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City's Wellbeing Summit to Cost Nearly $250,000

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By Jorge Casuso

October 31, 2019 -- The City of Santa Monica's Wellbeing Summit next month -- meant to "spark conversation and action around community wellbeing" -- will cost $242,500, which will be paid for by sponsors.

So far, the City has raised $229,500 from 19 sponsors for the event on November 16 at the Santa Monica College (SMC) Center for Media and Design, according to a report from City Manager Rick Cole sent to the City Council Thursday.

The biggest sponsorship -- $50,000 -- is from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, followed by four $25,000 sponsorships from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Pacific Park, UCLA Health and BIRD, Inc.

SMC donated $14,000 in addition to waiving the approximately $23,000 cost of using the facility, according to the item prepared by Julie Rusk, the City's Chief of Civic Wellbeing.

Of the total raised, $223,000 was used to pay Bridge Street, Inc (BSI) to produce the free, interactive event that features 18 workshops and 30 presenters, City officials said.

The balance of $19,500 was paid to the Caspian Agency, which developed the "concept design, event and sponsorship approaches."

"The goal of the Wellbeing Summit is to connect people to one another, open up new ways of thinking, and inspire action for the greater good," according to the City's page promoting the summit.

"It is meant to allow exploration of alternative perspectives, and innovative technologies that can help solve our most serious challenges -- and help create a brighter future for Santa Monica."

Participants can choose to attend two of the 18 workshops held at the summit, which will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Workshops include everything from guided meditation and screen printing to designing safe streets for kids and "cultural wellbeing in the workplace."

Other workshop titles are "Gender Equality through Design," "Dance as Community Organizing" and "How Bhutan Rewrote Their Constitution to Make Happiness The Goal of Government."

The summit will also provide a report of how Santa Monica's wellbeing Project measures up and "a community conversation with City leaders to outline post-summit steps."

The summit was approved by the City Council in February, when it voted to spend $100,000 in discretionary funds for the event, which it hoped to recoup through sponsorships ("Santa Monica Council Votes to Spend $100,000 on 'Wellbeing Summit,'" February 27, 2019).

According to the Council's motion, the summit would "offer concrete opportunities (for residents) to improve their own wellbeing and that of our community."

It also would describe and demonstrate the City's "important work around community wellbeing," a concept that is gaining traction around the country but is often little understood.

"One of the issues we have is that people don't understand what we mean by wellbeing," Mayor Glean Davis said before the Council's vote.

"The idea is to have a summit to explain the work we're doing."

Before the vote, Council member Sue Himmelrich said she was concerned the outcome of the summit would be difficult to measure.

"The idea of having a summit seems to be more self-promotion than self-improvement," she said.

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