Mission & Values


The Engagement Lab at Emerson College equips and supports students, faculty, and community partners to advance peace, equity, and justice through collaborative design and storytelling. By centering those most impacted by structural inequities, we inspire change through the co-creation of art, media, and communications.

Five people using prototyping materials on a table


Anti-racism and anti-oppression

Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) disproportionately experience the burdens of today’s social, health, environmental, and economic problems, as a result of centuries of racist and oppressive policies and practices in all spheres of society, including higher education. We commit to interrogating and dismantling racist and oppressive structures and practices, individually and collectively, as we imagine and create just, inclusive, and equitable futures.

Co-creation and co-design

We commit to create and design with those who are most impacted by the issues we care about. This usually means that community participants work directly alongside students in a shared learning and creating space. We value the time, expertise, and agency of our community learning partners and commit to creating spaces that uplift and empower.

Collaborative governance

We believe in shared decision-making. Our initiatives are led by a multi-sector team of community and nonprofit leaders, institutions, and government. As we make decisions that guide the work, we center the voices and experiences of those within our partner communities.

A seated individual in a hoodie in front of a green screen, with a camera person in the foreground

Six individuals gathered around a mural which reads "HOPE"


We seek to build and sustain relationships and impact over time. We stand against the traditional practices of higher education that involve parachuting in and out of communities solely for educational or research purposes, acknowledging that these encounters are exploitative. We commit to building trust over time with community-based partners and to facilitating experiences and projects that are mutually beneficial, and beyond the confines of the academic calendar.

Asset focus

We strive to define people by their assets and aspirations before noting their challenges and deficits. We commit to asset-framing as a model for our co-creation work with communities, focusing on what individuals and communities have, not only what they lack.

Demonstrable impact

We push ourselves to define and measure impact at multiple levels -- individual, community, and societal. We commit to involving our community collaborators in shaping and executing our research agenda. And, in addition to contributing to the academic literature, we commit to sharing our research findings in accessible formats with our collaborators. 


We recognize that our freedom is inextricably connected to the freedom of others. We acknowledge the multi-generational consequences of white supremacy, anti-Black racism, and settler colonialism. 

Bold imagination 

We are hopeful for a future that is just, peaceful, and equitable. We believe in the power of creativity and imagination to move beyond the doom and gloom of today’s headlines and to design a future where we can all thrive. 

Equitable opportunity

We strive to create opportunities and pathways to higher education for those who have been traditionally excluded.

Three panelists seated in front of an audience at Boston City Hall, with moderator standing at a podium