March 2018 Social Impact Breakfast: Sarah Dusseault and Lily Holleman

Against the backdrop of Los Angeles’s historical Merry-Go-Round in Griffith Park, Stratiscope hosted the City Impact Lab’s monthly Social Impact Breakfast on March 1, 2018. The inspiring speakers this month were Sarah Dusseault, Chief of Staff to LA City Councilmember David Ryu and Lily Holleman, President of the Los Angeles Breakfast Club.

Lily spoke about her passion for the community that the Los Angeles Breakfast Club has retained since 1925. The Los Angeles Breakfast Club community is known for various Angelenos, from Will Rogers to Calvin Coolidge, to come together for breakfast once a week regardless of their political beliefs and values. Lily highlighted the following three tactics that helped her revive the  organization when she joined in 2013.

  • “My love was palpable and it still is. I allowed that to inspire my intuition.” Lily explained that when she became President and Chairman in 2015, she started by asking herself who in her network would fall in love with the LA Breakfast Club and help her grow the organization.
  • Lilly also identified Steve McAvoy as a connector in Los Angeles who had the resources to bring influencers to the organization. Lily continued to work with Steve to bring in phenomenal speakers and raise the credibility of the organization.
  • “I quickly realized that if you are not online, then it’s like your organization didn’t exist.” Lily used social media as a tool to reach an audience that had never been reached to by the organization before.

With a lot of passion, support from the right individuals, and the use of social media, Lily brought life back to an organization that was founded over 93 years ago.

After a compelling first talk, Sarah took the stage to speak about how she crafted a career in politics that is centered in her values for serving others. Currently serving as the highest staff member to Councilmember Ryu as Chief of Staff, Sarah emphasized that the following tactics led her to a successful career.  

  • “...I try and incorporate young people in absolutely everything I do.” Sarah feels that everyone has an essential perspective to offer and that why she’s cultivated a staff that ranges in age.
  • “For me, it's relationships that have been critical to my success and are critical to the success of anything I work on.” Sarah highlights that building relationships are different than networking and it’s these relationships that will move mountains for her.
  • “The other thing that I think is really important for me, as a human being, is balance.” Without taking out the time to take care of herself and her family, Sarah wouldn’t be able to succeed in her professional aspirations.

Sarah provided a bonus tactic before wrapping up the talk by emphasizing the importance of resilience. She shared her own experiences with failure, and that if she hadn’t gotten back up from the many roadblocks she faced, she wouldn’t be where she is today.

Special thanks to Julio from the Merry-Go-Round for hosting us and to Dora from Yucca’s for the delicious breakfast burritos!  


Hollywood Impact Walk


A dozen eager Angelenos walked the streets of Hollywood to see how the lines of public and private property are blurring. Property owners and civic leaders are partnering to create welcoming spaces where residents and visitors can mingle, dine, and find inspiration.

Led by Stratiscope’s Angela Babcock, the 90-minute tour traversed Downtown Hollywood from the intersection of Ivar and Selma (where, for the past 25 years, the streets have transformed into the Hollywood Farmers Market each Sunday morning) to the glittering Hollywood Blvd and back. More than a sightseeing excursion, this walk told the story of how things happen in Hollywood that truly make a neighborhood.

Angela brought out experts to enhance the experience for the attendees, including, Emily Bowman, Market Manager from SEE-LA (which runs and truly curates the Hollywood Farmer's Market with local produce vendors to provide home cooks and renowned restaurant chefs ingredients for their weekly menus) and staff from the Hollywood Arts Council and Hollywood Property Owners Alliance, who spoke to the insights of the daily inner-workings of getting things done in the heart of Hollywood.

Other featured impact projects included “Hollywood Pop!,” a semi permanent park space featuring fun cartoon-like amenities; the EaCa Alley, the City of Los Angeles’ first pedestrian alleyway; various murals; the public-private partnership of Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibits (LACE) on Hollywood Blvd; and The Hotel Cafe, whose entrance faces an alley currently under construction to become another pedestrian alley as part of the construction of the adjacent Dream Hotel.

The Hollywood Impact Tour wouldn’t be complete without experiencing an al fresco beverage at Saint Felix Hollywood along the EaCa Alley, where tour participants lingered and made new connections.  This tour is part of the City Impact Lab’s Impact Walk program that highlights the way neighborhoods get to be the way they are. Angela Babcock is the Director of Impact for Stratiscope and has spent years working in Hollywood to make an impact, having been a part of various civic and community projects highlighted on the tour and many more!

2016 Impact-Maker to Watch: Austin Beutner

On Tuesday, January 19, 2016 in the Tom Bradley room at Los Angeles City Hall, 25 members of the Los Angeles community were honored for their foundational work to make a positive impact in our city.

Austin Beutner

...pulls no punches, leads with passion and intelligence, does not suffer fools, and has no illusions about the difficulty of the challenges he has undertaken. He remains committed to the economic, social and political power of a growing, diverse Southern California and the inherent creative leadership of this place in California, in the nation and on the planet.
— Paul Vandeventer, Community Partners

Austin Beutner is the former Publisher and CEO of the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, and the first Publisher to serve in both roles. Earlier in his career, he worked at The Blackstone Group, and at age 29 became the firm’s youngest partner. He left Blackstone to serve in the U.S. government, where he led efforts to help Russia transition to a market economy after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He went on to found Evercore Partners and as President and Co-CEO built the firm into one of the leading independent investment banks in the world. In 2010, he accepted a $1 annual salary to serve as First Deputy Mayor and Jobs Czar for the City of Los Angeles. He currently serves on the Boards of CalArts, The California Nature Conservancy, The Los Angeles Fund for Public Education, the Mammoth Mountain Community Foundation, the National Park Foundation, the Pacific Council on International Relations and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team Foundation; and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2012, he created Vision To Learn, a nonprofit that provides free eyeglasses to children in low-income communities in California, Delaware and Hawaii.


2016 Impact-Maker to Watch: Valerie Watson

On Tuesday, January 19, 2016 in the Tom Bradley room at Los Angeles City Hall, 25 members of the Los Angeles community were honored for their foundational work to make a positive impact in our city.

Valerie Watson one of the most hard working people in city government and has already demonstrated an incredible impact on the City of LA, with much more to come.
— Nat Gale, City of Los Angeles

Valerie Watson works for the City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) as an urban designer and transportation planner. Valerie, along with her colleagues in the LADOT Active Transportation Division, works to promote implementation of pedestrian-focused design, develop active transportation plans and policies, establish effective partnerships within the City and with advocacy and community organizations, and secure funding opportunities to enhance safety for people who walk, bike and access transit. Her work has created the foundation for the City’s first ever Safe Routes to School Strategic Plan, shoring up a Complete Streets Engineering Toolbox, infusing a data-driven approach into the department’s activities, and – most recently – launching Mayor Eric Garcetti’s citywide Vision Zero initiative to eliminate traffic deaths by 2025. From 2012-2015, Valerie led the inter-disciplinary team effort resulting in the formalization of People St, a city-wide, application-based program that offers communities a process for installing plazas and parklets, low-cost and quickly installed design treatments that reallocate road space as public open space and demonstrate the benefits of investing in the public realm. 




Open Space as an Asset

Periodically, the City Impact Lab delves deep into an issue important to Los Angeles and convenes an Issue Roundtable with an invited group on that topic. The latest such issue tackled was the Open Space as an Asset.

Public or private? Parks or alleys? Temporary or permanent? For us or for everyone? The dichotomy of public space -- and the choice to make what we all own useful -- is complex and multi-layered. Each of us has a role in shaping public space, but it’s not always as simple as some might hope.

On March 8, 2016, the City Impact Lab gathered two dozen Angelenos at Gensler's 37th floor offices overlooking the city with one thing in mind: how does the private sector activate underutilized public space to make it an asset for the community?

This Roundtable was inspired by a breakfast conversation at Gensler earlier in the year as the company works to support the reenvisioning of public space with the support of the private sector. With a mix of businesses, designers, non-profits, and city officials, this Roundtable dug deep to understand how more space can be activated by the private sector.

Check out the full write-up and suggested actions here.

This Issues Roundtable continues on a topic we begin in 2015 as we started the conversation about interstitial, or under-used, space in Los Angeles.

If you'd like to get involved with any of the solutions suggested, please contact the City Impact Lab by emailing us.

About Issue Roundtables

In Los Angeles, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of issues that are being examined, researched, and trying to be solved every day by leaders across the region and around the globe. Some are quite complex, and others just need slight refinement to be fully effective. Some of the best solutions come from focused people working collaboratively to identify and address the issue. City Impact Lab's "Issue Roundtables" strive to do just that: convene a group of engaged individuals to identify and develop solutions to transform Los Angeles. Roundtable discussions start with experts identifying issues and potential solutions; and then, the assembled group discussing, debating, and creating an action plan with specific outcomes. Sitting face-to-face, solutions can be discussed by those with the power and interest to try something innovative. These sessions last approximately 90 minutes, and sometimes, the outcome is to have another roundtable in order to delve deeper or have attendees share the information to their networks. Attendees should be prepared to listen, contribute, and take on an action item to work towards a solution. Roundtables typically have about two dozen targeted attendees.



Civic Leaders Kickoff LA Civics Initiative

USC Bedrosian Center and City Impact Lab launch Civic Literacy Effort to Support Greater Understanding of Local Government in Los Angeles

Los Angeles has a civics problem. Moving beyond the statistics of voter turnout, the City Impact Lab and University of Southern California’s Bedrosian Center on Governance have launched a year-long effort to explore the concept of “civics” in Los Angeles.  The “LA Civics Initiative” kickoff saw 75 civic leaders at USC’s Galen Center who were introduced to this initiative with the challenge of defining what “civics” means in Los Angeles and the assumptions about “civics” in the City of Angels.  

Moderated by City Impact Lab Founder, John Bwarie, our distinguished morning panel identified the challenges of civic engagement and civic understanding in Los Angeles’ unique metropolitan environment.

I am excited about today's program and Bedrosian's partnership with the innovative City Impact Lab.” according to Dr. Raphael Bostic, Chair of the Department of Governance, Management and the Policy Process at USC Price School of Public Policy, “Civic awareness is so important, because good governance and good government depend critically upon informed and engaged citizens.

Moderator, John Bwarie and Dr. Bostic were joined on the panel by Hon. Ardy Kassakhian, City Clerk of Glendale; Hon. Steve Zimmer, President of the LAUSD School Board; Nate Kaplan, Founder of See Political; and Raquel Beltran, Associate Director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs.

Following the panel discussion, attendees were tasked with continuing the conversation at their tables in a workshop designed to identify the “biggest” barriers to civic literacy in LA. Some of the issues raised included lack of access to awareness, information, and tools; disenfranchisement; unclear process information; scale of the city; and disconnect between place and community. 

“Those in attendance identified barriers that were both well-known and surprising,” observed Bwarie. “We will take the information developed here and use it to shape the way we address this gap in civic literacy in Los Angeles.”

These barriers and others will be addressed in a series of follow-up events focused on specific barriers to identify solutions to address each one. These additional workshops will be held throughout the year, and the results will be shared in an action plan released at the LA Civics Summit in early 2017. 

Other components to the Initiative include the City Impact Lab’s Ideal Candidate project (looking at what makes an ideal local candidate), Lunch with a Leader (a monthly lunch at USC), and activities at the monthly Social Impact Breakfast.

As a preview to the kickoff event, City Impact Lab hosted a webinar on Monday, March 21, 2016 as a primer for attendees. “Government 101: How Los Angeles Works” had 50 attendees engaged in learning about how city government works in the City of Los Angeles.

About the USC Bedrosian Center:  Founded in 2005, the Judith and John Bedrosian Center on Governance and the Public Enterprise is an applied research center with the goal promoting effective government by building the professional capacity of public and nonprofit institutions; shaping public dialogue across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors on governance and institutional reform; and promoting and supporting innovative governance scholarship. For more information:

About the City Impact Lab: Powered by Stratiscope, the City Impact Lab was founded in 2014 to be a resource for civic leaders  and those working to make a positive impact in Los Angeles. For more information:

2016 Impact-Maker to Watch: Alberto Retana

On Tuesday, January 19, 2016 in the Tom Bradley room at Los Angeles City Hall, 25 members of the Los Angeles community were honored for their foundational work to make a positive impact in our city.

Alberto Retana a dynamic young leader who is working on difficult issues in South Los Angeles. He is working with the African American and Latino residents to transform neighborhoods by empowering people to engage in education reform, kinship issues and economic development, and he has a track record for great outcomes.
— Teresa Samaniego, ABC-7

Alberto was introduced to organizing at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he graduated with a degree in Political Science. As a student activist, he joined with other students to organize campaigns to defend affirmative action, lower student fees, and advance racial justice. After UCLA, Alberto cut his teeth in community organizing at Community Coalition. There, Alberto further developed his organizing values: understanding that leadership development, building the power of collective action, and non-violence are core tenets to advancing social change. Alberto’s unwavering commitment to organizing began with South Central Youth Empowered Through Action (SCYEA). For the next eleven years, Alberto continued organizing in different capacities, leading Community Coalition through major victories in advancing racial justice, economic justice, food justice, and education equity. From 2009 to 2011, Alberto worked for the Obama Administration in the U.S. Department of Education as Director of Community Outreach. During his time in D.C., he organized the Department’s first National Youth Summit, and worked with thousands of community leaders across the country on turning around the nation’s “push-out” crisis. In 2011, Alberto returned to Community Coalition to lead its mass based civic engagement strategy to organize 40,000 African American and Latino voters in various campaigns. Alberto also helped to build Community Coalition’s cultural arm by launching PowerFest—South Los Angeles’ premier political concert drawing thousands of South Los Angeles residents to a day of celebration and empowerment. After a rigorous national search, Alberto was selected to be President and CEO of Community Coalition effective July 1st, 2015. Alberto is the son of Mexican and Costa Rican immigrants who came to this country in 1962. The youngest of three, Alberto is the product of his family’s hard work and sacrifice.

2016 Impact-Maker to Watch: Eugene Shirley

On Tuesday, January 19, 2016 in the Tom Bradley room at Los Angeles City Hall, 25 members of the Los Angeles community were honored for their foundational work to make a positive impact in our city.

Eugene Shirley

...moves forward big, transformational ideas and concepts with professionalism, a positive, can-do attitude, and an urgency that underlies the need we have to address climate change sooner rather than later.
— Paul Koretz, LA City Council District 5

Eugene B. Shirley, Jr. is founding president of Pando Populus, a platform at the intersection of intellectual life and civic engagement, for the Earth. Pando’s inaugural conference was held at Pomona College in June of last year and focused on rethinking civilization in ecological terms. It attracted some 2,000 people. Pando’s new initiative will identify, connect, and nurture locations in Los Angeles County where people are doing remarkable things to create a more ecological civilization. Throughout his career, Eugene has built ventures that have to do with big ideas. For twenty-five years, he was an independent filmmaker for PBS and international distribution (some thirty countries). His last film, for American Masters, profiled the architect I.M. Pei navigating the space between modernity and tradition in China. In 1982, he became the first U.S. producer to film in the former Soviet Union, which resulted in a documentary that integrated underground and “official” footage to focus on human rights; the film premiered at the White House. For five years, he served as founding editor of a collegiate journal at the intersection of religion and ethics. Early last year he stepped down as founding CEO of the text analytics firm, Alexandria Investment Research and Technology, Inc. He is a former Jennings Randolph Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace.

2016 Impact-Maker to Watch: Isabel Rojas-Williams

On Tuesday, January 19, 2016 in the Tom Bradley room at Los Angeles City Hall, 25 members of the Los Angeles community were honored for their foundational work to make a positive impact in our city.

Isabel Rojas-Williams strong voice for arts leadership and a cultural beacon for local and international arts visitors.
— Qathryn Brehm, Downtown Artwalk

Isabel has served as the Mural Conservancy Los Angeles (MCLA) Executive Director since 2011. A native of Chile and resident of Los Angeles since 1973, she became an immediate and passionate fan of the mural movement here. She is a longtime civic activist who served as Mayor Villaraigosa’s liaison to the Latino, the Asian, and the African American Heritage Committees. Isabel earned her graduate degree in art history from Cal State Los Angeles, and joined the faculty there in 2007. Among her numerous research works are “Los Angeles Street Mural Movement, 1930-2009,” her master’s thesis, and a research video on David Alfaro Siqueiros, “Siqueiros: A Muralist in Exile,” (exhibited at MOLAA 2010-2011), which led to her participation on the Mayor’s Advisory Committee for the Siqueiros Mural and Interpretive Center project that was completed in 2012. Isabel had a major role in helping write the recent mural ordinance signed by Mayor Garcetti that has lifted the 2002 mural moratorium in Los Angeles. In October 2014, Los Angeles City Council honored Isabel Rojas-Williams as one of the fifteen “Latinas in the Arts” who has made an impact in the cultural landscape of Los Angeles.