McCormack Speaks

November 19, 2018
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Bob Turner, McCormack Research Fellow, Shares His Perspectives as One of Key Debate Organizers

 

Over the last three years, the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies has returned to its role as a sponsor of political debates. Since this past summer, McCormack has collaborated with The Boston Globe and WBUR to provide a platform for political candidates running for office to have discussions with each other and the public. The team organizing these debates is led by Dean Cash, Research Fellow Bob Turner and Rashelle Brown, McCormack’s events planner. McCormack Speaks sat down with Bob Turner to learn more about the behind-the-scenes work.

 

SA: What kind of reactions have you received regarding these debates from the public, candidates, UMass Boston, and the city of Boston?

BT: It is very satisfying, in particular, that all of the candidates I talked with spoke positively about the professional way the debates were run. All said they were the most substantive of their campaigns. Our last debate, between the candidates for governor on November 1, was the last of that campaign but still produced lively dialogue and fresh information. It had a large audience, as it was telecast live by Channel 5. There has been much comment from within UMass Boston about the public service that the debates gave, and the positive message this sent about our school as a substantive and productive member of the community.

SA: What has been surprising about sponsoring these debates?

BT: The partnership among MGS, The Boston Globe, and WBUR has developed over three years into a very strong and mutually supportive group. We look forward to more years of this collaboration. Also, all of the 10 debates we co-sponsored were broadcast live. The degree of technical skill and experience needed to bring this off – on radio and television – was really impressive. Equally impressive, always, is the so-calm and so-effective preparation of our own events planner, Rashelle Brown.

SA: What have been the challenges and the rewards of sponsoring these debates?

BT: A major reward: the MGS participation. In several of the debates, questions from McCormack students or faculty that had been prepared beforehand were posed to the candidates, either by the MGS questioner in person, or by a panelist. Helping prepare the questions, and then witnessing their inclusion in the debates, was very gratifying. It was terrific positive publicity for the school. A challenge will be to make sure this kind of questioning by MGS people will be included in all future debates.

SA: How do you see sponsorship of these debates as connecting to the values and mission of the McCormack Graduate School?

BT: The Supreme Court seems to think corporations are citizens that can make political contributions. This is questionable. Not questionable is the fact that the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, while prohibited from making cash contributions to candidates, is without question a citizen of our city, state, and nation. Anything we can do to further the health of our democracy is at the core of our very being.

SA: Are there plans for future debates? How do you envision McCormack continuing and expanding these forums?

BT: We look forward to more action next year, and are talking with our partners about what that might look like. One thought: we just had the mid-term elections, but the New Hampshire presidential primary is only 14 or 15 months away, and swarms of presidential candidates usually start arriving in these parts with the first snowflakes.

November 7, 2018
by saadiaahmad001
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What’s Cooking at the Center for Social Policy

by Susan Crandall

As the leaves tumble faster and the weather grows ever cooler, the mounting darkness seems to exacerbate the onslaught of tragedies that befall us. I’ve often wondered how people go on in times of upheaval, conducting their daily business as the world is shattering. But I am frequently reminded that tragedies like gun violence and homelessness have been part of the fabric of everyday life for many communities like our neighbors in Dorchester and Roxbury. If they can on, I can go on: deriving purpose through the Center for Social Policy’s dedication to shine a light on the root causes of economic hardship through our community-engaged research.

Aside from voting, to find comfort elsewhere, I cook soups and stews. With my multi-function Instant Pot, I saute, mix ingredients, simmer, walk away and return to a ready-to-serve meal – usually in less than an hour. It’s quick and easy! In contrast, our projects at the Center for Social Policy are more like cooking in an old-fashioned kitchen. We juggle multiple projects at a time, moving the simmering pots and pans from the back to front burners, sneaking a taste here and there, all while keeping some ideas warm in the oven. Here’s a sample of what’s cooking at CSP on cliff effects:

Cliff Effects

Our cliff effects research agenda, guided by CSP Senior Fellow and Professor of Economics Randy Albelda, tackles the dilemma of losing public benefits in response to working more. Now ready to serve is our new chart pack which analyzes more family types and benefit packages and spotlights the impact of housing assistance and universal childcare.

Next up, we are washing, slicing, and dicing the data to prepare our next set of cliff simulations based on our recent report on benefit packages authored by Research Associate Caitlin Carey. We are also analyzing the impact of the new minimum wage law on cliff effects, led by Professor of Economics Michael Carr in partnership with Mass Budget and Policy Center.

We provide technical assistance on public benefits and cliff effects for UTEC in Lowell and for the City of Boston Office of Financial Empowerment. These organizations are grantees in Learn to Earn, Governor Baker’s initiative to mitigate cliff effects for job seekers enrolled in workforce development programs to help them advance in their careers. Our cliff effect research also informs the work of On Solid Ground, a family-engaged statewide coalition with over 45 members that advocates for housing stability and economic mobility for vulnerable families.

Early Education and Care

Cliff effects are especially detrimental for very low-paid workers, such as early childhood educators. Thus the Center for Social Policy, along with the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy and the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation, launched a study on Massachusetts’ early care and education workforce. Our interdisciplinary research team is examining compensation and benefits, public benefits and cliff effects, debt load, and professional development in order to provide in-depth data to inform future policymaking for the early care workforce.

Workforce Development and Employment

Our CSP team, spearheaded by Senior Research Associate Brandynn Holgate, is partnering with the City of Boston Office of Workforce Development to map career pathways in the creative economy for non-traditional adult learners. This project is in collaboration with the UMass Donahue Institute, with whom we are also embarking on a study with the City of Cambridge Redevelopment Authority to expand job training and employment to more underserved Cambridge residents.

Meanwhile, Research Director Francoise Carre, with co-investigators Chris Benner of UC Santa Cruz and Chris Tilly of UCLA, is examining the workplace impacts of changing retail technologies, like automation. And through her work with Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), Dr. Carre lends statistical expertise on job classification for organizations such as the International Labor Organization to improve policies for informal work, such as domestic workers.

Student Homelessness

Workers and their families need stable housing to thrive. This is why the Center for Social Policy is proud to be selected as the evaluation partner for a cross-sector partnership to address the crisis of 4000 homeless students who attend Boston Public Schools. The collaborative is working together on a pilot program in seven schools to coordinate across housing, education, and health sectors to reduce homelessness and improve educational outcomes. Partners include the Chair of the Boston City Council’s Homelessness and Education Committee, Boston’s Chiefs of Housing and Education, Higher Ground, DSNI, Project Hope, New Lease for Homeless Families, Boston Public Schools, and the Boston Housing Authority.

In the Community

When we are not cooking up a storm in the kitchen, we are out and about in the community. Recently, I served on a panel of experts to speak to business leaders on the Modern Workforce, highlighting the need for tuition assistance and debt counseling to attract and retain today’s financially-burdened millennial workforce. I was also an invited speaker on cliff effects and workforce policy at the Department of Labor Employment and Training and Administration Region I Administrators meeting hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

October 31, 2018
by saadiaahmad001
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PhD Student Marcia Mundt Awarded 2018 Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant

Public Policy PhD Student Marcia Mundt recently was awarded the 2018 UMass Boston Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant. Her grant will support her dissertation, which is entitled: “Participate for Peace: The Impacts of Participatory Deliberative Democracy on Post-Conflict Peacebuilding in Central America.”

Throughout this academic year, Mundt is interviewing municipal officials and participants about their experience with open town hall meetings, community associations, participatory budgeting, and participatory planning processes in Central America. In partnership with the Universidad de El Salvador, the University de San Carlos de Guatemala, the Universidad Politecnica de Nicaragua, and the Latin American Public Opinion Project at Vanderbilt University, she aims to determine if and how local level public participation in policy decision-making can influence peace processes following civil war.

Applications for the award are reviewed twice each year by a committee of university faculty from various disciplines and program areas across campus, who then make recommendations to the Vice Provost for Research and Strategic Interests & Dean of Graduate Studies. Allocations are determined based upon the significance of the research, the merits of the research design, and the reasonableness of the budget request.

September 26, 2018
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Latest Book by Mark Warren Chronicles Firsthand Experience of Educators and Students Fighting Systemic Racism in Schools

 

Mark Warren, Professor of Public Policy and Public Affairs at the McCormack Graduate School, recently published his fourth book, Lift Us Up, Don’t Push Us Out!: Voices from the Front Lines of the Educational Justice Movement. The book introduces readers to the struggles and accomplishments of the educational justice movement through firsthand accounts and personal narratives written directly by the parents, students, educators, and allies fighting on the frontlines in the resistance against systemic inequalities that target and disadvantage children of color in low-income households.

Over the course of the semester, he will be speaking with community and education activists featured in the book and touring cities across the country, including Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York City, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. His speaking schedule can be viewed here. McCormack Speaks sat down with Dr. Warren to learn more about his latest book and some of the goals that he hopes his book will help accomplish on these issues.

 

SA: Where did the idea for this book come from?

MW: I have been studying and working with community, parent, and youth organizing groups as well as with education activists for twenty years. Until recently, most of these efforts had been focused in local areas but over the past five years, I witnessed a growing national movement. I thought it was time to write a book about this new, emerging movement and wanted to have organizers and activists have a chance to speak for themselves – share their own personal stories, powerful analysis, and successful strategies for creating educational justice in schools and communities.

SA: What gap in the literature does this book address?

MW: This book approaches the failures of our educational system as a profound racial justice issue, rooted in the lack of power that low-income communities of color have in our society. It argues that we need a social justice movement led by those most affected – parents and students of color – as well as educators and allies in other movements to create power for communities and systemic change in public education. It also identifies effective strategies for how to build this movement and create equity-oriented change in schools and communities.

SA: What types of projects and dialogues do you hope this book will inspire?

MW: I hope this book will provoke a discussion about the depth of systemic racism in our public education system and what it will take to address it. I hope it helps people appreciate the important work [of] people who are often ignored in our society – like parents and students of color – but are leading change efforts across the country.

SA: How have your affiliations with the McCormack Graduate School and UMass Boston assisted with the publication of this book?
MW: I believe it is important for our public universities to be at the forefront of working with communities to create equity and justice in education and beyond. UMass Boston and MGS support this mission and the research and engagement work I do for educational justice.

SA: What are some other projects you hope to pursue in the coming years?

MW: The people who came together to create this book became excited about creating an idea and strategy space for movement building that we are calling the People’s Think Tank. We are touring the country engaging communities and educators around the need to create a stronger and more intersectional social justice movement with racial and educational justice at its center. We will be launching the People’s Think Tank next year as the culmination of this engagement process and take the next step to build strategic understanding and actionable knowledge for the movement and its supporters.

SA: Anything else that you’d like to share with the MGS community about this book?

MW: This book is very personal to me. I grew up in a blue-collar family and community and public schools gave me a chance to go to college and access the world. Too many young people, especially poor children and children of color, are denied that access and are consigned to lives of continued poverty or incarceration. This book shines a light on the way forward for our country to reject our racial history and create a better future for all our young people.

 

 

September 7, 2018
by saadiaahmad001
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We Can Improve Coastal Communities as We Protect Them

by Rebecca Herst, Director of the UMass Boston Sustainable Solutions Lab, and Paul Kirshen, Professor at the School for the Environment and Academic Director

The best way to protect Boston from rising seas is through “shore-based solutions.” Two of the authors of a recent report explain what that means, and how such solutions can yield benefits for communities

One of the biggest challenges facing Greater Boston is coastal flooding. As weather gets more extreme and sea levels continue to rise, this is a challenge that government and business leaders, researchers, and communities are working together to solve.

Against this challenge, many had placed hope in the idea of a harbor barrier as a silver bullet for protecting neighborhoods. Our organization, the Sustainable Solutions Lab at UMass Boston, recently conducted the first feasibility analysis of this concept. We concluded that a harbor barrier would face serious technical challenges and not be worth the massive investment required. Another option is shore-based solutions – which the City is already beginning to implement, and which can include physical measures such as elevated green spaces, raised boardwalks or deployable floodwalls and policy solutions such as changes to zoning. We found that, compared to a harbor-wide barrier, shore-based solutions are vastly more cost-effective, and that they also provide significant “co-benefits” – i.e., positive community outcomes in addition to keeping Boston safe from coastal flooding.

While it was outside the scope of this study to explore the extent of these potential co-benefits, we have been working with the Boston Green Ribbon Commission, Neighborhood of Affordable Housing in East Boston and other partners to explore the potential of shore-based solutions. Through this work and success stories in other cities, we have found that if shore-based solutions are implemented thoughtfully, they can significantly improve quality of life and access to important resources and opportunities. Some of these benefits can include:

  • Protection against rising temperatures. Shore-based solutions provide an opportunity for increased tree cover and green infrastructure in neighborhoods that deal with urban “heat island” impacts likely to intensify over the course of the century.
  • More democratic participation in the development of the future of the city. With a strong public process in place, communities can decide how to protect their neighborhoods and co-create solutions using a wide variety of physical (e.g. parks, protective greenery, floodable basketball courts, etc.) or policy tools.
  • Engagement and targeted investment in local business. These community processes can be opportunities to engage local expertise and business leaders, including helping identify opportunities to target investments in local efforts that, historically, may have lacked access to funding, such as women- and minority-owned businesses.
  • Flexibility, creativity, and innovation in public realm planning – with less risk. Parks and other adaptation features can be built in a modular way that allows for iterative learning and more investment later.
  • Economic development through “climate tourism.” People around the world could look to Boston for our innovative approaches to adaptation through popular harbor tourist spaces.

Creating a resilient city isn’t easy and none of these benefits is a given. In fact, research has shown that, if we are not careful, our attempts to address climate change can even exacerbate social and economic inequities that already exist. For example, green infrastructure investments can accelerate gentrification, making it challenging for the people who advocated for new investments to stay in their neighborhood. As we develop climate change policies we need to have a holistic approach which, in this case, could include preserving and even increasing affordable housing.

We at SSL are particularly interested in how these climate adaptation investments can be leveraged to safeguard the region’s most vulnerable populations. We will be exploring these topics in future research and invite you to subscribe to our email list to learn more. Many questions around financing, governance, and project sequencing remain, but with continued cooperation, we can work together to ensure resilience planning supports communities while protecting them.

***This article originally appeared in an article published on the website of The Barr Foundation here and has been republished on McCormack Speaks with permission.

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