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Santa Monica Gives Out First "Wellbeing Microgrants"


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August 24, 2018 -- Eight Pico Neighborhood residents have received $500 each to develop "community-building" projects as part of a Wellbeing Microgrants Program, Santa Monica City officials announced this week.

The recipients -- who will be recognized during an event on Monday -- were chosen from among 21 applicants who submitted projects that offer "a unique approach to community building," officials said.

Project themes include "amplifying intercultural dialogue, using food as a way to bring people together, turning underutilized spaces into community resources and using skills training as a way to combat loneliness."

“The applications that came in conveyed great passion and commitment to enhancing community connection,” said Julie Rusk, the City's chief of civic wellbeing.

The microgrants program stems from a pioneering "wellbeing" survey conducted by the City in 2015 and updated last year("Santa Monica’s 'Wellbeing Index' Reflects Growing Discontent in Pico Neighborhood," September 19, 2017).

In the 2015 survey, Pico, which is the city's largest and poorest neighborhood, performed “worst on community, health, and economic opportunity,” according to the report.

“The largest gaps can be seen in terms of satisfaction with home, many of the community variables such as trusting people and belonging to neighborhood, use of outdoor space, fruit and vegetable consumption, physical activity, and credit card debt," the report said.

The 2017 update echoed those findings, with Pico area residents expressing the “lowest life satisfaction” in the city, the least “appreciation” of community experiences and the highest economic worry.

The survey results led to the City's decision to focus the pilot program on the Pico Neighborhood, officials said.

Microgrant applicants were encouraged to develop projects that "cross generations, build a sense of neighborhood belonging, and create opportunities for friends and neighbors to get together," officials said.

They also were asked to address issues of "trust, loneliness, inclusivity, and social interactions."

On Monday, the City and Mayor Ted Winterer will recognize the applicants during an event from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Virginia Avenue Park.

"Attendees will have the chance to meet the Microgrant recipients, and find out more about their projects and how to get involved," organizers said in a statement.

The Office of Civic Wellbeing likely will expand the pilot program citywide, officials said.

"While the first group of Microgrants seeks to improve the Community dimension of the Wellbeing Index, future Microgrants may focus on different dimensions."

These could include health, place and planet, learning and economic Opportunity, officials said.

The microgrants are funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize.

For more information on the Pico Neighborhood, read the Lookout's 2004 series "Inside the Pico Neighborhood."

PART I: A World Apart, December 1, 2004

PART II: On the Front Lines, December 2, 2004

PART III: Youth and Street Violence, December 7, 2004


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