Research Grant Recipients

Aisha Densmore-Bey (2024)

The Artist-Developer: A Case Study of Impact through Art-centered Community Development in Neighborhoods of Color

I explore the community development work of three prominent African
American artists who have used arts-based real estate development to create positive change in their neighborhoods. Through a multiple case study approach, I investigate the real estate, design, and artistic actions that led to the creation of these projects and if there were social benefits that followed. These benefits include social cohesion, adherence to social health
determinants, minimization of displacement, and the perception of a strong cultural identity for each neighborhood. By comparing the work of all three artists, I gain insights from community partners, residents, and those within the organizations. While these arts-based development projects have positively affected their neighborhoods, it is essential to note the challenges of maintaining an arts-led community organization. Ultimately, these projects cannot please everyone, but their benefits are far reaching including improved social cohesion and cultural preservation.

Jiwon Park (2023)

Management of Vacant Land in Small Communities after Floodplain Buyouts

What happens to the bought-out vacant lands after people move out? After major flood events, FEMA buys out people’s homes in the 100-year floodplain, and the property must be maintained as open space in perpetuity under the municipal government’s ownership. Through the case study of Princeville, North Carolina, the study parses out how small communities approach managing bought-out vacant land through narrative building and partnerships, critical actors shaping planning discourses after buyout, and collective goals and interests around repurposing the land. As home buyout becomes one of the mainstream climate adaptation policies, the study provides insights into how small communities can overcome the challenges of land management after people’s leaving and provide policy implications to better support the communities.

Sunghea Khil (2022)

Financing Sustainable Urban Infrastructure in Kampala, Uganda: Revenue Solutions for Solid Waste Management Services

Since the 1990s, Kampala, Uganda’s capital, has undergone rapid economic growth and, in turn, a migration of workers from the city’s rural surroundings. In the last decade alone, the urbanization rate has increased from 19.38% to 24.95%, or 5.57%. Unprepared for this influx due to scarce investment in trash collection and disposal systems, a lack of sustainable landfills, and insufficient legal regulations, the city’s solid waste management (SWM) infrastructure has faltered, resulting in widespread unsanitary living conditions. Through literature reviews, expert interviews, and financial analysis, this project studied the financing of Kampala’s solid waste management infrastructure to understand how to generate sufficient revenue solutions for sustainable waste management.

Ashley Tannebaum, DDes (2020)

Designing for Interdisciplinary Collaboration: A Mixed Methods Study of the Architectural and Organizational Designs of Exemplar Postsecondary Innovation Centers

College and university environments are transforming to support more transparent, interactive, and diverse learning. Architects and designers of post-secondary learning spaces, aiming to accommodate this new social approach to learning, are designing the built environment as a porous and flexible learning ecosystem rather than a collection of discrete classrooms in isolated buildings. The proliferation of the innovation center typology forms a salient example of this change in learning environment design. These centers, or post-secondary academic buildings integrating specific architectural design features to support the interdisciplinary, collaborative, and informal learning behaviors required to generate new ideas, integrate open, flexible workspaces, oversized circulation, and informal gathering places to facilitate teamwork. Due to the emerging nature of this building typology, little research has been conducted to examine how the design of innovation centers may need vary to serve its diverse range occupants. This mixed methods study will ask the question, “How does the architectural and organizational design of exemplar innovation centers best support transparent and inclusive interdisciplinary collaboration among faculty, students, and staff?”  Finally, the results of this study will be synthesized to create a design guide for architects, planners, project managers, and campus representatives to highlight the range of topics requiring consideration in the design of this new academic environment.

Samara Scheckler, Postdoctoral Fellow, Joint Center for Housing Studies (2020)

Massachusetts Home Modification Loan Program

Research conducted in the Netherlands has provocatively suggested that, for people with age-related physical disabilities, an accessible home can reduce the risk of nursing home use and increase reliance on community-based care (Diepstraten, Douven & Wouterse, 2020). Given the incredibly high cost of institutional care as well as stated the preferences of most Americans to age in a community setting, home accessibility merits the attention of American researchers and policymakers. As compared with an estimated $102,200 annual nursing home facility cost (Genworth, n.d.), modest home accessibility improvements could be an economically efficient way to enhance the well-being of disabled older adults. Little data on the American housing stock is available to estimate the need for home modification population wide. Further, relatively few programs directly target funds to support home accessibility. The Massachusetts Home Modification Loan Program stands out in this regard by offering zero interest deferred payment loans to modify the home of a medically qualified child or adult. A careful study of this program would offer insight into the scope of need for home modifications for older adult households statewide. Research would also estimate the impact of a state-run home modification loan program which could be disseminated to other states as a model program. Funding is paying for data on home modifications from the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC), the manager of Massachusetts’s home modification loan program.

Katie Gourley, MUP (2018-2019)

It Starts with a Seed: Exploring Place-Based Socio-Ecological Care and Alternative Economies in Community Seed Saving Initiatives

Humans have sowed, saved, and shared seeds for millennia. Maintaining relationships with seeds allows food growers to influence yield, taste, nutrition, as well as adapt to uncertain and changing climatic conditions. Yet, in the last half century, legal and policy regimes of biotechnology, intellectual property rights, and corporate consolidation have threatened rights and freedoms to save seeds, and the knowledge of how to do so. In turn, resistance efforts seeking to get seeds into the hands of the people and protect the ability to grow out and save open-pollinated, heirloom seeds through living conservation practices (in situ conservation) have sprouted up from the global to hyper-local scales. This thesis explores particular trends in community seed saving and the seed sovereignty movement in North America through the lens of feminist political ecology. This multi-site case study of public seed libraries in the San Francisco Bay Area investigates seed saving as a material and discursive practice of place-based socio-ecological care, as well as public libraries as sites of alternative sharing economies. The stories presented here suggest that seed saving and sharing—within and across place-based communities—can stoke transformative imaginations, spur collective action, and nurture hope for dealing with the multiple crises and injustices perpetuated by the industrial agro-food system through enacting an ecological-economy of care. Emphasis is placed on the need for scholarship to make uncompensated acts of care visible and to foreground non-dominant worldviews.