Place Leadership Network FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about the Place Leadership Network and Institute

  • Who is this for?

Inclusive and vibrant public spaces require dedicated stewards. These stewards are as varied as the places under their care: they can be Main Streets organizations, “Friends Of” groups, parks conservancies, public-private consortia, Business Improvement Districts, state-designated Cultural Districts, Community Development Corporations, and others. Collectively, we refer to this broad field of urban agents as “place managers.”

Over the past decades, these types of organizations have been increasingly responsible for the shape of their neighborhoods. They formulate policy, advocate for city services, activate public spaces, lead tenanting strategies, and, most recently, bulwark communities against the tide of gentrification.

Though they differ vastly in mandate and capacity, what unites these place managers is their vital role -- whether formal or not -- in representing community interest in the design and activation of shared spaces.

This program is intended to serve organizations that, as their primary mission, are responsible for a particular place. For-profit entities are not eligible to apply. Artists working on placemaking initiatives should explore TBF's Live Arts Boston, NEFA’s Creative City Boston, and Now+There’s artist accelerator program for possible funding opportunities.

  • What is it?

The Place Leadership Network is an initiative of the Boston Foundation to connect and strengthen leaders in the place management field in the Boston area. For nine months, local place-based leaders will learn from one another, access a network of expertise and resources, and develop transformative projects for their communities. The Boston Foundation will dedicate a meaningful fund, available to participants at the conclusion of the program, to implement programs and projects that are developed as part of the Place Leadership Network.

  • How many organizations will be selected?

We anticipate that the first cohort will include between six and eight place management organizations. To encourage deeper organizational engagement, we ask that each place management organization -- or consortium -- is represented by three individuals that can attend consistently.

  • What if my organization doesn't have three staff?

Applications will be accepted either from a single organization, or as a consortium of organizations that are focused on a specific public space. In case of a single place management organization with sufficient staff and board capacity, three individuals (such as a board member, executive director, and program staf) will be listed in the application. In case of consortia-- if, for instance, the lead organization only has one or fewer FTE staff -- the applying consortium might include a place management organization executive director, an active member of a resident group, and a dedicated volunteer for a community garden.

  • Is this limited to the City of Boston?

No. Organizations from throughout the Greater Boston region are eligible to apply.

  • What is the time commitment?

The Place Leadership Network program will begin in late August of 2019 and conclude in May 2020. After an initial, two-day offsite seminar, participants will commit to one full day and evening together each month. Besides monthly in-person meetings, participants will engage in online discussions and readings, and attend occasional talks, tours, and regional conferences.

  • Is there financial compensation for participation?

Place Leadership Network participants will be compensated for their time with a total stipend of $15,000, or $5,000 per individual if the applicant is a consortium. Reasonable travel and incidental expenses will be reimbursed.

At the conclusion of the program, the Boston Foundation will make available to participants a meaningful fund, to be used for implementing projects in their communities.

  • What will participants learn?

The Place Leadership Network is centered around a nine-month “institute,” which is part formal curriculum, part collaborative practice, part informal relationship-building. It is intended to be a flexible format that prizes cooperation, creativity, and dialogue.

We understand that what we are asking is a big, time-intensive commitment. But it’s the direct result of what we’ve heard again and again from the field: that to elevate our collective practice, we need time and space to plan, shared language, inspiration from colleagues, and support from civic institutions. The institute format is a direct response. Over nine sessions, we will critically and deeply engage with contemporary debates that bear on our work. We will trace the evolution of urban planning and design over the past century, pausing over key figures such as New York City’s Jane Jacobs, Paris’s Guy Debord, or Chicago’s Theaster Gates. We will synthesize difficult, sometimes contradictory media artifacts such as design podcasts, scholarly articles, art criticism, and news stories. We will encourage each other as colleagues and challenge each other as equals, creating a space for openness and candor. And we’ll emerge stronger, better positioned to serve as leaders in our communities.

  • Who will be leading and facilitating the program?

Place Leadership Network operates on the assumption that program participants bring vast expertise and experience to the table. Place managers are already undertaking creative, innovative work in their communities. Therefore, PLN will serve as a platform for peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing. All applicants will be expected to contribute insights, case studies, and active dialogue.

Additionally, curricular modules will be facilitated by the top national and regional experts. The Boston Foundation is grateful for the partnership of Enterprise Community Partners, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the City of Boston, City Parks Alliance, International Downtown Association, Harvard Graduate School of Design, and others who will guide individual sessions and provide relevant materials.

  • How is the program related to the Boston Foundation's arts and culture area?

The Boston Foundation invests in the creation of a more “fertile ground” for increased high-quality, contemporary public art within the urban environment in Greater Boston. TBF has made significant investments in the capacity and quality of public art in the region through programs such as Live Arts Boston and support of key organizations including Now + There. Increasingly, these producers -- who represent an emerging generation of artists of color, new Americans, and members of the LGBTQI communities -- are well-positioned to create and present work in neighborhoods throughout Boston. But while this growing group of creative producers is prepared to engage in creative placemaking, place managers often lack the resources to act as hosts and venues for creative expression. The Place Leadership Network intends to address this asymmetry. Similar to preparing creative producers to engage with place, PLN will now equip places to engage with creativity. A strong place management sector, coupled with a creative sector, ultimately leaving Boston’s communities more creative, culturally vibrant, equitable.

  • Why here and now?

In the current moment of planning and development boom, Boston is undergoing dramatic changes. Like many other cities across the U.S., Boston is being reshaped by real estate market pressures, demographic shifts, climate change, globalization, and other powerful forces. At this pivotal moment, the interests and identity of the city’s neighborhoods are in greatest need of being championed.

The place management organizations throughout Boston are the most effective champions of local interests, and the best platforms for the cultural expressions of their communities. They are at the front lines of making their communities beautiful, activated, and equitable.