10:15 – 12:30 PM

Experiential Learning in Boston Neighborhoods

Trip 1: Roxbury neighborhood at Whittier Street Health Center

For participants interested in: social connection, health system strategies, community health workers, in health & housing, resident engagement

The Whittier Street Health Center (WSHC) has been providing care to the Roxbury neighborhood since 1933. The Center advances not only clinical health, but its staff address isolation and broader “upstream” social determinants of health, such as housing and food security. Center staff support programming for older adults to come together and determine activities that help them connect socially and create greater cohesion among Roxbury residents. WSHC has redefined community health by employing social health coordinators—residents of housing developments—and help connect their neighbors to essential health-promoting resources. Other strategies that build community and advance health equity include violence prevention programs, community gardening, refugee assistance, youth development, and medical workforce development. Participants will visit the WSHC facility and hear from their team, social health coordinators, and residents about the opportunities and challenges of creating community cohesion as a clinical health hub.

Trip 2: Dorchester neighborhood with Four Corners Main Streets

For participants interested in: social connection, local entrepreneurship, community development, resident engagement, place-making, neighborhood beautification, activating public spaces, intergenerational strategies

Four Corners is a neighborhood within Dorchester, Boston’s largest neighborhood. Participants choosing this tour will experience the heart of Four Corners and learn about its history, challenges, and the opportunities that change has brought for this community. Four Corners Main Streets (FCMS), a nonprofit organization dedicated to neighborhood-scale economic and community development will lead the tour. Along with local partners FCMS helps improve the conditions for success for residents and small entrepreneurs. Tour participants will learn from FCMS’ director, small business owners, partners, and residents as they discuss place-making as a primary strategy for creating a socially connected community as an essential ingredient to economic wellbeing.

Trip 3: Chinatown neighborhood with Asian Community Development Corporation

For participants interested in: social connection, public art, community development, housing, resident engagement, place-making, neighborhood beautification, activating public spaces, intergenerational strategies

In a community heavily impacted by decades of growth near downtown Boston, many Chinatown residents have experienced harmful displacement in a formerly thriving neighborhood. Today, Chinatown is under tremendous development pressure while also being the city’s most heat-stressed neighborhood. For more than 30 years, Asian Community Development Corporation (ACDC) has been restoring residents’ connection to each other and nearby public spaces through their resident-centered “place keeping” approach that addresses housing and open space as critical elements for social connection and wellbeing. Tour participants will visit ACDC’s Hudson Street Stoop, a shared green space, and will learn about the community engagement process that led to the Dancing Dragon, the most recent public art installment.

Trip 4: Mattapan neighborhood at Urban Farming Institute

For participants interested in: social connection, urban farming, food access, local food systems, farming education, food policy advocacy

Urban Farming Institute (UFI), located in the Mattapan neighborhood, is a leader of the urban farming movement in Boston. They bring people together around delicious food and healthy eating by building a Local Area Food Network, transforming neglected land, contributing to economic and environmental resilience, and localizing the food system. UFI trains urban farmers, advocates for policies supportive of a local food system, and creates more equitable food access around Boston. Since 2019, UFI developed programs addressing isolation, nutrition, and physical health among senior women of color and expanded these efforts for Black men from Mattapan and adjacent neighborhoods creating social connection, emotional support, and spiritual health. Tour participants will visit UFI’s Mattapan farm and will learn from their team, volunteers, and residents about the opportunities and challenges of building social connection while strengthening the local food system.

Trip 5: Roxbury Open Streets Walking Tour

For participants interested in: walking, social connection, local entrepreneurship, resident engagement, place-making, activating public spaces, community events

Originating as “Cyclovia” in Bogota, Columbia in the 1970’s, Open Streets is a program recently launched by Boston Mayor Michelle Wu to help people experience streets as public spaces where communities thrive. City streets transform into vibrant, pedestrian-friendly boulevards where people can dream, play, and explore. Participating walkers and wheelers will cover approximately 1½ miles on this tour of Roxbury’s Open Street locations. Shana Bryant, the lead organizer for five Open Streets events in various Boston neighborhoods, will describe the planning process and impact of these family-friendly events in creating social cohesion. Participants will learn about the Roxbury neighborhood, meet partners and local business owners, and experience the Roxbury landscape.

Option 6: Story Share with Everyday Boston (On site at Thelma Burns Building)

For participants interested in: social connection, storytelling, resident engagement, community conversations, bridge building, intergenerational strategies, experiential learning 

Everyday Boston is working to make Boston the most connected city in America. Join Founder Cara Solomon and her team of volunteers as they explain their approach to social connection, and invite you to participate in a signature part of their programming: the Story Share event. Everyday Boston Story Shares bring people from different backgrounds together to listen to neighbors they might not otherwise know—in libraries, community centers, and open spaces. This will be an opportunity for Building Connected Communities conference participants to connect with each other- and with some community members- through a time-tested tool: the sharing of life stories. Everyday Boston will bring the story prompts. You bring your curiosity and desire to connect.