Specific Activities (Phase 1-4)


Phase 1 (April 2008 - June 2008)

The events of Phase I laid important groundwork for the entire Youth Violence Systems Project. First, we completed the literature review and built a prototype website as a tool to communicate Project progress. Moreover, we designed an interview protocol, identified key leaders/experts, and began to talk with them. Together with our partners, the Boston Capacity Tank Oversight Committee, and the community, the Project team identified several high-violence neighborhoods that could be potential areas of focus. After selecting Uphams Corner as the first, we prepared the Uphams Corner Neighborhood Briefing Document (PDF) with key statistics regarding population, youth violence, historical trends, and other relevant information. Finally, the Project team worked with Dudley Street Neighborhood InitiativeBird Street Community Center, and Dorchester Bay Economic Development Center to identify and select residents for the first neighborhood design team.

Phase 2 (July 2008 - March 2009)

To ensure a holistic systems dynamic model perspective, the project team interviewed 35 community leaders, six academics and four institutional representatives, looked at publicly available datasets and research findings, conducted two listening sessions with gang experts; and convened a “psych team” of professionals to examine the psychological reasons for aggression and violence. The YVSP Steering Committee did the initial processing of data from these interviews, incorporating them into the design of the preliminary model framework. The first neighborhood design team was convened on October 30th, 2008 in Uphams Corner, and met on a near-monthly basis to process what we were hearing through the facilitated listening sessions. Toward the end of these meetings, the model building team incorporated all of this data and community input into a pilot simulation computer model. The Uphams Corner design team, comprised of 12 neighborhood residents who essentially oversaw the development of the model, approved the core logic of the model based on their understanding of how youth violence occurs. 

Phase 3 (April 2009 – January  2010)

In this phase we expanded our study to two more high-violence neighborhoods, Bowdoin/Geneva and Grove Hall, to deepen our understanding of how the system works and to refine the model, addressing how violence in these neighborhoods is interrelated. The neighborhood design teams met monthly to process what we heard from the listening sessions. The model building team incorporated this new information into the simulation model. We are now in the process of testing and revising the system dynamics model and, through our user-friendly "flight simulator" software, we have begun to share the Project's findings with the community.

Phase 4 (February 2010 -  December 2011)

As the focus of this fourth phase is implementation, it is important that the system dynamics model is put into the hands of a cross-section of trained stakeholders. This will lead to a deeper understanding and richer discussion of how to address youth violence in Boston. During this Phase, we will:

  • provide intensive training to 50 community agencies on how to use the model effectively and provide ongoing support to these agencies after the training.
  • convene two community conferences to discuss model feedback and usability recommendations.
  • train 200 youth workers to understand and use the model as they work with youth all over the city. This training will include workshops, forums, and courses.
  • convene an academic forum at Northeastern University to explore the public health and criminology/sociology implications of the model, discuss the model’s underlying logic and merits, and obtain critical academic review and feedback.
  • work with the High Risk Youth Network to identify and train qualified youth workers to serve as certified data providers who will help us obtain more data (as they encounter it in the neighborhoods) so we can continue to update the model with new information.
  • train other interested stakeholders (such as policymakers and institutional organizations) so they will be better able to evaluate past, current and proposed intervention strategies.
  • continue to work with Steve Peterson (our experienced model builder) to revise and improve the model based on what we’re learning, to increase its usefulness as a tool.

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