Wellbeing Summit: Santa Monica’s vision to define what matters most

October 4, 2019 4:14 PM
by Rick Cole

What does “wellbeing” mean to you? Next month you’re invited to participate in helping define what wellbeing means for our entire community.

Six years ago, Santa Monica was one of just five cities to win the Mayor’s Challenge sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies.  The goal was ambitious – to be the first in the nation to comprehensively define and measure community “wellbeing.”  Our application noted:

“City resources have always been finite. We feel a constant pressure to do more with less. In the current fiscal landscape, where budgets are shrinking and there is no funding for new programs, cities need to become even smarter about making the most of what they have. The Wellbeing Index will help cities make more efficient, targeted use of resources, and be able to see how effective these decisions are. In short, the index will give cities more bang for their buck by focusing our precious tax dollars on the services residents actually need.”


On Saturday, November 16, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., we are convening the first annual Wellbeing Summit to build on the work that has been done to accomplish that promise.  Our goal is to bring together 1000 community members from every corner of our community: residents, businesspeople, civic leaders and activists, health professionals, educators and City staff to explore how Wellbeing focuses our attention on what matters most.

Engaging 1,000 participants means connecting to the work all of us do every day as professionals and volunteers through government, houses of faith, civic organizations, neighborhood groups, non-profits and individual initiative.  We are promoting Wellbeing by fighting crime and addressing homelessness.  We are also promoting Wellbeing by offering after-school enrichment programs and keeping our parks and beach clean.  We are promoting wellbeing through the work of our public and private schools and Santa Monica College to educate the next generation of citizens and leaders.  And we are promoting Wellbeing by fostering an engaged and thriving community coming together to see the interwoven connections between adding activities that are as varied as building a new soccer field, protecting immigrant rights and promoting local businesses.  

Santa Monica’s pioneering efforts in this realm have gained international attention and a Culture of Health Prize from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  But it still remains a hazy concept to most residents.  Is the City trying to make everyone happy?  Is Wellbeing a trendy fad promoted by academics and other dreamers?  Or is Wellbeing why we have government -- “to promote the general welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity” as “We, the People ” proclaimed in our Constitution back in 1787?

The Summit is designed to welcome a wide range of community members not to an academic seminar, but to an interactive day of experiencing the work being done throughout Santa Monica to promote wellbeing – and not just by government.  There will be art, music, and dance, as well as an Imaginarium where participants will be able to create their own virtual versions of a wellbeing city. Attendees will be able to submit ideas for $500 Wellbeing Microgrants. Community conversations on key issues alongside panels with speakers including Kinga Tshering of Bhutan's Gross National Happiness, Anita Chandra of RAND and Carol Graham of the Brookings Institute sharing perspectives on wellbeing efforts across the nation and world.  Learn more as the registration gets underway next week!


The Summit is a partnership of the City, Santa Monica College, the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District and multiple business and community sponsors. The site for the Summit is the new Center for Media and Design campus of Santa Monica College at Stewart Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.  Inaugurated last year, the site has both a broad plaza for activities and classroom and gathering places for the whole range of activities as well as food and drink from local restaurants.

Over the next six weeks, please help spread the word!  Invite a neighbor or a friend to join you on November 16. This is an opportunity for our entire community to come together around something positive at a time of discord and division in the life of our nation.

We in government are shifting our focus from primarily simply providing specific services (picking up the garbage, maintaining parks, regulating land use) to partnering to deliver community results that make life better for all.  The Wellbeing Summit is an historic opportunity to bring the Framework of everyone in Santa Monica to explore the interrelationship, scope and power of our public, private, non-profit, civic and individual efforts to promote a city that works for everyone.

See you there!


Authored By

Rick Cole
City Manager