Thank you to the 80 amazing Neighborhood Council members who joined us Monday night at the Deaton Auditorium in Downtown LA for the first-ever Citywide Outreach Gathering!

Before the formal presentations began, EmpowerLA’s Tom Soong kicked off the gathering by using his 19 years of Neighborhood Council experience to announce (over the PA system, a la the Chicago Bulls) almost every board member who entered the room.  It’s hard to replicate that every time, but it created a fun and welcoming environment. Definitely a best practice!


After Tom’s rousing intro, staff from EmpowerLA, the City Attorney, and the Office of the City Clerk gave tutorials and presentations on topics like how to find Neighborhood Council demographic data on the City’s Open Data portal; Elections outreach; asset mapping; and social media best practices. Here’s a recap:

  • Tom Soong and Chris Garcia from the Office of City Clerk then gave a brief overview of our elections and outreach timelines, including the broad overview of our three outreach phases.
  • Kimberly Rodriguez, EmpowerLA’s Data Programs Lead, presented on how to do strategic outreach using open data platforms like NavigateLA and USC’s Neighborhood Data for Social Change. These tools help Neighborhood Councils better define and understand their neighborhoods, allowing them to tell stories about their communities and people. Kimberly will continue hosting a series of data literacy workshops, so be on the lookout for those!
  • Kathleen Quinn of EmpowerLA presented on “asset-mapping.” Asset-mapping helps Neighborhood Councils identify the key resources (people, places, and things) in their communities, allowing them to leverage those resources to build relationships and collaborate on their various initiatives.
  • Adriana Cabrera of EmpowerLA presented on “strength-based planning.” Strength-based planning shifts the conversation from what your community lacks or needs to what it already has so it can leverage those strengths to reinforce community values and attract more people to your Neighborhood Council. “Strengths” not only include community resources, but Neighborhood Council accomplishments and community history as well. The attendees were tasked with creating “Action Plan Strategies” to help Neighborhood Councils take some tangible next steps.
  • Obiamaka Ude of EmpowerLA presented on how Neighborhood Councils can tailor their messages based on their community profile and needs. She highlighted the major forms of engagement as in-person, at meetings, over the phone, and by email. Figuring out how your stakeholders communicate and what types of messages they respond to is an important part of outreach.
  • Ann-Marie Holman of EmpowerLA offered the group one-on-one “office hours” appointments for social media consultations; talked about best practices for government social media use; and gave a tutorial on how to create an accessible tweet by using photo descriptions that can be read by a screen reader for the visually impaired.
  • City Attorney Carmen Hawkins gave input on some of the legal and ethical issues that impact social media use by Neighborhood Councils
  • Andrew Choi from the Office of City Clerk gave a brief overview of the NC Events process, highlighting the need to plan ahead.
  • Avi Gandhi, a member of Global Shapers Los Angeles, presented on how Neighborhood Councils can better engage Millennials (people aged ~22 to ~36). Their group is encouraging young people like themselves to participate more in Neighborhood Councils, including running for seats! 


Breakout Sessions

In the regional breakout sessions that followed, boardmembers from around the City shared some inspiring outreach ideas and tips of their own. They also gave us some wonderful suggestions for workshops and support materials that we will be following up on over the next several months, as we book regional trainings and develop both online tutorials and printed how-to guides.

The breakout groups were formed by geographic region, and facilitated by EmpowerLA staff. After the discussions, groups reported back with ideas about what their region wanted to focus on, along with some tangible steps for action.