Transition at the MA Smart Growth AllianceMay 12, 2020
Dear friends and supporters:
I’m writing on behalf of the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance staff and Steering Committee to let you know about some important changes at the Alliance. For some time now, our member groups and staff have planned an organizational transition starting June 30th of this year.
COVID-19 has made our path stranger and more unsettling, but it also underscores the ongoing need to confront the housing crisis, racial inequity, and the climate emergency. All of our member organizations remain committed to these issues, and we all pledge to continue working on them within a new framework.
Let me give you the headlines and then I’ll go into more detail below. As of July 1st:
- The Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance will continue to exist as a state policy coalition coordinated and staffed by its member organizations. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) will host MSGA for the next year.
- Our Great Neighborhoods program, with Anabelle Rondon’s ongoing leadership, will have a new home with LivableStreets Alliance.
- MSGA’s remaining staff, including myself, continue to explore new directions and employment opportunities. Our plans have been complicated by COVID-19, but I know our incredible team members will find ways to deepen their impact in the world.
- Over the next 12 months, MSGA member organizations will consult among themselves and with outside allies and funders to determine the appropriate path forward beyond June of 2021.
A sustainable Smart Growth Alliance
The Alliance includes eight member organizations: American Institute of Architects-Massachusetts, Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA), Conservation Law Foundation, Environmental League of Massachusetts, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC-Boston), Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations, Massachusetts Public Health Association, and Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC).
Over the years, these organizations have built trust and shared learning. They value the opportunity to dialogue and collaborate on issues that cross the natural and built environments. Many times along the way, they recommitted to the Alliance, including during this time of transition. The Alliance will return to its roots as a tight-knit coalition managed and staffed by its members, which we hope will enable it to be financially sustainable for the long-term.
One example of the kind of collaborative project that will continue under MSGA is a recently launched two-year initiative on health equity and housing funded by the Kresge Foundation. In addition to policy work and engaging healthcare institutions on housing issues, the grant is supporting local grassroots organizations leading health-housing initiatives in communities across the state. You’ll hear more details from us soon.
We take a great deal of pride in our Great Neighborhoods (GN) program, which launched ten years ago to support community-driven planning and development in key locations around Greater Boston with funding from the Barr Foundation and the Ford Foundation.
Since then, GN evolved into an organizing and advocacy platform that made zoning reform a top-tier policy issue, built a network of local activists fighting for better development in their communities, and has been bringing together housing, transportation, and climate advocates for networking and fun. We feel strongly that this great work should continue.
Anabelle and Great Neighborhoods have found a wonderful new home at LivableStreets Alliance. At LivableStreets, the program will have the support of a like-minded team of organizers that will help them to grow and flourish. We are grateful to the Barr Foundation for their support of GN in its new home.
New staff ventures
During my 12 years as Executive Director of the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance, I’ve worked passionately to reform land-use policies that drive economic inequality, housing scarcity, and pollution.
Going forward, I seek opportunities to help communities and institutions confront these problems directly. This summer, I had hoped to help launch an antiracism consortium of planning schools with partners at Tufts, MIT, and elsewhere, but the COVID-19 crisis postponed those plans. We will continue to seek funding to revive it because dismantling the painful legacy of racism is essential to achieving inclusive decision-making and better development outcomes. In the meantime, our Planners of Color Network will live on with Great Neighborhoods and continue to move that agenda forward.
My colleagues are also actively pursuing their next steps. Larry Field hopes to continue working at the intersection of land use, transportation and climate policy. Dottie Fulginiti, as an elected Selectperson herself, would like to support local officials around the state in planning and executing successful smart growth campaigns in their communities.
The depth and breadth of expertise in such a small team has been extraordinary.
Initial reflections and appreciation
I’ve been privileged to work with an intelligent and passionate group of nonprofit leaders and advocates for more than a dozen years. Between now and June 30, we’ll release stories about some key smart growth achievements as well as hopes for the future.
Through changing administrations and circumstances, MSGA successfully hardwired smart growth principles into many of the Commonwealth’s laws, programs, and investment decisions—something that was a radical notion in 2003 at the height of sprawl. It’s what we set out to achieve. We hope the organizational changes we make today will set the stage for new projects and partnerships to evolve.
We’ve had a great group of funders. The Barr Foundation supported the planning that led to our launch in 2003, and they have been our largest and most consistent funder ever since. We’re very grateful. And as I mentioned above, the Ford and Kresge Foundations have supported important multi-year projects.
Local foundations have been among our closest partners. The Tufts Health Plan Foundation made our initiatives on healthy aging and accessory dwelling units possible. The Boston Foundation supported policy work on zoning reform and expanding housing choices. The Herman and Frieda L. Miller Foundation was one of our most dedicated funders for many years, providing valuable operating support. The Garfield Foundation ensured that community development was at the smart growth table, and funded a Great Neighborhoods initiative in New Bedford. The Island Foundation and the Hyams Foundation both funded MSGA projects aligned with their missions.
This has been an exciting journey. While reflecting on my experience with MSGA and compiling information about our accomplishments over the years, I can say that I’m proud of all that we’ve done, the integrity with which we’ve done it, and most of all, the personal and organizational connections that we made.
We wish the best to you and your families. MSGA will continue to communicate with timely updates and we thank you for your ongoing support.
Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance