Center for Social Policy

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

About Us

Reshaping Poverty Policy
for and with Families and Communities

The Center for Social Policy is a research and evaluation think tank of choice for policy makers, funders, and business leaders focused on the root causes of poverty. We are mixed methods researchers with deep expertise in:

  • Advanced statistical analysis (predictive modeling, propensity score, regression analysis, etc.)
  • Cases studies
  • Focus groups
  • Geo-Information System (GIS) analysis and data visualization
  • Interviews
  • Participatory Action Research (PAR)
    • We engage participants and participating communities in a process of co-learning to generate evidence that can be used to inform collective actions leading to fundamental changes in the root causes of social and economic inequities.
  • Policy analysis
  • Randomized experimental and quasi-experimental design
  • Surveys

We highly value partnerships for learning and action and we are relied upon for a diverse array of research services including:

  • Program and implementation evaluations
  • Evaluations of comprehensive community change initiatives
  • Creation of indicators and analytics
  • Commission of research studies
  • Technical assistance
  • Community-based research training and empowerment

We are honored to share with you our impressive list of philanthropists, community, and university partners.

Our research and evaluation work helps organizations adapt to changing needs in a changing world. Our recommendations and technical assistance lead to community-driven systems change and improved program and business practices. We use our expertise in change management to help partner organizations develop impactful strategies, efficient operations, and successful partnerships.

Our readily accessible publications provide both sound evidence of the dimensions of poverty and actionable solutions to pressing challenges.  

We believe that effective policy solutions must involve, as active partners, constituents who are directly affected by policies. Core to our unique approach is that we build knowledge from the ground up, by working collaboratively and conducting research grounded in and informed by lived experience and social history.

Another thing that separates us from all others is that we are a part of Boston’s only public university. UMass Boston is a major academic enterprise with a strong history of bringing intellectual resources to bear on issues of public concern, particularly through interdisciplinary research focused on complex urban problems. We engage world class faculty experts from across diverse disciplines, including economics and entrepreneurship, as affiliates on all of our projects.

Our mission is to provide highest quality research services to change agents on a sustainable basis and we offer competitive pricing. If you have a project idea or have any questions, please feel free to email us at and we will happily set up a thinking session with you.

Our History

The center was established in 1992 as a university research center at the John W. McCormack Institute for Public Affairs (now the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies). Since then, close to one hundred research studies and evaluations have been conducted with approximately 70 partner agencies. The center’s work has targeted root causes and highlighted effective interventions that address economic hardship and social exclusion.

Between 1998-2014, Donna Haig Friedman, PhD, led the center, engaging a network of more than 50 scholars, practitioners, philanthropists, and constituents whose interactions cross traditional boundaries and consistently produce new information and enlightened perspectives. Following her retirement and a national search in the spring of 2015, Susan R. Crandall, PhD, has been appointed the new director of the Center for Social Policy.

The CSP team brings to its work state-wide and national leadership in policy agencies and the legislature; membership on presidential advisory committees; leadership in higher education and private consulting; a solid publication record of social policy books, reports, and  journal articles; and a wealth of grass roots, community development experience.

CSP’s partnerships extend to research and action networks across the globe. Our center has had a significant impact at the local, state, and national levels. More recently, through our international partnerships and knowledge-sharing efforts, our expertise and influence have been put to use by organizations the world over.

Our 20th anniversary celebration, sponsored by UMass Boston Chancellor J. Keith Motley, PhD, was held on October 17, 2012. Congressman Barney Frank was the featured honoree and received the Chancellor’s Medal for Exemplary Leadership. Chuck Collins, John Connors III, Julia Tripp, and Elaine Werby were also be honored as leaders for economic and social justice.

Read the news stories on the event and honoring Julia Tripp.

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