What makes home, home?
Is it the physical layout of your house or apartment? Is it square footage or nearby amenities? Is it something you would find on a listing on Zillow or Craigslist?
Or would it include something more — things that are a struggle to even put into words? Perhaps it’s that feeling you get when you return to your block after being away — a sense of belonging and familiarity. Or the feeling of walking around your neighborhood, surrounded by your go-to places, like a cafe, a church, or a corner store. Or maybe it’s the feeling of just being in your city, knowing you have the ability, at a moment’s notice, to hop on the T and do something exciting.
Introducing 'Third Spaces'
In 2016, we asked people around Boston to describe “home” as part of a study on housing. They talked about qualities that are usually not part of the housing conversation. They talked about "third spaces." Our definition:
Places separate from where you sleep (your first space) or where you work to make ends-meet (your second space). They are the spaces in-between, where you freely encounter other people, ideas, and experiences.
These can be public spaces, like a park or a trail or a civic center. They can be private spaces, like a barbershop or a church or a coffee shop. They can be temporary spaces, like a block party or a hill covered in snow. They can even be digital spaces, like a community forum. Third spaces can be where community gets created and information gets shared. They're places where we can feel rejuvenated and safe among friends. They can also be spaces where we experience the unexpected, or meet people we’ve never met before. Sometimes it’s a place “where everybody knows your name.” And sometimes "our place is the very house of difference," as Audre Lorde reminds us.
What we're doing
"Together we have built a city of neighborhoods that care, a city of second chances, a city of learning and healing, a city of courage and creativity, a city of heart and hope." -Mayor Martin J. Walsh, 2018 Inauguration
Government is not always an expert in supporting these spaces. But our residents are. That’s why the City of Boston is partnering with ioby.org to support residents in creating their own third-space projects. ioby is a nonprofit crowdfunding platform that can provide community advocates with one-to-one coaching on project scoping and fundraising, access to their online crowdfunding platform, and, if applicable, fiscal sponsorship using ioby's 501(c)3 nonprofit designation.
We encourage submissions from anyone who has an idea and the ability to implement it. Especially if it follows our guiding third space values, which are:
We believe that Bostonians should be able to find spaces where they feel welcomed.
We believe that Boston's third spaces are the strongest when then connect us to each other and reinforce our connection to the city.
We believe that the most powerful third spaces allow people to create something of lasting value. This might be physical (like a piece of art), social (like a political movement), or even the reshaping of the space itself into something new.
In this time of political divisiveness and dissent, it’s more important than ever that every person feel cared for by their community — especially the most vulnerable among us.
Resilient and equitable
Spaces that foster social cohesion across race divides are more apt to survive and thrive after the unpredictable occurs. We believe all our spaces should be viewed through a resilient and racial equity lens.
As our communities grow and people change, we believe our spaces too should be able to evolve over time as new needs and values emerge. Spaces that can change with time and provide multiple uses to diverse populations are highly encouraged.
What you can do
The most vibrant spaces feature a combination of all the above. So do you have a brilliant idea and a passionate community up for an experiment? Submit your third-space idea now. The City of Boston and ioby will provide a platform, coaching, technical help, and other resources to get your project up and running.
This pilot is a partnership between the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics, the Mayor's Office of Resilience and Racial Equity, and ioby.org. All submissions must abide by legal and community standards and are subject to review by ioby before posting. This work is funded by a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies and is informed by the strategic plans Resilient Boston: A Connected and Equitable City and Imagine Boston: 2030.