Projects

See current project proposals. Below are proposals that were prioritized by the Hartford Resident Advisory Board and selected by students and faculty fellows.

Eviction Project, Spring 2018

CONTACT
Salmun KazerounianErin Kemple

ORGANIZATION
Connecticut Fair Housing Center

MISSION
The mission of the Connecticut Fair Housing Center (“the Center”) is to ensure that all people have equal access to housing opportunities in Connecticut. Because housing discrimination disproportionately affects people with low incomes, the Center focuses on the intersection of poverty and housing discrimination. The Center also assists Connecticut homeowners who have been hit hardest by the nation’s ongoing foreclosure crisis.

PROJECT
Matthew Desmond recently observed that: “If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out.” With its harshest consequences disproportionately reserved for women of color, eviction has potentially devastating consequences – it can result in job loss and spiraling economic hardship, decrease families’ chances of obtaining decent housing, and permanently destabilize lives. This research project will investigate how Hartford residents came to face eviction to begin with, their experiences with the eviction process, and the immediate and long-term ramifications of their evictions on their families, specifically exploring questions like what happened in their cases, how they were treated by their landlords and the court, how past evictions have affected them, the demographics of their households, and what they plan to do in the immediate future and long-term.

RESEARCH
After familiarizing themselves with some of the recent scholarship on the eviction epidemic and with the eviction process, Action Lab students will develop surveys that attempt to capture a picture of tenants’ experiences with eviction. For a four-week period, teams of students will conduct brief interviews with tenants inside the Hartford housing courthouse immediately before or after their hearings and/or mediations. They will also collect basic information about all the eviction cases filed during the pendency of the project, including party names, attorney names (if any), and property addresses.

PRODUCTS
Action Lab students will produce written summaries of the qualitative and quantitative survey data they collect and create visualizations of their findings where appropriate. They will also map the addresses where evictions have taken place during a three-month period, and if time permits, they will overlay this map with each neighborhood’s racial and ethnic demographics. The Center will use these products as part of a multifaceted advocacy campaign aimed at changing the way landlords use eviction history in the tenant screening process.

FINAL RESEARCH PROJECT
https://action-lab.org/eviction

Parent Engagement Project, Spring 2018

ORGANIZATION
Hartford Public Library, Hartford Public Schools

MISSION
Funded by a 3-year Institute of Museum and Libary Services National Leadership Grant, this project – linking Learning, Belonging, and Community (LBC) – is designed to increase access to learning opportunities for late arrival high school English Language Learners (ELLs) with fewer than 3 years in the U.S. so they may become better equipped to fully participate in their local communities and our global society. To achieve this goal, Hartford Public Library has partnered with Hartford Public Schools to develop and implement a replicable after-school public library-based pedagogical framework and curriculum.

PROJECT
A growing body of research points to the positive impacts of involving parents or guardians in after- school programming for English Language Learners (ELLs). Additionally, research indicates that an unintended negative consequence of not involving families in extracurricular programming may result in a breakdown in communication and understanding between immigrant/refugee youth and their parents or guardians. Because of these 2 factors, a key component of the Hartford Public Schools and Hartford Public Library (HPL) after-school programming for immigrant/refugee youth, pertains to developing relationships with parents and guardians to actively engage them in program development and implementation. Family engagement is crucial to the success of extracurricular activities involving immigrant /refugee youth, however, several factors often impede impactful community engagement when working with diverse immigrant/refugee communities, such as (1) a contrast in cultural understandings of parents’ role in for children in educational settings, (2) a lack culturally competent engagement strategies, and (3) a lack of data driven strategies that serve as the foundation of effective engagement planning.

RESEARCH
Action Lab Students will execute research on global best practices for engaging immigrant and refugee parents on topics related to their children’s education. The students will do research on current immigration and refugee settlement patterns throughout Hartford. Action Lab Students will work with HPL Immigrant Youth Project Manager on engaging LBC Parents / Guardians in dialogue around LBC goals and objectives.

PRODUCTS
Action Lab Students will develop an annotated bibliography on global best practices for engaging immigrant / refugee families. They will assist Hartford Public Library in developing and implementing a program-specific action plan for intentional and impactful family engagement. They will also assist in developing talking points for family engagement conversations. We will use these products to develop and sustain intentional strategic relationships with LBC students and their families.

FINAL RESEARCH PROJECT
https://action-lab.org/parent-engagement

North Hartford Promise Zone Mapping Project, Spring 2018

CONTACT
Kathy Del BeccaroNadia Lugo

ORGANIZATION
Community Solutions International, Inc.

MISSION
We help communities end homelessness and the conditions that create it by becoming better problem solvers and applying effective tools from multiple sectors. In Hartford’s North End Promise Zone we convene residents and partners to create a safer, healthier more prosperous neighborhood, with improved housing stability and population health as our key measures.

PROJECT
Community Solutions (CS) has served as backbone organization for initiatives to improve population health in what is now the North Hartford Promise Zone (NHPZ) since 2012. These initiatives involve convening stakeholders to collaborate in solving critical problems, anchored by shared goals and shared data. Our organizing work with residents and partners has revealed poor housing conditions as a major contributor to poor health outcomes in the NHPZ. The lack of investment in the physical infrastructure of the community and absence of an effective tracking system for negative conditions is reflected in deteriorated and unsafe rental housing, unresolved code violations, multiple poorly maintained vacant lots, and high rates of eviction and homelessness. We hope to work with a Trinity College Action Lab team to test and augment our preliminary research regarding the connection between housing conditions and health conditions among North Hartford residents. We aim to develop actionable research in the form of interactive maps and narrative reports on baseline housing conditions and housing instability, on resident health, as well as to map the effects of interventions on housing stability and neighborhood health. Questions to explore during this research period include: 1) Where are blighted properties and code enforcement violations concentrated in the NHPZ ? 2) Where are asthma, evictions and homelessness concentrated?, and 3) how do changes in these conditions affect population health outcomes, particularly asthma?

RESEARCH
Community Solutions has recently completed an initial blight conditions survey of the North Hartford Promise Zone, using an online mapping system which denotes the presence and severity of blighted and abandoned homes by address. CS maintains a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) database with publicly available data relating to housing conditions such as information on evictions and foreclosures. Separately, we have access to de-identified Medicaid Claims Data for the area to monitor population health trends. The project we hope to undertake would update and augment this database, and would consist of the collection, cleaning, and importing of existing and additional data on housing conditions. We would work with Trinity College students to analyze the spatial distribution of negative conditions and identify hot spots for our team and partners to target for in-depth interventions to improve housing conditions and stability. improvement program work. Students will then compare the completed housing conditions analysis with the Medicaid Claims Data to determine whether there is a relationship between housing conditions/stability and population health outcomes. Should this portion of data work conclude before the end of the research period, we would also ask students to conduct property research in the designated hot spot areas to link properties with owners and landlords.

PRODUCTS
The intended outcome of this research period is a series of interactive maps that can be accessed on our internal mapping system. These maps would incorporate the collected data to present visual learnings on the connections among each data set. In addition to the interactive online maps, Community Solutions requests a written narrative about the research process and learnings in order for our staff to propose strategies and solutions and present to various audiences, including community members, partners, and funders. We will document the project as it unfolds and share sample maps and related population health outcomes on our website. We will also participate in conferences and public panels to share our experience and ongoing learning.

FINAL RESEARCH PROJECT
https://action-lab.org/mapping-blight

PILOT Messaging Project, Spring 2018

CONTACT
Wildaliz BermudezJason Ortiz

ORGANIZATION
Court of Common Council- Councilwoman Wildaliz Bermudez’s Office & Open Communities Alliance

MISSION
Mission of the City of Hartford is to be fiscally accountable and achieve results that advance the City’s interest. It is essential to safeguard the health, cleanliness and safety of the community in ways that reflect the wants and needs of the people who live, work and visit Hartford.

PROJECT
Question: What messaging strategies are best at convincing non-Hartford residents to support full payment of Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) funds? Project Statement: A significant percentage of Hartford land parcels are owned by government or nonprofit institutions, and are therefore not subject to taxation. This results in significant structural barriers to fully funding Hartford city infrastructure and services, and negatively affects the broader region. State-owned buildings have agreed to pay city governments a fee, which they call Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT), to compensate cities for lost tax revenue. However, the state has not fully funded this program in decades, and annual PILOT funds are subject to the whims of the legislature. Although the lack of consistency in these payments makes governing Hartford difficult, suburban residents are unconvinced by traditional arguments about the necessity of PILOT funds for Hartford city operations, and Hartford needs the support of suburban representatives to support regular PILOT funding from the State.

RESEARCH
Research Plans: Team of students will research PILOT policy and its effects on Hartford governance, and then craft different messaging materials aimed at convincing non-Hartford residents to support consistent PILOT funding. They will then test these materials through focus groups or other methods to determine which materials and messaging strategies are most effective.

PRODUCTS
Products: By the end of the semester, students will have some messaging products, either in the form of mailers, short video spots, or radio advertisements. They will then present results to Hartford City Council and other audiences to be determined.

FINAL RESEARCH PROJECT
https://action-lab.org/pilot-messaging

Creative Placemaking Project, Spring 2018

CONTACT
Steven Ginsburg and Suzan Bibisi

ORGANIZATION
HartBeat Ensemble

MISSION
The mission of HartBeat Ensemble is to create provocative theater that connects our community beyond the traditional barriers of class, race, geography & gender.

PROJECT
Asylum Hill is one of Hartford’s poorest neighborhoods, but it is an historic district that is treasured for its literary, creative and architectural significance. It is a key gateway from the west to downtown Hartford with two major east-west avenues (Asylum and Farmington) running through. It is also home to two large employers, and two historic homes that make up Nook Farm: the Mark Twain House and the Harriet Beecher Stowe House as well as HartBeat Ensemble’s Carriage House Theater. In previous generations, Nook Farm was an important gathering place for intellectuals and artists of various backgrounds, and gained a reputation for nurturing the production of works of immense cultural significance. Nook Farm is a neighborhood with many assets that, with coordinated use, can lead to prosperity and a high quality of life for all residents. How can we leverage the unique strengths of Nook Farm – especially its history as a destination for creative and intellectual pursuits – to the benefit of the residents of Asylum Hill? What have other places similar to Asylum Hill done to promote “creative placemaking”- that is, development projects that leverage the power of the arts, culture and creativity to serve a community’s interest. How can efforts to promote the important artistic legacy of Nook Farm avoid becoming an agent of gentrification?

RESEARCH
Teams would begin by gathering information already available on Asylum Hill assets and community, such as the work done on Farmington Avenue businesses and the Harwood Report on “Creating a Safer, More Connected Asylum Hill.” We consider local assets as the principal building blocks of sustainable community development. Secondly, the research project would focus on a scan of successful ‘creative placemaking” projects. Teams would identify several nearby projects to examine in more detail, visiting if possible, and interviewing leaders by phone if not, to understand the strategies they have used to develop and implement these projects, the challenges they have faced, and the benefits they have observed.

PRODUCTS
Final products would include a community assets map, which would be used for planning developments and interventions based on what the community has to work with. Secondly, we would like a written compilation of research gathered from the team’s scan of “creative placemaking” projects. We would use both products internally as the basis for partnership and program planning. Ideally each month HartBeat could receive a presentation of learning and update.

FINAL RESEARCH PROJECT
https://action-lab.org/creative-placemaking