After the unanimous passage of Safe and Healthy Streets, Bogart celebrates with staff and supporters. All pics via the LACBC's Glendae website.
There’s always a risk when an advocate is hired by a government agency. Will the advocate “go native” and be an ineffective agent of change? Will the advocate ever be able to shake his reputation of being “just” an advocate?
When the City of Glendale and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition submitted a joint application for a Policies for Livable Active Communities and Environments (PLACE) Grant, they decided to go in a different direction then the other PLACE Communities. While the end product of their grant is the Safe and Healthy Streets Document, perhaps the best case study for other cities is how the city, LACBC and the PLACE Grant Coordinator they both hired all worked together.
The team proposed that the PLACE Coordinator would work for the LACBC as an employee, but would be embedded full-time with city staff. When Colin Bogart was hired to be the PLACE Coordinator, he worked out of an office in the Glendale Civic Center, not in Downtown Los Angeles in the LACBC offices.
“Even though he was physically removed from the office, it still didn’t feel like he was that far away,” remarked LACBC Executive Director Jennifer Klausner. “Having a full time employee, dedicated to a particular place that isn’t the headquarters, can be hard for an organization. But it never felt like he was that far away.”
It was a unique situation, even the grant makers in the L.A. County Public Health Department weren’t sure how it was going to work out. But, three years later, the experiment was such a success that everyone I spoke with in Glendale to prepare for this series, from advocates, to city staff, all the way up to Mayor Laura Friedman were devastated to see Bogart go back to the LACBC’s Downtown offices when the grant expired on July 1 of this year. I met with Glendale Mayor Laura Friedman two days before the grant expired and she claimed she was “in denial” that Bogart would be leaving soon.
One thing that made the PLACE Grant such a success in Glendale was that Bogart understood the advantages and limits of his somewhat unique position. Unlike PLACE Coordinators in other cities, Bogart had direct access to the decision makers in Glendale’s government but could speak to advocates throughout the city as “one of them” and not a member of the city government.
There are several lessons that other cities, and advocacy groups can learn from Glendale, Bogart’s and the LACBC’s experience. Here are some things to consider if you work for a city or non-profit that’s considering the embedded activist model for their city.
Lesson 1: Go with Someone You Can Trust Read more…