Center for Social Policy

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Recent Projects

Sample of our recent projects

What We Do

Applied Research: Through our Reshaping Poverty Policy agenda, our work produces solid evidence and advances viable policy options that address poverty, homelessness, and workforce development

Participatory Action Research: 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.

Strategic Evaluation: Our work can be readily used by practitioners, planners, policy makers, funders, and others for informing policy decisions, replication or expansion efforts, or changes in practice.  

We design these evaluations to answer questions like: What works and for whom?  

Evaluations of Comprehensive Community Change Initiatives: We highlight the results of cross-community, cross-sector and cross-organizational, multi-year initiatives. We design these evaluations to answer questions like: 

• How will short-term and long-term success be measured? 
• Given those success indicators, which implementation processes have been effective and which need to be changed? 
• Which interventions are associated with reaching benchmarks for success in the short and long-term?     

Sample of our recent projects

 

Health Impact Assessment of Boston’s Living Wage Ordinance

The Center for Social Policy has partnered with the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), to evaluate the health impacts of the Boston Living Wage Ordinance. Funded through a Health Impact Project grant, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts with additional funding from the de Beaumont Foundation, the assessment will use stakeholder engagement, focus groups and key informant interviews as well as documentation of existing conditions of workers most likely to be affected. The 18-month evaluation will include an empirical analysis of existing data on a sub-group of current living wage workers and changes in health conditions attributable to improved wages. A report is expected in Fall 2015.

Primary Contacts: Randy Albelda, Senior Research Fellow
Brandynn Holgate, Research Associate

Just-A-Start Corporation Cambridge Biomedical Careers Program Evaluation

This study will assess the impacts of Just-A-Start Corporation’s (JAS) Cambridge Biomedical Careers Program (CBCP) in the Boston area and the state. Launched in 1991, the CBCP trains low- and moderate-income individuals for entry-level jobs in the biomedical and biotechnology fields. CSP’s study will focus on the 23 year-old program’s effectiveness including its individual- and systemic-level impacts. CSP will assess the long-term impacts on graduates’ earnings and their careers, explore the perspectives of hiring employers and estimate municipal- and state-level development impacts. The project will address the implications for CBCP planning, recruitment and design of expected trends in biomedical employment in the region and state. The evaluation will be completed by the end of 2015.

Primary Contacts: Françoise Carré, Research Director
Brandynn Holgate, Research Associate

Family Stability White Paper Project

Family homelessness is at a record high in Massachusetts; 4,000 families are living in shelters or in motels, and with nearly 230,000 low income Massachusetts renters paying more than 50% of their incomes towards rent, thousands more families teeter on the edge of homelessness.  Changes in the economy are requiring increasingly higher levels of education for even entry-level jobs, and we risk leaving more low-income families behind.  A new approach is needed in order to provide the best set of tools to help families stabilize their housing, increase their incomes, and have more secure futures.  In response to this crisis and the need for a new approach, several organizations have joined in an unprecedented partnership to draw attention to the underlying contributors to family homelessness, make recommendations across departmental divisions, and to advocate for a joint policy agenda - The Family Stability Advocacy initiative.

In July 2014, the Center for Social Policy received funding from the Oak Foundation and the Boston Foundation for the Family Stability White Paper Project.  This path breaking research, a partnership between the Center , Citizens' Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA), Mass Budget and Policy Center, and the UMass Boston Collins Center, numerous cross-policy advocacy coalitions, and the United Way, will provide a blueprint for the public and for the next Massachusetts Governor, Legislative leaders and elected officials to make changes that will have real impacts for low income families struggling to make ends meet . The white paper focuses on family stability with a homelessness prevention lens—looking upstream at the underlying contributors to family homelessness and providing evidence for coordinated and sustained engagement with extremely low-income families.   This paper willpresent the many factors that contribute to family instability; identify the gaps in programs meant to serve low income families; document the role of federal and state rental subsidy programs; demonstrate the interconnected roles of rental assistance, childcare and employment assistance in increasing family incomes; incorporate the feedback of focus groups representing various stakeholders; and make policy recommendations to help the Commonwealth reduce family homelessness by addressing its underlying contributors.

Primary contactDonna Haig Friedman


Merging Knowledge (with International ATD Fourth World Movement)

International ATD Fourth World Movement, UMass Boston’s own Emerging Leaders Program (College of Management), and the Center for Social Policy Constituent Advisory Group engage in meaningful conversations that lead to renewed knowledge of the reality of poverty and the impact of policies on the lives of people living it. Working in peer groups and then together, people with an experience of poverty and those from the business community experience and learn from one another, making changes in themselves and becoming agents for social change in their milieu and beyond. 

Primary contacts: Julia Tripp, Constituent Advisory Group Leader and Research Assistant
Donna Haig Friedman, Director

Moving Home Program on Housing Retention Outcomes: Evaluation Study 

The Center for Social Policy is carrying out an analysis of data on the housing situation of participants in the Moving Home program in New York City. The aim of the study is to draw lessons from this NYC-based experience for other homeless service programs in Massachusetts and elsewhere.  The project is a partnership with the Bowery Residents’ Committee (BRC), a provider of housing and services to thousands of needy individuals, focusing on effective and efficient strategies to end the cycle of homelessness in NYC. BRC’s Moving Home initiative applies an individualized, low-threshold model to transitioning chronically homeless men and women from the streets to permanent housing.

Primary contact: Françoise Carré, Research Director

New Lease for Homeless Families: Evaluation Study

CSP is as the  evaluation partner for the New Lease for Homeless Families’ pilot program—a unique initiative that brings together multiple stakeholders in homelessness prevention in Massachusetts: a group of affordable housing owners offering between 10-15% of their vacant units per year to families coming out of motels, hotels and shelters, and New Lease, a new not-for-profit organization connecting the units to homeless families and partnering with the Department of Housing and Community Development and nonprofit service providers to support the families as they transition to permanent housing. This evaluation will measure specific outcomes related to this intervention model and how it may change the larger systems of reducing family homelessness in Massachusetts. 

Primary contacts: Mary Coonan, Outcome and Evaluation Specialist,
Donna Haig Friedman, Director

Old Colony – HUD Hope VI: Evaluation Study

This evaluation contributes to the knowledge of the effects of the physical and social revitalization of the Old Colony public housing development in South Boston. In this four year, federally funded Hope VI program, the evaluation focuses on the role of services, resident participation, and changing administrative structure.

Primary contact: Mary Coonan, Outcome and Evaluation Specialist

Reinforcing the Safety Net: A Collaborative Survey of the Massachusetts Nonprofit Sector

This study examines how nonprofit organizations engage with public policy issues and actors. The project is a partnership with the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network, a statewide membership organization dedicated to building the capacity of the nonprofit sector. The research is supported by funding from a University of Massachusetts Public Service Grant which is intended to facilitate collaborative research partnerships and community engaged scholarship.

Primary contact: Heather MacIndoe, Faculty Affiliate

Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare Foundation Evaluation
Beginning in 2012, the Center for Social Policy is serving as a multi-year evaluation partner to several initiatives of the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation; the center's work is focused on generating solid evidence as to the extent and ways in which the foundation's initiatives—Growing Up Healthy, Culture InSight, and Community Connections—contribute to its goals.

Primary contact: Terry Saunders Lane, Senior Research Fellow

Informing Eos Foundation's Anti-hunger Initiative
In April 2012, the Eos Foundation commissioned research to inform its decision making from the Center for Social Policy, the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget), and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI). The research addresses understanding how the food assistance programs work in Massachusetts and identifies places—leverage points—where improvements to the programs might be usefully introduced through strategic use of the foundation's philanthropic funds.

Research findings
Food assistance programs in Massachusetts
Massachusetts School Meal Data

Primary contact: Donna Haig Friedman, Director

Thrive in Five Initiative
Led by the Center for Social Policy, a team of UMass Boston researchers is the external evaluator for Thrive-in-5 Boston. As part of the initiative, the Center is helping to identify, implement, and evaluate community interventions designed to increase the readiness of Boston children for success in school at kindergarten age.  UMass Boston is a thought partner, providing real time feedback for immediate use by the community partners to inform their practice. The research team is using progress indicators and context data to monitor Boston’s progress toward achieving school readiness,  focusing evaluation on impact and outcomes.

Primary contacts:
Donna Haig Friedman, Director
Mary Coonan, Outcome and Evaluation Specialist

The Boston Foundation's Fairmount Initiative
Since 2010, CSP has been the Boston Foundation’s Fairmount Strategy learning and evaluation partner; our evaluation and learning efforts over the next three years will focus on the Foundation’s Fairmount Strategy as a whole, on Boston LISC’s Resilient Communities/Resilient Families (RC/RF) Initiative and on the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program.  

At the Fairmount strategy level, the learning plan is designed to inform the next stages of TBF’s investments and activities along the Fairmount Corridor, tracking TBF’s contribution to transformative strategies and/or approaches aimed at changing the life trajectories for low income children/families and their neighborhoods. 

At the program level, the CSP evaluation activities are designed to understand the implementation of the RC/RF and FSS projects in the corridor, including their procedural accomplishments and challenges, community building and relevant family outcomes, and the role of neighborhood context. 

Primary contacts:
Donna Haig Friedman, Director
Brandynn Holgate, Research Associate

Healthcare Technologies Research and Technical Assistance
The Center for Social Policy provided technical assistance to DotWell, a Dorchester community-based organization designed to create a Healthcare Technology Workforce Development Educational Pathway. This pathway is aimed at adult learners who are interested in advancing their education through college credit courses in computer science and information management, and ultimately securing employment in Boston’s healthcare industry. The project was funded through a workforce development planning grant from the Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston.

Primary contact: Brandynn Holgate, Research Associate

Closing the Gap on Healthcare Disparities
With funding from the Blue Cross Blue Shield  Foundation of Massachusetts, the Center for Social Policy evaluated healthcare disparity interventions taking place throughout Massachusetts by identifying outcomes from the experience of 11 coalitions of community organizations, health care providers, and consumers.  

Primary contacts:
Mary Coonan, Outcome and Evaluation Specialist
Terry Saunders Lane, Senior Research Fellow
 

Alternative Staffing Organizations: Outcomes for Job Candidates and Customer Employers
Alternative Staffing Organizations (ASOs), operated by community-based agencies, integrate the business goal of mainstream staffing services—connecting workers and employers—with the social mission of helping marginalized job seekers find and retain better jobs. Over the period from 2008-11, the Center for Social Policy studied the activities of four ASOs which were part of the Charles Stewart Mott Alternative Staffing Demonstration II. The study explored employment outcomes for workers as well as the motivations of customer businesses.

ASOs participating in the research included First Source Staffing, Emerge Staffing, Goodwill Staffing Services-Austin and Goodwill Temporary Staffing-Suncoast. This study was funded by the C. S. Mott Foundation. (See Finding the Right Fit: How Alternative Staffing Affects Worker Outcomes)

Primary contact: Françoise Carré, Research Director

Bridging the Gaps Project

Bridging the Gaps was a multiyear project let by the Center for Social Policy and the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington, DC., in partnership with organizations in nine states and District of Columbia.  In Massachusetts, CSP led the research and dissemination  activities and collaborated with advisors on the project. At the national level, CSP collaborated with CEPR in national outreach activities and analysis of qualitative data generated by state level partners.

The  project had three important research goals surrounding low-wage workers and work support programs intended to help them  get and keep employment. The first goal was to assess the size of the “hardship gap” the difference between resources (earnings plus benefits) and the costs low-income families face. The second goal was to examine the “eligibility gap” by measuring the actual utilization of work-support benefits among eligible benefits. The third goal was to understand the difficulties low-income workers who do use work-support benefits face and the strategies they use in trying to make ends meet.

(See Bridging the Gaps Between Earnings and Basic Needs in Massachusetts; Bridging the Gaps: “A Picture of How Work Supports Work in Ten States”; and Bridging the Gaps: Structuring Benefits to Promote Mobility for Low Wage Workers).

Primary contact: Randy Albelda, Senior Research Fellow

Pathways to Family Success Evaluation
Through the Center for Social Policy's Pathways to Family Success Evaluation, we are exploring the impact of community partnership efforts, in four locations throughout the state, to improve child, adult and family outcomes, through a coordinated 'wrap-around' model of education, workforce development and health/human services. This initiative is funded by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education through its Adult and Community Learning Services (ACLS), Family Literacy division.

Primary contacts:
Berna Kahraman, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Ghazel Zulfiqar, Research Associate

One Family Scholars Documentation Project
In 2000, the Paul and Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation founded the One Family Scholars Program as part of its campaign to end family homelessness in Massachusetts.  Interested in learning how the program impacted scholars’ lives over the long term, the foundation commissioned the Center for Social Policy to document changes attributable to their participation in the program.  

Primary contact: Donna Haig Friedman, Director

Evaluation Planning for the Massachusetts Adult Basic Education Professional Development System
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) commissioned the Center for Social Policy to conduct a literature review and develop an evaluation plan for its Adult and Community Learning Services' Adult Basic Education (ABE) program. The team produced three analytical products for the state education agency:

  • Gaps Analysis Report summarizing and synthesizing the most effective practices for supporting high quality ABE instructors
  • Comprehensive Brief on the potential future use of ESE data for the Department’s ABE policy development
  • Outline of an Evaluation Plan of ESE's State Adult Basic Education System (SABES) Program

Primary contact: Evelyn Frankford, Project Lead

Informal Employment in Developed and Developing Countries
As part of a collaboration with the global research and action network WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing), Françoise Carré is preparing analysis and papers on informal (casual, temporary) employment in developed countries, as well as participating in field exposures with poor informal workers in India, Mexico, and South Africa. The research focuses on the relationships between informal employment and poverty.   Writings from this project can be found under Reports and Staff Publications.

Primary contact: Françoise Carré, Research Director

Evaluation of Northeastern University School of Law LSSC Program
Center for Social Policy was commissioned to conduct a three-year, multi-method evaluation of the Legal Skills in Social Context (LSSC) Program, a required course in the first year curriculum of this law school.  This innovative program provides students with the opportunity to conduct research and legal analysis on a specific issue for participating client organizations. The CSP team concluded the evaluation in 2012.

Primary contacts:
Terry Saunders Lane, Senior Research Fellow
Elaine Werby, Senior Research Fellow

Washington Beech HOPE VI Evaluation
The Boston Housing Authority (BHA) commissioned the Center for Social Policy to conduct a four-year evaluation of the revitalization of the Washington Beech public housing development in Boston's Roslindale neighborhood.  Now in the third year of this evaluation, the CSP team is following 25 households through the phases of change—relocation and re-occupancy. Additional evaluation tasks include provision of on-going feedback and recommendations to BHA personnel and the contracted case management and relocation agency staff.

Primary contacts:
Elaine Werby, Senior Research Fellow
Berna Kahraman, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow

Poverty in Massachusetts - May 2011 Fact Sheets
Using American Community Survey five-year data, the Center for Social Policy has created eight one-page fact sheets on poverty in the Massachusetts. Each provides poverty figures by particular demographic groups: age, gender, race, ethnicity, education level, nativity, and family status. The data compare Massachusetts rates to those in the US, by analyzing the distribution of the whole population and the total poor population by the demographic category. Finally, the fact sheets highlight the poverty rate in the ten largest Massachusetts cities.

Primary contact: Randy Albelda, Senior Research Fellow

Family-to-Family Project Evaluation
The Family-to Family Project (FtF) commissioned the Center for Social Policy to evaluate its Family Homelessness Prevention Program during the period 2011-13.  Through this initiative, FtF provides one-time cash grants of $500 - $3600 to 225 families who are at risk of losing their homes. Three partner agencies (Project Hope, Home Start, and Travelers Aid) refer candidate families to FtF for assistance and provide wrap around services such as case management. The intention of the project is to support families to maintain their housing stability with modest cash assistance and to generate solid evidence of the efficacy of this approach for preventing homelessness.

Primary contacts:
Mary Coonan, Outcome and Evaluation Specialist
Terry Saunders Lane, Senior Research Fellow

Retail Work Around the Globe
The retail industry is being transformed by dramatic market shifts and rapid technological change. To better understand the consequences of these changes for the entry level workforce, this project explores schedules, compensation, turnover and retention, training, service levels, and product knowledge in the frontline workforce in the food and consumer electronics sectors. The project examines retail jobs and firm strategies in using cross-national perspective—US, Western Europe, Mexico— paying particular attention to differences in national institutional settings and how these impact job quality.

The study is led by CSP's Research Director Françoise Carré and Chris Tilly, economist and director of the UCLA Institute for Research on Work and Employment. Building upon an earlier study of the US retail trade, this project entails two components:

  • The preparation of a manuscript titled “Retail Work Round the Globe” with support from the Russell Sage Foundation and the UMass Boston Healey Research Grant program.
     
  • A study titled “Short hours, long hours, flexible hours: Hours levels and hours adjustments in the retail industry in the United States, Canada, and Mexico” with support from the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research Policy Research Grant program.

(see also Continuity and Change in Low-wage Work in U.S. Retail Trade (2008))

Primary contact: Françoise Carré, Research Director

Evaluation of Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP)
The Center for Social Policy has been retained by the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership to evaluate its efforts funded by the Federal Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) to provide housing for families experiencing homelessness. Lessons learned, both in terms of program features and family outcomes, will inform the Massachusetts HomeBase program, the successor to HPRP.

Primary contacts:
Tim Davis, Research Consultant
Terry Saunders Lane, Senior Research Fellow

Evaluation of the Boston-Haifa Learning Exchange
The Center for Social Policy has been commissioned by the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Greater Boston (JCRC) to collaborate with JCRC, Haifa-based Council of Volunteer Organizations, Shatil, and Lead Haifa to conduct a strategic evaluation of their Boston-Haifa Learning Exchange and Study Tours. These programs bring together leaders from the two cities to develop co-learning opportunities and to enhance partnerships within and across borders with a priority on issues of social justice. 

Primary contacts:  
Miriam Messinger, Research Consultant
Risa Takenaka, Research Assistant


Spotlight on Two Research Presentations on Workforce Solutions to Growing Inequality

Françoise Carré & Brandynn Holgate: “Transforming Job Access into Durable Employment: The Role of Non-profit Staffing Services in Hiring” Randy Albelda & Michael Carr: “At the Crossroads of Being Low-wage and Low-income: Policy Dilemmas and Solutions” Read More 

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