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Engaging communities + Grant recipients

Co+build: The Community Building Project

For over 30 years the BSA Foundation has awarded grants to support public education programs in Massachusetts related to the built environment. Wentworth Institute of Technology (WIT), Center for Community and Learning Partnerships—a 2014 grantee—received a grant to support Co+build: The Community Building Project. Co+build is an innovative, community-driven effort that pairs Wentworth students and faculty experts with neighborhood projects focusing on community-based organizations and public schools. Learn more about Wentworth Institute of Technology, Center for Community and Learning Partnerships here.

WIT's summary of the program:

Co+build’s primary products included several small design/build projects that helped to improve the educational and recreational environment for two Boston public schools and a local community organization. Additionally, Wentworth students who participated in Co+build projects acquired knowledge of grassroots, community-based planning, design, construction, and management to address neighborhood needs as prioritized by community members and organizations.

Who was the audience and what was the benefit?

The Center worked with Boston Public Schools’ administration, students, and other stakeholders and community-based organizations, exposing them to engineering/design skills, improving shared spaces, and building a sense of community. Each Co+Build project involved an average of 20-30 stakeholders (students, parents, teachers, administrators, and neighbors).   

How did this program meet BSA Foundation funding goals?

Co+build aligned exceptionally well with the BSA Foundation’s priorities around increasing public awareness of architecture and the built environment; elevating awareness and understanding of urban design, planning, and construction; having substantial public impact; engaging diverse participants from all walks of life; and incorporating hands-on collaboration. The ultimate goal of Co+build is to support community stakeholders as constructors of their own environment while introducing students to the power of community-based planning, design, and construction. Through Co+build, Wentworth aims to facilitate and strengthen “town/gown” relationships, giving all participants a voice and empowering neighbors to execute a vision for their environment.  

What was the final product of your BSA Foundation grant-funded program?  

Wentworth worked collaboratively with staff, teachers, parents, and students of the Joseph P. Manning Elementary School to create a holistic master plan for the outdoor classroom and, this past fall, rebuilt a landscape staircase to make their playground safer. At the Carter School, four Master of Architecture students developed the Sunshade Project, which will be used to protect students with severe, intensive disabilities from the sun and precipitation. Additionally, Co+build students will complete an outdoor enclosure at the Thomas M. Menino YMCA in spring 2016 to expand the services the facility delivers to the community.  

How did you deliver your program to your target audience?

Each Co+build project is achieved through multi-stakeholder investment and driven by community leaders. The Center’s director and Wentworth students worked collaboratively with nonprofit administrators and community members, as well as Boston Public Schools’ facilities department, teachers, students, and staff, to engage all levels of participants in hands-on design/build activities that allowed them to be a part of the decision making and building process. Through clear, consistent, asset-based communication, the community partners looked to Wentworth staff, students, and faculty for hands-on expertise and long term planning solutions.  

Evaluate how well your program met your intended goals.

Co+build continues to evolve and make improvements each year. In our initial proposal to the BSA Foundation, we anticipated working with three BPS schools. While we completed a successful project with the Manning Elementary School, the other schools were not in a position to move forward. The BSA Foundation grant allowed us the flexibility to deepen other partnerships with another BPS school and nonprofit organization. In 2016, we hope to strengthen our relationship with local schools within the BPS system and additional nonprofit organizations.

Additional developements

Wentworth, through the Center’s efforts, has been nationally recognized for promoting reciprocal, transformative community partnerships. While Wentworth works collaboratively with high level administration at nonprofits and schools, we also focus on creating multi-stakeholder investments, driven by community leaders. Programs like Co+build help continue Boston’s 20 year initiative to improve schoolyards as an extension of the classroom and community space. Co+build also works with impactful community leaders like the YMCA of Greater Boston to identify opportunities to build upon existing community capacity, to expand programming, and create more enjoyable spaces for the community.


To learn more about how the BSA Foundation is making an impact in communities, please come to BSA Space for a one hour “tour” of BSA Foundation programs. On the tour, board members and volunteers will tell stories about how Foundation programs, and the power of design, are positively changing the lives of real people. Meet the BSA Foundation meetings are held on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month. Events are free, but seats are limited. Check for upcoming dates and to reserve your seat.