‘Empower LA’ research tour • DAY ONE

Empower tour

I’m in Los Angeles, spending an entire week with the Department of Neighbourhood Empowerment.  I’ll be posting updates each day!

Four years ago, I was researching innovative methods of citizen engagement for the upcoming Fourth Wall exhibit, hosted at the Urban Space Gallery.

Screen Shot 2014-05-03 at 10.03.26 AMI stumbled upon a group in Los Angeles called the Department of Neighbourhood Empowerment.  It sounded too good to be true: a city-funded program that promotes public participation in government and coordinates 90 autonomous locally elected Neighbourhood Councils.

Four years later, I decided that I needed to see it for myself!  So I’m here in LA for one week, embedded at the Department as a foreign researcher/admirer.

When I announced my tour on Twitter, I got an immediate response from a fellow named Stephen Box, the Director of Outreach and Communications.  I wrote back and we hit it off right away.  Both of us come from a similar background: grassroots urban activism focused on cycling, sustainability and citizen participation.  Stephen has graciously invited me into his home, and I’m living here for the next six days. In fact,  I’m writing this blog post at 7am in Stephen’s backyard underneath palm trees and overlooking mountains! (You can read more about Stephen and his wife Enci‘s creative community work here!)

So yesterday was Day One. I spent the entire day at City Hall meeting staff members of EmpowerLA:


Communications and Marketing team at the Dept of Neighbourhood Empowerment!

It’s a very impressive team, with an enormous workload.  I can’t get over the contrast with Toronto.  Los Angeles has 25 full time staff dedicated to neighbourhood democracy.  Toronto has zero.  Z-e-r-o.

I’m looking forward to bringing these ideas back to Toronto, and planting seeds.  (and if I can figure out a way to do it, I’ll bring back some palm trees and mountains too!)

Next post: The Los Angeles Alliance of Neighbourhood Councils.  Stay tuned!

One response to “‘Empower LA’ research tour • DAY ONE

  1. You can have our three palm trees but we won’t let you have our mountains. :-)

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