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Boston Area Research Initiative

We created the Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI) to strengthen the ties between local universities and the City.

The initiative helped formalize partnerships with schools. This allowed us to expand our research and share data. We also built relationships between the region’s:

  • researchers
  • policymakers
  • practitioners, and
  • civic leaders.

Why we did this

The Boston Metro area is home to more than 100 colleges and universities. Despite this, there weren’t many university researchers working with City officials.

Through this initiative, we wanted to spur original urban research that helped schools and the City. We also wanted to take advantage of local talent, and recruit a new generation of public servants.

The experiment

Our hypothesis? Encouraging researchers and local leaders would create access to rich data. We could also use the vast talent in Boston to infuse policies with a fresh ideas from academics.

In October 2011, more than 400 people attended “Reimagining the City-University Connection.” The day-long symposium sought to create beneficial research and policy initiatives that benefit schools and the City. From this symposium, BARI was created by:

  • the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard
  • the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, and
  • the City of Boston formed BARI.

Harvard professors Robert J. Sampson and Christopher Winship were picked to run BARI. They would also put together events and collaborations.

In the recent years, BARI has supported:

  • original research on Boston issues
  • convened professors teaching classes about Boston, and
  • helped unlock and present new City data.

In December 2014, we held another symposium, “Understanding and Improving Cities: Policy/Research Partnerships and the Digital Age,” at District Hall.

Results and lessons learned

Helping inform policy

Research has informed policy in many parts of the City. This includes civic engagement, public safety, arts, and the school system. The BARI website features some of that research.

Importance of relationships

To create successful university and City collaborations require building relationships across both communities. That’s more likely to occur if there are dedicated people on both sides.

Developing a process

The Symposiums have been great for discussing research and the value of the data. But, procedures need to be put in place to turn those discussions into meaningful action.