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Scaling Up the Values of Safe Spaces

On April 23, a group of Harvard professors and large number of students met at Lowell senior center to present the students findings of their project work for the City of Lowell. Pictures of Harvard masters students who did focus group and had meetings at the ACCL, presenting their work at Lowell senior center.

Harvard Graduate School of Design students from left Malika, Sidra and Chanda were invited as guests yesterday along with other critics at the final review session at Harvard yesterday

Take a look at the research project below:

Harvard Urban Planning Studio in Lowell

Scaling up the Value of Safe Spaces: A New Civic Infrastructure in Lowell

In a semester-long Urban Planning Studio working for the City of Lowell’s department of Urban Planning and Development, our class of 50 urban planning students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design were tasked with the assignment: how can we make Lowell a better Gateway City for its refugee and immigrant population?

Over the course of four months, we spoke with community members, city departments and community-based organizations like the African Community Center of Lowell. We also studied the historical and current conditions around specific themes like Housing, the Public Realm, Education, and Economic Development. These investigations formed the foundation for our final assignment where we were asked to identify a problem facing Lowell’s refugee and immigrant population and propose viable solutions to it.

Our final project, ‘Scaling up the Values of Safe Spaces: A New Civic Infrastructure in Lowell’, looked at the theme of belonging in Lowell and tried to understand how new residents of Lowell can feel at home in their new surroundings. We performed extensive interviews with three members of the community who actively promote belonging in their organizations or businesses: Sovanna Pouv, Executive Director of the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association; Oddorm Phal, Founder of Bitcave Snackade, and Gordon Halm, Executive Director of the African Community Center of Lowell. From these interviews, we were able to distill three core values that increase the sense of belonging in our surroundings: Community, Identity, and Agency.

With this new framework, we proposed several ways to scale up the values of community, identity, and agency at the city-level. In doing so, we aimed to expand the traditional definition of ‘civic infrastructure’ to include places like the ACCL that welcome and support residents of Lowell and lead them to feel safe and at home in their surroundings.

We wish to sincerely thank our three interviewees for their time and recognize the valuable work they are doing to build community, promote identity, and increase agency in Lowell.

Chandra Christmas-Rouse, Sidra Fatima and Malika Leiper

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