Urban scholars to address the needs of fast changing cities

With support from SAGE Publications and the McCune Foundation, a group of key scholars and activists recently met in New York City, to explore how to understand urban challenges, to create effective public policy, and to memorialize the legacy of fellow scholar and activist Marilyn Jacobs Gittell, who died earlier this year.

Marilyn Jacobs Gittell was an outstanding scholar and a community urban activist who wrote seminal works on urban participation, was the founding editor of Urban Affairs Quarterly, now known as Urban Affairs Review, the leading academic journal in the field of urban research, and was an impassioned participant in one of the most controversial social experiments of her time (NYC school decentralization). She was deeply committed to training young urban scholars of color and women, and taught them to understand the workings of democracy from the ground up, using the methods of field research.

In addition to discussion about what type of permanent memorial could be created to honor Marilyn Gittell’s life work of strengthening the practice and theory of urban-based field research on community participation, the group explored such questions as:

  • What are the urgent new challenges fast-changing cities are facing?
  • What policy solutions can produce effective urban change?
  • How do we share research findings with the public?

“Informing public debate and policy about urban issues was an important aspect of Professor Gittell’s life’s work and we hope to create a dynamic research enterprise for people to learn and collaborate on urban field work and action research,” said Dayna Cunningham, Executive Director, MIT Community Innovators Lab. “She helped those around her to truly understand and to affect change their cities and we’re hoping to provide a base to help future generations participate in the public debate to find solutions for the urgent new challenges that will be evident in their own cities.”

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