Community Organizing

Community Organizing brings people together to identify problems, address them collectively, and create changes that benefit the community. As an organization, we are accountable to our broad base of members and leaders; they are the ones that steer the course of our work.

Building relationships, creating a unified voice, and achieving power through solidarity are our key strategies. Through campaigns and initiatives, Somerville Community Corporation (SCC) strives to engage the community to tackle local issues as well as build new leaders by strengthening the skills of long-time members.

If you are interested in any of the current initiatives and campaigns, please contact SCC at (617) 776-5931 or email Rene Mardones, Karen Narefsky, Mashael Majid or Meridith Levy.

Current Initiatives & Campaigns

Good, Local Jobs

Jobs for Somerville was founded by community members in response to the growing need for local jobs in Somerville, where only 17% of residents work within the city. Jobs for Somerville is made up of community members from across the city, representing old, new and immigrant Somerville, including union members, tradespeople and workers from factories like Angelica and Ames Envelope. Working together across class and race lines, Jobs for Somerville members are pushing for innovative ways to guarantee that local residents benefit from public investment in the form of decent work.

Since being founded in fall, 2010, we:

  • Wrote the Local Hire Ordinance introduced to the Board of Aldermen on June 9th and unanimously cosponsored by the entire board
  • Met with aldermen and state politicians to get commitments to support local jobs
  • Played key roles in the campaigns for local jobs at MaxPak (now called Maxwell’s Green) and at Assembly Square
  • Turned out hundreds of people for public hearings, speakouts and demonstrations in support of local jobs
  • Delivered two hundred valentines from community members in support of Local Hiring to the Mayor’s office
  • Worked with the Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice to gather legal support for local hiring legislation•Held committee meetings attended by over 60 people

Community Vision Meeting:  Community Corridor Planning

Everyone has a role in the Community Corridor Planning project!  On October 28th, 2009, over 130 people filled the cafetorium of the Argenziano School to join their neighbors in talking, thinking, planning, envisioning a Somerville that reflects the needs and wants of the residents as we plan for the new Green Line.  People placed their own histories and future hopes on a time line alongside the time line for the Green Line.  Participants had the opportunity to see photographs and a video portraying the Green Line Corridor from the eyes of Somerville residents.  Chicken legs and black beans were eaten in good company as participants got to know each other.  Advisory Team members and other volunteers did everything from set-up, to emceeing, to facilitating the small groups, to cleaning up at the end of the night.

The bulk of the meeting focused on small group activities, where everyone was asked to share a list of important spots in Somerville , and to review principles that had been developed by over 250 residents who had participated in a small group meeting sometime in the last 6 months.  Groups were given a pile of cardboard principles, from which they identified up to 12 principles they felt should be prioritized.  By night’s end, the entire roomful of people had voted on a list of 11 core principles shared by the majority of groups as priority.

Community Principles

Community Corridor Planning

As a grassroots organization committed to engaging low- and moderate-income residents in shaping the future of their own community, SCC is playing a pivotal role in designing a participatory community planning process along the Green Line corridor. SCC's goals for this process include:

  1. Making sure policies, tools, zoning and acquisition strategies included in the future land use along the corridor focus on affordable housing, access to jobs, and preventing the displacement of low- and moderate-income individuals and families in Somerville
  2. Acquiring properties for SCC to preserve or develop as affordable housing along the corridor
  3. Insuring that the people who are most at risk of being displaced are included in the land-use planning effort for the corridor

SCC has joined forces with Groundwork Somerville, Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership and Somerville Health Agenda to launch the Community Corridor Planning (CCP) collaborative. This group will also work with the City of Somerville to create a land-use plan for the transit corridor. Through a series of local and informal meetings, CCP will work with low-income and immigrant community members to establish priorities, values and strategy proposals that promote equitable transit oriented development as we aim to prevent displacement.

For more information, or to get involved, please visit our SCC News Section or contact Meridith Levy (617) 776-5931, ext. 242 or Mashael Majid (617) 776-5931,ext 228.

Useful Links


The East Somerville Action Plan

How can we proactively improve conditions in East Somerville while taking strong steps to mitigate the displacement of the diverse population living here?

We presented this question to the East Somerville community in the summer of 2006 when SCC launched the East Somerville Initiative. Through a community participatory planning process that included 75 small group meetings, 3 large community summits, and over 350 people from the community, the East Somerville community created and adopted the East Somerville Action Plan which addresses this question. This plan identifies eight priority topics that interweave the discussions, prioritized issues, proposals and evaluations put forward by the community.

This action plan continues to inspire our work and campaigns in East Somerville. For more information about the process of this initiative, please read about our past initiatives and campaigns.


Welcoming Massachusetts Campaign

Voices of Immigrants in Somerville (VIS) is actively participating in the state-wide Welcoming Massachusetts campaign, designed to demonstrate and galvanize the widespread support for immigrant members of our communities. In Somerville, VIS members have collected over 1,000 signatures to uphold Welcoming Massachusetts. In addition, VIS is working to get the City of Somerville Board of Alderman and the School Committee to adopt a resolution supporting Welcoming Massachusetts.

VIS is one of over 85 organizations across Massachusetts collaborating on the campaign. To get involved, contact Tito Meza at (617) 776-5931, ext. 231.


Anti-Displacement Campaign

The "housing bubble" may have burst in many parts of the country but Somerville housing costs remain high and not easily affordable for low- to moderate-income families and individuals. The Green Line extension into Somerville and Medford by the end of 2014 exerts another force to make housing our diverse population more difficult. However, market forces are not immutable. We as a community can take measures to preserve and protect existing affordable housing and create new options for households of all incomes. These activities include:

  • Preserving "Expiring Use" affordable units - The Affordable Housing Organizing Committee (AHOC) brings residents of Somerville together to protect housing in buildings that have received past funding from the federal government to make the units affordable. The federal mandate for this affordability expires with the mortgage, usually about 30 years after construction. This leaves the low-income tenants, most of whom are elders or people with disabilities, with the threat of escalating rents or eviction. We organize tenants of these buildings to negotiate with property owners and secure the renewal of affordable rental rates for current and future tenants.
  • Leveraging new affordable housing with new development - AHOC advocates for "inclusionary zoning," or policies that require a percentage of new housing development be affordable for low- and moderate-income households. AHOC also pushes large new commercial developments to contribute "linkage fees" to help fund affordable housing in the city.
  • Promoting public forums to raise awareness - In order to build more understanding of these issues and increase support for affordable housing, AHOC sponsors forums and films with discussions to help Somervillians understand and get involved. Every two years, AHOC invites candidates for the Board of Aldermen to a forum so that voters can hear their opinions about affordable housing issues.

Local Hiring Agreement: More Jobs for Somerville Residents

In Fall 2007, the ESI Action Plan identified the need for local jobs as a top priority. At the same time, the City of Somerville was under negotiations with IKEA, which is scheduled to open doors in Somerville at Assembly Square in 2011.

Members of East Somerville Neighbors for Change (ESNC) and other allies in the community shaped a campaign to get the City of Somerville and IKEA to create a "first source hiring" agreement that would result in a high percentage of jobs for East Somerville residents.

ESNC members created a proposed local hiring agreement and presented it to the mayor. In addition, community members sent the mayor postcards urging him to take this step with IKEA. East Somerville residents felt this would be a fair exchange for the traffic congestion and air pollution that new development would have on the neighborhood.

January 2008: A local hiring agreement was established between the City of Somerville and IKEA, largely reflecting the sentiment of the community. This is the first agreement of its kind in this region and while this is a great success, the plan does NOT include numeric goals or requirements, or a monitoring process to make sure the agreement effectively produces new jobs for Somerville residents.

Next Steps: In addition to pushing for a Community Oversight Committee, ESNC will continue to advocate for more local jobs, both through new development as it comes to Somerville and through local policies.

Also, partnering agencies are constructing a proposal to create a Workers' Center that would be a valuable link between the community, the city and local employers, such as IKEA.