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At the MIT Media Lab on Friday, April 28th.

Conference Mission

The 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. The conference highlights work leveraging all types of data (from qualitative stories and experiences to quantitative “big data”) and from all perspectives, including the public, non-profit, and private sectors, as well as academia.

2023 BARI Conference Agenda


Keynote Speaker: Geeta Pradhan, President, Cambridge Community Fund
Fireside Companion Katharine Lusk, Co-Director & Founding Executive Director, Boston University Initiative on Cities

Session I: 10:15 AM – 12 PM

Moderator: Josh Boucher, Research Analyst, Worcester Regional Research Bureau 

Provocateur: Gladys Vega, Executive Director, La Colaborativa

The State of Income-Restricted Cooperative Housing In Boston

Shana Siegel, Cooperative Development Institute         

Co-Authors: Alyssa Kogan, Metropolitan Area Planning Council

The Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) recently released a report on the state of income-restricted cooperatives and tenant-controlled developments in Boston. This research was made possible through funds from the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC) and the Boston Mayor’s Office on Housing (MOH), as well as through the participation of board members from 17 of these cooperatives. Through open-ended interviews and collaboratively-crafted statements, board members were able to share their expertise, generational knowledge, and lived experience. The results of this research demonstrate that these cooperatives provide many Bostonians with high-quality affordable and equitable subsidized housing –and that these cooperatives could use some additional support to ensure their continued existence. This report compliments a growing body of research demonstrating a crisis-level lack of affordable, equitable housing opportunities, including in Boston’s communities of color, which are facing unprecedented gentrifying pressures. The report finds that (1) The cooperative housing model has delivered community benefits beyond those enjoyed by residents of the properties; (2) Boston’s model of income-restricted, tenant-controlled/cooperative developments provides a path to affordable housing, homeownership, and community stabilization; and (3) additional efforts should be made (a) to provide increased support for existing cooperatives and (b) to develop additional housing of this sort. 


Housing Stability During the Covid-19 Pandemic: Evaluating Emergency Rental Assistance In Massachusetts with A Mixed-Methods Research Approach

Jessie Partridge Guerrero, Metropolitan Area Planning Council 

The pandemic exacerbated housing stability challenges for many segments of the population, which prompted state action on new programs to provide emergency rental assistance (ERA). While these new programs provided a valuable housing stability lifeline, accessing these resources remained challenging for many householders at risk. Confusing applications, burdensome documentation requirements, and lack of language access meant that many renters needed assistance to use these programs. Fortunately, public and private-sector support enabled community-based organizations (CBOs) across Massachusetts to help renters apply for rental assistance. As many of these emergency rental assistance programs ended, MAPC; in partnership with Citizens Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA), United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, and The Boston Foundation, conducted a mixed-methods research project to evaluate these ERA programs. The research project was designed and executed in consultation with key stakeholders, including CBOs, regional administering agencies (RAAs), and landlords. Through a series of meetings that took place over the course of the project, stakeholders contributed to the research design, recruitment, and recommendations. The research consisted of three elements: a literature review; analysis of data about households that applied for ERA with CBO assistance; and focus groups with key constituencies including tenants, landlords, RAAs, and CBOs. Focus groups with tenants were conducted in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, and Mandarin, representing the largest language groups among the tenants who applied with the help of our stakeholder CBOs. Focus group conversations were translated, transcribed, coded, and summarized using qualitative methods that support robust public policy recommendations.


Resident Experiences of Inclusion and Bias in Inclusionary Housing in Cambridge

Alexandra Curley, National Initiative on Mixed-Income Communities, Case Western Reserve University

Co-Authors: Judith Gonyea, Boston University School of Social Work

This presentation reports some of the key findings from a recent survey of 430 residents in Cambridge. The goal of the study was to learn the extent to which residents of affordable Inclusionary Housing Program (IHP) units experience a sense of community inclusion, social exclusion, bias, and/or differences in how they are treated compared with others in their buildings and housing complexes (i.e. market-rate households). Respondents reported attachments to Cambridge and high levels of satisfaction with neighborhoods. Many in the affordable IHP units did not report experiencing bias or discrimination in their building in the past year (based on the Everyday Discrimination Scale). But a substantial number of residents in these units did experience bias (40%). Race was most often identified as the reason for bias, followed by housing status, income, having children, and gender. Property managers and market-rate residents in the building were most often identified as the sources of bias. Residents in affordable IHP units experienced significantly greater frequency-exposure to bias than those in market-rate units in their buildings. We consider implications and recommendations for the City of Cambridge to strengthen the IHP and advance welcoming, diverse, and inclusive communities.

Moderator: Maria Belen Power, Undersecretary of Environmental Justice and Equity, Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Provocateur: Emmanuell De Barros, Director of Development & Community Engagement, Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE)


Converting Indoor Air Quality Data From K-12 School Sensor Networks Into Decision-Making Tools: A Case Study In Boston Public Schools

Patricia Fabian, Environmental Health, Boston University

Co-Authors: Kathleen Walsh, Boston University School of Public Health

The widespread installation of indoor air quality (IAQ) sensors in K-12 schools offers the opportunity to inform investment decisions and policies related to IAQ, climate resilience, adaptation, mitigation, and sustainability, as well as transform what we know about how indoor air impacts absenteeism, health, and learning. While real-time data is used to make operational decisions to fix problems and improve IAQ, challenges in data recording, standardization, and volume need to be addressed to conduct  research and longer-term analyses. Boston University is collaborating with Boston Public Schools to create datasets and analyze IAQ data from ~4,500 sensors installed in classrooms across all K-12 schools in Boston. The sensors measure minute level carbon dioxide, particulate matter, temperature and relative humidity, generating ~2.4 billion data points per year. We standardized data for research and longitudinal analyses, and created data visualizations and newsletter content for the schools. At a local level, results from this project could be used to inform prioritization in school infrastructure investments, such as those proposed in the City of Boston’s Green New Deal. More broadly, the protocols developed can be leveraged by schools and researchers to maximize the utility of K-12 school IAQ sensors for actionable research and policy making.


Air Quality Environmental Justice: Data Science, Community Engagement, And Policy Advocacy in Roxbury, Ma

Francesca Majluf, Air Partners Research Program, Olin College

Co-Authors: Emmanuell de Barros, Alternatives for Community & Environment

Air Partners from Olin College, in collaboration with Roxbury-based advocacy group Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE), is working to develop and pilot a replicable model for community-driven air justice in the community of Roxbury, MA. The strategy for this project is centered on an approach uniting three pillars: Air Monitoring – Collect data to identify the primary sources of indoor and ambient air pollutants around the neighborhood, with an emphasis in the area surrounding Nubian Square, and to quantify their proportional contribution to overall exposure,  Air Pollution Mitigation – Pilot a strategy for effective intervention via HEPA filtration at a community level, and Data to Action – Effectively translate local, distributed air quality data into local, real-world impact, driving targeted short-term air pollutant mitigation and sustained longer-term air justice policy initiatives at the municipal, state, and federal level. This ongoing project was originally designed with a 2-year timeline in mind, and it’s currently halfway through its second year. In this presentation, we’ll explore the project’s progress, lessons learned, preliminary insights, next steps and how ACE is hoping to enact impact in the long term.


Assessing Ambient Ultrafine Particle Number Concentrations In Near-Airport Communities In Boston, Massachusetts  

Presenter: Kevin J. Lane, Boston University School of Public Health

Co-Authors: John Durant, Tufts University, Neelakshi Hudda, Tufts University, Sean Mueller, Boston University School of Public Health, Prasad Patil, Boston University School of Public Health, Breanna Van Loenen, Boston University School of Public Health, Tiffany R. Duhl, Tufts University, Flannery Black-Ingersoll, Boston University School of Public Health, Jonathan I Levy, Boston University School of Public Health

Airborne ultrafine particles (UFP) are an emerging public health concern. Aircraft emissions contribute to overall ambient air pollution, including UFPs. However, accurately ascertaining aviation contributions to UFP is challenging due to high spatiotemporal variability along with intermittent aviation emissions. Our aim was to differentiate UFP contributions from various transportation activities. Methods: UFP was measured using stationary sites in Boston, Chelsea, Milton, Revere and Winthrop during two different study monitoring periods: 1) pre-pandemic (January 2017 – September 2018) and 2) during the pandemic (April 2020 – June 2021). We measured particle number concentration (PNC; a proxy for UFP) and meteorology from stationary sites at varying distances from arrival and departure flight paths. We applied both GLM and RF to identify key covariates and optimize prediction of PNC. Results: Models indicate UFP can be predicted from transportation activity and meteorology (R2 0.40 – 0.67). Important predictors of UFP were being downwind of the airport, the number of arrival flights and total flight activity. Conclusion: Our results suggest that inflight aircraft contribute intermittently, but significantly to UFP concentrations in communities near flight paths. Collection of PNC and flight activity data allowed us to quantify contributions from aircraft, and machine learning approaches explained complex interactions among predictors.

Moderator: Erin McAleer, President & CEO, Project Bread

Provocateur: Charlie Burns, Executive Director, Food Rescue US


Chelsea Eats Guaranteed Income Pilot Program

Eliza Novick, Shah Family Foundation    

Co-Authors: Kathryn Carlson, Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, Harvard University

Chelsea, Massachusetts, a city of 40,000 people just north of Boston, is among the places in the country hardest hit by COVIC-19, both from a health and an economic perspective. In April 2020, local community organizations and the City of Chelsea responded to the economic crisis facing jobless Chelsea residents by mounting an unprecedented food distribution effort. After five months of running its food distribution sites, the City decided to redirect its efforts in September 2020 toward distributing financial support so that residents could purchase their own food using cash cards through a program called Chelsea Eats. By combining city general revenue funds, state aid, and philanthropic contributions, the City assembled enough resources to distribute Chelsea Eats cash cards to approximately 2,000 households and to replenish the cards on a monthly basis for a total of six months. A research team from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston led by Professor Jeff Liebman has been conducting the analysis of this cash assistance effort to learn about the impact of the project. This paper describes the results of the Rappaport Institute’s analysis of the Chelsea Eats program – at the time the largest studied UBI/GI program in the world. After the six-month pilot, Chelsea Eats participants said they were better off financially, were less likely to report food insecurity, and reported no negative impact on their willingness to work.

Highlighting Food Insecurity with A Public Data Sculpture

Rahul Bhargava, Art & Design Department, Northeastern University

The early phases of the pandemic significantly exacerbated food insecurity, impacting many new populations. Motivated to use data to showcase and inspire increased action in response, our team designed and built a data sculpture in the shape of a full-sized table made of 1,659 pieces of welded cutlery. That number is the average number of households applying for SNAP benefits each day during March of 2020. The sculpture was placed first at Groundwork Somerville’s South Street urban farm to support youth education. The Green Team, groundwork Somerville’s youth outreach team, used the table to instigate conversations about food Justice, hunger, and how their urban agriculture work acted as one piece of the puzzle in addressing local food insecurity. 1,659 were subsequently shown at farmers’ markets to drive interest and enrollment in SNAP, local galleries and museums to drive attention to the issue and engagement in responses, and various other settings. It is accompanied by videos showcasing interviews with stakeholders to complement the number 1,659 with real lived experiences. Projects like 1,659 transform how we work together to create impact on issues of public concern by bringing people together around arts-based engagements with data to spur action.

You Are Where You Eat: Effect of Mobile Food Environments on Fast Food Visits in the US

Bernardo Garcia Bulle Bueno, Connection Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

Co-Authors: Abigail L Horn, Massachusetts Institute of Technology  Alex Pentland, Connection Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Kayla de la Haye, Department of Population and Public Health Sciences, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Esteban Moro, Connection Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

Poor diets are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. Exposure to environments saturated with fast food outlets (FFO), is hypothesized to negatively impact diet and related diseases. Research linking such exposure to diet and health outcomes has generated mixed findings and led to unsuccessful policy interventions. In this work, we leverage population-scale mobility data to examine peoples’ visits to food outlets and FFO and evaluate how food choice is influenced by features of food environments people are exposed to in their daily routines. We find that a 10% higher prevalence of FFO (across all food outlets) in an area increases the odds of people moving within it to visit a FFO by approximately 20%. We then investigate intervention strategies to food environments to promote reduced FFO visits. We find that optimal locations for intervention are a combination of where i) the prevalence of FFO is the highest, ii) most decisions about food outlet visits are made, and most importantly, iii) visitors’ food decisions are most susceptible to the environment. Multi-level interventions at the individual behavior- and food environment-level that target areas combining these features could have 1.7x to 4x larger effects than traditional interventions that alter food swamps.

Moderator: Benjamin Forman, Research Director, MassINC

Provocateur: Emmanuel Tikili, Co-Director, Project RIGHT

911 Usage By Boston Public Schools: A Researcher-Practitioner Partnership

Presenter: Jenna Savage, Boston Police Department

Co Authors: Melissa S. Morabito, Boston Police Department

To reduce police presence in schools, School Resource Officer (SRO) programs are being eliminated across the United States. However, police also become involved in schools through other routes—namely, in response to school calls to 911. This type of police involvement has generally been overlooked in prior studies of school use of police services. In addition, prior research has primarily relied on interview and survey data of school administrators. We describe a Researcher-Practitioner partnership created to address limitations of this prior research and to answer foundational questions from the Boston Public Schools (BPS) about police involvement in schools through calls to 911. First, we discuss ongoing collaborative work conducted among the Boston Police Department (BPD), BPS, and academic partners. Next, we provide an example of how this partnership can address pressing questions identified by BPS by providing the results of an analysis of 911 calls. This work provides an example of how researcher-practitioner partnerships can inform policy and practice in schools, and guide decision-making about school-based police services.


Integrating Data Across State Agencies To Understand Educational Trajectories Among Justice-Involved Youth In Massachusetts

Presenter: Alicia Lynch, Lynch Research Associates, LLC

Co-Authors: Jonathan Zaff,  Wheelock College of Education & Human Development, Boston University

In 2003, the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services (DYS) began extensively reforming its educational programming to create better access to high-quality education, by developing an asset-based, strengths-focused, equitable approach to supporting education pathways for young people between the ages of 12 and 21 who have been committed to DYS custody. Since then, DYS has been able to track educational outcomes among youth in their custody. However, once youth leave DYS custody, data related to high school  graduation, GED/HiSet attainment, drop out, and secondary education, are housed outside of DYS at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), making it difficult for DYS to assess the effectiveness of their educational reforms. This report, generated as the result of a multi-year partnership among DYS, DESE, and CERES Institute at Boston University, represents the first time in Massachusetts history that data from DYS and DESE have been integrated. The results highlight rates of educational attainment among justice-involved youth that are dramatically lower than rates statewide. However, these data also provide hopeful insights, suggesting that the opportunities that youth are provided as part of their DYS commitment are important predictors of educational attainment. 


Transforming Narratives Of Gun Violence:  A Collaborative Model For Narrative Intervention

Presenter: Neve Chambers, Engagement Lab, Emerson College

Co-Authors: Eric Gordon, Engagement Lab, Emerson College

The new cycles surrounding gun violence move so quickly (Chinni, 2023), communities such as Dorchester are left grieving, processing, and healing alone. There needs to be a more sustainable way to continue to tell these stories that are so often not covered by the media due to their inability to be sensationalized (Kaufman et al., 2020). In December 2021, The Engagement Lab, Emerson’s laboratory for collaborative research and learning, formed a partnership with the MGH Center for Gun Violence Prevention, and community-based organizations working for violence prevention and advocating for victims, including the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute (founding partner), the Center for Teen Empowerment, and Boston Uncornered to launch the 3 -year initiative Transforming Narratives of Gun Violence. Our work aims to deepen our collective understanding of the crisis and develop persuasive media that center on those most impacted in the telling of stories of loss and recovery to restore urgency, dignity, and humanity to this pervasive issue. We are using the Real Talk for Change platform to amplify the voices of these communities that are constantly underrepresented and marginalized. We are ensuring that the new version of this platform can be of use to those who will be using this resource, and become a sustainable way to tell the stories of healing and peace within these communities.


A 21st Century Look At Threats To The Personal Safety Of Emerging Adults In Massachusetts

Presenter: Danielle Walker,  Boston College School of Social Work

Co-Authors: Kaycee Bills, Fayetteville State University School of Social Work

Emerging adulthood (ages 18-29) is a period of identity exploration, instability, self-focus, transition, and possibilities. Yet, emerging adulthood is also a potentially high-risk time for interpersonal (e.g., homicide) and self-directed (e.g., suicide) violence that can result in premature death. Our report provides the current estimates of homicides, suicides, police use of fatal and non-fatal force, and emergency department visits and hospitalizations for emerging adults in Massachusetts to shed light on factors that pose the greatest threat to their personal safety by gender, ethnicity, and location. We found disparities in interpersonal and self-directed violence that can inform the improvement of community-based violence prevention and intervention efforts in Massachusetts. Without such efforts, we stand to lose generations of future leaders and contributors to our society due to premature death or debilitating mental illness.

Session II: 1:30 PM – 3 PM

Moderator: Kim Lucas, Associate Director of Civic Research, Boston Area Research Initiative, Northeastern University

Provocateur: Chris Osgood, Mayor’s Senior Advisor, City of Boston
Enhancing Public Policy Discourse And Constituent Testimony With The Massachusetts Platform for Legislative Engagement

Presenter: Nathan Sanders, Berkman Klein Center, Harvard University

Co-Authors: Matt Victor, Boston College Law School

We are introducing a new, open source, free web platform, the Massachusetts Platform for Legislative Engagement (MAPLE),  that makes it easy for all stakeholders to submit testimony to the Massachusetts legislature and to read the testimony of others. MAPLE is a new digital public space for constituents to meaningfully engage in state government, learn about proposed legislation that impacts our lives in the Commonwealth, and to share their perspective, stories, and expertise. The platform was built as a public good and is launching this April, free to use for all and developed and maintained by volunteer developers as a 501c3 nonprofit project. We hope MAPLE will lower the barrier to engagement with the legislature and facilitate community consensus on key policy issues. Moreover, MAPLE will create a remarkable new database of public opinion in MA. This would enable policy stakeholders, journalists, researchers, and legislators to develop a shared, evidence based understanding of public opinion, how it varies over time and place, and how different voices succeed or fail to influence legislative outcomes. We will introduce the platform’s design, implementation, and launch approach and discuss its potential role in the Massachusetts political space and its impact to date.


Building An Organizational Data Culture That Centers Equity

Presenter: Min Ma, MXM Research Group

Co-Authors: Chantal Hoff, MXM Research Group

How do you build a data culture within an organization that promotes ongoing team reflection and cultural humility? This session is presented by MXM Research Group, a small research and evaluation firm that aims to embody our tagline of “data + soul” in the way we support the learning, measurement, and evaluation goals of our social sector partners. During this session we share tools and strategies for internal reflection designed to align team values and data equity principles.
Operationalizing our data equity lineage:
Over several years, we have curated a body of knowledge and ideas that shape our thinking around data equity, drawing from a range of disciplines that include systems thinking, human-centered design, art, and social science. We have cataloged this data equity lineage in a simple database. While we are committed to keeping this resource evergreen, we have also craved tactical, hands-on ways of engaging with these ideas. In its latest evolution, we have transferred concepts from this database into a deck of playing cards, each carrying a reflection question, activity, or thought exercise. This format enables us to literally “draw” conversational focus on important questions of data equity. Importantly, the tool makes data equity principles more accessible to our partners as we introduce data gathering and storytelling techniques in our work with community-based organizations, municipalities, and funders.
Regular reflective practice:
We gather twice a month for Reflective Practice, the purpose of which is to build trust and connection among team members, challenge our biases and assumptions, and consider how we are living up to our vision of data + soul. We often visit a project together using a set of reflection questions or an activity from our data equity database (and now cards). Having a regular space for reflection has helped us support each other on thorny or ethical challenges. It is also a critical component of keeping our data equity lineage alive.
We will share examples of how we have used this tool to strengthen civic engagement and participation in our work with data, along with recommendations for organizations similarly seeking to center equity in their practice.

Promoting and Showcasing Climate Agency Among Undergraduates Through Multi-Sector Collaboration

Presenter: Jonathan Fanning, Boston Museum of Science

The Museum of Science’s Go Carbon Neutral! Challenge serves as a model for how organizations can work to convene complementary sectors to promote climate solutions, create novel partnerships, and foster collective impact from civically engaged collaboration. The challenge initially served as a professional development and networking opportunity for undergraduates interested in developing climate change solutions. Now, it is a direct partnership with UMass Integrated Concentration in STEM (iCons) that asks students to identify and propose solutions for carbon transportation equity issues around Greater Boston. The Museum acts to convene civic, industry, government, and academic sectors in support of these students. Through internal evaluation, the Museum observed that students participating in the challenge feel a greater sense of inclusion, agency, and belonging in conversations with professionals regarding climate change mitigation. In addition, many participants report learning important information concerning equity, finance, and other practical challenges associated with the development and execution of climate change solutions. This discussion will focus on the lessons and frameworks the Museum continues to learn involving collaborative youth engagement, and feature students who participated in the challenge sharing how their experiences have shaped their trajectories and plans for the future.


Areaways: Boston’s Hollow Sidewalk Menace

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

Areaways are extensions of basements that reach out beyond the face of a building underneath the sidewalk so that what appears to be a regular sidewalk resting on solid ground is actually the roof of someone’s basement. This was once a useful building practice for creating more usable space and facilitating deliveries. Today, they create serious accessibility challenges, particularly in Downtown and Chinatown.As a condition of encroaching upon the public right-of-way, the owner of the areaway is responsible for keeping both the underground support structure and the sidewalk above in good repair according to municipal code. Most areaway owners don’t know they have this responsibility. And unlike the City, they aren’t in the regular business of designing and building sidewalks. This results in a patchwork of small, one-time fixes and major differences in the quality of the sidewalks from building to building. Over the past half year, the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics has been assisting the Persons with Disabilities Commission and the Public Works Department in confronting the City’s responsibility to ensure accessible sidewalks. This work has included sourcing evidence of known areaways, creating and implementing a street-level field survey, doing legal research to explore enforcement and incentive mechanisms, and strategizing on an areaways pilot program. 

Moderator: Meera Deean, Deputy Director for Design at Boston Planning & Development Agency, City of Boston

Provocateur: Nigel Jacob, Managing Director of Innovation, Boston Society for Architecture

Community-Driven Data Collection: Reflections On Evolving Collaborations From Sasaki Foundation Grantees

Presenter: Taylor Leonard, Charles River Conservancy, Sasaki Foundation grantee

Co-Authors: Jennifer Lawrence, Sasaki Foundation, Laura Jasinski, Sasaki Foundation

The Hideo Sasaki Foundation funds community-driven design processes that often engage with citizen scientists who utilize various types of traditional and nontraditional data collection methods. Recently, we engaged with the Charles River Conservancy and the Chinatown Community Land Trust on community-led designs that used and collected data in various ways. Though seemingly very different projects, they have commonalities that are interesting. These commonalities caused us to discuss how projects evolve and collaborations change based on how data is collected and what that data tells us. Taylor Leonard of the Charles River Conservancy will speak to the Floating Wetlands, situated downriver of the Longfellow Bridge on the Charles River. This project was meant to see the effects of a floating wetland on the zooplankton in the Charles River, heavily focused on scientific data collection. Over time, the data became much more nuanced and partnering with community members, including young people, became an important aspect of the program. Collecting feedback from the community, working with youth to create a meaningful collection method, and figuring out how to implement the program thoughtfully in public places led to new collaborations and more balanced data analysis. This conversation with community leaders will speak to the evolution of community-led processes, including how assumptions about data change over time, how research can lead you to a different place, and how collaborations create rich outcomes in community-led design projects.


Community-Driven Data Collection: Reflections On Evolving Collaborations From Sasaki Foundation Grantees

Presenter: Lydia Lowe, Chinatown Community Land Trust, Sasaki Foundation grantee

Co-Authors: Jennifer Lawrence, Sasaki Foundation, Laura Jasinski, Sasaki Foundation

The Hideo Sasaki Foundation funds community-driven design processes that often engage with citizen scientists who utilize various types of traditional and nontraditional data collection methods. Recently, we engaged with the Charles River Conservancy and the Chinatown Community Land Trust on community-led designs that used and collected data in various ways. Though seemingly very different projects, they have commonalities that are interesting. These commonalities caused us to discuss how projects evolve and collaborations change based on how data is collected and what that data tells us. Lydia Lowe of the Chinatown Community Land Trust, will talk about how the launch of the CAFEH study in Chinatown, at first understood as a means to an end for the community, turned into the creation of meaningful health impact assessments and mitigation proposals. This evolution led to an understanding that taking a health lens assessment of whole communities often leads us to better building and community designs. And, as you bring in other stakeholders, they can take ownership and pride, another co-benefit of meaningful data collection. This project ultimately led to the Chinatown Master Plan and the new Cultural Plan, and in part to the work with the Hideo Sasaki Foundation on energy microgrids in the community. This conversation with community leaders will speak to the evolution of community-led processes, including how assumptions about data change over time, how research can lead you to a different place, and how collaborations create rich outcomes in community-led design projects.

Community-Driven Data Storytelling Workshops For Social Change

Presenter: Milan Chuttani, Vital Village Networks, Boston Medical Center

Co-Authors: Ronda Alexander, Boston Medical Center, Katia Powell-Laurent, Black Girls Nutrition, Cassandra Loftlin, Goodness Gracious Grocery Cooperative, Suzeth Dunn-Dyer, Vital Village Networks, Boston Medical Center, Diana Rivera, Vital Village Networks, Boston Medical Center, Renée Boynton-Jarrett, Vital Village Networks, Boston Medical Center

Democratizing data tools that allow communities to collect, own, and visualize their data not only reduces unequal power dynamics between researchers and participants, but also strengthens community engagement, trust, and research protocols. Vital Village Networks hosts biannual, cost-free data storytelling workshops for resident leaders, community-based organizations, social impact startups, and direct service providers in Boston and nationally. Community-led data stories are important tools for systems change because they expose systemic inequities in health, education, and life chances, structural racism, and lived experiences with violence and injustice, while elevating community solutions, resilience, and human dignity. Between June 2022 and April 2023, 31 community members joined 9 workshops and 22 office hour sessions, with 48% attending more than one session. 6 community members shared their data work in 8+ presentations at local and national symposiums or policy meetings with government officials. In this session, workshop participants will share how co-facilitating discussions and creating interactive maps and timelines has advanced their collective advocacy for social change on topics including Black maternal health and food justice. Workshop members will also outline best practices for co-designing virtual workshop materials that celebrate community knowledge as valid and powerful sources of information.

Breaking Free from the Community Meeting: Co-Designing Equitable Public Space Using Interactive Engagement

Presenter: Rishika Dhawan, CultureHouse

Co-Authors: Aaron Greiner, CultureHouse

Public space design must happen with a community, not to it. CultureHouse uses interactive and observational data collection methods to understand community needs and design public spaces. These methods make people want to engage and empower them to be active participants in determining the future of their neighborhoods.In the summer of 2022, CultureHouse worked with the Emerald Necklace Conservancy to develop and conduct a public space impact assessment to measure the impacts of their Parks as Platform events. We studied the effects of the events on who was using the park, where they were visiting from, how they were using the space, and how perceptions of the park changed.CultureHouse turns data collection into an interaction, not an extraction, by implementing engaging tools to gather qualitative and quantitative data. These tools include giant voting tubes, sticker maps, an open-response prompt board, and bingo chip voting! In addition to the interactive data, we use observational data to create a baseline for data comparison and complement the rich community feedback.During this talk, CultureHouse will share insights on the new data collection methods we’ve pioneered and the lessons that came out of the Parks as Platform project.

Moderator: Lou Mandarini, Mayor’s Senior Advisor on Labor, City of Boston

Provocateur: Natalia Urtubey, Eastern Bank Foundation

Identifying “Community Workspace Deserts” In Greater Boston And How To Address Them

Presenter: Nicholas Caros, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Co-Authors: Xiaotong Guo, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This research explores methods for identifying and addressing “community workspace deserts” in Greater Boston. Contrary to the popular “working from home” narrative, more than one third of remote work takes place in cafés, libraries, co-working spaces and the homes of friends and family members. Yet these shared community workspaces are typically private and not distributed evenly across the Boston area. Large-scale travel pattern data shows that such locations are largely concentrated in high-income, amenity-rich neighborhoods and absent in lower-income neighborhoods. As a result, remote workers who are most likely to benefit from a public community workspace also have to travel the furthest to reach one. In other jurisdictions, the public sector has provided incentives for new shared community workspaces to achieve social goals in the era of widespread remote work. As a first step towards identifying optimal locations for shared community workspaces in the Boston area, survey data is used to predict demand by neighborhood. Then, candidate sites are selected based on a variety of potential social objectives: providing equal access, minimizing travel costs, maximizing social interactions and minimizing social segregation. The locations chosen under different objectives are compared and policy implications are discussed.



Factors Associated With Restaurant Foot-Traffic Recovery In The Post-Pandemic Era

Presenter: Mohsen Bahrami,  Institute for Data, Systems, and Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Co-Authors: Amir Tohidi

During the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants faced challenging conditions that resulted in permanent closure of many and leading to unemployment of their workforce. Considering the importance of restaurant-industry for economic stability, it is crucial to investigate factors associated with restaurants’ business-continuity and disaster-recovery. We utilize large-scale Mobility and Places datasets to study temporal dynamics of restaurants’ foot-traffic volume in NYC and Boston MSA. We define the Recovery Index (RI) as the ratio of average weekly visits for one year after restaurants reopening and the year 2019. Using a stepwise regression approach we show that restaurants’ customer education-level has a negative association with their RI, while there is a positive association between customer income-level and restaurants’ RI. The most important finding of our analyses is the significant negative association of customers’ geographic diversity with restaurants’ RI. This is counterintuitive, as many previous studies have shown that the diversity of customers can potentially help businesses. Finally, adding restaurants’ COVID-19 prevention measures collected from, we show that restaurants which imposed mask-mandates on their workers were more likely to recover faster. Our findings can provide business-owners with new insights into marketing decisions and will likely help them better recover from similar exogenous shocks.

Building A More Holistic Workforce Development System For Boston’s Youth

Presenter: Rashad Cope, Worker Empowerment Cabinet, City of Boston

Co-Authors: Alicia Modestino, Northeastern University

In Boston, up to 10,000 Boston youth participate in the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) every year at hundreds of businesses, nonprofit organizations, and city departments where they learn valuable skills that increase the likelihood of high school graduation, post-secondary enrollment, and subsequent employment while decreasing criminal justice involvement. In partnership with the City, Northeastern analyzed data from youth application and hiring records; interviewed youth, parents, employer-partners, and staff; and conducted several small-scale pilots aimed at increasing program access, efficiency, and equity. This research revealed that the City’s application process is hampered by its small staff and a hiring system that is not designed for rapid, high-volume job placement and creates barriers for youth, especially those of color. In response, Northeastern developed a job matching algorithm that improved both the equity and efficiency of job placements. Our findings culminated in a set of recommendations that were co-developed with the City to inform a blueprint for future implementation. These included a set of enhancements to increase youth access during the application process, investment in a new job hiring platform to reduce barriers during onboarding and assisting employers with the selection process to ensure equity in job placements.

Moderator: Amber Payne, Co-Editor in Chief,

Provocateur: Raquel Halsey,  Executive Director, North American Indian Center of Boston


Model Legislation For Racial Data Collection

Presenter: Jonathan Carter, Boston Center for Anti Racist Research, Boston University

Co-Authors: Caitlin Glass, Boston Center for Anti Racist Research, Boston University

Model legislation can be a powerful tool for advocates and policymakers looking to affect a particular kind of change using evidence-based, well-researched policy and best practices. This model bill aims to address deficiencies in equitable data collection and reporting that hinder antiracist policymaking. Missing, incomplete and nonstandard practices for collecting, reporting, and sharing racial and ethnic data can be addressed. The model bill for racial data collection provides a framework to establish an Office of Data Equity for collecting and reporting racial and ethnic data in ways that facilitate tracking experiences of racism. An Office of Data Equity should integrate racial and ethnic data into the administration of state government programs and policies; serve as the central point of information for the state’s data infrastructure; ensure uniform data collection and reporting standards—including for racial and ethnic data collection; and perform oversight of training programs and standard operating procedures in equitable data collection, reporting, and sharing. Addressing these gaps will allow researchers and policymakers to better understand which policies produce racial inequities and replace racist policies with antiracist policies. If we can’t track race, we can’t track racism. When we can track racism, we can counteract it. The collection and reporting of racial and ethnic demographic data can illuminate where and how racism manifests. This could inform emergency preparedness plans, the distribution of public health services, or even illustrate inequity in the communities impacted by public safety practices.


Great Migration to Global Immigration: A Profile of Black Boston

Presenter: Peter Ciurczak, Boston Indicators

Co-Authors: James Jennings, Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, Tufts University

Boston Indicators, in collaboration with James Jennings and in partnership with Embrace Boston, have spent the last several months working on “Great Migration to Global Immigration: A Profile of Black Boston.” This work is a deep-dive into the growth and unique diversity of the region’s Black population: It highlights in turn the large foreign-born Black population (at 40 percent, the greatest across many other U.S. metros), the growing Afro-Latino population, and the remarkable variety of the region’s ancestry groups, hailing from many different Caribbean nations and increasingly, Africa. We additionally draw out disparities within these groups, looking at homeownership rates, median incomes and so on. Finally, we wrap up by surfacing questions raised by the report. One specifically reflects on how media, Foundations, and other groups may wish to begin thinking of the region’s Black population as not monolithic, but composed instead of varied and diverse groups with different challenges and dreams.  

The Association Between Experiencing Racial Discrimination and Hypertension Among Boston Residents, 2017-2021

Presenter: Nicola Shen, Boston Public Health Commission

Co-Authors: Johnna Murphy, Boston Public Health Commission

Experiences of racial discrimination have been shown to be associated with negative health outcomes, mental and physical (Williams 2019; Schmitt 2014). Community survey data allows us to estimate these associations in our own community. The Boston Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BBRFSS) is a bi-yearly survey of 3,000 Boston residents; when survey weights are applied, analyses of BBRFSS data represent Boston’s adult, housed population. We combined data from the 2017, 2019, and 2021 waves of the BBRFSS and conducted logistic regressions of self-reported lifetime hypertension on self-reported experiences of discrimination, to assess the association between discrimination and hypertension. Racial discrimination was defined as reporting being stopped by police because of one’s race/ethnicity, or as experiencing poorer service in restaurants/stores or being threatened or harassed due to race/ethnicity more than once a year. We found that racial discrimination was overall positively correlated with lifetime hypertension; while the magnitude of the correlation varied across race-ethnicity groups, the direction of the correlation remained positive. This association is particularly concerning for Bostonians of color, who were significantly more likely to report experiences of racial discrimination. This analysis contributes to the literature showing negative health effects associated with being the target of discrimination.

Quantifying Racial Disparities In The Quality Of Children’s Neighborhood Environments

Presenter: Clemens Noelke,,  Brandeis University

Co-Authors: Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, Brandeis University, Brian DeVoe. Brandeis University, Madeline Leonardos, Brandeis University, Yang Lu, Brandeis University

Unequal neighborhood environments are an important factor contributing to racial/ethnic inequities in children’s healthy development. But how to best measure neighborhood contexts remains an active area of investigation. There has been a growing interest in composite neighborhood indices – such as the Social Vulnerability, Area Deprivation, or Child Opportunity Indices – as alternatives to single-measure indicators of neighborhood context, such as the neighborhood poverty rate. Composite indices combine multiple neighborhood indicators into a single, comprehensive metric of neighborhood quality or neighborhood opportunity. Compared to single-measure metrics, composite indices are hypothesized to be superior measures of neighborhood quality for many applications, including quantifying the association between neighborhood contexts and children’s outcomes, improved spatial targeting, and more equitable targeting of resources, programs, and policies. This talk will review different approaches to measuring neighborhood opportunity and compare widely used single-measure indicators and composite indices of neighborhood opportunity. We show that composite indices differ considerably in their construction and predictive validity, and offer some clear advantages compared to single-measure metrics of neighborhood opportunity, both empirically but also in terms of their application for equity-focused investment, policy-making and program administration.

Session III: 3:15 PM – 4:45 PM

Moderator: Santiago Garces, Chief Information Officer, City of Boston

Provocateur: Marvin Venay, Chief Advocacy Officer, Tech Goes Home

Digital Access For Affordable Housing: Getting Chelsea Online

Presenter: Will Pfeffer, Metropolitan Area Planning Council

Co-Authors: Matt Frank, Metropolitan Area Planning Council

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, as work, school, and life transitioned online, MAPC identified a critical need to help close the digital divide in Greater Boston. We identified the opportunity to use MAPC’s public procurement expertise to purchase networking equipment and internet service which could be provided to residents of public or affordable multi-unit housing, at no cost to them. MAPC used ACS data, speed test data, and infrastructure maps obtained from incumbent ISPs to identify the areas of highest need and prioritized those areas for infrastructure investment. Through a pilot grant from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI), MAPC led procurements on behalf of housing authorities and city governments in Chelsea and Revere, MA. Matt Frank, current Supportive Services Manager at Chelsea Housing Authority and former Chelsea City Councilor, has been a champion of the project from day one, working closely with his counterparts at the City of Chelsea, and with MAPC, MBI, and other partners to ensure that residents of the 128-unit Prattville Apartments family housing site have free, reliable access to high-speed internet in every room of their homes. Will Pfeffer, MAPC’s Civic Technologist, leads this work alongside colleagues on the agency’s Digital Services and Municipal Collaboration departments. This presentation will detail the selection/prioritization, design, and procurement process which led to the successful procurement of a Wi-Fi network at the Prattville Apartments. We will attempt to demystify the municipal procurement process, and the challenges and opportunities presented by addressing this issue at a municipal level. Following the discussion of the procurement process, we will cover the next steps in the process, both for the Chelsea Housing Authority (impacts on residents and expansion to more housing sites) and for MAPC’s Wi-Fi Access program. At the time of this writing, MAPC has applied for and expects to receive a significantly larger grant through MBI, which would expand this work to serve over 2,000 high-need households across the Commonwealth. We will close by discussing ways municipalities, public housing agencies, and CDCs can provide similar service to their residents.

Data Para Todes

Presenter:  Lina Maria Giraldo, Journalism Department, Emerson College 

Data Para Todes intends to improve data literacy among the Latine Community. The main goal is to learn, collect, analyze, clean, and visualize data to create stories towards environmental justice within the community. The first instance of the project happened through a collaboration with a local non-profit, Bottom Line. Via workshops held throughout the summer and fall, lead artist and designer Lina Maria Giraldo worked with first-generation Latine students in learning how to create individual working prototype sensors to collect indoor air quality samples and then analyze it. The cohort then learned how to clean the data and visualize it using industry standards tools such as Excel and tableau. This hands-on involvement in every stage allowed the students to understand the data’s values and implications and thereby claim ownership. Ultimately the project is designed to enable students to gain data literacy skills and utilize it to be able to tell stories from their perspectives. Throughout the collaborative process of the fall of 2022, Giraldo and the students analyzed Latine demographic data from the US census to understand geographic locations, highlighting the income within their community compared with other races. The completion of the project’s first step was an exhibition at Boston Cyberarts Gallery located at Jamaica Plain. Together with Giraldo, students used the gallery space to realize their own data stories, creating an immersive and physical experience of visualization from data ownership to understanding data already accessible. The exhibition’s design was a participatory process between the Latine Student Cohort and the lead artist Giraldo where they shared their findings and stories.


Digital Equity For Boston’s Most Vulnerable

Presenter: Amy Mahler, Mayors office of New Urban Mechanics 

Co-Author: Kurt Mansperger, Mayors office of New Urban Mechanics 

In the darkest days of the pandemic, Boston’s residents sheltered in place for safety, depending on technology to stay connected to society. But many, especially our poorest and oldest neighbors in public housing, spent this terrifying time almost completely isolated. In response to the next surge, the Boston Public Library (BPL), in partnership with the Mayor’s Office, Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM), and the Boston Housing Authority (BHA), launched the Long-Term Device Lending Program. This program began in December of 2021 by distributing 6,200 Chromebooks and 3,000 LTE-enabled Wi-Fi routers through the BHA’s communities to meet the digital needs of elderly and disabled library patrons in public housing. Over the course of the program, we expanded eligibility for all Boston residents in need. We partnered with 29 community organizations to connect residents like unhoused residents, Afghan refugees, Haitian migrants, and Section 8 voucher recipients. All devices were distributed by November of 2022. Program participants reported enrollment in professional training like pharmacy courses and UX Design certificates, saving money as seniors on fixed incomes, obtaining resources needed for their recovery journeys and housing searches, and learning new skills like guitar playing, cooking, and coding.

Data Slots

Presenter: Martina Mazzarello, Senseable City Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Co-Authors: Fabio Duarte, Senseable City Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cities are increasingly adopting data-driven solutions, based on the overwhelming data produced in all interactions mediated by digital devices—from geolocated social media posts to air quality monitors or ride-sharing apps. However, this situation entails tradeoffs between the benefits and privacy concerns in data-driven solutions. Such tradeoffs vary in different sociodemographic and cultural contexts. In order to measure how different stakeholders perceive such tradeoffs, we designed and ran an online and in-person activity in the form of a card game, called Data Slots. In the game, players have a deck of 12 different data sets to select and swap among players and propose ideas for one of three different scenarios. Rather than traditional polls or surveys in which experts, city managers, or developers propose solutions and residents only voice their opinion, in Data Slots we remove top-down approaches in a way that residents come up with their own ideas, assess other player’s proposals in terms of benefits and privacy concerns, and even decide which ideas they would invest in. Results, based on thousands of plays in dozens of countries, show how the trade-offs between benefits and privacy concerns vary according to age groups, gender, and player’s location. Results also show that privacy and benefits are not intrinsic values of specific data sets, but contextual, depending on how they are combined in specific solutions. Finally, we also show that privacy concerns are not always translated into how players have decided to invest in certain proposals. Finally, besides being an online data-gathering tool, the physical and in-person version of Data Slots was used as a participatory design activity, creating a positive loop between scientific results and planning tools.


Who Benefits? The Spatial Context Of Negotiated Community Benefits From Development Projects In Boston

Presenter: Yesim Sungu-Eryilmaz, City Planning & Urban Affairs, Boston University 

This research project investigates the geographic distribution of negotiated community benefits from large development projects in Boston. The study seeks to assess the prevalence and types of community benefits in the city, analyze the spatial distribution of benefits among neighborhoods, and evaluate changes in community benefits before and after the launch of Imagine Boston 2030. The research questions include: Do benefits from these large projects flow from high-income neighborhoods to low-income and minority areas? Do low-income and minority neighborhoods receive fewer community benefits than more affluent neighborhoods? The findings of this study will contribute to the understanding of how negotiated community benefits are distributed in urban development projects and their impact on neighborhood equity and planning goals.


Strengthening Community Involvement In Boston’s Decision-Making: The Role Of Participatory Modeling

Presenter: Moira Zellner, Public Policy & Urban Affairs, Northeastern University

Co-Authors: Eleni Kalantzi, Northeastern University, Ioannis Tavantzis, Northeastern University

Boston neighborhoods face complex problems such as lack of affordable housing, unreliable public transportation, expensive healthcare, and exposure to climate extremes, which disproportionately affect the most vulnerable residents in the city. In the course Participatory Modeling for Collaborative Decision-Making, Northeastern University students are learning about and implementing participatory modeling tools and approaches to engage relevant stakeholders in collaborative problem definition, exploration, and solution-building around such problems. Participatory modeling is human-centric, reflecting local and interdisciplinary knowledge and diverse needs and values in the co-generation of understanding and collective capacity to address these problems. Our presentation aims to introduce a pedagogical approach for participatory modeling that combines both formal and experiential components, emphasizing the importance of collaborative conceptualization, ethical engagement and learning through service. This approach draws from a variety of modeling and facilitation techniques for effective decision-making that reflects the perspectives of diverse stakeholders. A range of qualitative, semi-quantitative and quantitative/computational approaches can thus be incorporated within stakeholder engagement plans to support the collaborative design of innovative, impactful, and equitable solutions to complex urban problems. We reflect on the way that such training can equip professionals and researchers with the modeling and social skills needed to support these collaborative efforts.

Moderator: Liz Williams, Director of Data and Policy, Office of Transportation Planning, Massachusetts Department of Transportation

Provocateur: Jarred Johnson, Executive Director, TransitMatters

Massdot’s Impact Crash Portal (And How Walkboston And Other Advocates Use It)

Presenter: Brendan Kearney, WalkBoston

Co-Author: Bonnie Polin, MassDOT

MassDOT has worked to make crash data that is reported by police departments more readily available to the public through IMPACT (Interactive Mapping Portal for Analysis & Crash Tracking). IMPACT allows you to look at data through pre-built reports or conduct your own self-driven analysis; dashboards allow for interactive analysis & data exploration. WalkBoston, a nonprofit pedestrian advocacy organization, has used IMPACT to help communities identify high risk locations & encourage residents to push for safety changes. Using IMPACT, WalkBoston published a report in March 2023 (Fatal Pedestrian Crashes in MA, 2022) that examined fatal pedestrian crashes. Last year, 101 pedestrians lost their lives, 23% of the total roadway deaths. Speakers will share findings from WalkBoston’s report & discuss how collaboration has benefited both organizations to shine a light on root causes of roadway crashes.


Impacts Of The Mbta Fare-Free Program On Urban Income Segregation 

Presenter: Takahiro Yabe, Connection Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

Co-Author: Esteban Moro, Connection Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

Socioeconomic segregation, in particular income segregation, has been shown to impact inequitable access to urban amenities and services, ultimately affecting social, economic, and health outcomes of people living in urban areas. A recent study analyzed how urban income segregation changed during the pandemic using large-scale anonymous, privacy-enhanced mobility data of more than 200K devices from the Metropolitan Boston Area across three years from 2019 to 2021, and showed that people were 15% more segregated compared to before the pandemic, even in late 2021, after the intensity of mobility patterns (e.g., number of visits per day per person) have recovered to pre-pandemic levels. Several urban policies have been tested to improve socioeconomic segregation patterns in cities. In this study, we focus on the fare-free bus programs that MBTA initiated in 2022 March, with the aim to improve ridership and economic opportunities of the residents in the Southern parts of Boston. Using mobile phone location data across 3 years before, during, and after the pandemic, we show that the fare-free bus programs (routes 23, 28, 29) changed the POI visitation patterns in destination areas, and significantly improved the diversity of encounters of the residents of the targeted areas.

Somerville Walks: Examining equitable pedestrian access to GLX

Presenter: Rounaq Basu, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Co-Authors: Andres Sevtsuk, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In December 2022, the MBTA Green Line Extension (GLX) to Somerville and Medford was opened, serving roughly 50,000 passengers daily. In addition to increasing transit ridership in Somerville, the GLX also substantially increases foot-traffic in transit catchment areas, making it critical to ensure that pedestrian routes to transit stations are safe, equitable, and conducive to walking. We collaborated with the City of Somerville to (a) identify the most critical walking routes to GLX stations, especially for more vulnerable street users, and to examine their conditions; and (b) understand how the built environment around GLX stations could impact pedestrian activity on surrounding city streets. We used empirical pedestrian counts from over 100 street segments to build a pedestrian flow model for Somerville, indicating peak hour foot-traffic volumes on all sidewalks and crosswalks in the city. We also demonstrate how the calibrated pedestrian flow model can be used to assess how land use and infrastructure changes triggered by proposed redevelopment projects around GLX stations would likely contribute to GLX ridership and impact pedestrian flows. Our approach goes beyond simple journey-to-work transport impact assessments (TIAs), offering a more holistic understanding of pedestrian needs in both existing and future settings around Somerville’s transit-oriented developments.

Moderator: Anne Calef, Research Manager, Boston Indicators

Provocateur: Melissa Hector, Director of Community and Strategic Partnerships, Boston Public Health Commission

Targeting Health Disparities Through Housing Redevelopment: An Inter-Sector Collaboration In South Boston

Presenter: Samantha Teixeira,  School of Social Work, Boston College 

Co-Authors: Trevor Samios, School of Social Work, Boston College 

The HOME Project seeks to understand the repercussions of a place-based model of housing redevelopment on resident and community health and well-being through a multi-sector research partnership. We are using mixed-methods including surveys, in-depth interviews, air quality measurement, and biological measures of stress to document the experiences of residents of Mary Ellen McCormack, a public housing community located in South Boston that is preparing to undergo a $1.6 billion redevelopment into a mixed-income community. Our partners include a research team, housing developer WinnCompanies, South Boston non-profit organizations, the Mary Ellen McCormack Task Force, the Boston Housing Authority (BHA), and Boston Public Schools (BPS). In this presentation, we will describe the work of our team, drawing on multiple forms of expertise, including the university-based research team, housing providers/experts, and resident partners to describe lessons learned and anticipated impacts of the project. We will share our efforts to co-design our research approach, study instruments, and dissemination strategies. We will also discuss working across a culturally, racially, and linguistically diverse community, balancing resident, researcher, and community partner priorities. Finally, we will describe plans for engaging our partnership team to disseminate study findings and prompt action on community issues of concern.


Recommendations From Boston Overdose Survivors For How To Improve Quality Of Life And Racial Equity In Substance Use Disorder Treatment

Presenter: Jeffrey Desmarais, Institute for Community Health

Co-Authors: Jaylen Clarke, Boston Public Health Commission, Andres Hoyos-Cespedes, Institute for Community Health, Alykhan Nurani, Boston Medical Center, Angela R. Bazzi, Boston University School of Public Health, Simeon D. Kimmel, Boston Medical Center, Boston University School of Medicine, Sunday Taylor, Boston Public Health Commission

Background: To better understand and address racial disparities in post overdose treatment access it is critical to engage with overdose survivors to learn what is needed to improve their lives and reduce disparities. Methods: In 2021, we conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews with 59 recent opioid overdose survivors in Boston, 70% of whom were Black or Latinx. Survivors were asked for their recommendations to improve access to substance use disorder treatment, and improve racial equity. Interview transcripts were analyzed using a Framework Analysis approach to identify themes. Results: Overdose survivors provided a variety of recommendations to improve the treatment system, including reforming and expanding current services, expanding access to harm reduction, and identifying ways to address their basic needs, such as housing. Additionally, Black and Latinx participants provided thoughts on how to improve racial equity, focusing on a need for more staff with shared lived experiences with clients, and suggested specific modifications to program processes to improve equitable access. Conclusion: A diverse pool of overdose survivors provided a variety of recommendations to reform and further expand current systems to be more responsive to their complex and overlapping needs


Family Homelessness Prevention And Intervention For Youth Educational Equity: Building Evidence Of Collective Impact And Developing Practice Capacity

Presenter: Jess Johnson, Director of the Housing Hardship Program, School of Social Work, Boston College

Co-Authors: Ellen Dickenson, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, Samantha Teixeira, Associate Professor, Boston College School of Social Work, Rebekah Levine Coley, Professor, Boston College Lynch School of Education and Human Development, Ashley Houston, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Boston College Lynch School of Education and Human Development, Jane Leer, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Boston College Lynch School of Education and Human Development, Trevor Samios, Senior Vice President, Connected Communities, WinnCompanies, Nicholas Kelly, Senior Fellow, Boston Housing Authority, Carol Sullivan, Executive Director, Mary Ellen McCormack Task Force, Kelly Martin,

The HOME Project seeks to understand the repercussions of a place-based model of housing redevelopment on resident and community health and well-being through a multi-sector research partnership. We are using mixed-methods including surveys, in-depth interviews, air quality measurement, and biological measures of stress to document the experiences of residents of Mary Ellen McCormack, a public housing community located in South Boston that is preparing to undergo a $1.6 billion redevelopment into a mixed-income community. Our partners include a research team, housing developer WinnCompanies, South Boston non-profit organizations, the Mary Ellen McCormack Task Force, the Boston Housing Authority (BHA), and Boston Public Schools (BPS). In this presentation, we will describe the work of our team, drawing on multiple forms of expertise, including the university-based research team, housing providers/experts, and resident partners to describe lessons learned and anticipated impacts of the project. We will share our efforts to co-design our research approach, study instruments, and dissemination strategies. We will also discuss working across a culturally, racially, and linguistically diverse community, balancing resident, researcher, and community partner priorities. Finally, we will describe plans for engaging our partnership team to disseminate study findings and prompt action on community issues of concern.

Lessons Learned From Expanded Child Tax Credit Outreach To Immigrant Communities In Boston

Luisa Godinez Puig, Urban Institute

Co-Author: Juliana Soltys, Industrial Design, Rhode Island School of Design

The Child Tax Credit (CTC), expanded under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, dramatically reduced child poverty across the United States in 2021, but it did not reach all eligible families equally. Immigrant families continued to face barriers in learning about and claiming their tax benefits. We conducted a case study of Boston and its surrounding areas to identify lessons learned from outreach efforts driven by government officials and nonprofit partners to connect eligible families with the CTC, and to understand immigrant families’ experiences in learning about and claiming the credit.


Venue Location

The conference will be held on the 6th floor of the MIT Media Lab (75 Amherst St., Cambridge). Sessions will occur in three rooms on the floor, shown in the image below: the Multi-Purpose Room, Silverman Skyline Room, and Lecture Hall. During sessions, a fourth room on the 3rd floor of the building (E-15 341) will also be used for panels. The keynote session will occur in the Multi-Purpose Room. Coffee and other refreshments will be served in the Winter Garden.


We encourage participants to travel to the MIT Media Lab by public transit. It is only a few blocks from the Red Line Kendall Square stop (see below).

There is commercial parking available near the Media Lab, but it is expensive and limited.

Conference Committee

Kris Carter, Chair of the Mayor’s office of New Urban Mechanics, City of Boston

Philip Giffee, Executive Director, Neighborhood Of Affordable Housing (NOAH)

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

Elizabeth Jackson, Executive Director, Institute of Quantitative Social Science

Elizabeth Langdon-Gray, Harvard Data Science Initiative, Harvard University

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

Kim Lucas, Associate Director for Civic Research, Northeastern University

Katherine Lusk, Co-Director, Initiative on Cities, Boston University

Esteban Moro, Professor, Media Lab Human Dynamics Group and Institute for Data, Systems, and Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Will Pfeffer, Data Services Director, Metropolitan Area Planning Council

Luc Schuster, Director, Boston Indicators

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

Aimee Sprung, Civic Engagement Manager, Microsoft New England

Thank you to our sponsors and partners!