be aware of and examine how what we’re doing locally connects to the forward-thinking global community working on wellbeing.”

The City was awarded $1 million by Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2015 to launch The Wellbeing Project and now conducts a Wellbeing Index every two years that gauges the connection residents feel to their communities, their economic and educational opportunities, their physical and mental health and the quality of the city’s natural and built environment.

Davis said the summit would provide clarity on those efforts.

“One of the issues we have is people don’t understand what we mean when we talk about wellbeing,” she said. “We’ll have outstanding experts in the field working on this at the global level speak, and the idea is for people to leave the summit with concrete action plans for their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of their larger community.”

Some councilmembers said they want to ensure the amount of money spent on the summit will generate measurable benefits for residents.

Councilmember Sue Himmelrich said $100,000 is the most money she has ever seen allocated from Council’s discretionary funds, which total about $700,000. She pointed out that the sum could fund 200 Wellbeing Microgrants, which the City has so far awarded to eight projects that seek to improve wellbeing in the historically underserved Pico neighborhood.

Council will also seek other funding from philanthropic sources. Council members Ana Jara and Kevin McKeown amended the motion to approve the funding to stipulate that the portion of the $100,000 that is not used for the summit be allocated to the Wellbeing Microgrants.

Himmelrich said she wanted to know how many residents could be expected to attend the summit, whether it will include interactive activities and how it will prime community members to improve their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around them.

“This is an abstract idea at the moment and when we’re spending our discretionary funds … I want to understand what outcome is anticipated here,” she said.

Himmelrich also said she thinks the summit seems like an opportunity for the City to promote itself to the international policy community.

“For a small city like ours that has grabbed onto this great idea of wellbeing, the idea of having a summit seems to be more self-promotion than self-improvement,” she said.

Councilmember Greg Morena said he would like to see the City measure how many people understand what wellbeing means and what resources the City provides to improve wellbeing.

“I would love to see some sort of measurable components so that we know that we’re gaining traction,” he said. “If you talk to someone and ask, “are you well?” and they say yes and can rattle off a list of answers about what Santa Monica is doing to contribute to their wellbeing, that would be a success.”

madeleine@smdp.com

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