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City of Santa Monica

Community Engagement

Super by Design was hired by the City of Santa Monica to design and implement a six-month community engagement strategy to help bring forth a new city-wide homelessness initiative, with a specific focus on including voices from those with lived experience to reimagine SAMOSHEL.

The Challenge

The traditional approach to creating solutions often elevates the ideas and needs of individuals in places of power and influence, with the financial means to enact the solutions, but without enough understanding or experience with the issue to create the most effective solutions. This approach often diminishes the voices and perspectives of those who are most impacted by the issue and best suited to help inform solutions, which often leads to ineffective or even harmful results. The City committee needed an innovative and intentional community engagement strategy, which focused on including perspectives from those most impacted by homelessness and the potential solution.

Our Solution

We designed the community engagement strategy using a Human-Centered approach, focused on gathering insight and feedback specifically from those with a lived experience of homelessness and others closest to the issue (e.g. social workers, shelter staff, etc.). We also included key community stakeholders in order to promote a greater understanding of the issues and build empathy in those who have less experience but greater influence over potential solutions (e.g. to help implement or inhibit potential solutions). We planned a series of eight (8) three-hour community gatherings, bringing together 20-25 different individuals and two SBD facilitators. We designed the engagement process using our approach and a series of exercises such as structured dialogue, rapid ideation, affinity mapping, dot voting, and prioritization matrixes to efficiently align participants on the highest priority needs and the most effective solutions.


After compiling and analyzing data from each community engagement, a compiled Summary Report and presentation to leadership will articulate community-based insights, trends, and recommendations for facility and services to improve the city's homelessness initiative.

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