Karen Abrams:How to Foster Community Engagement

WED, MAY 24, 2017 (53:16)

As part of the Boston Office of Resilience and Racial Equity speaker series, Pittsburgh urban planner and Harvard Graduate School of Design Loeb fellow Karen Abrams discusses how she built up healthy community participation in Pittsburgh processes. Abrams tackled head-on the biggest obstacle that prevented her colleagues from engaging communities affected by change and development: they never spent time together. Abrams shares success stories and tips for building relationships and changing racial dynamics, encouraging ownership of changes within a neighborhood.

Photo Credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

+ BIO: Karen Abrams

As the Community and Diversity Affairs manager at the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, Karen Abrams ensures that disaffected residents of Pittsburgh’s historically African-American neighborhoods are actively engaged in real estate and economic development activities that have impact on their lives. She collaborates with residents on urban planning and design projects and helps neighborhood groups build social capital and financial capacity. Abrams has established several initiatives at URA to bring equity and inclusion to Pittsburgh’s land use and planning practices. These include the Urban Matters arts and design civic engagement program for youth in low-income communities and the Community Toolkit Project, which connects recent minority graduates of architecture and planning with African-American communities experiencing land use challenges. Just to name a few. Most recently she has been tasked with transforming URA’s Minority and Women Business Enterprise program into a 21st century wealth-building platform inspired by economic justice and inclusion principals.

During her Loeb Fellowship year, she is developing community development education tools for a Boston neighborhood organization, and is mentoring two urban design start-ups at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s DesignX accelerator. Abrams is a Harlem native with a Master of Science in Sustainable Systems from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor’s degree in African an African-American Studies from the University of Virginia.

Photo Credit: Boston.gov

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