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Civic Design Initiative


IAP and Spring


CMS: Comparative Media Studies

Faculty Supervisor:

Eric Gordon

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Please fill out this form: https://forms.gle/CraU8YFJH5jNyyKA9

Project Description

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the limitations of municipal governments to adequately and effectively deliver public goods and services to those in need. While local governments struggled to find mechanisms of effective emergency care provision, mutual aid organizations, neighborhood associations, and other informal groups in communities throughout the United States responded to the pandemic quickly by coordinating the distribution of food, clothing, information, and other essential goods and services to local individuals and families in need. This response, while certainly not without precedent in the United States, reached an extraordinary scale during the pandemic. Most of the recent community-based initiatives operated on volunteer time and resources, using free tools and technologies such as Facebook groups, Google Forms, and WhatsApp to identify needs and figure out how to meet them. And while local governments were largely supportive of such community-based initiatives, they lacked official mechanisms to collaborate or support them, often resulting in municipal governments taking a passive role in care provision. This failure of government to collaborate with community efforts is not, in most cases, a matter of politics. Instead, it points to a lack of effective governance structures that enable such emergent programming to exist and persist. We are working on an effort to create a "collaborative governance network" in Boston. The effort builds on examples and scholarship of urban living laboratories (ULLs) around the world, which are typically defined by three peculiarities: 1) an organizational approach inspired by the quadruple helix (i.e. collaboration between the public sector, firms, universities, and communities); 2) an experimental methodology; and 3) open innovation, where knowledge can be diffused across stakeholders. During the Spring semester, we will be designing the network with a range of stakeholders in Boston, and running a series of collaborative governance experiments, which seek to advance knowledge and tools for power sharing and better decision-making. We are looking for 5-7 students who are interested in working with community groups to build technology that will change how cities are governed. We are looking for students with a range of skills and interests that are motivated to work on projects with immediate, real world impact. Topics we will likely explore include: police reform, education reform, and environmental justice. The positions will require 8-10 hours per week. Most work will be conducted independently, but students will meet as a cohort once a week with Professor Eric Gordon.