Course Description

Students work with members of Lawrence Community Works, Inc. (LCW), a community development corporation dedicated to organizing and community planning, to advance the Reviviendo Gateway Initiative (RGI). The RGI is a long-term and resident-led community development plan that promotes family asset building and physical redevelopment in the North Common neighborhood located in the City of Lawrence, Massachusetts.

To begin, students will research the subject of individual development accounts (IDAs), a new and innovative asset building program. IDAs are usually thought of as helping individual families in terms of long term capital expenditures like homeownership and education, yet we will explore the ways the concept can be used for collective decisions in a given physical area. Students will work with LCW members to collect data and explore the potential implications of involving residents in an aggressive IDA program.

The course content covers three broad areas. They are: e-planning, community development, and reflective practice. This subject gives students an opportunity to acquire important professional skills by exploring the extent to which marginalized constituencies – like youth, immigrants, and minorities – identify problems, produce information, build power and consensus to affect planning-related outcomes using ICTs around a particular issue. Those skills include effective one-on-one and group communication, the production of a tangible product for the community, and the manipulation of such tools as HTML, Photoshop, Access, ArcPad, and ArcGIS.

Unlike the conventional model of academic research and the most prevalent types of applied research, LCW members will not function as passive subjects, nor do students act as experts whose principal responsibility is to deliver a final product. Rather the practicum follows a participatory action research model whereby students work hand-in-hand with LCW members. The course format requires students to form two distinct groups, each focusing their energies on a different set of tasks. The first group will conduct research on asset building through IDAs, interview residents, and create a web site to disseminate IDA information, while the other group designs a protocol for collecting spatial data, works with residents in the field to inventory the housing stock, and constructs a ArcGIS project that will reside in LCW’s Design Center.

Reviviendo means "return to life" in Spanish.


In October 2003, the Lawrence City Council voted unanimously to pass the Reviviendo overlay district proposal, which went into effect immediately. The overlay district, RGI’s first initiative, represents an historic modification to the zoning code that streamlines the approval process for developers and property owners interested in building or expanding structures. This victory is meaningful to the MIT faculty and students who worked to promote the overlay district in Advanced GIS Project course held in spring of 2003. For seven weeks and in conjunction with LCW staff, MCP students designed a neighborhood information system, or sistema de información sobre el vecindario, to publicize information pertaining to the overlay district project. The site is located at Reviviendo - Gateway Initiative. This course seeks to build on this work.


LCW Design Center

LCW’s Design Center is an in-house technical assistance office which provides support to the real estate, family asset-building, and community organizing teams. The Center's purpose is to make planning technologies available to residents, increase access across the digital divide, and train a team of youth and adult volunteers to provide analytical assistance to other residents. CommunityWorks' Design Center Team will be the primary link between local residents and MIT/DUSP.

IDA Program (Assets Build Communities - ABC)

ABC is an asset-building program primarily focused on building the wealth of low-income Latina women and youth, as both groups are impacted disproportionately by poverty and barriers to success. ABC is centered on IDAs, which are matched savings accounts with restricted uses to help low-income families gain tangible assets (such as a home or a business) and intangible assets (such as economic literacy and self-sufficiency). The twin cornerstones of the program are the savings and match dollars central to helping participants achieve their dreams, and the education, training, and counseling that participants receive to improve their economic literacy and financial stability.


Assignments are detailed in the assignments section.

1 10%
2a / 2b 10%
3a / 3b 20%
4 25%
5 5%
6a / 6b 20%
Other 10%
Total 100%