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News & Info

Strategies for Increasing Equity in Central Business District Revitalization Efforts

Small and medium-size cities, including those in both urban and rural areas, have often pursued revitalizing their central business districts (CBDs). Cities pursue this work because thriving CBDs/downtowns can (1) create entrepreneurial business and job opportunities; (2) bring human and financial resources into the community, fostering additional investment opportunities; and (3) deepen or enhance residents’ sense of community and their perception of hope for the community’s future. While cities and other key stakeholders often pursue these efforts with the intention of improving the lives of all residents within the community, benefits tend to accumulate to property owners and other well-capitalized individuals and have limited direct benefit for those living in poverty. Without an intentional focus on equity, those renting in the district and those with fewer connections to information and decision-making are unlikely to benefit from any positive growth. There is a need to help communities understand how the benefits from their revitalization efforts will likely be distributed and to provide them with direction on possible strategies that can be used to better infuse equity principles into their efforts. This article provides guidance on achieving greater equity. We take core practices identified in the literature as contributing to downtown success and recommend ways that they can be adjusted to ensure a more equitable approach to revitalization (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2014). This overlay demonstrates some of the ways that these practices can be adapted to create opportunities for all residents.

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Spotlight On: Evaluating MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative

Community Science evaluated MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) after it was first launched in 10 Gateway Cities in 2015. TDI aims to catalyze transformative redevelopment within focused districts in Gateway Cities, helping to accelerate economic growth and to benefit the people and small businesses connected with each district. The evaluation team assessed TDI’s impact, documented TDI’s influence within MassDevelopment (the sponsor organization), and recommended possible program adjustments. The team also recommended opportunities for MassDevelopment to enhance outcome measurement in the future, providing a framework for prioritizing data collection based on the intended audience and its needs. Community Science’s data collection methods included interviews and focus groups with stakeholders in each of the 10 districts and with MassDevelopment staff, site visits to 4 districts, and extensive review of TDI and district documents. Community Science was selected for its national perspective and its expertise with redevelopment and urban planning work. These characteristics equipped the team to make actionable recommendations that TDI has already begun to implement in its second phase.

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Staff Profile: Marcella Hurtado Gómez, Associate

Marcella Hurtado Gómez, Ph.D., Associate, has expertise in social issues related to immigrant populations, the utilization of evidence-based programming with ethnic minority youth and families, and managing grant-funded programs in community-based organizations. Dr. Hurtado Gómez has 10 years of experience in conducting, analyzing, and disseminating research. She has expertise in program monitoring and evaluation, running statistical analysis, writing outcome reports, and presenting findings in pragmatic terms to a variety of audiences. She has worked on projects involving large data sets and building research studies from the ground up.

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Further Developing Leaders of Color: A Systems Approach to Equity

In recent years philanthropy has recognized leadership development as a key strategy in improving the participation of people of color and low-income individuals in the positions and spaces that determine policies, procedures, and practices intended to produce social change. Nonetheless, many leadership development programs reflect prevailing cultural values regarding individualism and assume that just selecting and developing the “right” individuals and providing them with specific knowledge and skills will naturally result in an increased individual capacity, strengthened organizations, an increased collective leadership capacity, and an improved ability to serve the community. This approach, however, does not address the structural and systemic barriers that constrain individual power or reflect the fact that collaborative approaches are needed to dismantle structural racism and advance equity. This article summarizes key principles about how to create the conditions and capacities needed to support leaders of color seeking to advance equity and social justice from our evaluations of leadership development programs.

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Evaluating the Barr Foundation's Fellowship Program

One of the many defining characteristics of a thriving community is the presence of civic leadership, particularly civic leadership that is representative of the people living and working in the community. Civic leaders are instrumental in developing healthy, just, and equitable communities, and efforts to cultivate their presence would be inherently beneficial for all members of the community. In recognition of this inextricable relationship between civic leaders and community health, the Barr Foundation has sought to develop civic leaders in hopes of improving the quality of life in Greater Boston. The Foundation has created a Fellowship program that serves to achieve this goal by (a) recognizing and supporting individual leadership, (b) enhancing organizational capacity, and (c) strengthening connections and cross-sector collaborative capacity. Community Science has been selected to evaluate the success of the program, learn from the evaluation, and provide insights for ongoing program improvement. We worked with the Barr Foundation to refine the program theory of change and used a mixed methods approach to collect quantitative and qualitative data about the experiences of the fellows, interim leaders, and partners.

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Recent Publications:

New Report from Community Science to Help City Governments Get Ready for Racial Equity Work

Community Science is proud to present one of our latest reports – lessons learned from a national initiative to help city governments get ready for racial equity work. The Racial Equity Here (REH) initiative, funded by Living Cities, engaged and supported a cohort of five U.S. cities committed to transforming policies and practices to address the inequities within their systems of government. The Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) was funded by Living Cities to provide training and technical assistance to guide these cities over a two-year period as they worked toward their racial equity goals. The final report is based on the evaluation of the initiative. Community Science used the evaluation findings to report on lessons learned and offer recommendations to other cities interested in engaging in racial equity work.


The Steps-By-Step Guide to Evaluation: How to Become Savvy Evaluation Consumers (June 2018)

Community Science is proud to present The Step-By-Step Guide to Evaluation: How to Become Savvy Evaluation Consumers, which we developed for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. This new guide is designed for people with little or no experience with formal evaluation to help them become more familiar with evaluation concepts and practices, partner better with independent evaluators, and use evaluation more effectively to continually learn from and improve their work.


Emerging Action Principles for Designing and Planning Community Change (March 2015)

Community Matters! Decades of scientific research have shown that being part of a supportive, inclusive and capable community promotes mental, physical, and social well-being more than any other factors known to the social and medical sciences. Our publication series, Community Matters: Action Principles, Frameworks, and Strategies, shares what science and practice have taught us about building and strengthening community. The first publication in this series, “Emerging Principles for Designing and Implementing Community Change,” has just been released.


Local Voices: On-the-Ground Perspectives on Driving Community Change in the Making Connections Sites (July 2014)

This report describes, from the perspective of local stakeholders, the experience of several sites involved in Making Connections — the Foundation’s signature community change initiative of the 2000s — in developing and enhancing the core capacities essential for articulating and pursuing a local community change agenda. The report describes the conditions in the communities when Making Connections began; the core capacities built during the decade-long initiative; the factors that contributed to capacity building; the evidence of improved outcomes for children, families and neighborhoods resulting from the enhanced change capacities; the continuing challenges of sustaining those capacities; and key takeaways from the experience.  


Addressing Health Disparities Through Organizational Change-Evaluation Report (April 2012)

In 2006, The Colorado Trust funded 14 organizations to improve their cultural competency in order to strengthen their capacity to reduce health disparities.  Community Science was engaged to evaluate the initiative, specifically assessing: 1) changes in cultural competency among grantees, 2) the influence of cultural competency changes on grantee interventions and short -term outcomes, 3) factors and conditions needed to bring about positive changes in organizational cultural competency, and 4) grantee progress and accomplishments over time.  


The Importance of Culture in Evaluation

The Importance of Culture in Evaluation, a publication funded by The Colorado Trust, provides insights to help guide the complex dynamics between evaluators, funders and stakeholders of different cultures. The report provides examples of where cross-cultural competency is critical in evaluation and recommends questions and strategies that an evaluator should consider when practicing this form of cultural competency.