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Guest Column: BARI to showcase Boston’s data-driven work

By Sam Levy

Rising income inequality and decreasing economic mobility have become some of the most pressing issues facing cities today, and Boston is no exception, with stark disparities in opportunity and outcomes across demographic groups.

On April 27, Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI) will host its second annual spring conference, Confronting Inequality and Economic Mobility: Data-Driven Lessons from Boston, for Boston to explore how the region can be a leader in dealing with these issues—understanding inequality and its consequences, and designing and implementing informed solutions to counteract them.

The conference is an opportunity to bring together researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and students from across the Boston area to share their insights on how they’re using data- and tech-driven methods to address our most pressing urban challenges.

If last year’s conference is any indication, we’re in for a fascinating day. The conference is structured like a society meeting, so we put out an open call for proposals, and then use the proposals themselves to give the conference its shape. This year, we received over 80 submissions that represent authors from eight universities, 11 public agencies, nine private corporations, and 19 nonprofits, which is something we are incredibly proud of.

One thing that makes BARI unique is our inter-university, multi-disciplinary team of researchers and collaborators, so we’re thrilled the conference embodies this ethos. With the help of our cross-sector conference committee, we finalized an agenda with 12 sessions featuring 48 speakers, covering topics like housing, transportation, place-making, youth employment, and civic engagement. (To view the full agenda for the conference, visit our conference website.)

A morning keynote address will set the stage for the presentations ahead, providing an overview of inequality and mobility in Boston from Tim Reardon, data services director at Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and Monica Valdes Lupi, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission. At the end of the day we’ll reconvene for the closing keynote panel, which will reflect on the day’s presentations to ask, “what do we do now?”

The panel will be moderated by WBUR’s Bob Oakes, and panelists include David Ellwood, Harvard professor and director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy, Karilyn Crockett, director of economic policy and research and small business development for Boston, Pablo Ruiz, state field director for Raise Up Massachusetts, and Christopher Scranton, director of nonprofit and government partnerships at Jobcase.

The conference really exemplifies one of BARI’s key goals: to convene the civic data ecosystem in Boston. What is the civic data ecosystem, you ask? When we got started a few years ago, we were surprised to find that so many of us, across sectors, were doing data-driven work, but with few mechanisms in place to bring us together. Work was being done in silos, without much thought to cross-sector partnerships.

Therefore, we saw an opportunity to create a community of folks who were using new sources of information to help address problems in Boston, and we affectionately refer to this group as the civic data ecosystem. Through events, big and small, we try to break down the silos keeping our work separate from our peers, and our annual spring conference is one such event.

Join us on April 27, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., at Boston University’s Photonics Center, to be a part of the conversation. The event is free and open to all. We hope to see you there!


Sam Levy, BARI’s program coordinator, manages BARI’s online network, coordinates events, and works with multidisciplinary partners across Boston. She is a double graduate of Northeastern University, having received her master’s degree in urban and regional policy and her bachelor’s in international affairs. A Chicago native, Levy has always been interested in cities and urban dynamics. She is inspired by the stories data can tell and strives to find creative solutions to urban problems.

Published On: April 3, 2018 |
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