Rebuilding relationships in public spaces

Sol Tangvik (she/her) is a 2022 Summer Fellow with the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, working with the Office of Budget Management and the Office of Language and Communications Access to build the second iteration of Moving Through the Budget, a prototype to use movement therapy to engage residents on the city’s budget process.

I showed up to City Hall on my first day as a MONUM summer fellow thirty minutes early. I snapped a selfie in front of the building and took it all in — I was going to be working for the City of Boston. A city I grew up in. A city I love.

The project assigned to me was called Moving Through the Budget. It was a budget education workshop centered around movement therapy that had been piloted and my job was to expand the program. The scope of work that was written for me was peppered with language about healing, trauma, trust, journaling, and mental health. It wasn’t immediately clear to me why the city would engage with residents in this way. Why was this necessary?

I spent the next few weeks walking the corridors of City Hall, talking to different departments, having meetings in the mezzanine, researching on my laptop, and having lunch at the outdoor picnic tables. But as it turns out, the answer to my questions of why would not be found at City Hall.

It wasn’t until I started doing community outreach for the Open Streets programs that I started to understand the importance of programs like Moving Through the Budget. There I witnessed the visceral physical reaction people had when they heard the words “I’m here from The City.” These words triggered an immediate tension as the individual waited to hear what I had to say.

Sometimes the news I was sharing was well-received, the tension would slowly subside, and the conversation would quickly be over. Other times, the reaction was stronger. As soon as someone put together that I was from “The City”, they would take the opportunity to unleash their frustrations with city government: their qualms with city councilors and the mayor, their concerns about gentrification, racial disparities, and systemic inequalities, their feelings of abandonment, and on and on.

It became clear to me that these individuals held deep seeded trauma from their relationship with “The City.” And me, as a representative of “The City” was now responsible for those wounds. While this realization was challenging, and the conversations I had were sometimes uncomfortable, it gave me clarity on why Moving Through The Budget was so necessary.

A budget education program centered around healing and care can perhaps start to rebuild some lost trust and help rebuild a relationship between “The City” and its residents.

As a youth of Boston’s Hyde Square neighborhood, Sol Tangvik was enriched by public educational and cultural programs that became fundamental forces in her development. After an eight-year career in creative advertising and marketing, she decided to refocus her energy and skill set back into the city that gave her so much. Sol is currently a graduate student at Northeastern University studying urban planning at the nexus of equity, communication, design, and sustainability. Sol hopes to participate in creative and design processes to find new solutions to Boston’s nuanced urban issues. When Sol isn’t traveling to new places, you might find her hiking with her dog, dancing salsa, or enjoying live music.

About the Fellowship:

The New Urban Mechanics Summer Fellowship is designed for entrepreneurial students and professionals interested in working in public service. During this highly selective eight-week program, summer fellows work as a team and on their own projects, generating and implementing creative and thoughtful new prototypes to benefit the City of Boston.

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The Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics is Boston's Civic R&D Lab / Incubator.

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New Urban Mechanics

The Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics is Boston's Civic R&D Lab / Incubator.