June project update

The arrival of summer means that things at our university generally slow down, but that’s never the case at the Urban Initiative. While our team will do our best to get out of the office and enjoy what’s arguably the SouthCoast’s best season, we’ll still have the following projects on our plate. Thankfully, we’ll also have a bigger team: seven high school students will join us as interns, and we may look to add a UMass Dartmouth graduate or undergraduate student to the mix. Stay tuned for a blog post introducing you to our summer staff!

1) The SouthCoast Urban Indicators Project (SCUIP)

  • Responding to a need expressed by our cities’ grant writers, we’ve added a section called ‘City Profiles‘ to characterize the populations of Fall River and New Bedford by size, age, race/ethnicity, and immigration/ancestry.
  • Last month’s photo contest, organized and led by our team of Leadership SouthCoast students, garnered a 168% increase in site visits!

2) Taunton HOPE VI evaluation

  • We have  just three more interviews to go before wrapping up this component of our evaluation.
  • Three focus groups were concluded in May on topics related to health/wellness, early childhood, and workforce development, respectively. The key takeaway is that in small city like Taunton, the lack of personal transportation is a major obstacle to accessing services and opportunities that promote well-being and self-sufficiency because the bus runs to infrequently and/or doesn’t go where people need to get. For example, one focus group participant had a child care slot lined up for her daughter, but she has no car and is unable to drop off and pick up her daughter (never mind get to work after that).

3) College access

  • A total of seven high school students have signed on as summer interns and will be working together to determine how to tackle the issue of college access in the SouthCoast.
  • We’re particularly excited that two students will join us through UMass Dartmouth’s Upward Bound program, which is itself a mechanism for promoting college access for students in our cities.

4) LifeWork Project

  • We just met with the Director of Research and Evaluation at Boston’s Crittenton Women’s Union, which has a program after which LifeWork is modeled. CWU has been and continues to be a tremendous resource for the UI and the other LifeWork partners, sharing their ideas, lessons learned, and even evaluation tools so that we’re not reinventing the wheel.

5) Small business technical assistance evaluation

  • The UI has been contracted by New Bedford’s Community Economic Development Center (CEDC) to evaluate its small business technical assistance program funded by the MA Growth Capital Corporation. We’ll be conducting as many as 35 interviews with entrepreneurs in New Bedford and beyond to learn about the ways in which the CEDC’s support influenced outcomes for businesses and their owners.
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