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NULab Co-Director Moira Zellner and Faculty Rahul Bhargava Win Collaboration Award

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Reposted from Northeastern Global News

By Cynthia McCormick Hibbert

Northeastern recently recognized community leaders who partner with the university to empower residents of the neighborhoods surrounding its Boston campus with Heart of CommUNITY awards.

The awards, presented in the EXP research complex, honored the extraordinary efforts of those who volunteer their time in Mission Hill, Roxbury, Fenway, South End, Back Bay and beyond.

The award winners provide food for elderly residents, teach Boston public school students creative writing, provide free tax assistance and fresh produce, and use theater to deliver quantitative data about greenspace and other issues in an innovative and compelling format.

Collaboration Award

The Collaboration Award was presented to the Data Theatre Collaborative of Northeastern, a group of professors who use theater to help members of the community understand complex information.

In one workshop, theater artists worked with young people from the Hyde Park Task Force to interpret survey data collected by the Livable Streets Alliance in an effort to redevelop nearby SouthWest Corridor Park.

“Data theater is using data to make decisions in civic settings much more participatory and accessible to regular people that might not be spreadsheet nerds like me,” said Rahul Bhargava, a professor of journalism and art and design who leads Northeastern’s Data Culture Group.

Moira Zellner, a Northeastern professor of public policy and urban affairs who teaches participatory modeling, said the work Livable Streets does in advocating for increased green spaces in Boston made it a compelling partner for the new data presentation approach

“Taking the group’s survey results and hosting a powerpoint presentation would be a typical way of presenting its data to the community, but that leaves out a lot of different types of people that don’t usually come to that,” Bhargava said.

Early results show that engaging a theater group to put on a half-hour performance brings data to life and “changes how and who comes together around data in civic settings,” he said.

Northeastern professors Moira Zellner and Rahul Bhargava (center) of Northeastern’s Data Theatre Collaborative received the Collaboration Award for working with the community on innovative ways to interpret, explain and understand complex data. Photo by Alyssa

You can read the full article detailing all of the award recipients at “From tutors to tax assistance, Northeastern’s Heart of CommUNITY awards honor civic leaders and volunteers.”

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