Posts tagged los angeles
The Civic Innovation Fellowship
Image credit:  Slices of Light

Image credit: Slices of Light

There’s a famous saying we like to use here at verynice. It goes something like, “I don't know who discovered water, but I know it wasn't the fish.” In other words, those closest to the issue do not often have the necessary perspective to find a solution for it. It’s this idea that has driven verynice’s involvement in multiple Los Angeles civic initiatives over the past several years. Rather than relying on our local government to innovate from within, we use human centered, design thinking principles to help unlock new solutions and approaches to its civic innovation efforts.

verynice has been involved in multiple Los Angeles civic initiatives, including the Great Streets Initiative and the Sustainable City Plan, as well as national initiatives such as the Code for America Accelerator program. Our increasing focus on civic innovation eventually feuled our idea to carve out a position solely dedicated to furthering local civic initiatives— a Civic Innovation Fellowship—  a natural extension of our Entrepreneur in Residence program, which has played a significant role in incubating and launching businesses with young entrepreneurs in Los Angeles. We would still provide the mentorship and support to our participating entrepreneurs, but their projects would focus on civic intitatives and collaboration with local govenment.

We approached several different sectors with our idea, but the City of Los Angeles' Controllers Office was the first to jump on board. The idea behind this partnership is that the Controller’s Office would provide a background in public sector innovation and a knowledge of city issues, processes, and needs. In turn, verynice would contribute perspective from the private sector, using strategic innovation and design-thinking principals. Each of us would support the fellowship by providing training and mentorship and by facilitating the actual creation of the project. Together, we would create an entirely new role for design in government.

We’re proud to publicly announce that our very first Civic Innovation Fellow is David Flores, who brings a background in Urban Planning and experience with the Slate Z Promise Zone to the Fellowship. David will be working with the city's Open Data platform in order to map out unique hybrid data sets. In other words, he aims to tell stories using data— and inspire local entrepreneurs to make change in their community.

We recently asked David to tell us a little more about his background, his work with the Fellowship, and why he feels civic innovation and design thinking are a good match. Check out his interview below: 

Hello, David! What attracted you to apply for the Fellowship? Did any of your previous experience pique your interest in civic innovation or is this a new endeavor for you? 
The Office of the Controller’s ability to reach a broad audience provides the right setting to help the people of the city of Los Angeles. It has always been a passion of mine to bring awareness to problems that affect the city. Through my previous studies abroad in Urban Planning, and my recent work with the Slate Z Promise Zone grant proposal, this endeavor is both challenging and exciting as it provides a great opportunity to help our community.  

Can you tell us about the work you're doing to make the city's data more accessible? 
Over the past few years, the Controller´s Office and the City of Los Angeles have worked on transparency, which includes providing a clear portal to all city records and making them accessible to the public. Through maps, our work will consist of creating a more accessible way to view and understand data. When we analyze data, sometimes all we see is the numbers. Similar to story telling, maps provide the vehicle to produce a graphic representation of data.  

What is your ultimate goal for the type of impact this project will have?  
Our goal is to motivate and attract the involvement of our community to solve the problems that affect our city. By giving the public access to our work, we can create a compromise between our government and the community to produce new opportunities, ventures and solutions for the future. 

How does a design-thinking vocabulary influence or enhance your approach to civic innovation?  
My background in architecture and music allows me to view the process form a different perspective. Working with a design thinking approach challenges me present data on a visual spectrum that will be both informative and appealing.   

Your position has a pretty unique structure because you work with both the Controller's office and the leadership team here at verynice. What are some of the benefits of this set-up?  
The opportunity to work in this environment is both exciting and motivating. Having the expertise of both the Controller´s Office and the leadership team at verynice provides support and valuable advice on a project of such magnitude.  

Thanks, David!

We're looking forward to growing the Civic Innovation Fellowship program and continuing our work with the City of Los Angeles.   Find more about verynice's civic initiatives, both locally and nationally, and our work in general right here.

The Civic Explosion

In the last few years we’ve seen a “Civic” explosion. A host of new civic innovation  phyla have emerged in the form of foundation projects, government offices, science initiatives, academic degree programs, mayoral fellowships, studios, labs, and on and on. It does feel as though we are seeing a fast rising wave of civic innovation efforts, and there are many surfers paddling out for the ride.

I’ve been researching political systems failures and in creating processes that encourage citizens to participate in the re-design of governing structures for some time. The ReConstitutional Convention held in April 2013 at IFTF (and in satellite nodes around the world) was a seminal moment for me, showing that the movement is there, it is real, and it has the potential to change government in non-incremental ways. The ReConCon brought together constitutional law professors, designers, hackers, artists, political scientists, futurists, technologists, artists and others to re-think governance from the ground up. It is this kind of thinking, and the sort of aesthetics, attitudes, and irreverent sensibilities found in this group that may ultimately be the source of a new kind of governing and new kind of society built to survive and thrive in the 21st Century.

With a keen interest and deep expertise in social enterprise, participatory systems, and civic engagement verynice, working with the City of Los Angeles, has recently spawned its own civic innovation fellowship to push new governance thinking and new governance designs to address the challenges LA faces now, and in the future.

Like the Cambrian explosion invoked above, this new civic explosion will punctuate the equilibrium of incremental government evolution—and life (and how we govern it) will never be the same. Just as no one knows exactly where evolution will take life, we don’t know where this grand renaissance in governance and civic engagement will take us—but the more ideas, experiments, sharing, feedback, and broad citizen participation we have, the more confidence I have that we’ll be heading toward better futures. 


Stay tuned for more about verynice civic innovation efforts. In the mean time, we're welcoming applications for the Civic Innovation Fellowship through October 1. Click here to apply

Jakecivinn, civicinnovation, los angeles
verynice + USGBC-LA Call for Artist Volunteers

The Background:

At the end of each year, USGBC-LA holds its largest fundraiser and social event—the Annual Green Gala—to celebrate a year of achievements in the local green building movement. USGBC-LA’s 10th Annual Green Gala will take place on November 13, 2014 at AVALON Hollywood. The gala will recognize the leaders in the green building industry with USGBC-LA’s 4th Annual Sustainable Innovation Awards  and will feature live cirque performances by SkyFire ( ) showcasing aerial acrobatics, fire dancing, gymnastics, stilt-walking, and performers wielding arcs of electricity from a 10’ tall Tesla Coil.

As part of this special celebration, USGBC-LA has enlisted verynice to select three (3) volunteer Los Angeles-based artists or art collaboratives to each design and construct a sculptural installation for exhibition on the evening of the Green Gala!



The chosen artists will create these sculptural installations by sourcing materials from Interior Removal Specialist, Inc. (“IRS, Inc.”), a full-service tenant improvement demolition company which has been a pioneer in recycling much of the deceptively toxic items and materials generated in commercial demolition jobs. IRS, Inc. finds a second life for many of the common furnishings, equipment and fixtures that are left behind in commercial properties slated for demolition or remodeling. IRS, Inc.’s warehouse—located approximately twenty minutes southeast of downtown Los Angeles—contains a treasure trove of salvaged materials and goods that it has generously opened up to us. These donated items will serve as the raw materials for artistic interpretation and inspiration. In addition, artists will each be provided with a small stipend to purchase outside materials (paints, hardware, etc) not found in the warehouse. All other time and labor costs of the artists will be on a volunteer basis. It is anticipated that future opportunities may exist for these completed sculptural pieces to be displayed in and around the Greater Los Angeles area after the Green Gala event.

The verynice team toured IRS, Inc.’s warehouse in September and took snapshots of its vast contents []. As the warehouse’s inventory regularly changes, the items pictured are not guaranteed to be available when the selected artists visit for materials-gathering, but they are representative of the types and kinds of pieces one may expect to find: doors, door frames, glass, wood, wires, electronic waste, lamps, chairs, tiles, pipes, fixtures, cabinets, desks, and an array of unique one-offs.



The Prompt:

Millions of square feet of offices, schools, conference rooms, lobbies, and more are demolished each year in Los Angeles. IRS, Inc.’s warehouse is piled high with items destined to otherwise become buried in a rubbish heap had they not been "rescued" for reuse. In collaboration with the USGBC-LA, verynice is interested in exploring how artists can take advantage of the trace that these buildings leave behind in order to invent something completely new. Using remnants of past spaces that sit on the threshold of beauty and decay, we invite our community to help us create a series of three sculptural artifacts that present a narrative of resurrection and sustainability. What might future archeologists make of our 20th/21st century civilization when they unearth our forgotten landfills and fallen buildings, and what stories or narratives might the warehouse pieces be repurposed to tell? How can these sculptures serve as a message to our future selves about collaboration, sustainability, and reusability through modern waste?



Interested in becoming an artist volunteer? Click here for more project details and application instructions!

Señor Fish is moving!

Our favorite Mexican restaurant here at verynice is moving! We love Señor Fish; it's kind of the only Mexican food around. When you work next to Little Tokyo, it's a rarity! They're moving to E. 7th St, which is not as convenient, walking wise. Sure, we like to walk off our lunches, but a full mile is a bit far. So, until we're desperate for Mexican food, we'll miss you, Señor!

Katefood, los angeles
The Last Bookstore

Last on our adventure was a quick stop at The Last Bookstore, a bookworm's dream. Truly. It's so bizarre and perfect inside. Book tunnels, flying anthologies, a mounted mammoth's head; it's all inside this former bank.


Cindy and I were simply astounded that neither Matt nor Alisa had stepped foot in here before. We each roamed and ended up in the sections that spoke the most about each of us: Matt in Poetry, Alisa in Classics, Cindy in Design; I followed Alisa around on her quest to promote her pair of Alice in Wonderland editions into a collection.


Unfortunately, she didn't find anything that caught her eye; the search continues.

Matt's super into Allen Ginsberg right now; have you seen Kill Your Darlings? You should, if you love jazz, poetry, beatniks, or Harry Potter. Or Dexter.


And thus concludes our first official verynice Field Trip! I'd say it was a success. Where should we go next?

adventure!Katelos angeles, books
The Bradbury Building

On our way to the Grand Central Market, a miracle appeared in the form of an open door: the beautiful Bradbury Building (BBB for short) was unlocked and waiting for us to gawk at its iron, wood and tile interior!


Featured in many films, including stand-outs like 500 Days of Summer and What Women Want, the interior of this building is something to be witnessed in person. The whole place seems to glow, the filtered sunlight bouncing off the walls and wonderful staircases from the entirely glass roof.


Any Angeleno needs to stop by here; it's such a subtle door on Broadway that deserves to be opened. Walk uncertainly through the dark foyer to the brightness and history that lurks beyond. Go do it!

Grand Central Market

We work in a very special place: Downtown Los Angeles. People don't normally visit Downtown LA, unless they're here to do business. We get to come here every single day, and slowly but surely Los Angeles is revealing herself to us.


Normally for lunch, we chose one of the more close and convenient options: Americano, Novel Cafe,  Men-oh Ramen, and we're definitely guilty of hitting up Wurstküche or Pie Hole on occasion. But not today. No, today we ventured out of our little bustling bubble, and trekked over the Grand Central Market, a Los Angeles staple full of food, history, and neon.

Cindy settled on a Pupusa, though she definitely had Egg Slut on her mind.

Cindy settled on a Pupusa, though she definitely had Egg Slut on her mind.

Alisa gave in and got the most delicious burger from Egg Slut.

Alisa gave in and got the most delicious burger from Egg Slut.

There's a legendary burrito that's the best in Los Angeles that can be found at the Grand Central Market... if only Matt could remember which booth served it!

There's a legendary burrito that's the best in Los Angeles that can be found at the Grand Central Market... if only Matt could remember which booth served it!

I got a "Fairfax" from Egg Slut: "softly" scrambled eggs, caramelized onions, chives, cheddar and sriracha. I didn't even manage to take a picture of it because it was gone before I even remembered to document it!

The Grand Central Market (or the GCM, if you're hip. Or, I might have just made that up.) is a wonderland of type. Neon type, hand painted type, amazing "bad" type, you name it. 


There is so much to look at, it's almost overwhelming. Our last stop at the GCM/Grand Central Market was DTLA Cheese. Alisa runs her own cheese page on Facebook, so naturally she decided to pose with all the fromage. No one could blame her; look at all that beautiful cheese!


The four of us only managed to take one group shot, naturally in a piece of art that was displayed. We're still not clear on the concept, but at least we got a photo!


This day was so packed, we had to split it up into three different posts. Stay tuned!