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We are excited to announce session titles and speakers for BARI Conference 2024: Greater Boston’s Annual Insight-to-Impact Summit, which will occur at the Microsoft NERD Center in Cambridge on Friday, April 12th, 2024.

Conference Mission

BARI Conference is a unique forum for community leaders, practitioners, researchers, and policymakers to share how they advance data-driven research and policy in Greater Boston—and how we could do even more through collective action. To accomplish this, we prioritize the following values in the work we highlight and the design of sessions:

  • Grounded in multiple forms of expertise, from generational knowledge to lived experience to formal training and everything in between.
  • Innovations that use data and research to advance knowledge, policy, and practice in greater Boston. 
  • Collaboration, showcasing the power of collective action: the felt and meaningful impact we can accomplish when we combine our specialized knowledge and skills across individuals, organizations, institutions, or any combination thereof.
  • Directly relevant and actionable for our communities.

Keynote Speakers:

We are thrilled to announce that the 2024 BARI Conference will feature a keynote panel consisting of a conversation between Chaplain Clementina Chery, President and CEO of the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, and Rebecca Riccio, Director of The Social Impact Lab at Northeastern University. The conversation will be moderated by Eric Gordon, Director of The Engagement Lab at Emerson College.


Session I:

Session I

Moderator: Neenah Estrella-Luna, StarLuna Consulting

Realizing the potential of community-led, science-driven participatory modeling: A case in green infrastructure planning

Presenter: Moira Zellner, Northeastern University

Co-Author(s): Michelle Laboy, Northeastern University; Dan O’Brien, Northeastern University, Dean Massey, Northeastern University, & Amy Mueller, Northeastern University

Recent research, professional, and funding agendas have re-surfaced the importance of knowledge co-production and ethical participation to address urban tensions worldwide: urbanization and rapid climate change, disproportionately impacting socially vulnerable populations. Despite the potential of Digital Twins (DT) and the ubiquity of data and data technologies to address these tensions, they have fallen short from their promise. We present a participatory modeling (PM) platform,, to build on existing strengths of DT and overcome the most prevalent limitations of data-driven technologies. This platform (i.e., a set of visualization and simulation tools and facilitation and sense-making approaches) is organized around the iterative steps in PM: problem definition and goal setting, preference elicitation, collaborative scenario-building, simulation, tradeoff deliberation, and solution-building. We demonstrate the platform’s effectiveness when embedded in a stakeholder-led process that integrates diverse knowledge, data sources, and values in pursuit of equitable green infrastructure (GI) planning to address flooding. The immediate visualization of simulated impacts, followed by reflection on causal and spatial relationships and tradeoffs across diverse priorities, enhanced participants’ collective understanding of how GI interacts with the built environment and physical conditions to inform their intervention scenarios. The facilitated use of enabled a collaborative socio-technical sense-making process, whereby participants transitioned from untested beliefs to designs that were specifically tailored to the problem in the study area and the diversity of values represented, attending to both localized flooding and neighborhood-level impacts. They also derived generalizable design principles that could be applied elsewhere. We show how the combination of specific facilitation practices and platform features leverage the power of data, computational modeling, and social complexity to contribute to collaborative learning and creative and equitable solution-building for urban sustainability and climate resilience.

Fairmount Stories: Mobility, Advocacy, and Environmental Justice

Presenter: Riddhima Dave, Engagement Lab; Emerson College

Co-Author(s): Emerson Holloway, Engagement Lab, Emerson College; Kendra Beaver, Fairmount Indigo CDC Collaborative, Jasper Katzban, Air Partners, Olin College of Engineering, Andrealis Martinez, Fairmount Indigo CDC Collaborative & Scott Hersey, Air Partners, Olin College of Engineering

Fairmount Stories aims to address racial justice, air quality, and transit equity along the Fairmount Corridor, one of the designated environmental justice communities in Boston. The Fairmount Line branch of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority Commuter Rail train serves as an essential transit resource for the Corridor but also becomes an environmental hazard due to diesel engines. Through participatory research we determined it was imperative for residents to be educated about the Fairmount Line’s negative impact. Additionally, we found that just highlighting the negative impacts would do the mobility of the community an injustice. We sought to present a nuanced narrative that educates community members and potentially inspires action. Our proposed solution was an interactive narrative website highlighting the story of the Fairmount Line seen from an empowering perspective. The web-story divulges the train’s past, present, and potential futures and will support ongoing environmental justice advocacy efforts along the Corridor.

Data Storytelling for Air Justice in Roxbury, MA

Presenter: Scott Hersey, Olin College of Engineering

Co-Author(s): Francesca Majluf, Olin College of Engineering; Vedaant Kuchhal, Olin College of Engineering,  Samuel Kaplan, Olin College of Engineering, Emmanuel De Barros, Alternatives for Community and the Environment (ACE) Maciej Czapnik, Babson College, Neel Dhulipala, Olin College of Engineering, Melissa Kazazic, Olin College of Engineering, Rajiv Perera, Olin College of Engineering, Eric Truong, Babson College, Alexis Wu, Olin College of Engineering, Linda Sprague-Martinez, University of Connecticut, & Melanie Rocco, University of Connecticut

While there are significant opportunities for academics to support the core work of advocacy organizations through data collection and insight generation, the currency of technical insight is often mismatched between academic and community-based organizations (CBOs). The currency of technical insight includes a wide range of considerations, including the specificity, nuance, and humanization of data-based insights; form factor of data-based deliverables; visual representation of data; and audience for results. Ultimately, mismatches in the currency of technical insight often reflect fundamental differences between academics and CBOs in the goal of collecting, interpreting, and communicating data.
For the last 3 years, a partnership between Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE) and the Air Partners group at Olin College of Engineering has worked to develop and continually refine their goals and approaches to collecting, interpreting, and communicating air quality data in support of ACE’s priorities in Roxbury. In this presentation, ACE and Air Partners will share their approach in collaborative goal-setting and data collection, and will give examples of data-based activities and artifacts that were co-created to support ACE’s goals in the community. These activities and artifacts include data walks, posters, 1-pagers and flyers, web stories, and videos. Additionally, we will share examples of how these artifacts and activities are being used by ACE and other partners, and lessons learned that will lead to iteration and improvement of our approach.

Multi-stakeholder collaboration as a critical component of building holistic urban hazard tracking systems 

Presenter: Yasser Aponte, iSUPER

Co-Author(s): Amy Mueller, Northeastern civil & environmental engineering, Barbara Espinosa, GreenRoots, Jose Iraheta, The Neighborhood Developers, Catherine Celano, La Colaborativa, Sarah Neville, Brown University, Karl Allen, City of Chelsea, John Walkey, GreenRoots & Marilyn Salgado, the Neighborhood Developers

Recent years have seen an increasing awareness of the disproportionate impact of urban environmental hazards, such as heat islands, noise, and air pollution, on certain communities.  This has come with a renewed call to action.  Yet in many cases, the reality of hazard hotspots can be the result of complex interactions of many different systems and historical decisions, e.g., local and regional transportation routes, siting of warehouses that create trucking and other shipping traffic, creation or loss of greenspaces, zoning rules or changes, utility or other non-municipal services, etc.

One major step in the direction of taking action to reduce hazard hotspots in cities is having shared data – at the block-by-block scale that people experience in their daily lives – that can support individual and collective decision making for all stakeholders, from priority setting in infrastructure updating to risks assessments to informing decisions about personal behavior or updates to privately or publicly owned properties.  The initial goal of this work was to demonstrate that an air sensor network blanketing a city would be one such tool, to be demonstrated and evaluated as part of a university-city-community collaborative project in Chelsea, MA where residents experience many of the issues described above.

  However, an immediate realization in the project design was that the reality of urban infrastructure (where it exists, who owns it, who can use it) creates major challenges in practice in building the systems needed to identify and track hazard hotspots – and this issue can be most severe in communities most impacted by the hazards the system is aiming to measure.  This talk will present our experience with the first steps in multi-stakeholder collaboration for overcoming this challenge with contributions from municipal, community-based organization, private, educational, academic, and the broader community, including how technical goals have branched into enabling work with residence groups, youth groups, and community organizations and creating unique STEM education opportunities, e.g., for after school programs leading to pathways for high school students to present their studies of local air quality at the annual Chelsea Research Festival.

Moderator: Taylor Cain, Chief of Staff, Boston Housing Authority

Provocateur: Sarah Byrnes, Executive Director, Mass Union of Public Housing Tenants

Residents’ Perceptions of Their Neighborhood Social Environment Prior to a Large-Scale Public Housing Redevelopment

Presenter: Jane Leer, Boston College

Co-Author(s): Lindsay Lanteri, Boston College, Samantha Teixeira, Boston College Rebekah Levine Coley, Boston College & Trevor Samios, WinnCompanies 

Federal, state, and local governments across the US seek to transform public housing developments into mixed-income, mixed-race neighborhoods. How these initiatives affect residents depends in part on the ability of housing agencies, developers, and their community partners to create a social environment that supports positive intergroup (e.g., cross-class, cross-race) relationships, which has been a key challenge identified in the literature on prior housing redevelopment efforts (e.g., Chaskin, Khare, Joseph, 2012). In this presentation we will discuss findings from the first wave of data collection of a multi-year, place-based model of housing redevelopment. We will examine how residents from Mary Ellen McCormack, a public housing development in South Boston, view their social environment prior to any new construction or displacement, and discuss the contextual and individual level factors that explain variation in social environment perceptions. We will also discuss how varying social environment perceptions are linked with mental health outcomes.

Whereas dominant theoretical models suggest structural disadvantage combined with racial diversity threaten neighborhood social relationships, our findings, which draw on survey data collected from 398 adult and youth residents (ages 12-24), suggest generally positive perceptions of neighborhood intergroup (cross-race) interactions, collective efficacy, and place attachment among public housing residents. However, perceptions vary according to race-ethnicity, English proficiency, and household income, and are correlated with mental health outcomes. These findings offer a unique quantitative lens to past qualitative work which has documented strong relationships in public housing and high poverty neighborhoods (e.g., Tach, 2009; Teixeira et al., 2020; Walton, 2016). 

Our presentation will conclude with input from community partners and housing developers, who will discuss how these findings can inform efforts to support positive social ties during the transition from a public housing neighborhood to a mixed-income neighborhood.

Building Better:  Using Data to Bridge Gaps in Housing for People with Disabilities

Presenter: April Ognibene, Housing Navigator Massachusetts

 CoAuthor(s): Jordan Stocker, MA Association of Independent Living Centers and The MA Statewide Independent Living Council

At Housing Navigator MA, we hear two sides of a troubling mismatch:  affordable housing developers  build new accessible units but have trouble leasing them to households that need them, while people with disabilities find it nearly impossible to find housing that meets their financial and physical needs.  To better highlight existing accessible opportunities, Housing Navigator MA spotlights unit- and property- level accessibility features on property listings in their affordable housing search tool.  In building these features, Housing Navigator MA also created and now maintains a first-of-its-kind unit-level dataset with a more nuanced picture of what affordable housing exists and is being built.  Through partnerships with organizations like the Independent Living Centers, this data informs future accessible housing policy and can shape what gets built. 

Assessing Health Differences between Boston Housing Authority residents and Rental Assisted Renters in Boston

Presenter: Soraya Underwood, Boston Public Health Commission

Co-Author(s): Johnna Murphy, Boston Public Health Commission John Kane, Boston Housing Authority & Dan Dooley, Boston Public Health Commission  

Introduction: The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) partnered with the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) to assess health differences between BHA public housing residents and residents receiving rental assistance (e.g., Section 8 vouchers) related to programmatic and policy differences.

Methods: Using logistic regression, differences in population-based estimates of four health indicators (oral health, food insecurity, obesity, and asthma) were assessed using the BPHC biennial phone-based Boston Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey (BBRFSS) data. Results While BHA residents and rental-assisted renters are similar demographically, BHA had a statistically significant lower rate of permanent tooth removal compared to rental-assisted renters. BHA residents had lower rates of asthma, obesity, and food insecurity compared with rental-assisted renters, but these results were not statistically significant. 

Conclusion/Implications: These results are consistent with BHA targeted program supports positively impacting the health of their residents and suggest the current BHA should be expanded to rental assisted renters in Boston. 

Unlocking Economic Mobility: Testing a Mentorship Model Among Public Housing Residents

Presenter: Amanda Lee, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) 

Co-Author(s): Nicholas Kelly, Boston Housing Authority & Ruthie Liberman, Economic Mobility Pathways (EMPath)

AMP Up, led by Economic Mobility Pathways (EMPath), is a three-year program providing one-on-one mentoring to Boston and Cambridge public housing residents pursuing work, education, and homeownership. Participants partner with an EMPath mentor to set goals around education, career, housing, finances, and more. Mentors employ EMPath’s Mobility Mentoring® model throughout the program. The program aligns with Mayor Wu’s agenda supporting housing opportunities, including increasing homeownership, boosting economic mobility, and advancing racial equity.

 With over 600 enrolled households, AMP Up is being evaluated in a randomized controlled trial led by Harvard’s Lawrence Katz, with support from MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab and Harvard’s Opportunity Insights.

 In this session, we describe AMP Up’s model, research design, and the powerful partnerships enabling this work. We will share recruitment, engagement, and research integration lessons learned. We hope this test of mentoring can provide a blueprint for advancing economic mobility in communities nationwide.

Moderator: Stephen Walter, Director of Special Projects, Brookline Interactive Group

Provocateur: Bridgette Wallace, Co-Founder, G{CODE}

Integrate AI into Lesson Planning

Presenter: Maya Bialik, QuestionWell AI; Boston College High School

AI has the potential to improve student and teacher mental health. For teachers, this means alleviating their workload by offloading some of the most cognitively demanding and time consuming tasks onto new AI tools and systems. For students, this means the potential for true mastery learning: where each student can have as many learning opportunities as they need, and their grade can reflect their ultimate understanding and skills, not how long it took them to learn them. 

We will go over the cognitive science behind making learning an active process, how to use the tools, examples, best practices, and case studies together, and individuals and groups can try the tools using their own materials. We will then share our findings and discuss questions.

The primary objective of this talk is to provide an engaging environment where educators can explore the potential benefits and applications of using AI-driven tools to enhance the quality and efficiency of their prep, classroom teaching, and assessments. My perspective in particular as a researcher on AI and Education, a teacher, and the founder of QuestionWell AI, can help bridge the gap between AI and the classroom.

Your Brain on Social Media

Presenter- Lizzy Gordon, Shah Family Foundation

Co-Author(s): Eliza Novick, Shah Family Foundation & Stuart Ablon, Massachusetts General Hospital, Think:Kids

At the Shah Family Foundation, we have been researching the impacts of social media on the mental health and well-being of young people. In response to hearing parents’ need for clarity on this issue, we compiled the latest research, news, and expert recommendations – housing all this information on Since launching the website in Fall 2023, we have continued to share and refine the resource while talking to local institutions and nonprofits working in this space. During this time, we learned that parents are in need of practical guidance to help them have productive conversations with their children about social media.This led us to partner with Dr. Stuart Ablon of Massachusetts General Hospital to create resources to teach parents proven techniques for having hard conversations.This collaboration offers parents a unique blend of information and practical strategies to help address their social media concerns. Resources launching May 2024.

“What the Tech?”: On Advocating Towards a Community- and Youth-Led Public Interest AI Policy

Presenter: Greg Zapata, Northeastern University

Co-Author(s): Kim Lucas, Northeastern University, Marvin Venay, Tech Goes Home, Dan O’Brien, Northeastern University

Thanks to a grant from the Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN), the Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI and Tech Goes Home (TGH) have partnered to develop a community- and youth-led report on opportunities and guidelines for the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in public services. As part of this, we are launching an afterschool program with Boston Public Schools (BPS) through which motivated high school students will study crucial facets of AI while building the ability to advocate for themselves, their peers, and their communities regarding technology. The report based on this advocacy will be delivered to the City of Boston’s Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT). Our learning objectives are that students will have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the functions and applications of AI, both generally and through its specific applications, while tackling the associated ethical concerns. Through this, students will lay the foundation on which their community advocacy skills will be built. The pedagogical approach will include in-class activities, group discussions, and lectures and demonstrations by experts in relevant fields. The program will culminate in final presentations in which the students will identify opportunities for public interest AI while also identifying potential ethical issues they might raise. These projects will be included in the report to DoIT – a report that we hope will help Boston as it works towards, in the words of Tech Goes Home, “permanently bridging the digital divide.”

Moderator: Jamil Smith, Editor in Chief, The Emancipator

Provocateur: Jenny LaFleur, Senior Research Manager, Embrace Boston

Racial/Ethnic Differences in Deaths and Life Expectancy due to COVID-19 in Boston

Presenter: Charlotte Chase, Boston Public Health Commission

 Co-Author(s): Tahir Arif, Boston Public Health Commission, & Roy Wada, Boston Public Health Commission

To date, there have been 1,672 deaths from COVID-19 in the City of Boston. The burden of mortality, however, has not been shared equally among residents. Black residents experienced a death rate that was  1.5 to 2 times greater than White residents, and was higher than all other minority groups. The disproportionate impact that COVID-19 had on Black residents underscores longstanding issues of structural racism and social exclusion.  

Our analysis goes beyond death rates and explores the average length of survival (time to death), and the characteristics associated with conditional survival rates. Survival analysis using Cox proportional hazards model is used to compare racial and ethnic groups. We also discuss the contribution of differences in COVID-19 deaths to the overall racial/ethnic differences in life expectancies in Boston. 

The findings will help inform BPHC’s efforts to promote health equity and provide meaningful data for area academics and community members. We hope that advocacy groups can use this information for data-driven civic engagement, and that city policy makers can use our results to improve public health preparedness. 

There is a wealth of surveillance data from the COVID-19 pandemic, and our discussion outlines how we use data for the public good. Our presentation will discuss our findings and serve as a case study for working with real-time or almost real-time datasets and surveillance data. We discuss how we framed our research question, considerations for working with “messy” data, and how the data and the results of analyses can be made accessible to the public through reports and dashboards.

Racial Disparities in SNAP Receipt for Eligible Asian Americans in Massachusetts

Presenter: Sokha Eng, Center for Social Policy, University of Massachusetts Boston

Co-Author(s): Weichun Yan; Center for Social Policy, University of Massachusetts Boston, Beauregard Brian, Center for Social Policy, University of Massachusetts Boston & Susan R. Crandall, Center for Social Policy, University of Massachusetts Boston

Despite qualifying as income-eligible, many Massachusetts families do not access SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. While previous studies have examined racial disparities, there is a limited focus on Asian American families and Asian American ethnic subgroups. The purpose of this study is to identify racial disparities and disparities in SNAP receipt among Asian American subgroups for income-eligible families. We use the American Community Survey 5-year data (2016-2020) to analyze racial-ethnic disparities in receiving SNAP among income-eligible families in Massachusetts (at or below 200% FPL). The results reveal that Asian families have a significantly lower probability of SNAP receipt compared to Black, Hispanic, and families of other races. These results suggest that among families of color, policymakers may pay closer attention to income-eligible Asian Americans, who may be reluctant to access SNAP benefits even when income-eligible.

The Disproportionate Impact of Influenza on Children in Boston

Presenter: Tahir Arif, Boston Public Health Commission

Understanding the epidemiologic dynamics of influenza in Boston, Massachusetts is crucial for effective preparedness and response strategies to mitigate its impact on both individuals and the
community. By examining historical trends, seasonal patterns, and the prevalence of different influenza strains, we aim to discern the impact of influenza on different age groups, and within racial/ethnic groups of said age groups. This study focuses specifically on Boston residents less than 5 years old, who hold a disproportionate burden of influenza cases.
This research employed a retrospective observational study design to assess the impact of influenza on different age groups, with a specific focus on children, in Boston, Massachusetts. Data was collected from the Massachusetts Virtual Epidemiologic Network, spanning from 2017-2023 to ensure a representative understanding of the impact of influenza over multiple seasons. All statistical analyses were conducted using R Studio. Descriptive statistics provide an overview of the influenza cases in Boston by demographic, while inferential analyses were used to determine if there is a significant association between both age and race/ethnicity, and the occurrence of influenza cases.
This analysis shows that age has an impact on acquiring influenza, and that individuals in the early education (<5) age group have a disproportionate burden of influenza. Within those age
groups, Black residents make up a disproportionate number of influenza cases in Boston. For 4 of the 5 annual seasons from 2017-2022, Boston residents less than 5 years old have had nearly
twice the incidence of the next highest age group. Further analysis shows the significant difference between these groups and the proportional hazard this age group faces.
This study aims to provide insights into the epidemiological characteristics of influenza cases in Boston, especially among children. This study reveals that Boston children less than 5 have a
burden of influenza that is disproportionate to their population size, especially among Black residents of those age groups. The results contribute to a better understanding of the disease burden and risk factors associated with influenza to target public health interventions and mitigate the impact of influenza on children in Boston.

Triple Stigma: Experiences of Racism and addiction- and homeless related stigmas among overdose survivors in Boston

Presenter: Jaylen Clarke, Boston Public Health Commission

Co-Author(s): Dr. Angela R. Bazzi, University of California, Daniel Dooley, Boston Public Health Commission, Dr. Ranjani K. Paradise, Institute for Community Health, Jeffrey Desmarais, Institute for Community Health, Shannon E. O’Malley, Boston Public Health Commission, Andres Hoyos-Cespedes, Institute for Community Health, Alykhan Nurani, Boston Medical Center, Dr. Sunday Taylor, Boston Public Health Commission, Dr. Simeon D. Kimmel, United States and Boston University Chobanian and Avedisian School of Medicine, Johnna Murphy, Boston Public Health Commission 

Background: This study assessed experiences of three stigma types (racism, addiction-related and homeless-related) across two care settings (healthcare and substance use disorder (SUD) treatment) among Black opioid overdose survivors experiencing homelessness.

 Methods: The Boston Overdose Linkage to Treatment Study (BOLTS) was a qualitative examination of racial equity in post-overdose access to and experiences of addiction treatment involving semi-structured interviews with recent overdose survivors in Boston, MA. This thematic analysis focused on a subsample of 15 participants who additionally identified as Black and experiencing homelessness. 

Results: Participants reported marginalization and stigmatization related to their intersectional identifying characteristics (Black, SUD, homelessness) which impacted how they thought about and engaged with healthcare and SUD treatment services.

 Implications: While efforts aimed at eradication of addiction and homeless-related stigma within care settings could increase utilization among all individuals experiencing homelessness with SUD, further eradication of racism-related stigma would promote health equity among this vulnerable population.

Leaders’ Luncheons (All are Welcome):

Leaders’ Luncheon

The 2024 BARI Conference will feature an engaging lunchtime panel titled ‘AI in Education to Career Data Systems.’ This session will commence with a welcome and updates on the Friends of Longitudinal Data Systems (FOLDS) by Benjamin Forman, the Research Director at MassINC.

Following this, ‘AI Policy for Massachusetts State Government’ will be delivered by Jason Snyder, Secretary of the Executive Office of Technology and Security Services. The panel will also include a fascinating case study from Emily Oster, CEO of ParentData and the JJE Goldman Sachs University Professor in Economics at Brown University, discussing the application of AI in education. To round off the session, Sam Ribnick will provide updates on the E2C Hub, offering insights into the latest advancements in the field.

The 2024 BARI Conference will host a compelling lunchtime conversation featuring key figures from Embrace Boston, The Research Team for The City of Boston’s Reparations Task Force, & many more.

This session will engage the BARI community around the research efforts necessary to inform conversations around reparations. It will provide attendees with a unique opportunity to engage with leading voices in the field and discuss the important aspects of reparations and community restitution. We encourage everyone interested in these topics to participate in this vital conversation.

Session II:

Session II

Moderator: Hessann Farooqi, Executive Director, Boston Climate Action Network

Provocateur: Philip Giffee, Executive Director, Neighborhood of Affordable Living

Examining aviation-related ultrafine particles (UFP) and particle size distribution in near-airport communities

Presenter: Breanna van Loenen, Boston University, School of Public Health

Co-Author(s): Emma Gause, Boston University School of Public Health, Tiffany Duhl, Tufts University School of Engineering, Neelakshi Hudda, Tufts University School of Engineering, John Durant, Tufts University School of Engineering, Johnathan Levy, Boston University SPH, & Kevin Lane, Boston University SPH 

Aviation activity contributes to local UFP pollution; however, minimal progress has been made in distinguishing airport activities from other sources of community exposures (i.e. roadway traffic). Using mobile monitoring of UFP measured as particle number concentration (PNC [#/cm^3]) along with particle size distribution can provide unique insight to better understand aviation specific source allocations. Here we present a model incorporating stationary and mobile monitoring data to estimate UFP exposure among communities near the Boston Logan Airport. We also examined the channel size signature of aviation source UFP using principal component analysis. We measured UFP at three stationary monitoring sites and in an electric vehicle driven through communities near the airport in 2021-2022. Elevated PNC predictions were associated with proximity to arrival and departure pathways and being downwind of the airport. We also found smaller particle channel sizes (< 30nm) downwind of the airport, suggesting an association with aviation activity.

Water, Water, everywhere: The Increasing Threat of Stormwater Flooding in Greater Boston

Presenter: Rachel Bowers, Metropolitan Area Planning Council 

Co-Author(s): Anne Herbst, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Caitlin Spence, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), Lily Perkins High, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Tim Reardon, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Martin Pillsbury, Metropolitan Area Planning Council & Eric Hove, Metropolitan Area Planning Council

As climate change increases the frequency, intensity, and impacts of precipitation events in New England, stormwater flooding, or flooding from precipitation like rain and snowmelt, is a growing issue in Greater Boston. Unlike coastal flooding, however, there is limited data about where communities experience the worst impacts of stormwater flooding. We therefore do not know where people and businesses should be prepared and resourced to withstand it. In March 2010, catastrophic storms caused severe damage to buildings and infrastructure across Eastern Massachusetts, ultimately resulting in a federal disaster declaration. The disaster declaration allowed impacted residents to file flood claims and receive relief funds through FEMA, regardless of whether they had flood insurance.  To support local hazard mitigation planning, FEMA granted MAPC access to flood claims data from those storms, and we’ve analyzed the locations of these claims to better understand where and how flooding occurred.  

We analyzed these flood claims and found that in the communities that had the most rainfall, 1 in 15 homes reported some amount of flood damage. Most of the claims were for depths of 6 inches or less, indicating basement flooding with potential impacts to utilities, below-grade residences, and general economic, health, and safety consequences.The biggest takeaway from the analysis was that only 7% of all flood locations in Greater Boston were in FEMA’s 1% chance (“100 year”) flood zones. FEMA maps are the primary source of flood risk information for communities and individuals, so this finding means most officials and residents were unprepared for the widespread flooding that occurred outside flood zones. In Boston, where flooding was concentrated in environmental justice communities in Mattapan and Dorchester, this also has potential to cause deeper impacts and inequities. This research supports several local and state policy recommendations, including strategies for better identifying and publicizing risk areas, promoting retrofits and recovery, and strengthening development regulations. Critically, this research points to the need for widespread data models of where communities can expect flooding and standardized real-time data collection of where flooding actively occurs during storm events.

The inside story: tracking indoor air pollution within a Boston public housing complex

Presenter: Maddie Wallace, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health

 Co-Author(s): Lacee Satcher, Boston College; Samantha Teixeira, Boston College School of Social Work, Rebekah Levine Coley, Boston College Lynch School of Education and Human Development & Gary Adamkiewicz 

Many health disparities are associated with housing, and behavioral factors can worsen resident exposure to indoor air pollution. Despite known health consequences, indoor pollution sources remain understudied in low-income communities. We recorded behavior and indoor air quality for one week in 207 units of the Mary Ellen McCormack (MEM) public housing development in South Boston. PM2.5, which is associated with numerous adverse health effects, varied substantially in MEM (range = 3.6-141.8 µg/m3). The mean level of 19.6 (n = 138) was notably higher than the EPA PM2.5 standard of 9 µg/m3. In-unit PM2.5 levels were significantly correlated with indoor cigarette, candle, incense, air freshener, and marijuana use, suggesting that behavior shaped indoor air quality variation at small spatial scales. Physical building factors and ambient exposure remain critically important within environmental justice communities, but education campaigns may help return autonomy to community members to mitigate health disparities within low-income communities. 

Deploying Solar: An analysis of how to achieve statewide targets for solar power production utilizing rooftop, canopy, and ground-mount installations across different land use densities in Massachusetts

Presenter: Conor Gately

Co-Author(s): Jessie Partridge-Guerrero, Metropolitan Area Planning Council

We evaluate the relative solar potential of rooftop and canopy vs. ground-mount solar across Massachusetts municipalities with different land use densities in order to inform the development of policies to ensure that a) statewide solar deployment targets are met, and b) that solar is deployed equitably across municipalities. Our analysis evaluates different pathways for achieving statewide targets for deployed solar electricity production laid out in the Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan and the 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap. We leverage the recent Technical Potential of Solar Study released by the Department of Energy Resources that quantifies the suitability for solar deployment at the assessor parcel level across the state. We restrict our analysis to only the parcels that are graded as A or B across all suitability categories. 

The focus of the analysis is an evaluation of how different target percentages at the municipal level for different types of solar installations (ground-mount, rooftop, canopy) can be applied across different municipality types to affect both total statewide installed solar capacity as well as the spatial distribution of future solar installations within municipalities, regions, and across the state. We will review a sample of municipalities from the urban core, gateway cities, suburban towns, and rural towns, and highlight the importance of local zoning as well as grid interconnect capacity in achieving future goals for installed solar power generation capacity in the state.

Moderator: Loretta Lees, Director, The Initiatives on Cities, Boston University

Provocateur: Lydia Lowe, Director, Chinatown Community Land Trust

Homes for Profit: Speculative Investment in Greater Boston

Presenter: Zoe Iacovino, Regional Planning Data Analyst, MAPC 

Co-Author(s): Jessie Partridge-Guerrero, Interim Director of Data Services, MAPC; Alexa DeRosa, Regional Planning Data Analyst, MAPC; Jonathan McKenzie, Civic Web Developer, MAPC

For decades, investors (sometimes called corporate investors, institutional investors, or speculators) have exacerbated the housing crisis in Greater Boston by purchasing residential property with profit, not shelter, as their primary goal. While inadequate housing production and strong economic growth have led us into the housing crisis we face today, our research exposes clear and worrisome trends in speculative residential real estate investment that also need to be addressed. Using real estate transaction data from The Warren Group we examined trends in investor purchasing and found that investors have been purchasing increasingly larger shares of the regional housing stock over the last 20 years. Investors purchased 1 in 5 of all residential properties in 2018. In response to these trends, we recommend a set of policies to discourage speculation, generate revenue for affordable housing from the speculation that does occur, and provide housing assistance and greater stability to Massachusetts residents.

Analyzing the Role of Developers within Rapidly Gentrifying Neighborhoods through a Community- Derived Affordability Scorecard

Presenter: Shinelle Kirk, Conservation Law Foundation

Co-Author(s): Anisha Nakagawa, Conservation Law Foundation Gail Roderigues, Dina Abreu & Eldric Abreu

Massachusetts’ housing affordability crisis is characterized by soaring rental costs that exacerbate eviction risks and displace residents, especially in low-income neighborhoods facing rapid gentrification. This crisis is fueled by real estate developers capitalizing on eviction opportunities to buy properties at low prices, displacing residents, and escalating property taxes, which drives significant socio-economic shifts. A major issue is the misalignment between rents and incomes in gentrified areas, with the Area Median Income (AMI) metric inadequately capturing the financial challenges faced by local populations. The Healthy Neighborhood Study (HNS), a longitudinal Participatory Action Research project, aims to uncover and challenge the forces driving gentrification in Boston. We have developed an Affordability Report Card to spotlight these affordability disparities and advocate for development standards that foster community resilience, further underscoring the urgent need for policy reforms that reflect the economic diversity of community members.

The Boston Neighborhood Change Explorer: bringing historical data on neighborhood change to your fingertips

Presenter: Ethan McIntosh, BPDA Research Division

The Boston Neighborhood Change Explorer is a free and open-source platform aimed at making it easy for people to access historical data on neighborhood change in Boston via the internet. Users can create custom neighborhood definitions using map selections, visualize historical changes dynamically using interactive controls, and download the underlying harmonized time-series data for their own purposes. The tool employs a flexible and modular R Shiny architecture, and its full source code is published on GitHub (  Detailed data on population demographics and housing characteristics are mapped at the census tract and neighborhood levels going back to 1950, while other data on housing sales, business establishments, and business lending are available for more recent periods at the neighborhood and zip code levels. The BPDA Research Division continues to add topics and features to this tool as new applications emerge.

Commercial Gentrification-induced Displacement in Central Square, Cambridge?

Presenter: Andrew Ward, Boston University

Co-Author(s): Carlos Campos, Boston University, Pooja Paode, Cambridge Local First & Theodora Skeadas, Cambridge Local First 

This paper presents research on commercial gentrification-induced displacement at Central Square, Cambridge, in partnership with Cambridge Local First (CLF), a non-profit network of locally-owned independent businesses. Students from Boston University, supported by the Initiative on Cities’ MetroBridge program, investigated the rate and nature of business change in Central Square over the last 10 years to provide data for CLF’s advocacy work. A mixed-methods approach used Google Street View and Cole’s Business Directory to measure business changes, as well as local news content analysis and interviews with local businesses to contextualize the counts. This facilitated a cross-referenced database of closures and openings, which were categorized to measure commercial gentrification. We found significant losses (displacements) of small independent businesses, particularly in retail. There was, however, a net loss of inter/national chain premises, as well as growth in local/regional chain businesses, suggesting that commercial gentrification is underway but not at a mature stage.

Moderator: Kirsten Davison, Associate Dean of Research, School of Social Work, Boston College

Mask and Vaccine Mandates and Public Perception: Who Frames Community COVID Policy Messaging?

Presenter: Alexandra V. Smith, Clark University

An analysis was conducted surrounding framing and public perception of COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates in the cities of Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville in Massachusetts. Artifacts collected were inclusive of COVID municipal mandate announcements, news coverage, and Facebook posts from the period April 2020 through March 2022.

Artifacts included 1) COVID-related mask and vaccine mandate municipal announcements; 2) articles corresponding to the announcements in three local news outlets; 3) Facebook posts and corresponding “reactions” from users, including: a) Facebook posts from the official pages of the three municipalities announcing new mandates, and b) Facebook posts from the official pages of the three news companies where they “shared” news articles on new mandate changes.

A significant finding underscored a key role that public leaders play in shaping frames on pandemic policies, as many frames which were used – including metaphors – originated from official municipal announcements.

Wastewater Epidemiology as a Public Health Tool in Boston Beyond COVID-19

Presenter: Justin Hart, Boston Public Health Commission

Co-Author(s): Tahir Arif, Boston Public Health Commission
Sreedevi Ravi, Boston Public Health Commission, Madeline T. Sharp, Boston Public Health Commission, Kathryn T. Hall, Boston Public Health Commission, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Bisola O. Ojikutu, Boston Public Health Commission, Division of Infectious Diseases, Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Tori L. Cowger, Boston Public Health Commission, François–Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and
Human Rights, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

In October 2022, the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) began implementing a wastewater epidemiology program with the goal of providing additional data about COVID-19 at a neighborhood
scale. Early comparisons showed wastewater data for SARS-CoV-2 led other public health surveillance data for COVID-19, such as case and hospitalization records. We demonstrate this association has weakened over time, as the intensity of COVID-19 case and hospitalization reporting has diminished. Using a lead/lag analysis, we demonstrate wastewater data also leads records of ED visits for COVID-19. While this program was originally designed to monitor COVID-19, it has since expanded to test four respiratory viruses, including Influenza A (IAV), Influenza B (IBV), and RSV, and has the potential to monitor other pathogens going forward. We likewise demonstrate the value of wastewater data for IAV, IBV, and RSV surveillance in the context of other available public health surveillance data sources

MI VACUNA: A Collaborative, Community-Engaged Approach to Address Vaccine Hesitancy

Presenter: Nicolle Rueras, Boston College

Co-Author(s): Janin Alfonso, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Latinx community in Boston, especially those experiencing mental illness, have experienced higher COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death rates despite increased vaccine availability. As a response to this disparity, the MI VACUNA initiative was created to examine the effect of a novel vaccination program on COVID19 and influenza vaccination rates among these individuals by integrating vaccine-related discussions into behavioral health services at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center. Led by behavioral health clinicians trained in motivational interviewing, these discussions make space for patients to explore their perceptions of vaccines, weigh pros and cons of vaccination and assess their readiness to be vaccinated; ultimately allowing the individual to make the most informed choice for themselves. In the future, MI VACUNA hopes to serve as a model for similar endeavors by demonstrating the impact of bridging academic research, healthcare practice, and local community engagement.

Foot-traffic in Somerville: How walking patterns have changed before, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic in the city

Presenter: Andres Sevtsuk, MIT
Co-Author(s): Rounaq Basu, Boston Region MPO & Vir Chachra, MIT

We present a city-wide pedestrian volume estimate for all sidewalks, crosswalks and footpaths in Somerville. These volumes are based on a Urban Network Analysis model of pedestrian trips, including address-level estimates of origin-destination flows along pedestrian networks for a range of different O-D types (e.g. trips between homes>metro station, homes>schools, jobs>bus stops etc.) using detailed land use data from Somerville. The research team used empirical pedestrian counts from over one hundred street segments to calibrate the flow model for Somerville on observed counts. Since Somerville collects pedestrian counts from the same locations each year, this offers a unique opportunity to examine how pedestrian behavior in the city compares before the COVID-19 pandemic (calibration on 2019 fall counts), during the pandemic (calibration on 2019 fall counts), and after (or late stage of) the pandemic (calibration on 2023 fall counts). While the count data itself illustrates changes in pedestrian volumes on the counted streets, a calibrated behavioral pedestrian flow model provides additional insight into how pedestrian behavior has shifted over time in response to a) the pandemic, b) to land-uses changes that took place between the observation periods, and c) changes in pedestrian preferences and trip-generation levels. The model offers unique data-driven insights into the changing nature of pedestrian activity in the Boston area, with policy and planning implications for street-based business activity, transit ridership, public health and urban planning.

Moderator: Alice Brown, Director of Water Transportation, Boston Harbor Now

Provocateur: Tracy A. Corley, Professor of the Practice in Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Northeastern University

Examining Supplier Diversity in Higher Education: A Survey and Focus Group Analysis of Best Practices  

Presenter: Francesca Grippa, Northeastern University

Co-Author(s): Youngbok Ryu, Northeastern University & Alireza Raisi, Northeastern University 

Despite a growing commitment to supplier diversity across higher education institutions, the data indicates considerable shortcomings in building inclusive procurement processes. This session examines the determinants of this gap, by drawing from a survey of 100 procurement officials across the US, and three focus group sessions. This session presents a comprehensive exploration of challenges faced by Universities and Colleges as they plan supplier diversity initiatives. Survey respondents highlighted significant opportunities, including enhancing training programs to influence internal stakeholders in recognizing the value of diverse suppliers, devising effective methods to access qualified diverse suppliers, and promoting certifications for diverse suppliers. Specifically, the participants identified “establishing a central point of contact in procurement,” “cultivating relationships with diverse suppliers,” and “engaging in outreach events and networking” as the most impactful strategies for expanding the presence of diverse suppliers. The focus groups engaged managers from procurement teams at large private universities, public universities, and small colleges, who delved into the complexity of implementing supplier diversity initiatives, capturing the experiences of participants through success and failure stories. The focus group participants highlighted key challenges in supplier diversity, encompassing issues such as access to accurate data, the identification of qualified diverse suppliers, and the impact of path dependency. Moreover, participants delved into institution-specific challenges, shedding light on the nuanced complexities faced in their respective contexts. Based on these findings and past research conducted by the Lab for Inclusive Entrepreneurship over the past two years, we are developing practical educational resources for both diverse small businesses and higher education procurement professionals. For instance, we have designed an online, on-demand module that helps business owners navigate the complex procurement systems at colleges and universities. We’re also harnessing the power of ChatGPT to create a Diverse Supplier Chatbot to simplify the information search process. As a major component of the Lab’s third annual Symposium on Supplier Diversity in October, we are planning a reverse vendor fair to bring together qualified vendors and university buyers. In short, our research underscores the need for capacity building to increase sales opportunities for diverse small businesses in the higher education marketplace. 

Climate Action to Justice: Co-creating solutions through art, liberation, and joy 

Presenter: Leah Bamberger, Northeastern Climate Justice and Sustainability Hub

Co-Author(s): Andrea Atkinson, One Square World, Vatic Kuumba, One Square World, Emmanuell De Barros, Alternatives for Community and Environment, & Beya Jimenez, NU Planning Real Estate and Facilities 

In this session, you will learn about Northeastern’s unique and bold approach to centering justice and equity in its climate justice action plan. Attendees will gain a deeper understanding of how to harness community data through a regenerative process that builds relationships, honors the lived experiences of those most impacted by systems of oppression, and moves us towards collective liberation. To do this work, Northeastern’s Climate Justice and Sustainability Hub has partnered with Alternatives for Community and Environment, a leading environmental justice organization in Roxbury, and One Square World (1SW), a non-profit dedicated to creating liberatory systems for racial and environmental justice. Throughout the session, we’ll share how we moved through moments of tension, adapted the process to meet community members where they are at, and lessons learned for engaging decision-makers in a new way of partnering with our neighbors. 

Human Service Organization Snapshot: Quantitative Study of DSP Workforce Needs with Comparative Analysis

Presenter: Teresa Lane, The Guild for Human Services

Co-Author(s): Suzanne Henderson, The Guild for Human Services 

Human service organizations face significant staffing challenges in Massachusetts. The Guild for Human Services, headquartered in Concord, MA with community residences throughout Greater Boston, seeks to address these staffing challenges, particularly among direct support professionals (DSPs) who constitute a sizable portion of Guild employees. As part of their commitment to confronting these challenges, The Guild has undertaken several initiatives including participating in workforce surveys with two organizations conducting benchmarking studies. In Summer 2023, The Guild partnered with Relias, a national organization providing workforce training programs for human service organizations, to perform a replication study of their 2023 DSP Survey Report. The Relias survey looks at overall DSP satisfaction and effective incentives for improving retention. Additionally, The Guild participated in the Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers (ADDP) Workforce Metrics Survey in March and October 2023. The ADDP survey evaluates vacancy rates for several key positions, including DSP, and turnover across dozens of human service providers in Massachusetts. By combining the in-house data from each of these partnered projects along with other benchmarking reports such as national nonprofit research collaborative National Core Indicators, The Guild will create a unique snapshot of the Guild DSP workforce including national and regional comparisons for more nuanced ongoing analysis. This benchmarking model may be of value to other human service organizations seeking to improve workforce retention as well as other public and civic leaders pursuing collaborative data-informed community programs.

Collaboration to build an equitable design industry

Presenter: Danyson Tavares, YouthBuild Boston

Co-Author(s): Estefany Benitez, Hideo Sasaki Foundation, Neil Daniel, YouthBuild Boston & Taylor Johnson, Boston Society for Architecture 

For several years, a partnership of organizations have collaborated in building a more strategic design education infrastructure in Greater Boston, with the goal of disrupting the design industry status quo and creating mechanisms for more youth to gain access to careers. Working together, we have seen the difference we can make. The demographics of the Architecture and Design profession is shifting from a largely Caucasian and male dominated industry to include more women and people of color, and there is a strong consensus and desire within the profession to enrich our industry with diversity in order to better represent the communities we serve through design. One of the ways to achieve this goal is to diversify and increase access to the profession for young people.

Through meaningful design internships, we believe that we can create experiences for youth to learn about the design field (architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning) in a way that allows for a safe space to learn, enjoy, and get to know the industry. Learn from nonprofit organizations in Greater Boston who are working towards building a more equitable design industry, starting first with high school students.

Session III:

Session III

Moderator: Jennifer Lawrence, Executive Director, Sasaki Foundation

Provocateur: Rishika Dhawan, Community Manager, Culture House

Waterfront Data Project: Equity Study of Boston’s Waterfront Public Spaces

Presenter: Christian Merfeld, Boston Harbor Now

Co-Author(s): Elliott Bradshaw, Tectonix LLC, & Ford Fishman, Brandeis University 

This project analyzed visitation of Boston’s waterfront areas between 2019 and 2023 using a unique mix of quantitative and qualitative data, with a focus on identifying racial and economic disparities in access to these valuable public spaces and parks. The quantitative data were from billion+ records database of anonymized cell phone activity. The qualitative data came from a set of in-person surveys conducted by MassINC Polling Group at five waterfront parks.

The study utilizes advanced location intelligence with the aid of Tectonix’s supercomputing geospatial platform to analyze tranches of Veraset’s mobility data, revealing not only the impact of external factors but also the evolving behavior of diverse user cohorts. The project uses a blended approach of complementing quantitative data with the integration of ground-truthing data collected by MassINC through traditional visual occupancy and foot traffic counts and in-person surveying. This blend of quantitative and qualitative methods ensures a comprehensive analysis that expands our general understanding of the waterfront’s usage.

The study is also guided by a commitment to racial and economic equity where the central question, “”Who has access to the region’s valuable waterfront?”” is examined. Moving beyond the raw numbers and popular narratives, our research seeks to identify disparities and inequalities in public accessibility and utilization. This project’s distinction lies in its extensive cross-sector partnerships, collaborating with nonprofit advocates, academic institutions, high-tech SaaS providers, and public governmental agencies. This comprehensive approach is designed to produce real-world relevance and actionable insights. Our project’s community stakeholders, steering committee members, and the academic advisory board play pivotal roles in shaping not only the project’s deliverables but also its applications.

Some of the anticipated implications of this project for meaningful local impact include informing and driving policy changes, resource allocation practices, and waterfront development initiatives. By unveiling the intricacies of waterfront accessibility through an equity lens, the project aims to foster inclusive public spaces that directly address underrepresentation and current real-world usage. We’re hoping that the use of advanced analytics and on-the-ground insights will produce findings for practical application and catalyze collective and individual actions toward a more accessible and equitable public waterfront.

The Arnold Arboretum Entrance Expansion Project: Increasing Equity in Access to Greenspace

Presenter: Katherine Robb, Harvard Kennedy School; Bloomberg Center for Cities

Co-Author(s): Jessica Blohm Pederson, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, Michelle Kondo, National Forest Service, Maureen Hickey, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, & Ned Freidman, Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University 

The Arnold Arboretum is a large public park bordering several Boston neighborhoods. However, not all adjacent communities have equitable access to this high-quality greenspace. There are no formal entrances along the Arboretum’s southeast side, which is home to a low income and racially diverse community, including a public housing complex. To expand equity in access, the Arboretum, along with the City of Boston, will construct a new entrance in 2024. Yet increasing physical access may not eliminate all barriers. To this end, researchers from the Harvard Kennedy School and National Forest Service, along with the Arboretum’s public programs department have partnered to 1) study how increased access to nature impacts use and perceptions of greenspace (through focus groups, surveys, and observations) and 2) develop and deliver outreach and nature-based experiences for families living near the new entrance. In this presentation, we will describe the research findings to date and linkages to new program activities. 

Waterways: Connecting Residents of Roxbury and Dorchester to Boston’s Waterfront

Presenter: Laila Pearson, The American City Coalition (TACC)

Co-Author(s): The American City Coalition Staff (Christine Araujo, 2018-2021; Alexandra Curley, 2018-2019; Thérèse Fitzgerald, 2019-2021; David Nardelli, 2019-2021; Laila Pearson, 2023-present; Charlotte Rice, 2018-present) in partnerships with Kelley Chunn & Associates (Kelley Chunn, 2018-2022) and Denterlein (Katherine Adam, 2018-2019; Diana Pisciotta, 2018-2019

The American City Coalition (TACC) is a Roxbury-based nonprofit tackling community-identified barriers through economic and workforce development, community-engaged research, and policy to expand pathways to meaningful opportunities in communities of color.

Launched by TACC in 2018, Waterways: Connecting Residents of Roxbury and Dorchester to Boston’s Waterfront (Waterways) increases the connection that Black and brown Bostonians, specifically from Dorchester and Roxbury, have with Boston’s waterfront. The initiative interweaves research with programming to inform advocacy and shape policy so that as the waterfront evolves, it does so more equitably with the needs and interests of communities actively considered and implemented.
Initially, TACC collaborated with 468 residents of public and subsidized housing in Roxbury and Dorchester to document resident-identified barriers and solutions to accessing and utilizing Boston’s waterfront. Using a “doing is planning” approach; multi-generational family/friends groups engaged in activities (waterfront trips, neighborhood events) and participated in data collection (focus groups, pre- and post-survey, data walks). The identified barriers (i.e., familiarity, affordability, transportation, unwelcoming, personal reasons) and solutions remain central to the project.
Waterways measures outcomes to drive improvement. Examples of this approach include:
Demographic Data: During program registration, TACC uses Eventbrite to collect demographic data documenting who is being served.
Feedback Loops: Through post-program surveys, TACC learns performance level data from participants about the quality of the experience, level of success in achieving program learning outcomes, and the impact of barrier mitigation strategies; through data walks, TACC shares programming data and engages residents to document their perspectives and get their input on key issues (e.g., programming, public space, employment).
Resident Advocacy: The project aims to get more community voices and expertise at the table and leading discussions so that future waterfront programming and other meaningful opportunities (e.g, jobs, business expansion) are directed by a broader conglomerate of perspectives and, as a result, are more equitable.
TACC will share its experiences collecting and sharing data, as well as encouraging other waterfront organizations to do so. Surfacing and tracking barriers with Bostonians who experience them most acutely is step one in mitigating them and increasing equity for all.

Developing Equitable Civic Engagement: Caminatas Seguras

Presenter: Jonathan Gomez-Pereira, WalkMassachussetts

WalkMassachusetts, the Commonwealth’s leading pedestrian advocacy organization, has partnered with GreenRoots, an environmental justice non-profit working in Chelsea and East Boston. This partnership has supported Caminatas Seguras. The program aims to improve the built environment and walkability of East Boston, while also enhancing access to green spaces and open areas for families in the community. During weekly gatherings, participants gather to walk to nearby parks and green spaces, resulting in increased motivation, physical activity, and fostering social connections. The program is also an effective organizing tool that has incorporated elements of public health interventions that reach a wide variety of participants. Participants are multilingual (spanish/english) and multigenerational. They include seniors, young families, children, and those with differing abilities and health conditions. Participants have increased their knowledge on topics such as climate preparedness and environmental justice. 

During these walks, participants gained a deeper understanding of the power of the walking group and how their engagement can be instrumental in identifying and addressing community issues. Participants are eager to create positive changes in East Boston, especially in light of the rapid development occurring in the area. By leveraging the insights and ideas generated through these walks, we aim to ensure that community development benefits the participants and helps prevent displacement. Additionally the Caminatas Seguras walking group and the relationships formed within it  have served as catalysts for participants to become more civically engaged. They are not only more physically active, but also more actively involved in various neighborhood initiatives.

We have worked to address power differentials in transportation and community planning. By actively involving participants in the walking group and providing opportunities for them to voice their concerns and observations, we have sought to amplify their voices and insights. Through events such as community engagement sessions and picnics, participants have been able to share their experiences and perspectives with key stakeholders, including the Mayor of Boston’s neighborhood service team. This has helped to address power differentials and ensure that the concerns and needs of the community, in particular those who do not speak English, are heard and considered in decision-making processes.

Moderator: Alex Lawrence, Chief People Officer, City Of Boston

Provocateur: John Smith, Executive Director, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative

Browse, Borrow, Board: The Evolution of a Prototype  

Presenter: Madeline Webster, Boston’s Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics

Co-Author(s): Jaclyn Youngblood, The Lab @ MassDOT

Between summer 2022 and summer 2023, the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics partnered with the Boston Public Library and the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority to bring the BPL’s digital collections to MBTA riders at 20 bus stops through “digital pop-up libraries”—requiring a smartphone, but no library card, to access. From summer 2023 through the present, the Lab @ MassDOT has been scaling the prototype throughout the state. This program is called “Browse, Borrow, Board,” and it has generated a series of learnings about how to facilitate collaboration between large bureaucracies in service of both shared and slightly separate goals, how to scale prototypes effectively, how to introduce riders unfamiliar with their local public library to its services, and about what types of reading and listening materials appeal to riders on the go.

Asking better questions: Equity considerations when designing research and evaluation projects

Presenter: Min Ma, MXM Research Group

Co-Author(s): Evan Kuras, MXM Research Group 

The social sector ecosystem in Greater Boston pours so much money into research, evaluation, and community needs assessment every year with results that drive spending priorities for government agencies, nonprofits, and foundations. This session explores the process of forming research and evaluation questions and considers: Who decides on the goals and questions of the project? How might the research agenda change when more voices are included in project design? We draw on recent collaborations with the City of Boston, highlighting practices and decisions made during the design phases of these projects that shifted power to the people and communities most affected by the research. Our goal is to get the audience thinking about who is crafting their research agendas, how power shows up in this process, and how they might shift their practices to include more voices.

Building a Data (Ethics) Culture at the City of Boston

Presenter: Amy Hood, Citywide Analytics team, City of Boston

Co-Author(s): Joey Headley,Citywide Analytics team, City of Boston

How does one prepare an organization as large and tenured as the City of Boston to use data  — and not just to use it, but use it well, often and for good? Perhaps more importantly, where does one start? In 2022, the citywide Analytics team started a program led by peers, for their peers, to catalyze an organization-wide culture of data use. We came to the task grounded in the simple belief that data is for everyone, and we are better with everyone knowing how to use it.

In this talk, we’ll explore the bottom-up, resource-conscious approach we took to grow the data skills of over 50 City of Boston staff. We’ll cover the highs and lows of a bottom-up approach to data culture work, how we incorporate data ethics into our practice, and provide tips on how to start where you are (with low-to-no budget). We’ll end with the early impact we’re seeing as a result of these efforts, and how we plan to grow that impact with the program.

Stories and Numbers: Illuminating the Tapestry of Boston’s Communities

Presenter: Heloiza Barbosa, Boston Planning and Development Agency

Co-Author(s): Phillip Granberry, Boston Planning and Development Agency 

Boston Stories and Numbers is an audio-documentary project of the Research Division at the Boston Planning and Development Agency in collaboration with the City of Boston’s Arts and Culture Department. Under the direction of audio documentarian Heloiza Barbosa, this unique initiative explores the rich tapestry of Boston’s communities through a fusion of audio storytelling and data analysis, delving into the diverse stories that define Boston. Any textual or visual presentation of descriptive statistics fails to provide the context in which people live. By the intertwining of descriptive data with personal narratives, Boston Stories and Numbers creates a more rounded and holistic view of Boston’s populations and their rich cultural dynamics. The connections between statistics and audio storytelling are a testament to the transformative power of human narratives. This potent fusion awakens empathy, prompts reflection, and ultimately propels us toward a more compassionate and informed engagement with the world around us.


Moderator: María Teresa Nagel, Director, SomerViva, Office of Immmigrant Affairs City of Somerville

Provocateur: Alex Train, Chief Operating Officer, La Colaborativa

How Racialized Legal Status Administrative Burdens Reduce Boston Immigrants’ Healthcare Access

Presenter: Tiffany Joseph, Northeastern University

This presentation expands Pamela Herd and Donald Moynihan’s (2018) “administrative burdens” and Victor Ray’s (2022) “racialized burdens” to explore what I call “racialized legal status (RLS) administrative burdens.” I examine how RLS burdens at the intersection of race, ethnicity, and legal status severely limit healthcare access for Boston immigrants. I use interview data from a qualitative study of 207 Brazilian, Dominican, and Salvadoran immigrants, healthcare providers, and immigrant and health advocates in Boston, MA from 2012 to 2019. I find that RLS administrative burdens negatively shape Boston Latinx immigrants’ care and coverage in two ways despite MA’s immigrant-inclusive health policy. First, legal status affected health coverage (re)enrollment processes under the MA and ACA health reforms, generating de facto exclusion. Second, language impacted limited English proficient (LEP) immigrants when interacting with health coverage bureaucrats and receiving care from providers who spoke English. Cumulatively, RLS administrative burdens undermined the state’s immigrant-inclusive healthcare eligibility.

Global Greater Boston: Immigrants in a Changing Region 

Presenter: Kelly Harrington, Boston Indicators

Co-Author(s): Luc Schuster, Boston Indicators; Anthony Capote, Immigration Research Initiative

For as long as it’s been a city, immigrants have been central to Boston’s identity, and they’ve contributed to the growth and vibrancy of our communities in innumerable ways. Based on the report Global Greater Boston: Immigrants in a Changing Region by Boston Indicators and Immigration Research Initiative, this presentation will draw from analysis of American Community Survey estimates to:

  •  describe the composition of immigrant populations in our region and how this has changed over time; 
  •  and examine the socioeconomic contributions and well-being of immigrants in Greater Boston, including immigrants’ economic trajectory over their careers and across generations. 

We find that Greater Boston is home to an increasingly diverse range of immigrants from all over the world who make up a meaningful part of the area’s economic output and labor force. We hope this analysis will inform effective implementation of policies and programs that make our region an even more welcoming and thriving place.

Greater Boston Migrant Service Providers: Challenges and Connections

Presenter: Denise Muro, McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston

Co-Author(s): Johanna Tvedt, Courtney Maurer

Throughout its history, MAP Network has aimed to strengthen and connect immigrant and refugee services in the Boston area. Through engaging with service providers and advocates, the organization identified several recurring challenges in this sector. In 2022, the organization launched a pilot study to go beyond anecdotal knowledge and collect and analyze data on challenges and connections in the field. This community-engaged research initiative was designed in partnership with service providers and aimed to center their understandings of prominent challenges in the field of immigrant and refugee services and advocacy. Utilizing a needs assessment and organizational network analysis, the study provides initial data on challenges and connections in the field. We hope that the findings of this research can be used to support organizations in seeking funding and other resources, encourage a collaborative atmosphere in the field, and strengthen support networks for immigrant and refugee communities in the Boston area.


Moderator: Luc Schuster, Executive Director, Boston Indicators

Provocateur: Turahn Dorsey, Chief Impact Officer, Eastern Bank Foundation

Is Worcester Food Insecure? Worcester’s Community Food Assessment

Presenter: Eric Kneeland, Worcester Regional Research Bureau

Co-Author(s): Casey Burns, Coalition for a Healthy Greater Worcester

Throughout 2023, the Worcester Regional Research Bureau, in partnership with the Center on Food Equity, released a series of interactive maps and dashboards documenting information about food insecurity in the city of Worcester and throughout Worcester County. These interactive maps, drawing data from the American Community Survey, Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and elsewhere, show the intersection of demographics and food access in Worcester and throughout Worcester County. Significantly, a series of dashboards show the intersection of SNAP use and the social vulnerability index, SNAP use and sources of income, and SNAP clients and the SNAP gap.

These maps and tools have been used by the Food Help Worcester initiative, the Center on Food Equity, the Coalition for a Healthy Greater Worcester, and other organizations to aid in their creation of a Community Food Assessment which had a kick-off event, the Worcester Food Summit, in May 2023. Additionally, these maps allow interested parties to identify communities (by zip code and census tract) where there may be gaps in service and overall food security issues. The Bureau continues to update the maps with current data from the Department of Transitional Assistance as it becomes available.

A presentation at the Boston Area Research Initiative 2024 conference would include a discussion of the maps and interactive dashboards that the Worcester Regional Research Bureau put together, as well as significant perspective from Casey Burns, Director of the Coalition for a Healthy Greater Worcester, on how these interactive tools have been used in the community to inform the food security work of the Coalition and its partners, as well as some of the ongoing work of the Center on Food Equity, including a discussion of the community food assessment, its projected impacts, and where we go from here.

Integrating Food Security Solutions into the Healthcare System

Presenter: Hannah Koehn, Project Bread

Co-Author(s): Laura Siller, Project Bread; Eliot Stanton, Project Bread, Kaveri Sastry, Project Bread & Jen Obadia, Project Bread

In 2020, MassHealth launched its Flexible Services Program, a groundbreaking pilot that allows Medicaid dollars to be used on non-medical expenses. Focusing on increasing food security, Project Bread began an innovative model of the Flexible Services Program that provides nutrition support tailored to the individualized needs of eligible clients who are both food insecure and diagnosed with a complex physical or mental health condition. Since 2020, Project Bread has served over 12,000 clients. This presentation will highlight findings from a recent multi-method study. Findings will include qualitative and quantitative data collected from clients who have completed the program and Community Health Workers who refer clients into the program. Project Bread’s innovative program to address food insecurity has proven effective in Massachusetts and can serve as a model for other community-based organizations and states implementing Flexible Service Programs. 

The Impact of the METCO Voluntary School Desegregation Program

Presenter: Elizabeth Setren, Tufts University

School assignment policies are a key policy lever to increase access to high performing schools and to promote racial and socioeconomic integration. For over 50 years, the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) has bussed students of color from Boston, Massachusetts to relatively wealthier and predominantly White suburbs. Using a combination of digitized historical records and administrative data, I analyze the short and long run effects of attending a high-performing suburban school for applicants to the METCO program. I compare those with and without offers to enroll in a two-stage least squares approach that utilizes the waitlist assignment priorities and controls for a rich set of characteristics from birth records and application data. Attending a suburban school boosts 10th grade Math and English test scores by 0.13 and 0.21 standard deviations respectively. The program reduces dropout rates by 75 percent and increases on-time high school graduation by 13 percentage points. The suburban schools increase four-year college aspirations by 17 percentage points and enrollment by 21 percentage points. Participation results in a 12 percentage point increase in four-year college graduation rates. Enrollment leads to increased average earnings at age 35 by $16,250. Evidence of tracking to lower performing classes in the suburban schools suggests these effects could be larger with access to more advanced coursework. Effects are strongest for students whose parents did not graduate college.

Orienting Network Improvement Communities for Equity-focused School Improvement: Insights from a Nonprofit-District-University Partnership

Presenter: Alia Verner, Racial Equity Networked Improvement Community

Co-Author(s): Hardin Coleman, Racial Equity Networked Improvement Community, Yozmin Gay-Draper, Office of Opportunity Gaps, Boston Public Schools, Tanya Nixon-Silberg, School Site Council and Mendell School Based Equity Roundtable, and Founder of Little Uprisings & Ben Helfat, Boston Adult Technical Academy

Often, solutions implemented to improve opportunities and outcomes for students of color do not address the root causes of inequities or engage those closest to the problem in decision-making and implementation, resulting in policies and practices that do not lead to school-based or system-level change. Recognizing these patterns, EdVestors, a school improvement nonprofit in Boston,  Boston University, and Boston Public School’s Office of Opportunity Gaps collaborated to develop a racial-equity centered Networked Improvement Community (NIC). The goal of this NIC is to build the capacity of schools and the district to understand, implement, and shape conditions that disrupt and dismantle racial inequities by addressing root causes and building shared decision-making with students and families most impacted by racial inequities. In our session, we will highlight both shared and context-based successes and challenges associated with advancing racial equity across schools alongside emerging evidence of impact that can help inform equitable improvement in education. 

Conference Venue & Parking Information

The Microsoft AI Center is located at 1 Memorial Dr., Cambridge, MA.

The parking garage is located at the back of the building. When entering the parking
garage, it will prompt you to press the button to take a ticket, after the event is over
you can pay the parking ticket in the lobby (just passing the security desk and near
the elevator to the parking garage.) Or you can pay upon exiting the garage. Weekday
rate are $30 all day, weekend rates are $10 all day.

2024 BARI Conference is Co-Hosted with Microsoft

Conference Venue Floor Plan

Conference Committee

Will Pfeffer, Civic Technologist, Metropolitan Area Planning Council

Jessie Partridge Guerrero, Data Services Director, Metropolitan Area Planning Council

Steven Worthington, Institute for Quantitative Social Science, Harvard University

Loretta Lees, Faculty Director, Initiatives on Cities, Boston University

Kathryn Carlson, Executive Director, Rappaport Institute, Harvard University

Elizabeth Jackson, Executive Director, Institute for Quantitative Social Science, Harvard University

Ted Landsmark, Director, Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, Northeastern University

Aimee Sprung, Civic Engagement Manager, Microsoft New England

Esteban Moro, Professor, Northeastern University

Eric Gordon, Professor of Civic Media, Director of The Engagement Lab, Emerson College

Kim Lucas, Associate Director for Civic Research, Boston Area Research Initiative, Northeastern University

Luc Schuster, Director, Boston Indicators

John Smith, Executive Director, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI)

BARI Conference Sponsors