Tufts UEP and Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative Awarded 2-year Federal Community Action Research Grant

How does community participation influence community development and the residents who engage? How can civic participation be strengthened so that communities gain more control over their destinies? These are the questions that Tufts UEP and Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) will be pursuing over the next two years. The participatory research project is entitled From Civic Participation to Community Control: Assessing and Strengthening Participatory Planning for Commercial District Development Without Displacement in Boston’s Dudley Neighborhood. (See executive summary below.) The partners have a unique opportunity to research the collaboration between City of Boston and DSNI to revitalize Upham’s Corner into an arts and innovation district.

(Dorchester Reporter, Jennifer Smith photo)

The partners recently won one of sixteen grants awarded in a nationwide research competition sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service (the federal agency that hosts Americorps). According to CNCS, “This competition focuses on engaging communities in conversations about their civic health using participatory research approaches to facilitate civic engagement and strengthen community capacity to address local issues…”

This research project builds on UEP and DSNI’s Co-Research/Co-Education partnership, which launched in 2016 with support of Tisch College and a seed grant from Tisch College Community Research Center. Funding of $50,000 per year will be shared equally between Tufts and DSNI and will support graduate students and community resident researchers, as well as UEP faculty and DSNI staff.

DSNI Interim Executive Director Denise Barros says, “we have always known that residents have the capacity to direct the future development of the neighborhood. Now we have the resources to research how community control happens and use the results to improve public planning processes.”

According to Tufts UEP Senior Lecturer Penn Loh, “we were well positioned for this federal grant because of our decades long partnership. Knowledge isn’t produced in academia and then applied in the real world, but rather university and community co-produce new knowledge through collaborative research and practice.”

Executive Summary

From Civic Participation to Community Control: Assessing and Strengthening Participatory Planning for Commercial District Development Without Displacement in Boston’s Dudley Neighborhood

This project will explore how civic engagement can strengthen community capacity for control over land use and economic development in Boston’s Dudley neighborhood. Since the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) was formed in 1984, it developed its own master plan and has fostered development of 226 units of affordable housing, parks, a greenhouse, and urban farms on 32 acres owned by its community land trust. This neighborhood has a highly developed civic infrastructure, built by organizing, participatory planning, and community ownership of land. Dudley has become a nationally renowned model for community control that can guide development without displacement.

Tufts Department of Urban & Environmental Policy & Planning (UEP), a graduate planning program, has been working with DSNI since 1990. UEP and DSNI established a 3-year Co-Research/Co-Education partnership in 2016 to investigate and advance strategies for community control of land and the local economy. This project will build on our partnership to pursue strategies for commercial development without displacement, with a focus on the Upham’s Corner commercial district. This district is on the eastern edge of the 1.3 square mile Dudley neighborhood, which is still a predominantly lower-income community of color with ~30,000 residents.

Despite the high degree of civic infrastructure and success with developing permanently affordable housing, the neighborhood still is in social crisis, experiencing persistent poverty and high un/underemployment. Thus, DSNI has begun exploring how its organizing, planning, and land ownership can support commercial development that can produce good jobs and support locally-owned businesses.

Specifically, this project will assess the impacts of civic participation in the planning process for revitalizing Upham’s Corner into a commercial arts innovation district. DSNI’s land trust recently acquired a former bank building and has been co-coordinating a planning process over the last year with City of Boston, which owns two other key redevelopment sites. This development is a major focus for neighborhood-based planning in the City of Boston’s Imagine 2030 comprehensive plan.

This project will conduct a participatory assessment of the impacts of engagement on the development process and outcomes in Upham’s Corner, as well as civic infrastructure. The overall question is how the development process can go beyond resident input into a City decision-making process towards more direct forms of democratic resident control of those decisions. DSNI has already achieved direct control over housing development through its land trust and now is trying to exercise this power in commercial development. What difference does community control make to the development process and civic infrastructure? How can we measure engagement and strengthen capacity for community control?

In the first year, the project will train and support a resident research team to conduct interviews and focus groups with residents engaged at various levels in the process. Tufts researchers will interview City of Boston officials and other community leaders appointed to the advisory group guiding. In the second year, the project will develop and pilot measures and strategies for strengthening civic infrastructure for effective community engagement, community control, and community economic development.

Expected outcomes include more capacity within DSNI and among Dudley residents to conduct participatory assessments, deeper understanding of the impacts of community engagement and measures of community control, deeper relationships between DSNI, City, and other stakeholders, and lessons learned that can be more broadly shared with other practitioners and researchers.

Communications Course: Spring 2017 Final Videos

A dozen students recently completed UEP’s Communications and Media course (UEP294-02). The culminating project for this course is a short video for a social media campaign on an issue chosen by the student. Below are links to three of the most outstanding videos for this year. Visit this page for videos from previous years.

  • Sharon Cho: How Just Cause Eviction Protects Tenants
  • Brooke Evans: The Case for a National Soda Tax
  • Koko Li: Beyond Bathroom Bills — the Hidden Struggles of Transgender Rights

Teaching Democracy Training for Popular Education

In April 2016, a group of students and community participants completed the Teaching Democracy training on popular education. Teaching Democracy is a training and web platform for Tufts students, faculty, and community partners to build their capacity in popular and community-based education methods. Its goal is to build capacity for a community of popular and community-based educators and to provide resources for those seeking to integrate popular education practices into their teaching. Teaching Democracy is hosted by the Tufts University Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning and supported by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life and a Tufts Innovates grant from the Office of the Provost.


Popular and community-based education methods arise from community organizing and empowerment practices, particularly with marginalized groups. As articulated by one of its founders, Paolo Freire, popular education is “an educational approach that collectively and critically examines everyday experiences and raises consciousness for organizing and movement building, acting on injustices with a political vision in the interests of the most marginalized.”

Over the 2-day training, 9 students and 12 community participants from 4 partner organizations reflected on their own experiences with education, learned about the principles and framework of popular education, and applied these lessons through practice and interactive workshops.


In November 2016, more than 50 Tufts students and faculty and community partners gathered for a symposium to share key learnings from the pilot training and discuss how to support the use of popular education at Tufts and in our communities.

For more information, resources and curriculum on the Teaching Democracy project, visit the website https://teachingdemocracyblog.wordpress.com.

Tufts UEP Launches 3-year CoRE Partnership with Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative


Community partnerships have been an integral part of Tufts Urban & Environmental Policy & Planning (UEP) since its founding in 1973. In 2016, UEP launched a new multi-year partnership model, called Co-Research/Co-Education Partnerships (CoRE), with long-time partner Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI). This CoRE partnership builds on a 25-year history of collaboration. Over the next 3 years, DSNI and UEP will work together to learn about, research, develop, and implement strategies for community-controlled sustainable and just local economic development, with a focus on the food economy and community land trusts. The partnership will integrate various elements, including annual Field Projects, summer fellowships for students, a co-designed Practicum course, student master’s theses, and various research and training projects. (Also see this post about a recent article on the co-learning model that CoRE is based on.)

What is CoRE?

CoRE (Co-Research/Co-Education Partnerships) is a collaborative model of community-engaged research, learning, participation, and action that goes beyond traditional models of service learning and university/community partnerships. CoRE builds off the pilot program Practical Visionaries Workshop (PVW) that launched in 2011. CoRE expands and solidifies the powerful arena PVW created for community-based student learning, professional development, research and strategy on just and sustainable economic development and community-driven planning, and intercultural practice through integrating community partners into UEP and creating a pipeline for greater racial diversity and community practitioners from Boston’s base-building organizations in lower income communities of color.

CoRE is built on UEP’s rich history of community practice which includes the department’s cutting edge partnerships with local community organizations as well as Tufts’ broader commitment to active citizenship.  CoRE values are founded on UEP’s commitment to social justice and its goal to cultivate ‘practical visionaries’ who contribute to the development of inclusive, just, and sustainable communities.

How Does CoRE Work?

CoRE moves beyond the typical one-off project model of community engagement towards a more reciprocal, place-based model in which both university and community partners ‘co-learn’ and ‘co-produce’ knowledge.  University and community partners jointly collaborate to develop long-term visions and plans that promote a transformational, co-learning environment for community, students, and faculty to take action on critical issues. Community partners are  co-researchers and co-educators, and help plan around UEP’s in-kind resources such as field projects, student internships, and theses, which are strategically integrated to advance the long-term goals and visions between partner organizations and UEP.

Principles of CoRE

Fundamental principles of CoRE include

  1. long-term sustained partnerships grounded in trust and mutual accountability;
  2. democratizing research and pedagogy, and challenging power relations in who are seen as legitimate producers of knowledge;
  3. learning through praxis and from practitioners, where engagement is seen as an important aspect of scholarship, and research informs practice, and in practice the validity of research is tested;
  4. an evolving praxis that sees co-learning as a dynamic process embedded in the social and political context and historical processes;
  5. addresses interconnected social problems by approaching problems through integrated social and political frameworks and interdisciplinary practice;
  6. and access for community members into universities as a basis of excellence, rather than separate from diversity and accessibility initiatives.

Aaron Tanaka featured as a “Main Street Job Creator”

UEP Visiting Practitioner Aaron Tanaka is featured in this YES! Magazine article on “8 Main Street Job Creators Who Are Rebooting the Economy—Starting with Those Who Need It Most“. Below is the excerpt profiling Aaron and his work with Boston Workers Alliance, Center for Economic Democracy, and the Boston’s Youth Participatory Budgeting process.


Aaron Tanaka
Boston, Massachusetts
Aaron has been organizing and learning from the residents of low-income areas like Roxbury and Dorchester in Boston for almost 10 years. In 2005, he helped start the Boston Workers Alliance (BWA), a community organization of unemployed and underemployed workers. They began work on the “Ban the Box Campaign,” advocating for legislation that bars employers from asking applicants if they have a criminal record.

The campaign won a key victory in 2010 when the Massachusetts state legislature passed a criminal record reform bill including a Ban the Box provision. Aaron learned two important things from the campaign: that organizing work must be led by those most impacted, in this case people with criminal records; and that even if this campaign and others like it solved discrimination in hiring processes, there still would not be enough jobs.

There is such a need to organize around issues that are directly and immediately impacting people’s lives, like minimum wage and paid sick leave campaigns, Aaron said. So it doesn’t feel like there is time to take on the underlying causes of economic inequality and injustice.

Aaron began to find ways to support civic leaders and organizers in long-term visioning about what an economy that benefits all kinds of people could look like. He co-founded the Center for Economic Democracy.

Last year, the BWA campaigned for the allocation of $1 million of the city of Boston’s budget for a youth-led, participatory budgeting process. Aaron and the Center for Economic Democracy supported the process, in which dozens of youth participated and decided to fund the renovation of a park and playground in the Franklin neighborhood, provide laptops to three public high schools, and create “Designated Free Wall Space” for graffiti and other visual artists to showcase their work, among other projects.

Aaron says this process was just one way to open the conversation about democratizing the economy and alternative approaches to public finance.

CERO Cooperative Launching




The CERO worker cooperative is launching its startup  financing campaign! Workers supported by Boston Workers Alliance and MassCOSH began planning for this recycling business about a year ago. Check out their video and their website: http://www.cero.coop/. Below is a reprint of a recent article from MassCOSH about CERO’s launch.


CERO-ing in on the recycling business

July 12, 2013
By day, Guadalupe Gonzalez did backbreaking work cleaning commercial office buildings. At night, she picked bottles from the trash, selling them to earn valuable extra money to support her family, one nickel at a time. Gonzalez is not alone, but is, in fact one of thousands of hidden workers in the “green” economy, individuals driven to sort and collect waste to generate badly need income.

Determined to put the breaks on unacceptable wages and working conditions, Guadalupe and a team of MassCOSH worker center members joined forces with the Roxbury-based Boston Workers Alliance last summer to forge their own green economy: a cooperatively owned recycling, reduction and composting business.

The cooperative, Cooperative Energy Recycling and Organics (CERO), helps local restaurants and other area businesses save money and improve the environment by helping them sort their waste, which CERO then collects and sells. Cero is zero in Spanish – a play on zero waste.

“I’ve been recycling for 20 years, now we can earn a living while protecting the environment,” said cooperative member and MassCOSH Worker Center President Josefina Luna to a crowd of supporters on July 9. The event was held to celebrate CERO launch campaign to raise critical funds for the new business.

CERO’s waste separation systems will enable the cooperative to dramatically increase reclamation and sale of clean paper, plastics, metals, waste vegetable oil, and organic food waste.

“In our first year of operation, we will be able to reduce our customer trash sent to landfills and incinerators by 50%,” said Lor Holmes, a cooperative member and business manager. “We will be able to divert more than 1,000 tons of organic food waste and return it to the food chain as rich composted soil.” Holmes’ position was funded through MassCOSH with a seed grant from the Barr Foundation.

At the launch event, Holmes took the opportunity to discuss a groundbreaking relationship the cooperative formed to raise funding with the crowd-funding on-line website, Indiegogo.com. CERO needs the funds to pay for specially designed trucks that will hold a variety of waste and to invest in the workers while they generate their first year of income.

CERO was chosen by nationally renowned investor Cutting Edge Capital as one of three organizations to be featured on its Indiegogo.com Partner Page. The 45-day campaign will launch on July 22 and raise seed money for a much larger direct public offering. In preparation, CERO worked with Quilted Co-op for branding and website development and award-winning documentary filmmaker, Kelly Creedon, who produced videos that CERO will employ to promote the co-op online and in the community.

“Getting to this point hasn’t been easy,” explains Stacy Cordeiro, a cooperative expert who guided CERO members through an intensive business development and planning process. “The people in this cooperative have sacrificed so much to make this cooperative succeed; issues of health, family, housing, and even loss of a member, who on his deathbed was talking about being a member of the cooperative,” said Cordeiro, referring to long-time MassCOSH volunteer Luis Serrano. Serrano had wholeheartedly dedicated himself to the cooperative, frequenting the MassCOSH office weekly, but succumbed to an illness this past spring.

To Evelin Fuentes, another CERO and MassCOSH worker center member, the cooperative was a dream come true. “Now we can earn our money here in our communities, and we can invest it here,” she said.

Working for themselves has also been deeply rewarding for CERO’s members.

“We will no longer have to depend on big companies that just get rich from our work,” said Guadelupe.

Tim Hall of the Boston Workers Alliance agrees.

“When learning about green jobs opportunities, a light bulb went off in my head,” said Hall. “We can create jobs for ourselves.”

Jonny Arevalo, a MassCOSH organizer, pointed out another important distinction of the cooperative.

“It’s the first recycling cooperative to bring together low-income Latino and African American communities,” says Arevalo. “That’s important because its immigrants and people of color that often get the most dangerous, worst paying so-called ‘green jobs.’ Through CERO, we are saying that green jobs can and should be decent, safe jobs.”

April 13 Cultivating a New Food Economy: Putting People and Planet First

The Tufts New Economy Group (led by Practical Visionaries Workshop students) is hosting an all-day summit on April 13. Register now!

Cultivating a New Food Economy:

Putting People and Planet First

April 13th, 2013

8:30am – 4:30pm

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the barrage of negativity surrounding our food systems?  Daily we are made aware of food-related problems damaging our economy, our health, and our earth.The new economy framework, defined as an economic system that prioritizes the well-being of people and the planet, offers a different lens to view the food system: one that is cooperative, environmentally friendly, socially just, and sustainable. This summit will engage participants in critical analysis, cooperation, and innovation through a day-long series of speakers, workshops, and community connectivity. This interactive and engaging event will take place on April 13th at Tufts University, presented in conjunction with the Tufts UEP Practical Visionaries Workshop and the New Economics Institute. The summit will showcase Boston-based leaders, organizations, and businesses that are leading the way. Please join us for a day of discussion about our food, our economy, and our planet.


For a detailed list of speakers and events see the summit AGENDA.

For registration information go to our Eventbrite page.

Summit Pamphlet

Summit Pamphlet

Practical Visionaries Forum March 14: Transformative Economic Development

The word “transformation” is on the tips of many tongues these days, especially for those wanting an economy that works for all our communities. The next Practical Visionaries Forum will feature two transformative economic strategies designed for cities that have been left behind and hardest hit by the economic crisis. MIT’s Phil Thompson will talk about Cleveland’s innovative strategy to leverage the power of anchor institutions for community wealth, featured in a recent report he co-authored The Anchor Mission: A Case Study of University Hospitals Vision 2010 Program. MassINC’s Ben Forman will present MassINC’s new report Transformative Redevelopment: Strategic State Policy for Gateway City Growth and Renewal. Two community leaders will be respondents to the two presentations: Aaron Tanaka (outgoing director Boston Workers Alliance) and Juan Leyton (outgoing director Massachusetts Neighbor to Neighbor).

Practical Visionaries Forum presents

Transformative Economic Development

Thursday, March 14, 4:30-6:00 pm

Tufts University, Paige Hall Terrace Room

Please RSVP to penn.loh@tufts.edu

Vision2010Transformative Investment

Phil Thompson is an urban planner and political scientist. He received a M.U.P. from Hunter College, and a PhD. in Political Science from the City University of New York Graduate Center. Phil worked as Deputy General Manager of the New York Housing Authority, and as Director of the Mayor’s Office of Housing Coordination.

Ben Forman is MassINC’s research director and focuses on urban policy, economic development strategies and housing policies. Prior to joining MassINC in 2008, Ben oversaw strategic planning for the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation. Ben completed his master’s degree in city planning at MIT.

Light Refreshments will be served.

Co-Sponsored by Tufts Urban & Environmental Policy and Planning Colloquium, Tufts New Economy Group, and the AS&E Diversity Fund

Please RSVP to penn.loh@tufts.edu