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April–November 2022
Boston and Brookline, MA

Over the summer of 2022, CultureHouse worked with the Emerald Necklace Conservancy to develop and conduct a public space impact assessment to measure the impacts of their Parks as Platform events. Parks as Platform was part of the larger Olmsted Now program, whose goals were to increase park access, amplify partner capacity to welcome expanded audiences, and maximize diverse public offerings.

Impact report

Olmsted Now: Greater Boston’s Olmsted Bicentennial was a year-long effort to strengthen equitable engagement, diversify connections, and grow opportunities for shared use, health, and empowerment in parks and public spaces. The report summarizes the efforts, measures the impacts, and records lessons learned to guide the Emerald Necklace Conservancy’s future work.

Jen Mergel drafted the report for the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, which commissioned CultureHouse to collect and analyze data on the Parks as Platform program and to oversee overall data presentation and publication. It follows guidelines commissioned from Mendelsohn, Gittleman & Associates, data commissioned from Grayscale Collaborative, and reflections facilitated by Design Studio for Social Intervention.  

Parks as Platform components

Interactive community engagement
As a part of this project, we are collecting qualitative and quantitative data during the seven Parks as Platform events. We look at the effect that each event has including who is using the park, where they are visiting from, how they are using the space, and how perceptions of the park changed as a result of the event. Rather than using traditional surveys, we collect these data through interactive methods that make all people want to engage, not just those who typically do. Our interactive data collection tools include giant voting tubes, sticker maps, an open-response prompt board, bingo chip feedback, and plenty of conversations!

Observational data collection
In addition to interactive community engagement, we are collecting observational data both before and during Olmsted Now events. These data, which include demographic information and use patterns, give a baseline to compare to and provide a complement to the rich community feedback we receive.

People filling out questions about their experiences in the parks.
People walking past the engagement tent  and adding stickers to the map.
Data collection tool reading how did you find out about Porchfest? with multicolored chips to answer the question
People write on a chalkboard answering the question: What is your favorite thing to do in the park?

Parks as Platform events

Olmsted Park
Saturday, April 23 @ Olmsted Park
Event partner – Brookline Parks and Open Space

Lilac Sunday
Sunday, May 8 @ Arnold Arboretum
Event partner – Harvard’s Arboretum Team

Saturday, June 11 @ Franklin Park
Event partner – Boston Arts & Music Soul Fest

Fenway Porchfest
Saturday, July 9 @ Back Bay Fens
Event partner – Fenway Porchfest

Jamaica Plain Porchfest
Saturday, August 20 @ Jamaica Pond
Event partner – JP Porchfest and Dunamis Boston

Emerald Necklace Parkfest
Saturday, September 24 @ all Emerald Necklace parks 

Saturday, October 1 @ Charlesgate Park
Event partner – Charlesgate Alliance 

Emerald Necklace Parkfest

Though we participated in every Olmsted Now event, we were one of the main partners for the second-to-last event: Parkfest. Parkfest celebrated Frederick Law Olmsted’s 200th year with an afternoon of activities across seven parks he designed in the Emerald Necklace park system. 

Presented in collaboration with the Emerald Necklace Conservancy and the National Park Service, CultureHouse helped to design and host scavenger hunts, parade decorating stations, and picnic zones throughout all parks. The event also included free performances, storytelling, DJs, doggy-meet cutes, and so much more.

People sit and stand on a green area around tables and tents
Kids sit at the decorating table or running around with streamers with their parents.
A table covered in craft materials and scavenger hunt pamphlets. A bike is next to a sign that says "Parade Decorating"
Two small dogs sitting on grass looking opposite directions
People setting up a dancefloor with tents in the background
Three people sit at a craft table, drawing and drinking seltzer
Kids playing on a see saw while an adult watches
A man dances on a dancefloor while a DJ plays music in the back and a man plays a drum off to the side
Two children approach rangers on horses to pet the horse while a parent looks on.
A cardboard bird hides in the greenery.

Engagement boards

At Parkfest, we continued our assessment of the Parks as Platform program through our interactive data collection methods. Being a geographically large event, Parkfest provided the challenge of spreading our community engagement tools across seven sites. In response, we designed folding cardboard screens for each park that had a different engagement tool on each side of the three boards they were made up of. These engagement screens allowed us to collect additional data at all seven parks, bolstering the information we’ve gathered at other Olmsted Now events these past six months.