About the Project
When it comes to promoting equity and inclusion, a lot of attention is placed on legislative action as the mechanism for change. While policy is critical to structural and systemic change, it isn’t the only mechanism. Institutions can start the transformative work through the practices and tools they use for community engagement.
Development in Boston is a contentious issue. While there is a severe need for more housing to meet demand, there are also concerns around density, parking, and affordability. While there are requirements to engage local residents in “community engagement processes” related to large-scale development and zoning variances, these processes are often inaccessible to a large swath of residents due to timing, language barriers, engagement fatigue, accessibility, and general communications failures. Even for those who participate, there are many questions about how their input influences decisions.
We conducted a 3 month co-design process with residents in East Boston and Dorchester. Each group was led by a local organizer in the dominant language of the group — Spanish in East Boston and English in Dorchester. Over the course of 3-4 meetings each, the groups engaged in a series of co-design activities to identify challenges, priorities, and hopes for engagement related to being engaged by the BPDA. This process culminated in “Just Engagement,” a guide to engagement that includes 5 key priorities for centering those most impacted in decision-making. Although created for the BPDA, the guide represents key priorities for enhancing equity and inclusion in any public engagement process.