The Policy Center builds diverse partnerships to produce rigorous research that frames issues and offers actionable strategies.
We strive to be a vigorous participant in civic debates, hosting and presenting at events, serving on advisory councils, testifying before legislative committees, and providing a sounding board for journalists. Occasionally, we take a leadership role with long-term initiatives like the Gateway Cities Innovation Institute and the Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.
- Unlocking the economic potential of regional cities.
- Improving the performance of the Massachusetts criminal justice system.
- The Next Generation Accountability Learning Community (NGALC) explores Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) from the perspective of small-to-midsize urban districts.
- MassINC’s multi-year effort to advance strategic state policy for Gateway City growth and renewal
Gateway City Leaders
- Feb 1, 2019
In an attempt to stem the decline of neighborhoods essential to the continued viability of these cities, two legislators, state Sen. Brendan Crighton of Lynn and state Rep. Antonio Cabral of New Bedford have filed bills that would take a multi-pronged approach to stabilizing neighborhoods, increase the state’s investment in such an effort, and coordinate various state initiatives to maximize their impact. Specifically, the proposal would double the cap of the state’s Housing Development Incentive Program to $20 million, create a “spot blight rehabilitation program” that would address distressed properties before they could negatively affect surrounding neighborhoods and consider neighborhood viability when considering school construction, among other measures.
Mr. Forman of MassINC, whose report helped spur the effort, was most excited about the role of schools in the process. “More than half the state’s capital spending in Gateway Cities is in school building,” he told The Eagle. “Schools are the most important drivers of residential property value.” A school, he added, can become the multi-purpose core of a solid, stable neighborhood. “We had to get the state away from the idea that it should build the same school everywhere,” he said, citing the provision of child mental and physical health care and nighttime English language classes as functions influencing the design of a school to suit the needs of its neighborhood.
- Feb 1, 2019
New legislation filed by members of the Gateway Cities Legislative Caucus, based on research by MassINC and the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations, aims to address those problems. The bill proposes a combination of state funding and initiatives that supporters say will help towns and cities stabilize distressed areas.
The proposal is built on a report by MassINC, a nonpartisan think tank, and the MACDC completed earlier this year. Representatives from the groups joined lawmakers Wednesday to promote the bill, where copies of the 24-page report were handed out.
“It really comes back to neighborhood policy that we’ve been lacking in some way since the federal government walked off the job,” said Ben Forman, executive director of MassINC’s Gateway Cities Innovation Institute. “These neighborhoods are the greatest assets to our cities.”
- Jan 30, 2019
Those steep climbs emerged from deep troughs: Gateway cities suffered more than most in the last recession, and unemployment rates remained stubbornly high even after other communities bounced back. “They didn’t get the wind in their sails until late in the recovery,’’ said Benjamin Forman, research director at the nonprofit Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth, known as MassINC…
We may also be seeing the fruit of seeds sown more than a decade ago, when a 2007 report by MassINC and the Brookings Institution studied the disparities between booming Boston and the state’s smaller outlying cities, and urged lawmakers not to leave the latter behind. State funding followed for an initial group of 11 gateway cities — later expanded to include 26 communities of between 35,000 and 250,000 residents with income and educational attainment levels below the state average. And after years of investments, many are increasingly attractive to home buyers.
- Jan 21, 2019
In the wealthy Boston suburbs, housing prices are skyrocketing and affordable housing is hard to find, even for working families.
But travel west to Springfield, and the picture is different.
Housing prices, measured by median price per square foot, are among the lowest in the state. Nine percent of buildings are vacant. Nearly 40,000 residents — more than a quarter of the city’s population — live in areas where poverty rates are above 40 percent, according to a recent report by the MassINC think tank.
- Jan 20, 2019
FALL RIVER — As Ben Forman explains it, Fall River’s housing problem is almost the opposite of the issue facing residents and officials in Boston.
While the state’s largest city faces a shortage of housing and a growing demand for places to live, Fall River, and many of the state’s other so-called Gateway Cities, are having to find ways to renovate and fill existing buildings that people can’t afford to, or don’t want to, live in.
″(These are) cities that have an older housing stock,” said Forman, the research director for the independent think tank MassINC. “They’re traditionally in low- or moderate-income communities and as that older housing stock gets more expensive to maintain, you see some challenges.”
Why support massinc?
We enjoy what we do.Whether it’s planning events, conducting research, or analyzing the news, our team works on projects that we’re passionate about.
We develop leaders.Former MassINC employees have gone on to work at reputable organizations like Harvard University, Boston University, City Year, EnerNOC, and Governor Baker’s office.
We stick with it.Our work on transformative development, which uses public and private funding for projects to revitalize an entire downtown or urban neighborhood, began as Policy Center research report in 2013. A year later, the state legislature passed a bill funding transformative development projects across Massachusetts.
We are nonpartisan.Our Board of Directors includes prominent Massachusetts Democrats and Republicans. We are interested people’s ideas, not which side of the aisle they sit on.
We have a complete toolbox.We aren’t just a think tank. We bring nonpartisan research, civic engagement, journalism, and independent polling together under one roof.
We have state-wide reach.We know that Beacon Hill isn’t the only place to make progress. We’re on the ground in cities across the state working with local leaders.
We have unique networks.We use our connections to bring together a cross-section of diverse leaders to solve problems. Our networks include mayors, economic development directors, superintendents, business people, newspaper editors, arts leaders, and regional transit officials.
Explore research reports
- MassINC is a key partner to the Boston Foundation, and all of us who are seeking to advance the regional conversation around economic opportunity and a strong quality of life for all. MassINC's robust, nonpartisan research is exactly what our citizens and leaders need to make good decisions.
Paul Grogan, President of The Boston Foundation
- I watch my inbox for CommonWealth magazine’s Daily Download. I can count on the newsletter to tell me succinctly what’s happening in politics and public policy. The magazine itself always delivers in-depth news, analysis and commentary. It's simply outstanding, quality journalism. I am happy to support unbiased reporting through my participation in Citizens Circle.
Helen Chin Schlichte
Former Public Administrator; President Emeritus, South Cove Manor at Quincy Point
- MassINC's long-term dedication to Gateway Cities makes them a valuable resource to all of our communities. They are a true thought partner. They go the distance to help others appreciate our unique opportunities, needs, and perspectives.
Tim McGourthy Executive Director of the Worcester Regional Research Bureau
- MassINC serves as a credible, thoughtful resource for all of us who are invested in the future of the Commonwealth. Its emphasis on careful analysis that is grounded in data, research, and polling makes an important contribution to and helps elevate the conversation about the challenges and opportunities facing the region.
Trevor Pollack, Manager of Special Projects for the Barr Foundation
- The potential of Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities is limitless. MassINC’s dedicated work in promoting these cities has been, and will continue to be, instrumental in their individual and collective success.
Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development and former chair of the Gateway Cities Innovation Institute
- MassINC has always provided research showing the detrimental impact of the state’s unforgiving criminal justice system on our communities. Their polling confirmed that the public understood the need for change in our system. That criminal justice reform is at the forefront of bipartisan local and national debates today is in no small measure due to MassINC’s persistent and fair commitment to the issue.
Juliette Kayyem Faculty Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Founder Kayyem Solutions LLC
- Through my partnership with MassINC, the Building On What Works Coalition is working to unite a diverse collection of civic leaders around an urgent call to encourage the state to act on the progress that has been made ensuring all children in Massachusetts have a true chance to succeed in the state’s economy. MassINC’s research and commitment to data driven public policy are helping to give the children of Massachusetts a better education.
Kim Driscoll Mayor of Salem
- MassINC's work with the Gateway Cities is unmatched. As Eastern Bank strives to help businesses in these communities thrive, MassINC has been a tremendous partner, providing data-driven research and affirming that these cities are full of opportunities.
Bob Rivers Chairman and CEO of Eastern Bank
- When MassINC speaks, it’s well worth listening. After all, the nonpartisan think tank has established itself as a thoughtful, careful, credible voice on public policy in Massachusetts.
Scot Lehigh Boston Globe Op-Ed Columnist
- Few organizations in the country have better understood the important role of governance reform and accountability in education policy and economic development than MassINC.
Bruce Katz Former Vice President and Founding Director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at The Brookings Institution
- [MassINC's] understanding of the complexity of the challenges facing the state’s older cities, its belief in the opportunities that present themselves in those communities, and its advocacy of the role that public higher education can and should play in them, has added to the understanding that policy makers need to have as they move our state toward the future.