The Resilience Review 2016

Resources for Resilience

Stratiscope’s resources for resilience that make an impact.
Resilience. It’s a buzzword, and it means different things to different people. Why? Because it isn’t really clear what resilience is. The editors at the LA Times even shy away from the term, telling reporters covering topics like earthquakes not to use it. So, we pivot. After all, the work is the same, no matter what it’s called.  Stratiscope spent 2016 building stronger communities capable of handling what nature and society throws at them (take a look at some highlights below).  I continue to have the honor of working alongside Dr. Lucy Jones in various capacities, as well as working with local cities, the media, and community partners to make an impact in the realm of earthquakes and risk reduction.
So, what will it mean to be resilient in 2017? We can’t predict the future, but you can count on Stratiscope as your resource to tackle challenges requiring a broader reach, a stronger connection, a public face, and a strategy to advance safer, more connected communities.  Please reach out with problems that we can help you solve in 2017. We’ll be even more resilient together!

    John Bwarie 
Founder & CEO, Stratiscope

Check out some of the key programs, projects, and initiatives that Stratiscope developed and launched in 2016…
Southern California Disaster Risk Reduction Initiative:
Strengthening SoCal Report, as featured in the LA Times quoting Stratiscope CEO, John Bwarie. 
Thriving Earth Exchange:
Stratiscope helped develop an innovative program to connect scientists to communities. Check out “Science Impact” from the AGU Fall Meeting.
SCAG Earthquake Preparedness Initiative:
Check out the release of the initiative to bring earthquake policy support to 191 cities in SoCal. 
Public Presentations such as the National Earthquake Conference and the SCDF where Stratiscope’s expertise is tapped to inspire action and share resilience strategies.
SEAOSC Safer Cities Initiative:
Stratiscope supported SEAOSC’s 
Strengthening Our Cities Summit, the Safer Cities Advisory Program,
and the just-released Safer Cities Survey.
Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society:
Stratiscope is working alongside Dr. Jones as a founding strategist for the Center. 
At Stratiscope, we believe every person, company, and organization should have the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to society and their local community. We leverage authentic relationships and employ effective strategies to enable tangible impacts. Contact us to see how we can help you make an impact in your community. 
Copyright © 2016 Stratiscope, All rights reserved.

Passion: A Competitive Advantage

newpassionStarting a company isn’t easy. Ask any entrepreneur how hard it is to survive that first year. The second year can be a rude awakening, and when you’re finally off the ground? That’s when things can get really tough. There’s more than one way to climb over the hurdles along the way to success, but how do you know you’re headed in the right direction?

The answer comes from within. Real, genuine passion is by far the easiest way to catapult your company to the next level. That doesn’t just mean having passion for what you’re working on but the heartbeat and soul of your company. For example, if you’re in the food manufacturing business, then it makes sense to be involved in food policy or management. Regardless of what issues your company is currently embroiled in, here are some strategies to help elevate that passion from the inside out.

1: A great place to start is to poll your employees to find out what community outreach they think make sense for the company. Your employees are your #1 resource and love knowing they are a part of something bigger that is not just a paycheck. In this poll, make sure that everyone has an equal but separate vote. Now not only do your coworkers opinions are genuinely valued but they KNOW that leadership values their opinions are valued as well. With your leadership team united with the employees passionate interests, this is a clear win / win!

2: Once you figure out where the company’s heart is, you can set an initiative that is aligned with it. This initiative doesn’t have to be financial, but when it is, it doesn’t have to be expensive either. Think about how your company’s special expertise, contributions, or manpower can make a real impact in the community and act upon it. You can definitely do better than one volunteer day per quarter, but that’s an easy start.

3: Set a goal that’s not only impactful but achievable as well. And once you find out that it’s achievable, build on it to grow momentum. Give books to a local elementary school. Have a blanket drive to make the local animal shelter a comfier place. Provide personalized support for the county’s woman shelter. All of these examples have clear goals that the employees, customers, and the media can understand (and talk about).

4: Take it one step further: Leverage your leadership in the target area to galvanize your partners, vendors, clients, or customers to join your effort. Not only does that make a bigger impact in the community but also means your company is not the sole spearhead of this plan.

5: Finally, tie this all back to your business principles. Success in community outreach translates to tangible gains, easy to leverage either for positive media coverage, recruiting or retaining your most talented employees, accruing further support for new initiatives, and above all, being a leader in civic or industry.

Utilizing passion to enrich your company culture can have positive outcomes in almost every aspect of your business. Starting this conversation today with your employees can have a large effect years down the line, so why wait any longer?

rounded_corners_John_B_AvatarJohn Bwarie is an impact professional working to connect people and solve problems while focusing on an actionable outcome. He has worked for elected officials directly and serves dozens of others in other capacities. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Hey Designers: Here’s How You Design (for) a Government

DESIGN+governRecently, I spent a few mornings at Art Center talking to design researchers. These particular talks focused on communicating with local government and public entities, something we’ve mastered here at Stratiscope. As one can imagine, communicating with civic entities is a completely different negotiation process than for businesses or even non-profits. And these inquisitive designers wanted an in-depth understanding into the language of civic leaders. That’s where I come in.

If you’re not a government insider or fan, understanding the inputs and nuances of local government becomes essential to getting things done. Government entities have unique approval processes to accomplish anything, and these formal processes can span multiple levels and agencies. Understanding the official processes in place is key, you must know and appreciate the unofficial process(es) as well. Showing up during public comment to speak or writing a letter to the policy maker may feel like being part of the process, but it’s not how government works, really. So how does one find these nuanced processes that drive policy and change?

The best place to start is by exploring their public communications. Take note of the publicly stated priorities and objectives that motivate the local policy makers and their staff. Recognizing their openly stated priorities, past votes, and public messages can provide the deeper understanding of what makes them tick. Even better, go dig into the greatest available free resource you’re looking at right now: their website. Don’t just skim it or take a cursory glance. Reading their website takes a certain degree of patience and attention to detail. It’s not about the issue they are talking about; it is how they are phrasing and positioning the issue. Heck, what they DON’T say is sometimes more important than what they do (and of that, you should particularly take note)!

By paying attention to the finer details of the civic entities messaging, not only will it be easier to understand what makes decision-makers tick, but your work will be more in tune with their messaging and style. Don’t ignore the formal process when working to make change, but know how to reach decision-makers in ways that will dramatically increase the chance of your message being heard and received.

rounded_corners_John_B_AvatarJohn Bwarie is an impact professional working to connect people and solve problems while focusing on an actionable outcome. He has worked for elected officials directly and serves dozens of others in other capacities. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Mass Movement –
The Mobility Academy

Mass Movement – The Mobility Academy

Without a doubt, car culture is one of the central tenets of Southern California living. With over 22 million people living in Southern California, transportation is not just an issue for car owners but for all the citizens. Ensuring proper mobility for the growing populace involves more than just optimizing freeways and buses, but also includes the use of subways, light rail, bikes, and, our favorite, simply walking.

Earlier this year, we launched the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments (SFVCOG) Mobility Academy. No, this wasn’t a mobile school, contrary to the naming convention. The Mobility Academy is a five-session initiative to examine the transportation issues that drive the region and, as a group, discuss and possibly find some realistic solutions for its future. In order to provide a deeper understanding of regional priorities, we brought practitioners and experts to help inform the staff and civic leaders about the challenges coming their way.

The overlapping politics of transportation makes the topic a truly complicated issue and an even harder one to discuss to an audience of diverse interests and personal and professional priorities. While a road or a light rail may appear to make sense for one community, the ramifications of this change are hard to predict. A small change to a sidewalk or street parking can have ramifications in seemingly unrelated facets of the community, such as the economic output of the area. Similarly, the addition of light rail or a subway to a community could have drastic implications on the affordability of housing but also the well being of the citizens. By bringing not just a variety of transportation experts but a multitude of businesses and city officials in the same room, the line of communication was open for everyone to make a serious inquiry to what is possible and how funding and politics drive the outcomes of what can be done.Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but when opinions evolve into informed insights of what can be – that’s when a community can  truly move forward.

You can read more about the SFVCOG’s Mobility Academy here.

rounded_corners_John_B_AvatarJohn Bwarie is an impact professional working to connect people and solve problems while focusing on an actionable outcome. He has worked for elected officials directly and serves dozens of others in other capacities. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.



The Challenges of Historical Districts

A touch of Old Mexico, Olvera Street, Los Angeles, California
A touch of Old Mexico, Olvera Street, Los Angeles, California

For more than two years, I was appointed by L.A. Mayor Garcetti to serve on the El Pueblo Historical Monument Authority. This City Commission oversees the historical district that contains the world-famous Olvera Street, a cobbled street populated by local street vendors, family owned shops, and restaurants that truly encapsulate the spirit of the birthplace of Los Angeles. If you’ve never been, go. You’ll be doing yourself a favor and experiencing the beating heart of Los Angeles’s history.

Historical districts are a rare breed, and not just because so few exist. Their special character can only be defined as “unique,” for at their heart, no two historical districts are identical; and even the most similar ones have a variety of differences, either due to geographic location and proximity or their historical importance. Comparing any historical district to another is nearly impossible for these reasons, and marking them as identical is an oversight to all the nuanced differences that make each unique.

Preserving the character of historical districts takes a great deal of care and attention, especially if they involve commercial communities and entities as well. Publicly owned districts, such as Olvera Street, often operate with policy-making groups that set the rules for the district. And this presents a completely different set of challenges. Unlike private property, overseeing bodies have to consider not just the physical presence of vendors (plots of land) but the people that run the stores and restaurants, many of which have deep ties to that community which run far deeper than the storefront.

This is where the balancing act truly begins and leads to a larger question: How do you balance all these separate (the district, the stores, and the owner’s) interest and keep everyone happy, especially in terms of profitability?

The harsh reality of rent getting raised seemingly arbitrarily is, often the result of poor communication. There’s the key issue: poor communication. Rents are often raised due to a mandate from a separate organization to keep the rents at a “market-rate”. This mandate needs to be communicated clearly, and so do the steps in the process, the timeline in place, and crucially, the limitations of the mandate. All parties involved need to understand that a publicly owned asset, such as a historical district, has a limited amount of leeway from the laws and city ordinances that govern the process.

Transparency, as always, makes a difference. An open line of communication can be all it takes to taken a poorly run conglomeration of interests and turn it into a tightly knit community. And what’s really being preserved in these districts isn’t a collection of old buildings or artifacts, but a community that has a strong past. And the goal of the the governing entity is to keep that heart beating from the past into the future.

rounded_corners_John_B_AvatarJohn Bwarie is an impact professional working to connect people and solve problems while focusing on an actionable outcome. He has worked for elected officials directly and serves dozens of others in other capacities. Follow him on Twitter andLinkedIn.


Steps Towards Legitimate Business Stature

forblog2No two industries are alike. From the international waters of large multinational corporations to the major boulevards of Los Angeles, there are clear differences between any burgeoning industry and the companies that power it. However, while industries and businesses grow at different rates, the issues they face are essentially the same. As a business expands and grows, its backyard gets bigger, and with that comes more challenges, hiccups, and opportunities.

When you look at your industry, do you see a sea of competitors clawing for the next client? Are you in a red ocean, as the old Harvard books says? One of the greatest opportunities to improve the whole industry and reduce the carnage among competitors can be found in one simple word: Stature. This isn’t the same as profile, exposure, or exclusivity. While it can be tackled individually, when a whole business community works together to improve their stature collectively — that’s where the real progress is made. Money may be the ultimate motivation, but it’s a minor benefit in the final outcome of a raising the stature of a whole industry.

Simply put: Every industry, at its heart, needs to know who they are and how they want other industries to talk about them. Coming together to implement and unify messaging tactics, in a collaborative manner, can be an invaluable and formative step in getting to the heart of the matter. This is especially true if that means utilizing a third party to convey that message: what you say about yourself isn’t nearly as powerful as what others say about you. Is your industry coherent enough to have the stature needed to have a reputation spoken by others? Part of reaching this level may mean cutting the wheat from the chaff and designating professionals in your field at a higher (and therefore others at a lower) level, a message that may alienate parts of your community. That’s OK – creating levels of distinction within your industry (such as special designations that require more than just payment to unlock) does more than make some businesses better than others, it provides an “elite” perception to all prospective clients.

Have you considered the stature of your industry as a whole? If so, maybe now is the time to organize if you haven’t already. It’s up to you to make the difference.

rounded_corners_John_B_AvatarJohn Bwarie is an impact professional working to connect people and solve problems while focusing on an actionable outcome. He has worked for elected officials directly and serves dozens of others in other capacities. Follow him on Twitter andLinkedIn.


The Importance of Civics

civics definitionRumor has it that at one time “civics” was taught in our public schools. Not “government”, but “civics”. Remember that?

Sure, kids today still learn about the three branches of government, how a bill becomes a law, and who signed the Declaration of Independence, but when did classes in Government and U.S. History leave the business of developing citizens by the wayside?

I refer specifically to our societal inability to educate and engage our existing citizenry in the activities required for the survival of our democracy in any meaningful way. I point you no further than to our bleak turnout on Election Day – arguably the easiest contribution asked of any citizen. Yet, we still manage, on a national election day, to peak around 60% among eligible voters. Cut that in half when noting General Election stats in the State of California, and in the last Mayor’s race in my beloved hometown of Los Angeles, the numbers increased to 18% of eligible voters compared to the previous mayoral contest. In fact, less than 6% of registered voters were responsible for voting LA’s current mayor into office!

Beyond the classic “My vote doesn’t count,” or “Politics is corrupt anyway,” mantras of the disinterested, lies a reason to care. And the reason shouldn’t be that “things have gotten so bad.” We, as a society, if democracy is really the governing structure under which we hope to prosper, need to find our reasons to care before it’s too late.

Our task, as citizens, is to instill, in our youth and each other, a drive for social responsibility and government accountability, engendering a pride and duty of service likely to resonate for generations to come. Bring back a “civics” curriculum that educates our youth about our local systems and pressing issues, empowering them to get involved. A lack of civic engagement is often the result of a lack of civic understanding. Let us clear the path of obstacles for the disenfranchised, light the way for the disenchanted, and walk the walk for those that will follow in our footsteps.

Further reading: The Business of Government in Business

rounded_corners_Neal_A_avatarNeal Anderberg works with organizations, coordinating outreach efforts, strategizing partnerships, evaluating brand effectiveness, and advising on management and fundraising efficiency. He enjoys sharing knowledge and insight, but thrives on collaboration, and is passionate about helping others use their passion to make an impact. Check him out on LinkedIn.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Sunset Triangle Plaza
Sunset Triangle Plaza

T-shirts tossed out at sporting events seem like a fun idea. The thrill of catching a free article of clothing from your favorite team’s mascot is only dampened when you try on the “One Size Fits All” shirt and it hits you at your knees or your navel. An important principle of place-making is much the same in that one plan doesn’t fit all, especially when considering shared community space.

Many parts of Los Angeles do not have enough park space where people can find respite in its glorious sunshine. Efforts are being made to procure more acreage to build parks full of grassy playgrounds and tree shaded benches, but empty square footage is at a premium. One proposal, The Hollywood Central Park, plans to build over the below grade stretches of the 101 Freeway creating one of the largest parks in the city (check out the design at

If building a park above traffic weren’t innovative enough, People St, a project of the City of Los Angeles, is turning traffic and parking lanes into mini parks, aka “parklets”. Neighborhoods inventory their “open space”, looking at streets creatively to uncover nooks and crannies that are better suited as gathering spaces rather than parking spaces. The Triangle Square Park in Silverlake hosts a weekly farmers market while the York Boulevard Parklet in Highland Park provides seating near local businesses.

Neighborhood parks are a fun idea made even more thrilling when they fit perfectly into the landscape.

Further Reading: An Alley Runs Through it


rounded_corners_Angela_B_avatarAngela Babcock works to make neighborhoods better through engaging all stakeholders and solving problems. She assists those who most could use a helping hand and celebrates community resilience. Check her out on LinkedIn.

Hope Street Family Center Engages Young Minds

IMG_7932This past week, the Stratiscope team visited Dignity Health California Hospital Medical and their community program, the Hope Street Family Center. From the Neonatal ICU to the Emergency Trauma Center, we were impressed by the amenities and care options provided to people entering their doors.

The knowledgeable staff walked us through the hospital’s campus that includes a surprising oasis in the middle of downtown. The Hope Street Family Center was abuzz with toddlers and preschoolers engaged in art projects, reading circles and imaginative play. Outside on the jungle gym, little athletes expended some energy before lunch.

How is this different from any other pre-school?  The children are part of a unique initiative that looks at health care holistically. Many of them were born in CHMC’s maternity center and their parents and grandparents receive treatment from providers just steps away from their playground. Ensuring a better education from an early age can improve health later in life.

Other organizations can learn from CHMC. They have defined themselves as more than a hospital center where it’s impact begins and ends at its doors but rather as a community hub providing recreation, education, and overall better living for its downtown residents.

Further Reading: There is Where You Make It


rounded_corners_Angela_B_avatarAngela Babcock works to make neighborhoods better through engaging all stakeholders and solving problems. She assists those who most could use a helping hand and celebrates community resilience. Check her out on LinkedIn.