Posted March 16th 2010 at 11:13 pm by
in Boston, Camden: Small Businesses Transform Place, Collaborative Thesis Project, Lawrence

Modernizing the Masters Thesis to Serve Urban Sustainability

Marianna Leavy-Sperounis, Gayle Christiansen, Ben Brandin, Amy Stitely, Lorlene Hoyt (at board) Leila Bozorg and Eric Mackres ponder their research at Monday’s Collaborative Thesis mini-retreat II in the CoLab office.

Each member of the Collaborative Thesis Group is investigating a different case of practice in an American, post-industrial city. They meet weekly to share their own discoveries, learn across cases, trouble-shoot research-related problems, and co-craft ideas that cities can act on. They hope that by working together, and with community partners in these various cities, they’ll be able to offer timely, helpful resources and guides to a broader audience of practitioners, policy-advocates, and policy-makers.  Here are their topics:

Oakland, California: My thesis explores the role of Federal investment in local economic development in Oakland, California.  This research evaluates the effects of two prior periods of government funding in Oakland and contrasts how the current flow of stimulus dollars offers cities a new opportunity for sustained, equitable, and green economic development.  In my thesis I reason that a city-scale retrofit program that incorporates the expertise and capacity of city administrators, community organizations, labor representatives and private businesses, represents an optimal model for engendering Oakland’s green economy. by Ben Brandin

Camden, New Jersey: My thesis argues that post-industrial cities should promote, grow, and sustain small businesses as part of their economic development strategies. I am doing a case study of small businesses in Camden, New Jersey.  My research shows that small business owners are embedded in their communities, perceive the city as full of opportunity, and believe that giving back is an integral part of their business model. At the same time these business owners face the challenges of not enough financial support, little institutional guidance in terms of technical assistance and entrepreneurship training, and a dysfunctional city process for opening a business. In the future, post-industrial cities can build their small business communities by strengthening the ties between economic development institutions and businesses, and the informal ties between businesses in different parts of the small business pipeline, from potential to start-up to established enterprise.  by Gayle Christiansen

Kansas City, Missouri: My thesis looks at a recent initiative, the Green Impact Zone of Missouri, which emerged in response to the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA).  The Green Impact Zone attempts to concentrate and coordinate Kansas City’s stimulus funds within a 150-block area that serves as home to some of the city’s most impoverished families.  Important to this picture is that many of the neighborhoods within the Zone were once the target of formal segregation and disinvestment policies. In my thesis, I evaluate both the idea of the Green Impact Zone, and how that idea is currently being pursued in practice, to argue that the model holds potential for ‘spatializing’ social and environmental justice. by Leila Bozorg

Boston, Massachusetts: What can a community-labor partnership offer to the greening of a city?  This research looks at Community Labor United and the Green Justice Coalition in Boston as an example of how long-term regional coalitions can be built, how they can impact community development and quality of life decisions, and how they can create a model for community-based energy efficiency implementation. by Eric Mackres

Lawrence & Lowell, Massachusetts: In my thesis, I examine clean tech workforce development planning in two cities– Lawrence and Lowell.  Despite the frequent perception of Lawrence and Lowell as “the urban twins,” I find that since deindustrialization, they have faced significantly different cultures for planning and development.  I also find that currently, these differences shape each city’s respective approach to planning for green jobs.  Thus, as Massachusetts grows its clean tech sector, I argue for a regional economic and workforce development approach that (1) Recognizes that Lawrence, relative to Lowell, faces specific development challenges, and (2) Works to leverage specific local and regional assets so that Lawrence residents share in future wealth generated a clean tech economy. by Marianna Leavy-Sperounis

Post by Lorlene Hoyt, Alexa Mills, Marianna Leavy-Sperounis, Eric Mackres, Leila Bozorg, Gayle Christiansen, and Ben Brandin. Photo by Sebastiao Ferreira.

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