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PhiLAnthropist: Five Community Leaders You Need to Know

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GOOD and Knight Rider's Community Leaders (Photo: Emily Lerman/LAist)

Last Wednesday, GOOD and Knight Pulse partnered up to honor the five individuals they awarded for their involvement in various community projects addressing local and global issues.

As a whole, the event tapped in to the power and potential of acting on and pursuing an idea; by the end, it was almost impossible to leave without feeling an invigorated sense of hope and inspiration to dig in and get involved.

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The following is a quick rundown of each individual, their projects and why you need to know them.

Alissa Walker, Design LA and deLab

Kind of a big deal because...she's solving LA's problems through good design.
Alissa Walker, who also hosted the excellent GOOD Design LA event back in December, was honored for her work centered around the concept of designing for change. For GOOD Design LA, she brought together a group of LA's finest members of the design community and assigned each with the task of solving a unique LA problem, from taco trucks to the water shortage. The event's success led to a recent adaptation; Pasadena Art Professor Petrula Vrontikis suggest they recreate the event and do it with his students. Again, the project yielded impressive and seemingly feasible results; one student proposed a FOX reality based TV show called CouncilSwap. Yes, 'swap a city councilman from El Sereno with one from Beverly Hills, and see how the respresentatives deal with unfamiliar problems (gangs and violence versus parking and traffic)'. That's worthwhile TV. Other highlights include CEOS's for Cities, Project H Design and Project M Blitz.

Eric Steuer, Creative Director of Creative Commons

Kind of a big deal because... he's helping facilitate collaboration. Think the latest NIN album, the new site and cc learn. Creative Commons is a small operation (20 people run it) doing huge things. With the Creative Commons license, they provide free tools to allow individuals to "mark creative work with the freedom they want it to carry". Here on LAist we take advantage of Creative Commons all the time. Ever notice the pictures we pull from Flickr? They all have that cc license. Another worthwhile Creative Commons project is the Al Jazeera Creative Commons Repository, "which hosts broadcast quality footage that Al Jazeera has released under various Creative Commons licenses". Currently, this includes coverage of the war in Gaza. This is notable not only because it not only makes this news broadcast video footage available for both commercial and non-commercial use (a first), it helps disperse this information to a much wider audience.

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Creative Commons' Eric Steuer (Photo: Emily Lerman/LAist)

Sonja Rasula, Creator of Unique LA and City Labs

Kind of a big deal because....
Unique LA was 2008's greatest local and independent shopping event, complete with hundreds of booths providing excellent food, cool clothing and accessories and free PBR! The event raised over $4000 for LA's Create Now and she's using this model to carry on Obama's spirit of hope and service with her newest project, City Labs. Set to take place in LA, New York and Chicago, City Labs will bring together both the big and smaller local grassroots organizations for a volunteer fair. "This is not a community service fest, rather a way for people to discover how they can help in their communities". We're all about it! Rasula also serves the Executive Director for Young Progressive Majority, the creators of the voting guides you saw in the LA Weekly this fall, and again during the recent March election.

Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne, Creators of the Homegrown Evolution and authors of The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-sufficient Living in the Heart of the City

Kind of a big deal because...."with this economic kerfuffle" these Urban Homesteaders will help us "change the way we do things" and because "chickens are the new pugs".
Foraging, guerrilla gardening, banishing poisons and taking advantage of free power and water are a few things we can do, living in LA, to economically and practically improve our way of living while satisfying Knutzen's goal of "injecting a sense of joy in life". The Echo Park-couple offers workshops teaching the practices mentioned above, but don't expect it to be a session on replacing your lights with CFL-bulbs. They described their recent Urban Livestock Workshop as follows:

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We'll be talkin' chicken, permaculturist Joan Stevens will be rapping about rabbits and Leonardo Chalupowicz will share his recent experience of becoming a "backwards" beekeeper. We'll discuss how to integrate these animals into your backyard and how they can serve multiple purposes beyond just being pets.

Did you know that strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street is public property? Start some guerrilla gardening.

Watts House Project's Edgar Arceneaux (Photo: Emily Lerman/LAist)

Edgar Arceneaux, director of the Watts House Project

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Kind of a big deal changing the residential landscape in Watts he's helped to revitalize the community and change the way we look at successful neighborhood redevelopment. Began in 1996, the Watts House project takes advantage of and integrates a broad scope of community members. Arceneaux spoke about the importance of the support he has received from Watts residents and their role in this project that brings together an artist's vision, architectural design and the work of outside volunteers. The plan is to refurbish all 20 houses on 107th Street, completeing about 4 per year. He's also working with a group of USC students on the creation of a cafe near the towers. At present, there is no where to sit and hang out when one visits Watts. Some residents have been living in Watts for more than 40 years trying to make things, such as making street parking practical and feasible, work, and under Arceneaux's direction, they have been able make such improvements.

Another excellent and very worthwhile event at the GOOD space on Melrose. Check for upcoming events.