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Infinite Earth Radio – weekly conversations with leaders building smarter, more sustainable, and equitable communities - Michael Hancox EPISODE 10
Authentic Community Engagement in Gentrifying Communities
00:00:00 00:18:57

Authentic Community Engagement in Gentrifying Communities


Making Sure That Underrepresented Communities Are Heard


[01:57] Topic for this episode is introduced.

[02:01] Introduction of Helen Leung.

[02:12] Introduction of Amanda Daflos.

[02:30] Helen shares her background and what motivates her to work on issues of equity, smart growth, and sustainability.

[04:17] Amanda shares her background and what motivates her to work on issues of equity, smart growth, and sustainability.

[05:54] Helen tells about LA-Más.

[06:48] Amanda tells about the Mayor’s Office of Innovation in L.A. and the Bloomberg Philanthropies.

[08:01] Helen and Amanda explain alternative approaches to traditional models of community-engagement initiatives that are ineffective.

[12:02] What are some practices to ensure that underrepresented populations are represented in decision making?

[14:58] How do we keep current residents from being pushed out as private investment occurs in underrepresented neighborhoods?


Amanda Daflos serves as the Director of the Innovation Team (i-team) in the Mayor’s Office of Budget and Innovation in the City of Los Angeles. Her team, funded by the Bloomberg Philanthropies Innovation Teams grant, works on key mayoral priorities and collaborates across the City to define pathways to improvement. Amanda previously worked as a Senior Manager at Deloitte Consulting, and has spent the last decade working with on and leading federal, state and local government projects in the US and abroad. Prior to joining Deloitte, Daflos was the Director of Programs for an international non-profit organization where she was responsible for programming and operations in the US, Tanzania, Peru and Nepal. Daflos presently serves as a Deputy to the Los Angeles Honorary Consulate General to Nepal, a role she accepted in the wake of the 2015 earthquake. Daflos holds a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Colorado and a BA from Hamilton College. She is a 2014 graduate of the Leadership Tomorrow program in Seattle and lives in Los Angeles.

Helen Leung is Co-Executive Director of LA-Más, a cross disciplinary non-profit community design organization based in Los Angeles. Helen ensures that all LA-Más projects are grounded in community need and policy potential. She is passionate about redefining the intersection of community development and social equity, with a focus in minimizing displacement in gentrifying neighborhoods. A native Angelino and urban planner, Helen has extensive community-based experience working for former Los Angeles Council President Eric Garcetti. Helen holds a Masters in Public Policy and Urban Planning from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.


The Innovation Team (i-team) in the Mayor’s Office of Budget and Innovation in the City of Los Angeles is a group of “in-house consultants” that work on key mayoral priorities thanks to a $2.55 million, three-year grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies. Los Angeles was one of 14 cities to win the grant, which sponsors the creation of Innovation Delivery Teams that aim to design and implement new approaches for city halls across the nation to improve neighborhoods and residents’ quality of life – relying on data, open innovation, and strong project and performance management. The Los Angeles team focuses on neighborhood revitalization in low-income areas, with the goal of improving the lives of existing residents and minimizing displacement of long-time residents and local businesses.

LA-Más is a non-profit that performs design-based experiments with the city (Los Angeles) as their lab. The mission of LA-Más is to look critically at systemic problems in the LA Area and provide solutions based on research and community engagement. By using alternative models of social inclusion and collaboration, LA-Más hopes to shape the future of equitable city growth. Más is an organization committed to offering architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design services to support and strengthen communities. Addressing the health and wellbeing of a community is often a dynamic exercise requiring the coordination of a diverse range of expertise under one umbrella. The organization believes that this interplay of planning, research, and design is itself a community endeavor. To that end, they foster social connections among diverse stakeholders to aid in sustainable place making and to provide multiple paths to community growth. They offer a bottom up approach to challenge and re-define the traditional expectations of civic engagement in the built environment. They uncover new questions that lead to innovative solutions and designs in the areas of public health and community space.


“I think in Los Angeles there is a long history of, kind of, development seen as evil, and a lot of communities have been trying to take different approaches so they’re not just being ‘nimby’s—not in my backyard—so we put together a panel that has community-based organizations representing a lot of different communities in Los Angeles where there is a long history of advocacy and organizing.”

“Our mayor has been very interested in engaging the community to really understand, at the community level, what is of interest, and as we look at our opportunity on my team to really think about this question of, as neighborhoods are changing, what are ways that we can be engaging individuals and really thinking about what the future of Los Angeles looks like, and we’ve been really, I think, very dedicated to bringing in the community voice but at a very resident-focused level.”

“And there are so many different technologies available now that things we used to do don’t necessarily make sense and the things that we’re doing today probably won’t make sense in the future, in terms of how we interact. Is it Twitter, is it email, is it community meetings—how do you invest in the things that reach the most people, to find the ways that you diversify your communications so that you’re having that two-way conversation, knowing that over time things inevitably have to change.”


City of Los Angeles Mayor’s Office

Bloomberg Philanthropies Innovation Teams



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