The People’s Redevelopment Authority asks the question, “What if residents had the formal authority to engage in urban development?” What kinds of policies would they make and what kinds of spatial strategies would they choose to forward? How would they work with planners, architects and other spatial specialists to prototype and implement new ideas?
Civic engagement is about the right of the people to define the public good, determine the policies by which they will seek the good, and reform or replace institutions that do not serve that good.
--David Korten, Globalizing Civil Society: Reclaiming Our Right to Power, Open Media Series, via Wikipedia
When we think about civic engagement, we frame it as one element in the larger context of the public. We believe that particularly within the United States, we have a very limited notion of what’s possible for public life and public voice. As we say, the public is a work in progress [link to paper]. A stronger public—one that can hold its institutions accountable—requires a new scale of civic engagement. There need to be new ways to see and connect among people, new public spaces that encourage dialog, protest and play, and even new public infrastructures that enrich lives and remind us that “public” means all of us. Without these new forms, there will not be the scale of force to demand the changes needed in our civic and private institutions.
Thus our work around civic engagement—whether it’s done on the streets, in a city-sponsored forum, or a social justice gathering—is always aimed at finding ways for the public to increase its power. We create opportunities for communities and populations to learn about plans and policies impacting their lives, to shift their perceptions of their role in shaping public life and to imagine new uses of public space, new public rights, etc.
How do you continue the conversation with the public about transportation in Boston? How might we gather as many project and policy ideas from people from all over the city? By bicycle!
The Imaginary 'Tea Stop' is a data collection tool that gathered tallies on what residents wanted to see near their train station.
STREET LAB: UPHAM'S was a season-long outdoor Creativity Lab where anybody could reimagine and prototype ways to liven up micro-public spaces. It took place in an alley in the Upham's Corner neighborhood in Dorchester, MA over the fall of 2013. We transformed an alley every Saturday, complete with activity stations and a small woodworking shop.
We created a Productive Fiction. Over two evenings in the fall of 2014, our installation of lights and an illuminated red carpet transformed the bridge into a bright space.
“What would you do with $700 Billion?”—We created an interactive mobile banner to encourage spontaneous dialogue on the 2009 stock market crisis, engaging over 100 citizens across Boston.
From April 29th -- May 5th 2013, we engaged over 600 community members--families, artists, merchants, elders and passers-by in thinking about Uphams Corner and the planning processes going on around them. The interactive exhibit and integrated street signage aimed to lower the barrier for the public to engage in planning processes, both those already going on and ones they might want to create.
In May 2015, the residents of Boston experienced an unprecedented level of public engagement. DS4SI was central in designing and producing this creativity lab where people across all walks of life would co-envision the future of Boston's transportation experience.
The HEZ Lab was a vibrant, intergenerational and bilingual space where Newport residents could interact with the data collected by fellow residents on barriers to health.
For the M / B / T / A Lab, we broadened the concept of transportation equity to look at fundamental issues of mobility, from how it impacts our human development and possible futures to how it shapes our daily emotions. We looked at public transportation across the globe and across time. We put transportation and mobility in the context of human rights and battles for these rights.