UMass Boston

About Us

Reshaping Poverty Policy for and with Families and Communities

At the Center for Social Policy at UMass Boston, we are committed to researching the root causes of economic hardship and examining the impact of public policies and business practices in order to boost economic and social well-being.

We engage community members through participatory action research, forge strong connections with practitioners and policymakers, and interpret complex cross-sector quantitative and qualitative finding in order to create actionable policy recommendations.

At the Center for Social Policy, the voices of those living in economic hardship and social exclusion not only inform our research and evaluation projects to help reshape poverty policy, they also inform us about the power of inclusive practices. We believe that constituent engagement in research illuminates, in a language and format that policy makers and practitioners can understand, the realities faced by families living in poverty. 

We are mixed methods researchers with deep expertise in:

  • Cliff Effects
  • Poverty and Income Inequality 
  • Job Quality
  • Workforce Development
  • Community Development
  • Homelessness Prevention
  • Social Determinants of Health
  • Racial and Gender Disparities
  • Housing Equity

What we do: Our faculty, researchers, and constituent advisors provide a transdisciplinary lens to complex urban problems. We are experts in advanced quantitative methods and rigorous qualitative techniques, including participatory action research.

  • Program, policy, and community change evaluations
  • Research studies
  • Technical assistance
  • Training and capacity building

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.

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

Our History

The center was established in 1992 as a university research center at 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 ecrxpertise 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.