11.945 | Fall 2005 | Graduate
Springfield Studio


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: Two sessions / week, 3 hours / session

Course Description and Objectives

The Springfield Studio is a practicum course that focuses on the economic, programmatic and social renewal of an urban community in Springfield, Massachusetts by combining classroom work with an applied class project. The course content covers the areas of neighborhood economic development and the related analysis and planning tools used to understand and assess urban conditions from an economic and community development perspective. Thus, the course has several goals:

  1. Introduce students to different theories of local economic development.

  2. Apply multiple data sources and analytical techniques to assess the local economy and identify critical economic development needs and opportunities.

  3. Develop familiarity with the policies and programs that governments and non-profit organizations can use to further local economic development objectives.

  4. Assess community goals, capacity and programmatic needs.

The ultimate goal is to explore the integration of social, programmatic and economic development interventions in ways that reinforce community revitalization efforts, and to apply this knowledge through the development of a formal neighborhood economic revitalization plan that addresses community needs.

Overview of the Client and Project Focus

The fall 2005 class will work with the community in the North End of Springfield, Massachusetts to formulate an economic development and community capacity building plan. The North End of Springfield is a predominantly Puerto Rican community that is faced with a number of problems including high rates of asthma, HIV and Hepatitis B. The neighborhood has one of the highest poverty rates in Massachusetts, very low per capita income and labor force participation. Other problems and complications in the neighborhood are environmental, as it is home to a number of former industrial sites and is located adjacent to the Connecticut River. A number of institutional assets exist in the community, including social service agencies, schools, a youth center, a business association, a hospital, and a health clinic.

Our client is The North End Campus Committee - a collaboration between these various groups with the understanding that by working together they can use their existing resources to improve their community. The Campus Committee oversaw the work of the Spring 2004 Springfield Studio  to develop a physical and urban design plan to better connect the neighborhood and local non-profit organizations. One outgrowth of this work was recognition of the importance of improving economic outcomes for community residents and the need for a formal plan to achieve this goal. This year’s studio will work with the client and broader community to formulate the initial components of this plan.

The project is a collaboration between DUSP, the MIT Center for Reflective Community Practice (CRCP), the North End Campus Committee, and the North End Outreach Network (NEON).

Project Process

The class project will entail a three-stage process:

  1. Analysis of community economic development proposals and potential alternative proposals leading to the plan’s goals and agenda;

  2. Detailed research, analysis and program design for the goals and agenda;

  3. Formulation of the plan details, review with client and preparation of the final plan.

Throughout the semester, these teams will present their work for discussion and commentary by the entire class and the client. The Campus Committee will play an integral role in the planning process and plan formulation. Regular meetings with committee members both in class and in the community will be an important input into the plan. It will also assist the class in the following areas:

  • Facilitating student outreach and research by providing background materials, serving as liaison to community members and organizations, and integrating student work into their planning process.

  • Providing guidance on community history, goals and priorities.

  • Assisting student efforts with staff and volunteers if necessary.

  • Providing feedback on the proposed goals, agenda and draft plan elements.

The three stages of the class project are the following:

Analysis of Economic Development Proposals

A number of long-standing ideas and proposals for economic development in the North End exist but have never been carefully considered in terms of their relationship to local goals, likely impact and feasibility. In this first phase, students will inventory these community proposals, assess their potential to advance local economic development goals, and develop alternative proposals for client consideration, if appropriate. Key elements of this phase will include:

  1. Gaining familiarity with the North End and its economic development goals;

  2. Profiling existing neighborhood, city and regional economic conditions and opportunities;

  3. Assessing potential resources to implement different proposals;

  4. Evaluating and comparing the proposed and alternative economic development projects and programs.

Based on the findings from this preliminary analysis, the class will recommend which proposals to incorporate into an economic development plan and which ones the class should focus on for its plan. These findings and recommendations be reviewed with the Campus Committee and decisions will be made on the planning agenda for the semester.

Detailed Research, Analysis and Planning for Priority Projects/Programs

In this second phase, student teams will undertake more in-depth research, analysis and design around the agreed upon agenda to better understand the requirements needed to implement the projects and programs, assess existing resources and assets, identify critical obstacles and resource gaps to address, and define other factors that shape effective design and implementation of the proposal strategies, projects and programs.

Formulation of Recommendations and Preparation of the Final Plan

In the final phase, the class will review the results of its analysis and research, develop detailed proposals to implement strategies, projects and programs and integrate these recommendations into a draft overall economic development and capacity building plan. After reviewing this draft plan with the entire class and the Campus Committee, the class will revise the plan for a final public presentation and written report. Students will present the final plan to the client and an invited audience sometime during the final two weeks of class. The final report will be due at the end of the final week of class.

Class Requirements

Most classes will consist of a short lecture on the daily/weekly topic, individual/group work time, and review/wrap up time. The lectures and discussions will introduce key concepts relevant to the weekly assignments. The instructors will conduct informal reviews that will include an opportunity for reflection with individual students (or groups) on a weekly basis. Periodically, the class will pin-up all its work and participate in a larger review and group reflection process. Ongoing reflection exercises will be completed and recorded in individual journals, and group discussions will address issues facing the class as they assume the role of practitioners in Springfield.

We expect students to engage with the North End community in Springfield. One Friday each month, leaving on Thursday night, will be set aside for class trips that the Department will subsidize. The CRCP also employs a liaison who commutes to Springfield each week and whom students should coordinate with for any additional fieldwork.

It is essential that all reading be completed in advance of each class. This course will build on previous work completed in Springfield by MIT classes and individual researchers under the direction of the CRCP. The CRCP has developed an extensive archive of resources on the community, including:

  • Maps

  • Histories

  • Census Data

  • GIS Project Data Neighborhood Plans

  • Community Knowledge

  • Novels - Background on Puerto Rican Urban Communities

  • Theoretical Writings on Urban Design and Community Development

These resources will be available to students as needed.


This class is a practicum studio. Class requirements include extensive reading, active class participation, and involvement and contribution to the project. Your active participation and contribution to class discussions are worth 20% of your grade, attendance is worth 10%, and the remaining 70% of your grade will be based on the final economic development plan for the North End of Springfield. In a nutshell:

Attendance 10%
Active Participation and Contribution to Class Discussions 20%
Group Project 70%

Students’ work will be evaluated informally on a weekly basis, and more formally through pin-ups every two or three weeks. During these more formal pin-ups, students will be given feedback on their efforts to process and integrate the information they have received and will be expected to reflect on how their work is related to their process of identity construction.

When final master plans are completed, team members will be asked to evaluate and grade each member of the group (including themselves) based on individuals’ active participation in the project and contribution to the team. These evaluations will be considered during the grading process.

Course Info
As Taught In
Fall 2005
Learning Resource Types
theaters Lecture Videos
collections Image Gallery
notes Lecture Notes
assignment_turned_in Written Assignments with Examples
group_work Projects with Examples