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Friday, May 1, 3:30 pm

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For the Community by the Community: Fostering Local Partnerships to Create Meaningful Forum Discussions
Presenter: Emily Hostetler, Education Associate II, Museum of Science, Boston


Marta Beyer, Research & Evaluation Associate, Museum of Science, Boston

Janine Myszka, Forum Education Associate I, Museum of Science, Boston

Kimberly Lucas, Senior Director of Civic Research and Innovation, MetroLab Network

Caitlin Callahan, Director of Development, Urban College of Boston

The Museum of Science, Boston has led over 150 forums based on museum, scientist, and policy maker priorities. By iterating our process, we created a new model to co-develop forums with community members to increase agency among community participants, public interest in attending museum programs, and participation in policy making and informing research questions. To better reflect the priorities of Boston’s local communities, the Museum teamed up with the Urban College of Boston and the City of Boston’s Department of Innovation and Technology to decide on forum topics, recruit participants, and share results.

This session will outline our new model to create longstanding local partnerships, to gather information about community priorities, and to develop community based forums. We will describe the Team-Based Inquiry process we used to collect data, reflect after each major milestone, and improve our co-created forum. By reviewing the data and sharing our stories of successes and difficulties, we will demonstrate how to plan programs rooted in community needs, connect communities to real and actionable ideas, engage with publics outside of typical museum audiences, and discover if communities feel more connected and interested in topics that they co-created.

Bus Amenities Allocation Decision-Assistance Tool
Violet Lingenfelter, Intern, MBTA; B.S. Candidate, Northeastern University

The MBTA has been evaluating its strategy of distributing bus stop amenities, with the goal of creating a rational policy for assignment of shelters, benches, and other amenities among bus stops.  Although there was a clear consensus on which criteria were important (ridership, neighborhood demographics, and expected wait time at the stop), there was disagreement about how to weight these criteria, and what the implications would be of different weighting schemes.

To help uncover the implications of this decision, we developed a web-based GIS tool that allowed policy makers to change how each of these criteria are weighted, and see how their decisions impacted the system. The tool was designed to facilitate conversation and decisions, and as such, was designed with a single focus and with easy user experience as a guiding principle.

Tools like these allow for stakeholders to engage with data and see how measurement decisions can have dramatic on-the-ground impacts. They make the decision-making process, not just the final decision, data driven. Decision-making tools that focus on user experience allow non-technical policy makers interact with complex datasets in a way that is fun, intuitive, and informative; they focus conversation on decisions that have the most impact.

This presentation will focus on the front-end functionality and the extensive decision-making and data processing that had to happen in the back end to make the user experience as intuitive as possible. We will describe the decisions we had to make to standardize the relevant variables, to display the simplest meaningful outputs, and to set weights within a reasonable set of boundaries to focus the conversation within the limits of what is possible to implement.

Youth and City Hall: Using Human-Centered Design to Support Civic Action in Boston Public Schools
Tia Thomson, Director, Scout Labs, Northeastern University


Shannon Reilly, Project Lead, Scout Labs, Northeastern University

Aidan Flynn, Strategist, Scout Labs, Northeastern University

Dilara Sisman, Strategist, Scout Labs, Northeastern University

Nathan Hostert, Strategist, Scout Labs, Northeastern University

Ava Nordling, Strategist, Scout Labs, Northeastern University

Jocelyn Zhu, Strategist, Scout Labs, Northeastern University

In order to be proactive and responsive to state legislation that mandates that public school districts provide opportunities for students to complete their own action civics projects (Senate Bill 2631: An Act to Promote and Enhance Civic Engagement), the Scout Labs team at Northeastern University worked in partnership with the City of Boston Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM) to research how to best support Boston Public School students in working with local government on their action civic projects.

Over the course of two semesters, Scout Labs’ multidisciplinary team of undergraduate researchers and designers engaged key stakeholders from throughout the Boston community in their research, including Boston Public Schools students, teachers, community organizations, and government officials. This included numerous co-creation workshops, interviews, and surveys, resulting in the collection of data from over 300 middle and high school students about their attitudes towards local government, motivations for change-making, and passions for specific social issues.

Following a human-centered design process, the Labs team used this research to inform the design of a website that facilitates the connection of Boston Public Schools students with experts within City Hall who can support the development of students’ action civics projects.

Empowering Community Based Organizations to Utilize Data for Program Monitoring and Evaluation
Sarah Goan, Data Innovation Project, Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy, University of Southern Maine

Many community based organizations (CBOs) have limited capacity to demonstrate their impact through data collection and evaluation, despite often having requirements around these activities from funders. Without access to expertise and resources around data and evaluation, CBOs are unable to effectively make data informed decisions or use data to tell the story of their organization.

The Data Innovation Project (DIP), situated within the University of Southern Maine, began offering free two hour technical assistance (TA) sessions for CBOs in 2016 and since then has worked with over 60 organizations. Despite most organizations applying for TA sessions to work on data collection and analysis, the majority of TA sessions begin by working as a team to draft a theory of change and a logic model. In tandem, these evaluation tools provide the groundwork for organizations to methodologically collect data and subsequently use the data in meaningful ways.

When surveying organizations three months after their sessions, most organizations have stated the sessions made them feel more confident in their organization’s ability to use data effectively and to learn from data. The majority of survey respondents reported making changes around data collection and visualization.

The Data Innovation Project continues to provide TA sessions to community organizations. This session will share our data clinic model and lessons learned, as well as how we are using what we learn to respond to emerging community needs. For example, the DIP is developing E-learning modules around several topics, including theory of change and logic models, so that organizations can be primed on these topics prior to their session and be further prepared for undertaking program monitoring and/or evaluation efforts. In addition, the DIP is currently piloting a data clinic model that provides intensive, culturally responsive data clinics for local organizations run by refugees, immigrants, asylum seekers, people of color and tribal communities.

Moderator: Eric Gordon, Emerson Engagement Lab