Newsletter ---------------------------- Spring 2013

Greetings | Boston | Los Angeles New York City| Get Involved
Greetings from URBAN

The Urban Research-Based Action Network (URBAN) is a national platform that facilitates community-based research, teaching and learning for action across disciplinary lines, connecting scholars and activists across cities. It was started in 2011 as an effort to honor the memory of activist scholar Marylin Gitell, and has received generous support from SAGE Publications. For more information, read the original concept paper and the Fall 2012 newsletter.

Progress to Date
In the past months, we have continued the consultation and outreach process, both at the local and professional association levels. In August, we convened the first URBAN meeting at the American Sociological Association (ASA) conference in Denver, which was attended by 30 people and out of which an URBAN-ASA node formed. Unfortunately, due to hurricane Isaac, the American Political Science Association conference in New Orleans was cancelled, and with it, the
URBAN meeting we had organized there. In October, Raquel Pinderhuges and Gerald Eisman hosted the first URBAN-Northern California meeting at SFSU, which has developed into a regional node as well. Later in the fall, we convened at the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) meeting in Cincinnati, after which a node of urban planners has started organizing.

During the fall semester, we focused on consolidating the infrastructure created the past year through a wide consultation process. We set up monthly calls with the URBAN Co-Chairs, with whom we discussed about general strategy to advance the network. We also continued the bi-monthly Planning Committee calls, aimed at coordinating the work of the different local and discipline nodes, as well as the monthly calls with URBAN Fellows and URBAN Coordinator, to share lessons and resources across local nodes.

Several nodes are already actively organized. The Boston, NYC and LA nodes have met several times since the summer, while the ASA node has established monthly calls, is planning events for the next ASA conference, and is working on an URBAN Special Issue of Critical Sociology that will critically assess community-based research from a multidisciplinary perspective
. The URBAN node of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) is ramping up at the upcoming annual meeting of the AERA in San Francisco, following a large and enthusiastic informational meeting at the 2012 conference. At the upcoming meeting in April, the AERA node will sponsor four sessions, including an organizational meeting to plan activities and seek volunteers (see the section "Get Involved").

As part the URBAN initiative, we have started building the
Marylin Gittell Archive. Marilyn Jacobs Gittell (1931–2010), in whose memory URBAN was launched, was an NYC scholar-activist fiercely committed to racial, gender, and educational justice, and especially known for her dedication to school decentralization. Joining with the black community's school decentralization movement of the 1960s, Marilyn threw herself into one of the most polarizing and important matters of the day: New York City's  “Ocean-Hill Brownsville controversy” – a Brooklyn-based social experiment that moved the control of neighborhood schools to the socially marginalized African American communities whom the schools purported to serve. A small group of doctoral students in Critical Social/Personality Psychology at CUNY Graduate Center have been charged with the privilege of constructing Marilyn’s archives. They are working through boxes of materials from Marilyn’s life, as well as collecting both official records and everyday details “beyond the storage unit,” to create two, intersecting exhibitions – one digital, and one material – that honor Marilyn’s work, particularly as it speaks to the radical history and potential of education in NYC.

Moving Forward
In the following months, URBAN, in collaboration with SAGE London, will focus on developing an online platform where members and nodes will have space to share lessons and resources. We will also work with a group of PhD students and senior scholars to develop the basic infrastructure for a mentorship network within URBAN, an idea that has come out at numerous meetings. Furthermore, we will continue to gather at academic conferences and at local node meetings (see the section "Get Involved")

Boston node

In 2012, the URBAN.Boston node focused on defining its potential capabilities for increasing research collaborations between academics and community members by first engaging in public discussions. We established an URBAN.Boston Planning Team, comprised of academics, community members and graduate students, which meets monthly.

The Boston node has successfully organized three public exploratory meetings at various locations in different neighborhoods in Boston, all open to community members and academics interested in the collaborative research. In these public discussions we prioritized increasing our network capacity both online and in person. We also encouraged unfettered brainstorming about URBAN’s possibilities. In July, the first exploratory meeting was held at the University of Massachusetts, Boston where over 40 community leaders and faculty members shared ideas of what URBAN could be and who would be its natural partners.  In October, the second meeting was held in partnership with the MA Smart Growth Alliance at their location in downtown Boston. Again, over 40 people attended. The dynamic discussion delved into some of the issues that typically arise in collaborative research. In December, the third public meeting was held at the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI), convening over 60 participants. Researchers, community organizers and leaders, and other stakeholders, engaged in a lively conversation about how Boston URBAN can help create a new kind of relationship between communities and academics – to foster collaborative research that creates knowledge relevant to the needs of urban communities and useful to social change agents.

These meetings served  as a public conversation about how to structure the Boston.URBAN node and envision what it could do to foster collaborative research.  The meetings also offered a chance for community members and academics to build relationships and begin to find common ground
. The structure of the meetings allowed for deep engagement in a short period of time; what follows is a brief description that could be replicated when starting URBAN nodes and reaching out to community:
  • Introductions and Connecting Exercise: The public meetings began with people introducing themselves and setting aside time for networking. In the third meeting, members from the community were paired with members of academia. In their conversations people discussed their interests, passions and hopes for a network like URBAN.
  • History of URBAN and URBAN.Boston: URBAN is described, not as an organization that will direct projects, but rather as a network or a platform where people can meet, build relationships, incubate new community based research projects that support action and policy change, and build capacity to help support such initiatives.
  • Discussion of URBAN’s Potential: The bulk of these public meetings focused on a discussion of URBAN’s potential – sometimes this conversation was a loose discussion other times it was couched in a clever activity in which meetings participants were asked to imagine newspaper headlines describing the success of URBAN in 2022.
  • Next Steps:  Often the last major portion of these meetings was discussions about research interests and the ideal forms of collaboration participants would like to see between academics and communities.
These public meetings have been hugely successful, well attended and the momentum for the URBAN.Boston node continues to build.  The URBAN.Boston Planning Team will be working in 2013 to continue to facilitate these burgeoning relationships created in the first few public meetings. 

UMass Boston Establishes Working Group on URBAN

At the request of UMass Boston faculty involved in leading the Boston URBAN node, the Provost of the University of Massachusetts Boston has appointed a working group for an Urban Research-Based Action Initiative across the UMass Boston campus. This is an important step in beginning to institutionalize a presence for URBAN and for promoting collaborative research across the campus. The Provost charged the working group with four primary purposes:

  1. To coordinate, promote and lead university-wide efforts in community-based research and engaged scholarship.
  2. To play a key role in establishing and supporting a Boston Node of the national Urban Research Based Action Network (URBAN) “to connect scholars across local higher education institutions and community organization leaders to foster collaborative research that serves the needs of Boston area communities.”
  3. To facilitate and organize interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary and trans-disciplinary teams across departments, colleges, and institutions for  seeking external resources to support university projects or programs in community-based research and engaged scholarship. 
  4. To advise the provost and his research leadership team on effective ways for promoting, supporting, evaluating and rewarding community-based research and engaged scholarship.

URBAN and MIT CoLab Organize a Discussion Group on PAR at MIT

Led by MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) Professor Larry Susskind, 
the “New Approaches to Social Science Research (And Their Implications for Doctoral Study in the Applied Social Sciences)” Seminar Series aims to start a conversation within DUSP to expand the options for PhD research methodology requirements to include Participatory Action Research. The three-part series will involve discussion of the following three landmark works on the subject of activist social science research: Flyvbjerg, B. (2001) "Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and How it Can Succeed Again", Cambridge University Press; Flyvbjerg,B., Landmann, T. and Schram, S. (Eds.) (2012) "Real Social Science: Applied Phronesis", Cambridge University Press; and Greenwood, D. and Levin, M. (2006) "Introduction to Action Research: Social Research for Social Change", 2nd edition, SAGE Publications. Prof. John Forester, from the Department of City & Regional Planning at Cornell University, will join the seminars for the discussion.

Los Angeles node

The Los Angeles URBAN node has held three meetings with the participants agreeing on the need for developing a national network of scholars that are doing community-based research and organizing a local network that could be part of the process. In addressing some of the issues raised, those present in the meetings agreed to: 1. Create a network of mutual support 2.  To find innovative ways of disseminating the work that is being done 3.  To create a variety of venues for exchange.

In this context, the meeting on October 4th 2012 focused on lessons and examples on how engaged scholars and activists have been involved in (and can be involved in) supporting progressive research centers and how they can be involved in supporting social movements, such as the deferred action and Dream Act. 

The first presentation by Manuel Pastor, Professor of Geography and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California and Director of the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration, shared that there are various challenges that these centers are facing including the need for:  1.  fundraising for sources outside academia;   2.  the development of a professional staff structure; 3. leadership and leadership succession that is decentered from charismatic leadership; 4.  defining the practices of community engagement and community-based research alongside community partners; 5.  developing a basis of resource support for faculty, students, and community scholars.
The second presentation, by Kent Wong, Director of the UCLA Labor Center, focused on an example of how a center can collaborate in movement-building.  Kent presented the example of how the UCLA Labor Center has been involved in helping to build and sustain the immigrant youth movement.  This movement has shown how undocumented immigrant students, with no budget and no paid lobbyists, have been able to lead the way in changing the direction of immigrant federal policies.  Presently, these efforts, as part of a partnership with the National Labor College, are developing an online Dream University that will include a one-year degree program. Kent proposed that URBAN can help in building a faculty network of support for such forward-looking models.
The presentations served as a catalyst for discussing the future work of URBAN in the region to include:  the building of a support network for joint educational projects; collaboration on the issues of immigration, education, and community development; and the development of a website to share community-based research and teaching results, methodologies, and funding opportunities. 

At the last meeting, on January 19, 2013 –attended by over twenty faculty and grad students— the group decided to focus its collective efforts in supporting the efforts on immigration reform, the Dream student movement, and the National Dream University. 

Reflections from the field

One of the purposes of URBAN is to advance a type of community-based research that result in social change outcomes. The city of Pomona, California, with a majority Latino and African American population, provides a good example of how community-based research was used by broad-based coalitions to build a local social movement that exposed the unjust use of checkpoint policies to target immigrants and to ultimately defeat a city measure propagated by the same forces that had opposed any changes to the checkpoint policies.

What gave a rise to collective action and a common objective of organizing against traffic checkpoints in the city of Pomona was the uncovering of data that showed that less than .001% of the drivers being stopped at checkpoints were related to driving under the influence of alcohol.  With the city being 62% Latino with a large immigrant population, the statistics also showed that the majority being stopped were undocumented immigrants who, not only did not have a driver’s license, but who also could not afford to pay the exorbitant ticket, tow truck, and impoundment fees.  The rise of a coalition, Pomona Habla, developed when the police began to openly locate checkpoints in front of schools, businesses, and in neighborhoods that primarily affected Latino families and immigrant workers. The tensions in the city reached an all-time high when the police held a four-way checkpoint, with the involvement of police from forty cities, resulting in the stopping of 4,027 vehicles, the impoundment of 152, and the issuing of 172 tickets. In response, the Pomona Habla coalition led a demonstration of more than a thousand people and stationed students and community members at every checkpoint.  The research and actions resulted in the city council agreeing to stop “4-way checkpoints, to only allow the conducting of checkpoints in residential areas, and to develop an ad hoc committee to review citizen complaints and recommendations. The community-based research and organizing of the Pomona Habla coalition became a model for the passage of ordinances in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Baldwin Park allowing an unlicensed driver the opportunity to allow another licensed driver to take custody of the vehicle.  These statewide efforts led to the introduction of a bill by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, restricting local police from impounding cars at traffic checkpoint simply because a driver is unlicensed.

The significance of community-based research in creating social change continued in this city when a bill, Measure T, was placed on the city’s ballot in the November elections to replace the elections of city councilmembers by district to at-large elections.  The measure sought to turn back the will of the people in Pomona who, back in 1990, after law suits were filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Southwest Voter Registration Project, voted to scrap citywide elections in favor of single-member districts to bolster minority representation.  After the researches exposed that the police association had given over $50,000 for the passage of this bill and that they were affiliated with a leaflet depicting a white hand extended upward over brown hands reaching from below, a multi-racial coalition of community members and organizations held a press conference, walked door to door, and on election day defeated Measure T and helped elect two supportive councilmembers.

New York City node

URBAN’s NYC node is centered at the Public Science Project, located at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). Having conducted and supported participatory action research (PAR) for over a decade, The Public Science Project collaborates with academics, community organizations, schools, prisons, and public institutions to design, conduct, and support participatory research and practice aimed at interrupting injustice. As part of the effort to create spaces for scholars and community activists to meet and work together, we organize weekly lunches, and we are now preparing for the upcoming Critical Participatory Action Research- Summer Institute (see "Get Involved"). To illustrate the work of PSP, below we provide a brief summary of the Morris Justice Project, one of our most recent efforts.

Participatory Action Research Documenting the Impact of Stop and Frisk with Residents in the South Bronx

On the Evening of September 20th, The Morris Justice Project (MJP) collective of researchers from the Morris Avenue section of the South Bronx, the Public Science Project at the CUNY Graduate Center, and Pace University Law Center, teamed up with the Illuminator to share some of the initial findings of their ongoing research into policing in the Morris Avenue area of the South Bronx. As a crowd watched from across the street, we projected survey results onto the surrounding apartment buildings, in the form of an open letter to the NYPD.

Working together since the spring of 2011, the Morris Justice Project has documented community experiences with the police, surveying and interviewing over 1000 residents of the neighborhood. The letter used our data to gather neighbors together to discuss what it means to live, work, raise kids, shop, go to school, play, and pray in a community that experienced nearly 4,000 police stops in 2011. The evening began with a performance by BombaYo, and included the premiere of MJP’s “Dear NYPD” and screenings of “The Community Safety Act” (NYCLU) and “Scars of Stop & Frisk” (Julie Dressner & Edwin Martinez). The event ended with a “Know Your Rights” workshop from the Bronx Defenders.

The Morris Justice Project stands in solidarity with Communities United for Police Reform, NYCLU, Bronx Defenders, and CopWatch. Our team is thrilled with a recent important step toward justice when on January 8th 2013 New York Judge Rules Stop-and-Frisk of Bronx Residents Unconstitutional. Read more here.  

Get Involved

* Attend an Upcoming Meeting or Event

  1.  Organizational meeting of the AERA node of URBAN – time and place TBA
  2. Special off-site event: The Frontlines of (In)Justice: Organizing and Activism for Effective School Discipline Policies, Youth Leadership, and More Justice, featuring a panel of local community, youth and educational activists, Sunday, April 28th 3-6:30pm off-site at a local high school, co-sponsored with the Community and Youth Organizing Special Interest Group
  3. Pre-AERA, off-site event: “Decolonizing Knowledge: Towards a Critical Research Justice Praxis,” featuring Dr. Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Pro-Vice Chancellor Maori at the University of Waikato and Dr. Michelle Fine, Professor at CUNY and Public Science Project, April 26th 6-8:30pm, First Congregational Church in Oakland, CA, tickets $15, Co-sponsored with the DataCenter.
  4. Regular AERA symposium session: "Ethical Issues in Equity-Oriented Collaborative Research with Low-Income Communities and Vulnerable Populations," AERA symposium session organized by Ron Glass.
Boston node
  • Boston Indicators Project Workshop: (February 25th, 2013 starting at 9:30AM) The URBAN.Boston planning team is co-hosting an upcoming workshop at UMASS-Boston, in coordination with The Boston Foundation, the Boston Indicators Project, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. Iit will be an opportunity for URBAN.Boston members to continue relationship-building and the identification of possibilities for collaboration. Participants will learn about how to access and contribute to the data sources in the Boston Indicators Project and will have the chance to generate new ideas about how best to advance (and measure progress on) community-driven economic, environmental and social goals. Please contact to RSVP to the event.
  • Networking Event: (March 2, 2013, 11 AM to 2 PM at local community organization Viet Aid) We are thrilled to announce our first major networking event! URBAN.Boston will host a 'cafe-style' event in coordination with the Vietnamese American Initiative for Development (Viet-AID) on Saturday, March 2nd from 11am-2pm.  The event will include small group round tables where network members will have the opportunity to share ideas and plan possible research + action strategies around local issues they are interested in, including education, sustainable neighborhoods, and transportation, among others. We hope URBAN.Boston network members from the community as well as researchers and graduate students from academic institutions will attend the event in order to work together on important issues in the Boston area. Please contact for more information. 
  • New Approaches to Social Science Research (And Their Implications for Doctoral Study in the Applied Social Sciences) Discussion Group: February 20, March 6, and March 20, from 12:00-2:00 p.m. MIT, Room 9-451. Poster event. RSVP required at

Los Angeles node
  • Next meeting of URBAN L. A.: Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013 (10A. M. – 12 noon), at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center (675 Park View St., Los Angeles). Please RSVP at

NYC node
  • Public Science Project Community Lunches (Feb 8th; Feb 22nd and Mar 8th, 12:00 – 1:00 PM). PSP Community Lunches are 'free spaces' for anyone interested in participatory action research and design to break bread, engage in good conversation, build community, and germinate ideas. Bring your lunch and join us!
  • Public Science Project Book Series, Fault lines of Oppression, Front Lines of Resistance (All lectures are free and open to the general public and are held at The Graduate Center, CUNY. 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016. Please check with the PSP website for more info)
    - April 22, 2013 6.30 - 8.30PM: Linda Tuhiwai Smith/Decolonizing Methodologies, with Professor Eve Tuck as discussant.
    - April 27, 2013 6.00 - 8.30PM: Don't Call Me Inspirational: A Disabled Feminist Talks Back with Harilyn Rousso, disability rights activist, feminist, psychotherapist, writer, and painter. CUNY Graduate Center Segal Theater. The event will be tweeted: #DigitalGC #InQ13

  • Decolonizing Knowledge, co-hosted by DataCenter with URBAN (April 26, 2013 6.00 – 8.00PM). Keynote speakers: Dr. Michelle Fine and and Dr. Linda Tuhiwai Smith. At the First Congregational Church in Oakland, CA. Learn more and register.
  • Critical Participatory Action Research- Summer Institute (June 3-7, 2013).
The Summer Institute on Critical Participatory Action Research (CPAR) at the CUNY Graduate Center is a 5-day intensive training designed to introduce the theory, methods, and ethics of critical participatory action research (PAR) to graduate students, faculty, and members of community-based organizations. Through seminars, roundtables, and hands-on workshops with experienced PAR researchers, participants will gain the necessary skills and knowledge to integrate a critical PAR approach into their scholarship, research, and/or organizing (note that registration for this summer is now closed).
  • Social Justice Training Institute (June 13-14, 2013). The Social Justice Training Institute is a collaboration between the Criminal Justice Initiative at Columbia University School of Social Work and The Public Science Project of The CUNY Graduate Center that will highlight issues around mass incarceration. The Institute will provide community organizations, professionals and researchers working with people affected by incarceration or re-entry. It is designed for present and future professionals in fields including but not limited to education, health, law, social work, counseling, and journalism. Graduate students, faculty, and members of community based organizations are encouraged to attend. Applications are due March 15.  Apply here. Please contact with any questions.
* Complete the Survey
URBAN is circulating a survey aimed at further understanding the agents of community-based research, the areas in which they work, and the issues they face. Please click here to participate.

* Add to the Map
URBAN kindly requests that you visit our online map of community-based research centers to add new information.

* Subscribe to the URBAN newsletter
To stay apprised of the latest URBAN news, join the email list.

* Follow us on Twitter

* Follow us on Facebook
URBAN Los Angeles | URBAN Boston

Newsletter Editors: Patricia Molina Costa (URBAN National Coordinator), Einat Manoff (URBAN Fellow- NYC), Monica Garlick (URBAN Fellow- Boston), and  Jose Calderon (URBAN Co-Chair). URBAN Co-Chairs: Michelle Fine (CUNY); Mark Warren (UMass-Boston); Jose Calderon (Pitzer College-LA); Phil Nyden (Loyola University Chicago); and Dayna Cunningham (MIT CoLab).
follow on Twitter    forward to a friend 
Copyright © 2012 MIT CoLab, all rights reserved

Our mailing address is:
Community Innovators Lab
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Building/Room 7-307
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences 
Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp