The city of Santa Monica will host a free, day-long event next Saturday at Santa Monica College that aims to spark conversation and action around community wellbeing.

The city is part of a growing collection of local governments who are evaluating and designing the services they provide by analyzing their impact on community health and happiness. Julie Rusk, the city’s chief civic wellbeing officer, said the Wellbeing Summit will bring together local, national and international thought leaders to develop new ways to address Santa Monica’s most pressing issues through the lens of wellbeing.

Attendees will have the opportunity to participate in more than 40 workshops and a marketplace of ideas around wellbeing, and speakers will share information on mental health, homelessness, education, economic development and community-building in a series of panels, Rusk said. City officials will also report on the progress of the city’s wellbeing efforts and discuss future initiatives.

Community members can register to attend the Nov. 16 summit at SMC’s Center for Media and Design and sign up for workshops at

Rusk said presentations and workshops from experts like Xavier Amador, the CEO of the Leap Foundation and an expert on mental illness, and Chelsea Byers, who works with the Everyone In campaign to end homelessness in Los Angeles County, will help residents understand how government and other institutions can use the concept of wellbeing to develop novel solutions to local problems.

“We feel this framework gives us a fresh way to look at our most important problems,” Rusk said. “If we don’t look at these issues differently, we’ll be having the same discussions five years from now and not be any better for it.”

Rusk said the summit is also designed to engage residents in improving individual and community wellbeing. Attendees can participate in meditation, music, dance and art workshops, take a VR tour of what it’s like to go from being homeless to being housed and register for a city program that provides rent subsidies to low-income seniors.

“We want residents to come away with an understanding of “what’s in it for me, what skills might I be able to learn, how can I get involved and what are some good solutions I didn’t know about”,” she said.

The city council set aside $100,000 in discretionary funds to finance the summit in February and used $19,500 to hire The Caspian Agency to plan the event and solicit sponsors, Rusk said. 21 sponsors have donated $242,000 to the city, which paid Bridge Street, Inc. $223,000 to produce the event.

The council stipulated in February that the summit should offer concrete opportunities to take action around wellbeing after some councilmembers said they were concerned about whether the summit would offer tangible benefits for residents.

Rusk said sponsor and city funding that is not used for the event will fund the Wellbeing Microgrants program, which gives residents $500 to develop ideas that improve community wellbeing, and other community initiatives. Residents will be able to learn how to apply for microgrants at the Wellbeing Summit, Rusk said.

“We hope people who take the time to come out will find it provocative, inspiring and fun, and that it will help people see that we can find new ways to work together to address the most serious issues that affect all of us,” she said.

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  1. Don’t forget Latinos
    “Walking While Latino: Mindfulness Mobility”

    While transportation engineers are fixated with time, speed, and destination, DIY or “rasquache” Latinos mobility interventions focus on the moment or journey. Through these interventions based on memory, need, and aspirations, many Latinos transform auto-centric streets into pedestrian friendly zones for community interaction, and cultural expression. Latinos walk with history of the Americas coupled with Euro-centric urbanism, which create mindfulness mobility helping us to rethink our approach to mobility in the wake global warming and mental health. Latinos capitalize on the visual, spatial and sensory landscape to enhance walking, biking and using public transit. To imagine and create these interventions that support social cohesion, they use an art-making with resources at hand plus to transform the landscape. This approach can help develop meaningful, and mindful mobility plans.

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