Pando Days ’21 Launches!

Pando Days ’21 Launches!

By   |  Mar. 6, 2021

Editor’s note: This is an edited transcript of presentation remarks made by Eugene Shirley at the Pando Days ’21 Launch on March 4 over Zoom. The event targeted more than 50 colleges and universities in the California Southland that are eligible to become involved in this year’s Pando Days. Eugene served as event host and in his remarks describes the Pando Days ’21 process, introduces this year’s client-partners, and outlines how the program will unfold over the rest of the year.

My name is Eugene Shirley and I’m the president of Pando Populus – an organization that’s dedicated to making the place where we live a community of more resilient communities.

Pando Days is a program that brings the creative and intellectual resources of higher educational institutions across Los Angeles County together to focus on helping to implement the County’s ambitious sustainability plan, OurCounty LA.

Pando is unique in creating a specific program to channel the Southland’s creative and intellectual energies in this way, uniting higher ed with insights of government agencies, NGOs, and sponsors – bringing them all together to focus on addressing some of the biggest social and environmental problems we are facing.

At Pando, we see all of these problems as challenges that are deeply interconnected. We talk about “community resilience” as our visionary aim – but it’s a concept, a term, that in essence is a call for critical change – so that the whole of the infinite variety of the social and eco systems that makes up our lives can renew and thrive…in webs of communities of communities of communities that are healthy, just, and vibrant.

So we’ve reached out to more than 50 Southland colleges and universities, with representatives of many of them here today, to launch Pando Days 2021.

For those of you who were involved with us in Pando Days last year, you know how it works: teams organize themselves across Southland higher educational institutions and select a goal from the LA County sustainability plan; the teams brainstorm a way to implement the goal; and then get to work developing projects and prototypes to present at the finale.  

From the beginning, we’ve been looking for participating schools to do something completely ingenious – that will change LA County and maybe even save the world!

Pando Days ’21 is largely the same as last year’s model but different in just a couple of ways.

First, we’ve asked representatives from government agencies and NGO’s to identify problems they need solved. They are our client partners and each of them has targeted a specific concern. We’ve worked with them to create challenges that answer the problems they’ve identified as critical to the areas they service. We’ve asked them to frame the challenges in a way that will meet real-world needs. You’ll learn more about these challenges from our client-partners today.

Note that we’ve also included an Open Call category – that gives school teams the opportunity to pick any of the sustainability goals that aren’t already attached to one of our client-partners, if that’s what you choose.

The second change from last year is that Pando Days ’21 is designed to run throughout most of the year, rather than just part of it, with our finale event now scheduled in December.

So this is how we see the program unfolding – btw, what I’m about to tell you will all be available on the website:

  • There’s the LAUNCH today, where you’ll be hearing directly from client-partners about the challenges they’re putting forward in their categories. We hope these will spur your thinking and imagination, and get you excited about the potential you’ll have in creating teams with projects to meet them.
  • Over the next THREE WEEKS, we’re asking you to form instructor/student teams and decide which of the challenges you might like to address – either the challenges described by client-partners, or in the open call category. You’re welcome to submit ideas in more than one category.
  • Then on Saturday, March 20, legendary designer John Bielenberg and Brandt Williams team up to hold the first entirely virtual PANDO BLITZ – similar to the brainstorming event we held last year at the Hilton Foundation headquarters in Agoura Hills, but this will be a virtual event over a 2-3 hour period. There will be joint sessions, as well as working groups in order to help you focus your projects.  
  • FOLLOWING the Blitz, you’ll be asked to write up your project ideas and submit one-page descriptions of what your team would like to do. In the month of April, we’ll assess the submissions and choose up to 3 in each of the 5 categories we have – for a total of up to 15 in all, which will then start moving through the Pando Days process.
  • Over the summer, paid internships will be offered to help facilitate your projects moving forward.
  • In the fall, we are expecting that either full courses, labs, or studios – as you think best – will be devoted to your project’s development.
  • Projects are then due at the end of the year. You’ll see a list of expected deliverables on our website. We will host dedicated premiere events for each team, showcasing what you’ve accomplished, followed by an all-school finale. Seed funding will be awarded at the finale to the most promising project within each of the five categories.

Btw, if you’ve not yet done so, take a look at the 10 school teams and projects from last year to get inspired by what a Pando Days project might be. Last year’s SCI-Arc submission wound up getting funding from Google; the UCLA initiative received funding from the Mellon Foundation; and at least 4 of the projects were moved forward by community partners. All were absolutely amazing.

So let’s get started hearing from our client-partners about the challenges they have identified for Pando Days ’21.

The Client-Partner for Category 1 is Los Angeles County, Internal Services Division, in collaboration with the Southeast Los Angeles Collaborative and the City of Cudahy. The challenge they have selected is focused on perhaps the most fundamental in creating a more sustainable world: how to bring about deep community engagement so that no one is left behind.

Category 2 comes from the Pasadena Region and has been developed by key stakeholders there, pulled together by members of the CSO Taskforce. The challenge they’ve taken on is in developing electrified public transportation –which includes everything from systems to tech to communications.

Category 3 has been developed by Pico Union Housing Corporation in collaboration with Careers by Design LA, which is a Mayor’s workforce initiative for the architecture, engineering, and construction industries to implement the Green New Deal. The challenge they’ve taken up focuses on urban green space development – specifically pocket parks. They have a site picked out and ready.

A new category, which will become Category 4, is housing and the client-partner is Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. The client-partner participation for Pando Days is being handled through the office of the Deputy Mayor for City Homelessness Initiatives, headed by Jose Ramirez. Because this opportunity just came in, we have not had the chance to fully work out the challenge statement with them yet. But we’ll be doing so over the next 10 days and will aim to have a short Zoom event with them at that time targeted solely on a homelessness challenge as it fits within the sustainability plan’s goals for housing.

Our Open Call Category is the one where teams are invited to write their own Challenge Statements if they wish to submit a project that speaks to another of the OurCountyLA goals. 

Note that the client-partners are involved with us to offer support in an advisory way, but they’re not proactive – the proactive side is all up to the members of the school teams.

Next steps. Schools, please form teams soon. You may work alone or collaborate across departments (or even with other institutions, as you see fit).

Then, plan to join us on Saturday, March 20 for the Pando Blitz where John Bielenberg and Brandt Williams will be leading the brainstorming event online.

In April, we’ll begin receiving your one page project submissions.

Once again, you can see all the content that we have covered today – including the full write-ups of each of the Challenge Statements – on our website. We’ll also have a recording of today’s presentation up shortly.

If you have questions about submissions, please submit them by email to the address in the chat window, with the subject line, SUBMISSION QUESTION.

Pando Days is a program that’s produced in collaboration with the CSO Strategic Taskforce and made possible in part by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

Thank you for joining us, again. Stay safe. And have a great afternoon.

Eugene Shirley is founding president and CEO of Pando Populus and a long-time social impact entrepreneur.