2016 CoRE Fellow Reflects on Internship with Community Partner

Each summer, CoRE (Co-learning/Co-education) funds UEP graduate students to work with a community partner for a 10-week fellowship.  The fellowship is intended to provide capacity for community-based efforts and to offer fellows hands-on experience in community planning, organizing and development.  2016 CoRE fellow, Gabo Sub, reflects on his internship experience at the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative. 

Gabriel ‘Gabo’ Sub, CoRE Fellow at the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative

copy-of-giselle-flowers-a-commercial-property-on-dni-dni-is-building-another-commercial-property-space-to-provide-affordable-rent-for-local-small-businesses

Getting the opportunity to work with the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) as a UEP through the Tisch College Summer Fellowship Program was a great privilege.  I worked mainly on tasks for Dudley Neighbors Inc, a community land trust that was established by DSNI. Its efforts to promote community control over development and establish a supply of permanently affordable housing for the Dudley Square Neighborhood in South Boston are a national model for CLT development. I was very excited to have the chance to work there, and my excitement was well deserved. I helped to develop an operations manual for DNI to better capture organizational practices and ease transitions and trainings for staff and volunteers. I also helped with day-to-day tasks such as canvassing the neighborhood to promote events and spread information about upcoming legislation, creating fliers, and helping to organize and plan events.

Before starting the internship, I was questioning the emancipatory potential of the American system of higher education. My motivation to study policy at a graduate level had been (and, to be frank, remains) deeply shaken.  Insofar as universities partner with communities, it is usually a relief if the university and its missionaries do no harm. Tufts is relatively unique in that it centers community partnerships and acknowledges that those relationships are indeed reciprocal and based on the equality of both parties. It is the main reason I chose to do my graduate studies here. I am even more excited, however, to continue to help DSNI and other organizations that put people and planet ahead of profit. I am thankful to Tisch College for giving me an opportunity to broaden and deepen my connection to individuals who feel the same.

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

img_0816

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.

Development without Displacement: UEP Field Project Supports the Formation of the Greater Boston Community Land Trust Network

A team of five UEP graduate students, as a part of the 2015 UEP Field Projects, worked with a nascent network of community land trusts (CLTs) in Boston to explore the value and possibilities for CLTs in the Boston area to promote development without displacement. The four partners the team worked with are the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI), the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA), the Urban Farming Institute (UFI), and the Somerville Community Corporation (SCC). The first two organizations have established CLTs and the latter two were interested in establishing and/or partnering with CLTs in the future. The partners are interested in CLTs to pursue various goals, including creation and maintenance of affordable housing, commercial development and urban agriculture, as well as cultural preservation. The UEP team also conducted research and interviews with other CLTs and advocacy organizations in Boston, Springfield, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland and San Francisco. Along with providing research on CLTs in and outside of Boston, the project also aimed to visualize the potential impacts of CLTs as a means to achieve the goals of the city and the project partners.

1.2015CLT

The final report, Development Without Displacement: the case for Community Land Trusts in Boston, provides a deeper understanding of what a CLT is, how it functions in the community, how it can be applied in various contexts, and how it can provide benefits at the individual, neighborhood, and city scales. The report also explores ways in which the CLT model can increase community control over land use decisions, allowing the Cities of Boston and Somerville to achieve development goals without displacement. Although the CLT model is adaptable and diverse, and the CLT ownership of land can be an enormous asset, not all communities may determine that CLTs are the appropriate mechanism to address the unique issues they face. The report discusses important challenges and costs associated with financing land acquisition, which are especially significant in the hot housing markets currently experienced by the cities of Boston and Somerville.

2015CLT

The team’s recommendations for fostering the growth of CLTs include:

  • Supporting public education to develop interest in the land trust model for resident buy-in and to attract financing, as well as promote collaboration; municipal support of education and technical support for community groups on the process of negotiating property acquisition and stewardship of public and private lands
  • Establishing a flexible, stable, committed and fast-acting municipal acquisition fund and a line of credit for CLT acquisition and rehabilitation of property
  • Municipalities prioritizing, and creating a pathway for, the transfer of vacant and underutilized public land for CLTs
  • Municipalities working with CLTs to create a pathway for acquiring private properties, including clear notification and awareness of prospective private property sales to CLTs and providing assistance in leveraging public and private funds for purchasing

The report also provides recommendations for the Network to support shared learning and mentorship between CLTs, develop a centralized resource hub, and target outreach to existing affordable housing developers, including community development corporations.

UEP Field Project works with CERO Coop to Explore an Eco-Energy Park in Boston

CERO is a multicultural recycling cooperative based in the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester. CERO is comprised of a group of worker-owners whose values are steeped in community, sustainability and empowerment. CERO is among a new wave of locally owned green businesses that see themselves as part of a “new economy.” CERO began by providing food waste pickup and diversion services for commercial businesses. In spring 2014, a Tufts UEP Field Projects team worked with CERO to investigate a second phase of its development to build an “eco-energy park” in Boston. The Field Project team helped analyze the suitability of possible sites for creating a facility in Boston anchored by an Anaerobic Digester for processing organic wastes into energy and fertilizer. This eco-energy park aims to employ the principles of closed-loop systems to minimize externalities through using the waste of one process as a resource in another process.

CERO

The student team consisting of Imaikalani Aiu, Suveer Bahirwani, Abby Farnham, and Anthony Parisi helped CERO explore feasibility of building an Anaerobic Digestion (AD) processor in Boston. AD is a biological process in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. One of the end products is biogas, which can be combusted to generate electricity and heat, or can be processed into natural gas and transportation fuels. The recently instituted ban on commercially-generated waste in the state of Massachusetts has created the impetus for the development of AD systems. The rule states that any establishment generating more than 1 ton of waste per week is required to divert their waste away from a landfill to either a composting or an AD facility. Along with following the footsteps of other progressive states, this ban has been long overdue in Massachusetts given that landfills in the state are already over capacity. Moreover, there are peripheral problems associated with hauling waste far distances, and food waste (which comprises 28% of the total waste going to these landfills) can be turned into a potential resource for energy and heat.CERO2

The team’s research questions revolved around finding the most suitable land for an AD facility, determining where and how much organic waste is being generated to feed this facility, and developing a better understanding of the basic characteristics of an AD facility and how they are relevant to a siting study. Part of what made this AD study unique is the balance the team strove to find between incorporating some of the more ‘standard’ considerations for siting AD, as well as the community empowerment and workforce development objectives CERO has for this project. 

CERO1

CORE Summer 2015 Fellows Support Community Land Trusts in Chinatown and Roxbury

Editor’s note: Danielle Ngo and Ben Baldwin, two UEP graduate students supported by Tisch College and UEP to work with UEP’s CORE (Co-Research/Co-Education) community partners, report back on their 2015 Summer Fellowship experiences.

Danielle Ngo

Tisch Summer Fellow at Chinese Progressive Association

Danielle
Danielle Ngo running the photo station at CPA’s first Chinatown Block Party

I was a Tisch Summer Fellow at the Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) as part of the CORE community partnerships. I spent my summer in Boston’s Chinatown with CPA, a multi-service organization with a staff of eight community organizers. For their services, CPA works with the Chinese immigrant population of Chinatown, Quincy, and Malden on labor and workers rights, tenant and housing rights, social services, and ESL. I provided additional capacity and research support to the Chinatown Community Land Trust (CCLT), founded in January 2015. The CCLT promotes community control of public parcels in Chinatown, with focus on maintaining the working class and immigrant population in the area through affordable housing.

The CCLT board members are a mix of Chinatown residents, Chinatown business owners, and other stakeholders in the community. Together, they have deep working knowledge about the community and relationships of Chinatown, and have experience working in housing, urban, and business development. I collected basic research on existing practices to establish, finance and protect a community land trust for long-term strengthening of the CCLT. I researched the national registry, local historic and conservation districts, and overlay districts and identified their criteria, legal protections, and financial benefits.

Although a lot was done over the summer, there are still many large steps for the future of the CCLT. The CCLT is currently searching for rowhouse owners willing to consider selling or negotiating a deal with the CCLT before putting their properties on the market.

I also assisted a variety of side projects related to the Stabilize Chinatown Campaign. In July, CPA hosted their first Chinatown Block Party, with the goal of getting residents to know their neighbors and educate the community on tenant rights. For the block party, I created English and Chinese subtitles for Losing Home: Displacement in Boston, a video created by City Life/Vida Urbana. With permanent translations on YouTube, the video can now reach a broader, multi-lingual viewership. I also did some policy research for Boston’s Right to the City Alliance regarding Just Cause Eviction legislation and home repair funds in San Francisco and New York City.

For me, interning at CPA was an invaluable experience in Asian American community organizing. I loved being in a space to discuss and challenge assumptions of the Asian American identity, markers of success, and pathways of progressing our goals. These conversations helped contextualize my work at CPA within the larger movement against chronic disinvestment and misunderstanding of communities. At CPA, it is clear that their work and successes could not be furthered without community-based decision-making, organizers, researchers, cross-sector partners, and inter-generational support.

At the same time, there were many things I could not do for CPA. I was severely limited by not being a Cantonese speaker, which are the majority of their membership. With the CCLT’s work, there are many layers of complexity such as community politics, municipal relationships, and financing challenges that are still not completely addressed. With these limitations, I hope I was able to generate work that the CCLT can build upon to strengthen their case and activity for the future of Chinatown.

My focus at UEP is urban food policy and planning, and so this work in affordable housing and community control was a learning process for me. It advanced my understanding of community organizing and Asian America, two things that are valuable to my personal and professional goals. In thinking about my thesis and career after Tufts, I reflected on which communities are closest to my identity and background, where is the most appropriate place for me to affect change, and where is the most potential for grassroots, community-based development? So far, I am interested in the possibilities of a multi-racial and justice-framework in California’s food and environmental policy, but I still have much to think about after my time at CPA. I am thankful for the CORE Fellowship for sponsoring me this summer. Without CORE, I would not have been able to learn as much as I did during my first summer in Boston, from the vibrant Chinatown community and their deep history, leadership, and organizing success.

Ben Baldwin

Tisch Summer Fellow at Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative

benDSNIelections
Ben Baldwin overseeing Board of Directors elections at DSNI

I applied to be a Tisch Summer Fellow at the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) as part of the CORE community partnerships. As a future urban planner interested in community development, creating beneficial interactions with community members will serve as the basis for my work. DSNI was established nearly thirty years ago as a response to the kind of development that has historically come from planners far removed from local people and neighborhoods. Thirty years later, DSNI continues working for a community voice in determining the direction of the neighborhood. Their programs range from education and youth development, to urban agriculture, to affordable housing through community land trusts. The work of my internship was almost as varied as DSNI’s mission. One goal was to assist the nascent Greater Boston Community Land Trust Network in getting off the ground to prevent gentrification, and allow community driven solutions to problems across the city. Another project was managing the creation of an operations manual for the Dudley Neighbors Inc., DSNI’s Community Land Trust. Finally, there was a community organizing component to my work, which included phone-banking, door-knocking, and facilitating meetings for new home marketing and education, the Department of Neighborhood Development’s Neighborhood Homes Initiative, and local neighborhood issues around drug use in vacant lots.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity of working with DSNI as a Tisch Summer Fellow after already having worked on a project with four other UEP students where we completed a report on Community Land Trusts in Greater Boston the previous semester. This fellowship allowed me to continue delving deeper into the CLT movement and apply my knowledge to Boston.

One of the conclusions of the spring semester report my group produced was that there is a need for assistance with CLT financing. This is especially true as DSNI assists new CLTs in acquiring parcels of Boston’s increasingly expensive real estate. I managed to coordinate the beginning of my fellowship with a summer course on nonprofit real estate development finance, which opened up resources for me to understand the finer financial details, as well as giving community groups input from the professor, an experienced non-profit developer. My internship gave me opportunities to use this knowledge in context through finance-specific meetings with the development team of the Coalition of Occupied Homes in Foreclosure. I also created an outline of the myriad of financial tools available for nonprofit real estate development of affordable housing.

Every day I was welcomed by a friendly and inclusive group of staff at DSNI, each of whom was able to combine technical skills around finance and land management with the ability to communicate to neighborhood residents and organize effectively to get the job done. Staff could spend one day talking with homeowners and neighborhood residents about issues, the next meeting with city officials to communicate those issues, then planning with other organizations about how to achieve neighborhood goals. These are skills that must be learned over years of experience, but getting to participate for a summer has set me on the right path to be able to do the same in my career. DSNI was an excellent place to learn and work on these skills.

The summer was not without its challenges. DSNI employees are busy, and rightly so. I was appointed as the project manager for creating the operations manual, but my ability to contribute to the manual itself was limited by my lack of experience. I helped to consolidate previous work and draft new ideas, but nothing could be finalized until the operations manager and consultant had time to look it over and make edits and contributions. Because our meetings were weekly, progress was limited to the 10-or-so weeks of my internship. My time at DSNI was limited, so the end of the summer meant attempting to bridge my work with a subsequent intern to continue writing the operations manual. Having a short-term intern work on a long-term project is not the most efficient way of getting the job done, but it seemed to be the only way considering the limited capacity for new projects like these.

Language barriers represented another challenge in my internship. I have a reasonably good grasp of the Spanish language, but Cape Verdean Kriolu was another story. There was one main organizer for the large Cape Verdean population of Roxbury and Dorchester, so people would come in every day looking for him. When he was not available it meant trying to coordinate with a non-English speaking resident in a combination of Kriolu and Spanish.

Before writing my spring semester report on CLTs in Boston, I expected to be able to provide concrete solutions after only a few months of research. The difficulties facing low-income neighborhoods in Boston are many, and community land trusts are only one solution in a blend of programs that can bring about the development that a community actually wants and needs. There are a lot of folks working on this problem in the Boston context and beyond, and there is no one best solution and definitely no set plan for how to get there. I believe that there will have to be a collective “aha moment” between community members, organizations, and city government. It will need to be creative and will require novel financial approaches. It will require a lot of organizing, but first there needs to be a concise plan and message to organize around. My one summer at DSNI obviously did not solve a citywide problem, but it is part of the process of developing that plan and message.

 

Fall 2015 Tufts UEP Practicum: Community Control and Ownership Strategies for Boston

Community partners and graduate students are invited to participate in a new course for Fall 2015, the Tufts UEP Practicum (UEP293-09). This is a community-university co-learning opportunity that builds on the Practical Visionaries Workshop started in 2011. The theme of this Fall’s Practicum is Community Control and Ownership Strategies for Boston. Our primary partner is the Greater Boston Community Land Trust Network, which includes Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, Chinese Progressive Association, Coalition of Occupied Houses in Foreclosure, Urban Farming Institute of Boston, and the Right to the City Alliance. This Practicum will help the Network develop financing and policy strategies, as well as support the initiatives of specific partners. Co-learning will focus on causes of urban displacement, theories of community control and the “right to the city”, solidarity economy and economic democracy frameworks and practices, and the theory and practice of community land trusts.
We will meet most every Monday 9-11:30am from September 14 to December 7. There will be an initial orientation at DSNI on Sep 21 and then 2 sessions on weeks of Oct 26 and Nov 30 that will be designed with and for the Greater Boston CLT Network. This is an opportunity for community partners to develop deeper understanding of critical community issues to inform strategy and action and gain space and time for reflection and relationship building.

Download the detailed syllabus here.

Please contact penn.loh@tufts.edu if you are interested or have any questions.