Asian Community Development Corporation

Boston, MA

The Asian Community Development Corporation, a community-based organization, is committed to high standards of performance and integrity in serving the Asian American community of Greater Boston, with an emphasis on preserving and revitalizing Boston’s Chinatown.

The Corporation develops physical community assets, including affordable housing for rental and ownership; promotes economic development; fosters leadership development; builds capacity within the community and advocates on behalf of the community.

Project Description: 

One of ACDC’s principal roles in Chinatown is to organize the community to influence the future of our neighborhood through proactive urban planning and by guiding real estate development. Chinatown is experiencing intense development pressures that, if not handled with foresight and focused community engagement strategies, could conflict significantly with the needs of its current residents. Even as ACDC has been able to increase the affordable housing inventory, we are concerned that Asian American families are slipping further behind in the struggle for financial self-sufficiency. ACDC is working to identify resources and create a sustainable multidisciplinary approach to connect both individual and community level needs to the physical developments unfolding in the neighborhood.

More recently ACDC has been identified by the Ford Foundation and MacArthur Foundation for significant investment in comprehensive and participatory community development projects. As the economic crisis puts strains on all sectors of society that low-income and immigrant communities rely upon, government, social service agencies, businesses, and even family assets, the call has gone up for better and more collaborations to ensure more efficiencies while maintaining the delivery of services.

Census 2000 shows 1,761 housing units in Chinatown. Since then, 2,091 new units have been built or proposed, an increase of 84% marked by predominantly market-rate or luxury development. Rent increased 10% to 200% in six housing developments in two years. Within Chinatown, the Boston Redevelopment Authority website currently lists nine projects, totaling 1,914,719 square feet of residential, retail, and /or office development approved or under construction. The cumulative impact of these new development pressures threatens the existing population.

To date, ACDC has facilitated and led three major community planning efforts and are currently engaged in the Chinatown 2010 Master Plan update. The VISTA will help to transform planning practices from limited transactions between developers and communities to a persistent conversation shaped by participatory learning. ACDC, and its partners, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) and the Hub2 collaborative, seeks to activate local residents in the participation of the design and development of their own public spaces. Chinatown residents will engage in a learning process that includes 3D tools and problem-solving techniques to help them articulate both their individual and community values and a vision for the future.

This FY 2010, 10-month project will engage youth volunteers to sit side-by side with community participants in physical space (e.g. the local high school or community center) and simultaneously to help them navigate a 3D virtual space where they engage in scenario building to test various urban design proposals. Through this program, youth will serve as assistants and interpreters who mediate between the virtual environment and the community participants. VISTA project activities will include developing a system and infrastructure that increases our capacity for youth recruitment, management, and training, as well as planning for facilitated collaborative learning sessions about neighborhood design. The partnership with Hub2 and the planned sessions will last for a 10-month funded period. The work that the VISTA performs will not be needed for the same purposes beyond this project term. However, we anticipate that the VISTA’s contribution will enhance future organizational youth recruitment and engagement practices.

Project Tangibles: 
This project is applicable in any community planning context and will provide a unique perspective on how technology enhances democratic participation. The intergenerational aspect will reveal the benefits of bringing together youth’s technological expertise and the input of older residents. Given the linguistic barriers in Chinatown, we will determine how to bridge language gaps through a virtual environment. Project outcomes, renderings, and records will be disseminated through ACDC and Hub2 websites and MacArthur Foundation forums. ACDC plays a key role in the 2010 Master Plan process for Chinatown. The methodology and outcomes will be shared with other neighborhood entities and agencies involved in the planning process. Hub2 staff, affiliated with colleges and research institutions, will have the opportunity to share finding within the academic community through white papers. More importantly, lessons learned will go towards shaping future uses of their methodology and tools.

Supported Projects

Online Marketing and Outreach Development

Joseph Crugnale

We would like to host a VISTA member who will develop effective social media communication that will support and complement A-VOYCE’s existing communications and outreach structure. The VISTA member will primarily be responsible developing our use of social media tools such as, but not limited to, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, blogs, wikis, for publicity, marketing, and fundraising purposes. The VISTA will develop training material for youth and staff on blogging, podcasting, digital and social media. ACDC needs to capitalize on social networking media and build our organizational capacity through increased use of technology-enabled venues.

Goal: To create and implement a web-based marketing and outreach strategy for ACDC and A-VOYCE youth development program in order to maximize the program’s outreach and fundraising capacity

One of my main tasks is putting together our Annual Report. One of the more interesting elements of the report has been coordinating Chinese translations that accurately capture our programs; luckily there are staff members here who are able to help out with this.

The power of Facebook, Twitter, and many other forms of social media continue to fascinate me. We have some really innovative urban planning, human development, and youth-based programs which I think have great potential to be marketed using social media. It will be a good experiment to see just what is possible using these up and coming tools.

I have been able to apply my IST monies towards an accounting class. While at first glace an accounting class may not seem relevant to my marketing and communications work, it has been beneficial as I am gaining a greater understanding of how my organization operates. Additionally, it has helped me draft the important financial sections of our annual report, and compile content for charity rating websites which closely examine non-profit finances.

A-VOYCE Web Development Project Coordinator

Vimala Phongsavanh

We would like to host a VISTA member who will develop effective online communications that complement and support program work for ACDC’s youth program, Asian Voices of Organized Youth for Community Empowerment (A-VOYCE). This person works to inform the development of online strategic initiatives, and assumes primary responsibility for content development and strategy. A-VOYCE serves youth ages 13-19 from the Greater Boston area, with an emphasis on low-income youth from Boston and urban Asian American (AA) communities. This youth development program fosters leadership potential and encourages youth to develop an active voice in their community through two project tracts: producing and leading Chinatown walking tours and producing a weekly radio show that broadcasts on WMFO 91.5 Tuft Community Radio.

The VISTA member will primarily be responsible for creating a strategy to use web 2.0 tools such as, but not limited to, Facebook, Myspace, YouTube, blogs, and wikis,for publicity, marketing, and fundraising purposes. Depending on the VISTA member’s interests, s/he will have the opportunity to identify synergistic approaches that align electronic media and web content presentation with enterprise objectives. Possible projects would involve developing an online marketing plan to increase number of paid walking tours or creating a prototype for disseminating the audio walking tour. While the VISTA will not work directly with youth, s/he will be instrumental in growing the youth program by providing a framework for using web based tools and forums to share A-VOYCE projects such as podcasts of our radio shows, oral histories, and excerpts from a forthcoming A-VOYCE literary magazine. S/he will also work with the youth programs staff to identify best practices for media education and engaging youth in producing web media content.

Vilmala has been extraordinary at implementing a web based presense for the A-VOYCE program. Her skill in this areana has helped facilitate more open communication amongst and between the youth. The youth have a strong bond of trust with her and she has been a good role model and capable teacher for them. She has done a remarkable job at running the radio station, something she had no experience with before she came to ACDC. She is fearless when it comes to tackling challenges and issues and she does it with minimal supervision.

Shortly after she arrived at ACDC, we had the opportunity to partner with the CITGO-Venezuela Energy Efficient Lighting Program in partnership with Citizens Programs Corporation to implement a pilot program that would provide compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and energy efficiency education. The Program provided low-income households with educational materials on energy efficiency and energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs. Vimala took the project on and became proficient at delivering workshops and training to the Chinese community where she did not speak the language and faced overwhelming interest. ACDC was literally flooded with requests and the project took on a life of it’s own. Vimala handled this by recruiting chinese speaking residents to assist in teaching workshops and helping to handle the volume of people who flooded to ACDC to participate in the program. It also required a lot of community outreach, translation of materials and finding ways to communicate when there were cultural and linguistic barriers. The program was a smashing success, in large measure, because of Vimala’s attention to detail and open communication with board, staff, volunteers and community members. The program raised $22,972 for A-VOYCE which was a real boost for the program.

Vimala made a significant contribution to ACDC’s and A-VOYCE’s ability to expand our on-line presence. In the process she taught youth new web tools and created a way for them to freely communicate back and forth. She stepped up to the plate and ran the Energy Efficiency Program, which served over 1000 low-income community residents. We would not have had the staff capacity to run the program otherwise.”
- Dharmena Downey, supervisor

Transmission Project