Impact Accelerators | City to City: Finding Equitable Solutions to Local Policy Problems

City to City: Finding Equitable Solutions to Local Policy Problems

City to City (C2C) will respond to real-world policy problems and create societal impact through a fundamental shift in the way community-engaged research is conducted. This Impact Accelerator will identify specific problems in the public policy realm and deploy Impact Engines to address those identified issues.


Local policymakers often lack rigorous data and analysis about which policies are most effective, yet academics typically do not apply their knowledge to the most pressing policy issues in these local contexts creating a “valley of death” between knowledge and practice.


State and city agencies face urgent but long-standing policy challenges in areas such as housing, crime, opioids, and workforce development and need the expertise and resources to find solutions that are both systemic and equitable. ​

Universities have the expertise to design and implement smart solutions, yet these local policy challenges do not fit neatly into disciplines nor semesters, so faculty need to work collaboratively across areas and in real-time with policymakers.​



In 2020, gun violence killed nearly 20,000. Gun deaths have increased by 30% since the start of the pandemic. Working with city leaders, C2C researchers helped design new summer job opportunities for low-income youth and are evaluating the program’s long-term impacts on violent crime based on the premise that “Nothing stops a bullet like a job.”


More than 90,000 Americans died of a drug overdose during 2020 with most of those deaths attributable to opioids. In partnership with several community health centers, C2C researchers developed an opioid buyback program and are testing its effectiveness at reducing the amount of opioids flowing into low-income communities.


In January 2020, there were 580,466 people experiencing homelessness in America. Roughly 30% are families with children. During the pandemic, C2C researchers advised state agencies on developing Emergency Rental Assistance programs and will assess the program’s impact on helping low-income households with overdue rent and utility bills.


The U.S. faces a historically tight labor market with two job openings for every one unemployed person – the tightest ratio ever recorded-with even greater demand in STEM industries. As part of a three-state coalition, C2C researchers helped develop a training and career pathway for marginalized workers in the biopharma manufacturing and clean tech industries and will study the effectiveness of such programs to reduce unemployment for low-income populations.


Our model fosters long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships with city and state agencies to promote the co-production of data-driven solutions that maximize societal impact.

C2C will scale this proven model across the university through the Center for Public Policy Innovation and Practice (CPPIP) to support public problem solving that is grounded in the local context at each global campus location.


Alicia Sasser Modestino

Research Director​, Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy​ (@Boston)


Carrie Maultsby-Lute

​Director, Center for Transformative Action (@Mills)



Distinguished Advisors
  • Ted Landsmark, Dukakis Center
  • Kate Karniouchina, Lokey School (@Mills)
  • Margaret Burnham, School of Law
  • Robert DeLeo, CPS
  • Judge Ireland, SCCJ
  • Ralph Martin (retired)
  • Jack McDevitt, SCCJ
  • Mills Institute Executive Director (TBD)
Multidisciplinary Key Content Collaborators
  • Jared Auclair, COS
  • Carolyn Sherwood Call, Business (@Mills)
  • Amy Farrell, SCCJ and IRJ
  • Joan Fitzgerald, Dukakis Center
  • Aileen Huang-Saad, Roux
  • Kristian Kloeckl, CAMD
  • Jamie Ladge, DMSB
  • Alisa Lincoln, Bouve and IHESJR
  • Mindy Marks, Economics
  • Dan O’Brien, SPPUA
  • Lorien Rice, Lokey School (@Mills)
  • Matt Ross, SPPUA/Economics
  • Wendi Williams, School of Education (@Mills)
  • Christo Wilson, Khoury
  • Liz Zulick, Lowell Institute
Important Resources & Network Contributors
  • Kim Lucas, Dukakis Center
  • Mark Henderson, Lokey School (@Mills)
  • Becca Berkey, CETR
  • Nigel Jacob, Burnes Center
  • Renee Jadushlever (@Mills)
  • Kemi Jona, Digital Innov. &Enterprise Learning
  • Rebecca Riccio, Social Impact Lab
  • Connie Yowell, Educational Innovation


Local Government Agencies


  • Boston Office of Workforce Development
  • Boston Department of Youth Engagement & Employment
  • Commonwealth Corporation
  • MA Department of Unemployment Assistance
  • MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education


  • Oakland Policy Department
  • Oakland Economic and Workforce Development
  • Oakland Workforce Development Board
  • Associate of Bay Area Governments
  • East Bay EDA

Industry Groups/Employers


  • Boston Private Industry Council,
  • MassBio, MassBioEd, 
  • Sanofi Genzyme, Moderna, Vertex 


  • East Bay Community Law Center.
  • Grid Alternatives, Port of Oakland,
  • PG&E, Powerhouse, SEI
Educational Institutions


  • Boston Public Schools
  • Bunker Hill Community College
  • Roxbury Community College


  • Oakland Unified School District
  • Peralta Community College System
  • Cerritos Community College


  • Action for Boston Community Development
  • Boston Private Industry Council
  • English for New Bostonians
  • Youth Options Unlimited
  • YearUp


  • Alliance for Community Development
  • National Veteran Transition Services, Inc (REBOOT)
  • Tesiac Corp 
  • Powerhouse
  • Open Doors

Adam Gamoran

President, William T. Grant Foundation

“Research conducted in partnership with public agencies finds a ready audience for action. Our foundation supports research that yields high profile findings. One example is summer youth employment opportunities in Boston. We had a study by Alicia Modestino, an economist at Northeastern University, showing that investments in summer youth employment payoff for less crime and more educational attainment, and she’s continuing that work in Boston.”

Midori Morikawa

Deputy Chief, Economic Opportunity Inclusion, City of Boston

“From the Mayor’s perspective, the contribution to sustainability was evident in continuing the work with Alicia and increasing by $4m the investment in summer jobs. “No other higher education institution offers such high levels of engagement with policymakers and on-the-ground community practitioners to make societal impacts that’s timely and relevant.”

Loren Taylor

Oakland City Councilor

But for Taylor it all circles back to the impact Mills has made and will continue to make on the Oakland community. One example is the college’s Center for Transformative Action, which brings together students, businesses and community leaders to create economic opportunities and promote environmental justice and social equality. “That’s an example of going outside the walls or the gates of the campus to make a broader impact,”


If you’re looking to learn more about this Impact Engine or would like to talk about Impact Engines in general, our support team is eager to assist.


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