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Making it Easier to Host Block Parties

August 2022

Can we make the block party permitting process easier, clearer, and more delightful?

THE EXPERIMENT

If you want to take civic action, host a block party. This is the call from Mayor Wu. However, hosting a block party takes effort. It takes time to organize your community and it takes time to get permits. All that before you get to the fun stuff. We are setting out to deliver a faster, clearer, and improved Block Party experience for Bostonians. To do this, our team is improving block party permitting by:

  1.  partnering with City departments to streamline the permit application process,
  2.  updating  the City’s website to better describe the steps, enabling better coordination between City departments, 
  3.  encouraging residents to host block parties on Halloween to create a fun and safe environment for families, and
  4.  during the summers of 2022 and 2023, we offered Block Party kits to make Block Party festivities easier to plan for.

 

WHY WE'RE DOING THIS

  • We wanted to test whether service improvements, clearer instructions, constituent support, and delightful incentives to an existing permit process would increase the number of applications received and lead to a more equitable distribution of activities.
  • We wanted to build on Mayor Wu’s commitment to the Block Party as a connector of our civic fabric, especially after the pandemic and in an increasingly divided democracy.

A Halloween "Spooky Street" Block Party in Boston
A Halloween "Spooky Street" Block Party in Boston 

WHAT WE'VE  LEARNED

  • clearer online process and engaged constituent services team (Office of Neighborhood Services, 311, Office of Civic Organizing) increased Block Party applications across the city.
  • A streamlined Block Party Play Street Closing permit reduced the burden to City staff, and resulted in faster application review, and therefore a better experience for residents.
  • While Block Party play kits initially made planning more enjoyable for organizers, unfortunately numerous missing and broken pieces made the program unsustainable and we had to phase out the kits.
  • Block Party Grants currently offered through the Office of Civic Organizing has increased access and interest in block parties across Boston and reduces the burden on block party hosts.
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