The community speaks

Boston Creates undertook an extensive community engagement process that opened with a town hall meeting on June 2, 2015 and ended on October 15, 2015 with the close of a citywide online survey.


The mixed-method research process included:

  • 3 town hall meetings;
  • 118 community conversations;
  • 35 stakeholder focus groups and 50 one-on-one interviews;
  • a creative engagement participation survey in 4 languages; and
  • an online, crowd-sourced map of cultural assets.


To ensure the widest possible range of responses, the engagement process included advertising in culturally specific news outlets for the general public in addition to traditional outlets for arts and culture sector-specific news and events. We designed the process to be accessible and welcoming to a broad cross-section of residents and visitors, sector participants, and stakeholders, including:

  • arts and culture audiences and participants
  • artists, creators, makers, performers
  • producers, presenters, programmers, teachers, architects, administrators, designers, media makers, and other representatives of the nonprofit and for-profit arts sectors
  • arts and culture supporters, donors, trustees, foundations, corporate givers
  • youth and young adults
  • young professionals, parents, and seniors
  • representatives of allied sectors such as tourism, higher education, health care, regional planning, public safety, health and human services, real estate development, finance
  • representatives of City government
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Jouvert (August 29, 2015): Before the Caribbean Festival starts, or perhaps to signal its beginning, Jouvert takes place in Dorchester, MA. Revelers stroll down Blue Hill Ave welcoming dawn while dancing and listening to diverse music from the Caribbean. Photo by Leonardo March.

To identify individuals from whom to seek input, Boston Creates used a “Creative Capital” framework. Developed specifically for Boston and based on research attempting to measure the “cultural vitality of cities,” the Creative Capital framework suggests that a culturally vibrant city requires:

  1. creatively engaged youth, families, individuals, and communities
  2. a strong pool of artists and creative entrepreneurs
  3. an active marketplace for arts, culture, and creativity
  4. sustainable arts and culture institutions and venues
  5. supportive civic/municipal policies and goals
  6. active use of the arts and creative enterprises to animate and problem-solve in all aspects of public life.

Through its various outreach and engagement methods, Boston Creates involved more than 5,000 residents and visitors to Boston, thereby gaining a broad and detailed perspective on the city’s arts and culture sector.