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Moving Through the Budget

We're using collaborative storytelling, dance, and movement to prototype a new, reflective form of engagement with East Boston residents on the City's budgeting process.

This residency is currently only open to East Boston residents, but we hope to offer it to more one day! DEADLINE EXTENDED: Applications are now due by 9 a.m. on Monday, April 26, 2021.

Apply online!

What we're doing

In winter and spring 2021, we will work with:

  • local choreographer and educator Jenny Oliver, and
  • dance movement therapist Stefanie Belnavis to offer “Moving Through the Budget."

The community-based residency will use dance and movement to engage the public on issues surrounding the City budget. City departments involved include:

The course is an eight-week virtual residency. Participants will connect their lived experiences to their fiscal understanding of the City of Boston budget. They will do this through collaborative and culturally-informed movement and storytelling.

In this context, dance and movement activities will be a means of “turning on the faucet.” They will allow  people to:

  • connect to their emotions, and
  • process their experiences creatively.

At the end, our participants will provide feedback on the budget in the form of a survey, words, and images.

Residency timeline

  • February 2021: Moving Through the Budget residency application opens.
  • March 22, 2021: Residency applications due by 9 a.m.
  • April 2021: Residency participants will be selected and notified.
  • May 3, 2021: Residency begins. This residency will take place every Monday, from 6 - 8 p.m., from May 3 - June 28, 2021 (eight weeks total).

Why we did this

Starting in 2018, the Office of Budget Management has been increasing its efforts to connect with residents on the City Budget. They've done this through a variety of formats, educational programs, and events. Recently, there's been a renewed public interest in the City's budget. The transition to virtual events due to COVID-19 also provided the team with an opportunity to try something new.

Because it is both personal and unexpected, we think movement and dance can be exciting communication tools. They have the potential to reach community members who have been historically underrepresented in public-facing conversations about the budget. We hope this new approach will:

  • reach new audiences, and
  • provide a new way of learning about the budget and understanding its impact on the lives of residents.

Due to the small-scale nature of this initial pilot, we are focusing the residency on a single neighborhood: East Boston. Based on what we learn, we may expand access to the residency in future versions to include more neighborhoods and community members.

What we Hope to learn

#1: Who are we missing?

A primary goal of this residency is to better understand which residents are currently left out of conversations about the City Budget. Through the residency, we hope to engage groups that are often unseen in the budget-making process. We want to amplify the voices of those with different levels of access and abilities to participate or be heard.

#2: What do people know? What do they want to know?

We’re interested in what people already know about the budget, as well as what they hope to learn. Our goal is to become better observers and to understand the knowledge our communities already hold. By doing this, we can create better ways of providing residents with the knowledge they seek.

#3: Is movement a good way for residents to express themselves and learn about the City Budget?

Movement is part of everyday life. Trauma can be embodied yet remain unacknowledged. Justice, healing, and intersectionality have been prominent themes in the process of connecting with communities typically unreached in the budget process, and understanding their needs. We hope to learn whether movement and dance can fulfill a previously unmet need for residents. We want residents to express themselves through new modes that are:

  • creative
  • inclusive, and
  • ideally healing for residents.
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