The Week at UEP: Student Group Meetings
| November 22, 2014 | 7:16 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

This week at UEP both the Tufts New Economy and the Intercultural Practice Group held their monthly meetings on campus.

Wednesday evening, students interested in exploring cooperative economic models came together for dinner and discussion around plans for this and next semester. The campus New Economy group shares the goal of examining and promoting more sustainable and equitable alternatives to the dominant economic paradigm, though this can mean different things to different people. The discussion started with introductions of the new attendees and a talk about what new economy means to each of them.

Group members brainstormed ideas for activities to facilitate learning about new economy and spreading ideas to the rest of the Tufts community. Previous activities have included trips to the CERO cooperative energy, recycling and organics organization, the Hayley House Bakery Café in Roxbury, and the Taza fair trade chocolate factory in Somerville. Future plans include bringing on speakers and intellectual leaders on the topic, trips to the Wellspring Collaborative in Springfield, and coordinating with other local new economy groups.

The following Thursday evening, the Intercultural Practice Group assembled for a viewing of the documentary “Can We Talk?” about Boston’s busing and desegregation crisis  in the 1970s. The documentary brings together former students, teachers, bus drivers, and community leaders from the time period, during which Boston attempted and failed to address racism, classism and segregation plaguing the city’s public schools. Truly heartbreaking stories are told about a generation of Boston students, mostly students of color, who were effectively robbed of their formative educational years.

A post-viewing discussion focused on how different Boston may look now, but in many regards nothing has changed. There remains a huge disparity in school and education quality between rich and poor neighborhoods in Boston. The racial make up of Boston Public Schools has changed drastically since the busing period, with the flight of many white families and families of means into areas with better conditions and greater educational resources. The busing period and the failure of public policy to address issues of equality in Boston is hugely relevant to the Intercultural Practice Group, whose focus is to facilitate cross-cultural dialogue and challenge self-segregation.

Both groups will continue to meet regularly on campus, and all are welcome to join, not just UEP students. The more people involved, the more impact these groups can have. If you are interested in getting involved, please visit the web sites above or keep your eye out for flyers around campus.

UEP Colloquium: Visiting Scholar Yuting Liu
| November 17, 2014 | 2:49 pm | Colloquium | Comments closed

The Urban Poor and Low-Income Neighborhoods in Chinese Large Cities

Yuting Liu, visiting scholar and professor of urban planning at the South China Institute of Technology in Guangzhou, presented his research on patterns of urban poverty in Chinese large cities to the Tufts UEP community. Yuting Liu has published extensively on the issue of new urban poverty during the transition from China’s planned economy to one that is more market oriented. Specifically, Yuting’s research deals with the socio-spatial pattern of poverty. This presentation is important as UEP strives to extend its studies to incorporate international planning issues.

Yuting gave a brief history of his studies, which began with China’s recent development from a planned economy to a powerful market economy. This transition improved conditions among the rural poor. 250 million people were living in rural poverty in 1978, down to 30 million in 2000. Urban areas, however, have seen a widening gap between the rich and the poor, with new urban poor and rural migrants located in particular areas of the city.

He breaks the issue up into two distinct features: the new urban poor (urban hokou) and rural migrants (rural hokou). Economic restructuring and reform of state-owned enterprises resulted in large-scale layoffs, which, in addition to many poorly educated young people and single parent families, contributes to a high degree of urban poverty. poor, rural migrants to big cities represent another source of urban poverty. Former farmers are either migrating to the city, or, surprisingly, cities expand to the point that they envelop entire farming villages. Considered outsiders, the rural hokou are frequently marginalized, undocumented, and unaware of their rights as city residents.

In socialist China, there was very little geographical pattern to its urban poverty. With market reforms, China is seeing poor communities concentrate in particular areas of its cities. Yuting used Nanjing(population ~8 million) as an example in his study. Traditional port and industrial neighborhoods near the Yangtze River, such as Mufushan and Baotaqiao, and dilapidated urban districts like Jiankanglu and Nanhu have experienced a concentrated presence of new urban poverty. Poor rural migrants, on the other hand, concentrate on the urban fringes and inner suburbs.

Many poor and dilapidated neighborhoods have been torn down in order to construct new affordable housing settlements. In theory, this should provide some relief to the new urban poor, but settlements have mostly been constructed in the suburbs. Since the new housing is far from access to services and facilities in the inner cities, residents still face hardships in moving out of poverty.

Responding to questions, Yuting contrasted Chinese poverty with that seen in the United States. China sees a far greater level of rural to urban migrants, whereas the United States has more issues with international immigration. There is not as much of an ethnic, racial, or religious component to poverty patterns in China as in the United States. The vast majority of those living in major cities are Han Chinese, so discrimination is often based on regionalism or rural/urban distinctions. Notably, Yuting claims that large Chinese cities see remarkably little informal informal housing development, few slums and shantytowns, especially as compared with other developing powerhouses like India and Brazil. This, Yuting claims, can be attributed to the fact that urban land is publicly owned.

A fascinating discussion, bringing to light issues of international urban planning and development. The next colloquium will be on Wednesday, December 3, featuring Boston’s Chief of Economic Development and former director of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, John Barros. We will meet, as usual, at 12pm in Sophia Gordon Hall. Note that there will be no colloquium this week or next week. See you there!

UEP Professor Penn Loh in YES! Magazine
| November 17, 2014 | 12:57 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

Land, Co-ops, Compost: A Local Food Economy Emerges in Boston’s Poorest Neighborhoods

In a new article for YES! Magazine, UEP Professor Penn Loh writes about the emergence of a local food economy in the Roxbury and Dorchester neighborhoods of Boston.

Glynn Lloyd has run Fresh City Food in Roxbury since 1994, serving locally sourced food. Finding good, local food hard to come by, he founded City Growers in 2009. City Growers has joined a network of urban food enterprises in Roxbury and Dorchester. The network includes community land trusts for growers, locally sourced kitchens and retailers, to new food waste and compost processing co-ops.

After decades of disinvestment and redlining, it is inspiring to see groups like the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative bringing together residents to decide fate of their community. DSNI has helped to provide affordable homes, common areas and gardens, as well as the neighborhood’s community greenhouse.

Finding difficulty in locating areas available for further commercial growing, Lloyd founded the Urban Farming Institute to advocate for zoning reform.

More examples of Boston’s emerging local food economy can be found in Loh’s article. New businesses, restaurants, and food co-ops continue to open, but work cannot stop here. There is still much more that can be done to create sustainable, healthy food systems in historically disinvested communities.


Anchor Institutions Guest Speaker: Nick Iuviene
| November 10, 2014 | 9:12 pm | Anchor Institutions | Comments closed

Last Friday, Professor Lorlene Hoyt’s Anchor Institutions class hosted Nick Iuviene to talk about his work at MIT CoLab’s Just Urban Economies and the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative(BCDI). Iuviene is a graduate of MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, and before that worked as a community organizer in the Bronx.

His current work focuses on urban economic democracy. Specifically, the BCDI uses both bottom up and top down efforts to drive comprehensive economic development that builds the wealth, power and leadership skills of low and moderate income residents in one of the poorest congressional districts in the United States. Taking inspiration from Mondragon, of Spain’s Basque Country, and Cleveland, OH’s Evergreen Initiative, the BCDI seeks to apply many of the tools pioneered by these organizations within the context of the Bronx. Iuviene and fellow MIT CoLab staff, Yorman Nunez, are the program coordinators for this project.

The talk began with a brief history of the Mondragon Corporation and the Evergreen Initiative. Mondragon, the largest and perhaps best known worker cooperative organization in the world, has the benefit of over 60 years of development and network building, which has allowed it to prosper even in international markets. It is the importance of network building that Iuviene stressed the most. In a recent closure of one of Mondragon’s plants, he emphasized the “success in its failure”: the corporation guaranteed employees of the closed plant 80% of their salaries for 2 years, though they were all eventually retrained and rehired in new locations. The Evergreen Initiative has a much shorter history, and of course a very different social and geographic context. They utilize the strength of local anchor institutions to build on the model pioneered by Mondragon. They leverage the power and capacity of local hospitals to stabilize the rest of the city, which is currently experiencing high levels of poverty and unemployment. This fact, Iuviene stated, gives the Evergreen Initiative a more top down approach. A desire for a more grassroots approach and the lack of such strong regional anchor institutions is what differentiates the BCDI from its forerunners. In an effort to get local institutions involved, the BCDI had to show that local community organizations could actively build, rather than merely fight inequitable development projects. They have also attempted to aggregate smaller and medium sized nonprofits.

Current work focuses on an economic democracy leadership series in order to build capacity at the grassroots level. In its first stages coordinators were skeptical of the level of interest in the program, thinking that local people would have too many other things going on to be able to focus on learning new economic models. They were surprised when their trainings, designed for 20-30 people, were attended by over 50 people. They are currently in the process of creating an online web series to spread their leadership training model to other cities who could benefit from similar projects.

To end, Iuviene mentioned some organizations in Boston aiming at similar models of economic development. The Center for Economic Democracy and the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative are both looking at ways of implementing similar ideas in the Boston area.

UEP Colloquium: Tales from the Boston Fed
| November 9, 2014 | 9:52 pm | Colloquium | Comments closed

Research and Policy Engagement in New England

At this week’s UEP Colloquium we welcomed Darcy Saas, Deputy Director of the New England Public Policy Center. The NEPPC was established in 2005 by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston with the mission of promoting “better public policy in New England by conducting and disseminating objective, high-quality research and analysis of strategically identified regional economic and policy issues. When appropriate, work with regional and Bank partners to advance identified policy options.” The Boston Fed serves all of New England, and the NEPPC works with an advisory board from around the region to identify economic and policy issues and disseminate research findings. The advisory board consists of universities, private research and consulting firms, government offices, and the Pew Charitable Trust. The NEPPC and the Boston Fed work toward two goals: maximum sustainable output and employment, and stable prices with low rates of inflation.

Saas spoke about the research process before delving into some of the details of their research. Because the NEPPC is funded through the Federal Reserve budget, and not through particular stakeholders, they are able to provide relatively objective research on economic policy. Because they have no funding-related external deadlines, they are free to complete detailed and exhaustive studies of complex issues. Saas did admit that this framework makes it difficult to work within short-term policy cycles. Many of NEPPC’s research projects have taken years to achieve their intended impacts.

Municipal Aid Reform: This study, conducted by the NEPPC, looked at the process by which cities and towns receive state and federal aid. The proposed new process would compare resources to expenditures, and analysis the municipal gap between them. A 2013 proposal by Governor Deval Patrick used a similar formula to that proposed by the Center.

Retaining Recent College Graduates: What factors effect whether or not college students remain in town after graduating? Boston brings in many student, but has a lower retention rate than many other cities. The NEPPC has looked at housing prices as one possible factor, but found that employer workshops and internships have a greater effect.

Labor Market Trends in Massachusetts: Is there a mismatch between employee skills and employer needs in the Massachusetts labor market? The Center’s study found that the supply of skilled workers is not likely to keep pace with demand in coming decades.

The NEPPC has researched, and continues to research many other topics affecting New England. A complete listing of their research can be found on their website:

Audience members questioned the true objectivity of the Center, which is likely to carry some neoliberal agenda. Saas addressed this by saying that, since former fed chairman Alan Greenspan’s departure, the expressed neoliberal agenda has not been as powerful a force in the Boston Fed.

Another source of bias in the Center’s approach could be in their method for choosing research questions. According to Saas, the NEPPC conducts surveys among key stakeholders. Research proposals are vetted by senior management in the Fed.

We also heard about the Working Cities project, which provides grants to cities that emphasize collaborative leadership. The grants have benefited 20 Massachusetts cities with lower income levels and higher poverty rates. It is hoped that projects pioneered through these grants can be applied to other cities, and scaled up to the state level.

map of massachusetts working cities

Be sure to attend next week’s colloquium on Wednesday, November 12, featuring Yuting Liu. Liu will be discussing affordable housing settlements and living environments in Chinese large cities. See you there!


UEP Colloquium: UEP Professor James Jennings
| November 3, 2014 | 5:55 pm | Colloquium | Comments closed

Exploring the Status of Black and Latino Young Males in Boston

Longtime UEP professor James Jennings presented his research at this week’s colloquium. Jennings has published extensively on urban and neighborhood politics, social welfare, race relations, and community development. His most recent research report, from April 2014, is on the Social, Demographic, and Economic Profile of Young Black and Latino Males in Boston, Massachusetts. Jennings uses data from the 2010 Decennial Census and the American Community Survey to come to a number of findings on poverty, education, household characteristics and other demographic factors. Some themes from the Jennings’ findings:

1. Black and Latino youth of Boston reflect a demographic bubble. They represent a dominant group, demographically speaking, that is an important part of Boston’s future

  • Blacks and Latinos comprise 61% of all males 19 and under in Boston

2. These two groups have vastly different household experiences than their fellow Whites, and to a certain extent, Asian persons.

  • Almost half of Black and Latino grandparents (45.4% and 42.9% respectively) are responsible for their own grandchildren, compared with 31.4% of White grandparents and 14.6% of Asian grandparents.
  • 10.1% of Black households and 12.3% of Latino households report having young non-relatives living with them. Corresponding numbers for Whites and Asians are 8.9% and 9.4% respectively.

3. School and educational experiences are very different from that of Whites, and in some cases Asians.

  • 31.8% of all Black students and 36% of Latinos in grade 11 and 12 work at a job, while the citywide figure is 19.5%.

4. Continuing economic vulnerability for young Black and Latino persons in the city of Boston.

  • The Black male unemployment rate is at 21.1% and the Latino male unemployment rate is 13.7%. White males who are not Latino have an unemployment rate of 6.1%.
  • 85.3% of all impoverished people in Boston who are 17 years and under are Blacks and Latinos.
  • 49.8% of Latino children and 44.6% of Black children age 1-15 receive public assistance. For Whites and Asians, the numbers are 22.4% and 24.2% respectively.

Jennings also emphasized the importance of addressing ethnic and language diversity within different Black and Latino communities, and addressing similarities and differences between Black and Latino communities. Additionally, Jennings sees this work as complimentary to other efforts aimed at responding to the needs facing young girls of color in Boston.

The complete report can be found here on Jennings’ web site. Be sure to attend next week, when Darcy Saas (UEP ’05) will be discussing her work as Deputy Director of the New England Public Policy Center (NEPPC). Come to the Sophia Gordon Hall at 12pm on Wednesday, 11/5, to find out more! Lunch will be provided!

UEP Alum Liz Holden on MIT’s CoLab Radio Blog
| October 27, 2014 | 6:16 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

Can anchor institutions save New Hampshire’s polluted Great Bay?

Liz Holden’s article, which can be found here on MIT’s CoLab Radio Blog, shifts the historically urban focus of anchor institutions to a more rural setting. Specifically, how can the University of New Hampshire use its position as an anchor institution to improve the condition of the nearby estuary, Great Bay?

Holden details the problems of nitrogen loading pollution and lack of state funding for UNH, as well as highlighting the work being done by nonprofits and small businesses in the region. As an anchor institution, the university could act as a uniting and legitimizing force in the effort. Read more, and be sure to check out MIT’s CoLab Radio.

Map Credit:

Map Credit:

UEP Colloquium Panel Discussion
| October 27, 2014 | 5:37 pm | Colloquium | Comments closed

Beyond Public Policy-Private Sector Responses to Climate Change

UEP students, faculty and community members convened Wednesday to hear from a panel of local representatives from private sector consulting firms working with companies striving toward sustainability. The guests briefly summarized their work and then took several questions from the audience.

Eleanor Ford is a policy consultant for Ceres, a non-profit that mobilizes private sector companies toward a sustainable global economy. Ford works to engage companies on sustainable investments and educate them on the risks resulting from climate change. Through the BICEP coalition within Ceres, companies and policy-makers work together to produce legislation that will stimulate a transition to a sustainable energy economy.

Christina Becker-Birck works in the Boston office of the Meister Consultants Group (headquartered in Germany), specializing in renewable energy policy and climate adaptation. Becker-Birck’s efforts have been directed largely toward governments, such as Boston, Saudi Arabia, and several island nations. She has aimed to lower barriers to investment in renewable energy sources, especially in developing countries where the business case for investment is not as clear.

Dan Von Allmen is a senior analyst at Sustainable Energy Advantage, which helps private, public, and non-profit organizations to access clean, sustainable energy. Their focus is largely on state level renewable energy markets.

When asked where someone can have the most impact in expanding the renewable energy market, all panelists agreed that there was a need for more representation across the board. All levels of companies and governments need to have a focus on sustainability, not just a sustainability office within a large organization. Ford gave the example of the U.S. military, which sees the climate as a security risk. Not coincidentally, the Department of Defense is one of the largest solar energy purchasers. Von Allmen emphasized the need to focus on implementation of clean energy policy.

Addressing the role of the private sector in shaping policy, Becker-Birck spoke to one of the main limitations of private sector approaches: If the goal is social justice related, the private sector will not participate at the same level. Ford agreed, adding that a policy will fail if businesses are not behind it. They suggested amplifying the voices of alternative energy providers and those working at the intersection of energy and social justice in order to drown out the powerful and moneyed voice of the fossil fuel industry.

Seeking advice on differentiating companies truly seeking sustainability from those merely conducting a greenwashing campaign, Becker Birck recommends investigating how far removed their sustainability officer is from the CEO. It would seem that any company trying to achieve real change knows that sustainability should be a top priority, one on which the CEO should be kept up to speed.

The panelists discussed natural gas markets in general, as well as in Massachusetts specifically, and how it has affected investment in renewable energy. Von Allmen stated that the northeast has a relatively successful wind market, but expansion of natural gas pipelines could diminish those benefits by lowering gas natural prices. Ford went on to explore the issue of oil and gas reserves. Fossil fuel companies use these vast reserves to inflate their stock prices (carbon bubble). Maintaining atmospheric carbon at agreed upon levels would forbid companies from fully tapping their reserves. Chevron, as one example, isn’t worried about this stopping their extraction, since developing countries will soon begin demanding full use of their fossil fuel reserves.

From a sector that can be viewed as the bad guy in so many environmental discussions, it is refreshing to hear from people and companies working toward sustainability. It is also important to keep in mind that the private sector is not likely to go far enough, and their idea of sustainability may not be the same as that of the surrounding community, whose voices are even less likely to be heard.

Be sure to attend next week’s UEP Colloquium: James Jennings – “Black and Latino Young Males in Boston” at 12pm in Sophia Gordon Hall. Lunch, as always, will be provided.

UEP Alumni Panel: Cultural Competency in Practice
| October 20, 2014 | 5:07 pm | Colloquium | Comments closed

The Tufts UEP Intercultural Practice Group (IPG) hosted this week’s installment of the Fall Colloquium Series on Cultural Competency in Practice. A panel of UEP alumni gathered to examine aspects of interculturalism in the workplace. Interculturalism, in contrast to multiculturalism, promotes dialogue across cultures rather than mere acceptance of other, separate cultures.

Libby Mahaffy, working with as the assistant director of conflict resolution at the MIT Division of Student life, brought advice and anecdotes from her experiences. She underlined the need for people in privileged positions to gain practice engaging in contentious issues, something they are not frequently obligated to do. In the context of racial issues, this term is referred to as white fragility.

Michelle Moon has worked with a range of organizations in the Boston area, including the Watertown Health Department and the Fairmount Greenway. She stressed the importance of developing strategies to keep people involved in dealing with issues in their communities.

Sarah Howard has worked on creating sustainable food systems, and emphasized the importance of communication across lines of gender, class, race and ethnicity, but also urban and rural lines.

All three panelists highlighted the need to work on negotiation strategies, especially in efforts to avoid backing people into a corner. It is important not just to point out the problems within someone’s statements or actions, but to provide a way of working on it and moving forward.

The next UEP Colloquium, Beyond Public Policy-Private Sector Responses to Climate Change, will take place at the Sophia Gordon Hall from 12-1pm on Wednesday, October 22.

Winning Hearts and Minds: Anti-Racism, Feminism, and the New Economy
| October 18, 2014 | 2:19 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

As part of the nationwide New Economy Week, Tufts welcomed organizer, educator and public speaker Chris Crass to explore what it takes to achieve a just and sustainable economy through inter-movement cooperation. With the goal of Collective Liberation, students at Tufts, MIT, along with interested community members, came together to discuss their shared experiences and frustrations with the status quo.

More importantly, Crass encouraged the audience to focus on individuals and movements in their lives and throughout history that have inspired them to seek change. The frustration and loneliness felt by many in the audience was channeled into small group discussions, helping to build a feeling of unity among the audience. Drawing from the history of anti-racist organizing, feminist praxis, and class struggle, Crass demonstrated the overwhelming similarities and overlaps between these movements and the power available to create change through their collaboration.

Crass emphasized the need for organizing people of privilege in the building of a movement, specifically white anti-racist organizing and bringing more men into feminist work.

Crass’s book, Toward Collective Liberation, can be found at his website, here.chriscrass