By Seth Daniel
Looking to become a more friendly and approachable agency, and to part from its negative history, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) board approved a contract with Boston-based Continuum design and marketing company to help rebrand the agency as more trustworthy.
The approval came at the BRA’s Thursday meeting, May 12, and allocated no more that $670,000 to the Continuum contract. The contract is part of a larger reform effort by Mayor Martin Walsh and BRA Director Brian Golden to work with the BRA and the public to “re-envision the agency’s identity.”
State Rep. Dan Ryan said the BRA has improved its showing recently, and said the effort to re-brand itself would be the right thing even if it didn’t have a negative history.
“Branding is only as good as the work being done to improve the quality of the product,” he said. “In this case, I believe the BRA has certainly been doing the legwork to restore consumer confidence in its brand. This is as an opportunity to promote the BRA’s positive impact on our city over the years. Their historic reputation as the 800-pound gorilla is warranted in some cases, but it also takes an 800-pound gorilla to make the necessary changes sometimes. Even if their history and reputation had been stellar over the years, this would still be a very good time to rethink the BRA’s role in the city anyway. Many of the problems we face now, especially in Charlestown, are about managing the end product of a successful redevelopment of a neighborhood. The BRA has the tools to do this. It is incumbent upon all of us to hold their feet to the fire and make those tools work.”
City Councilor Sal LaMattina said he has been pleased with the way the BRA has been operating as of late, and believes maybe it’s a good idea to make this transformation known to the public and the agency.
“The BRA is not going away; I don’t see that happening,” he said. “In the meantime, the BRA is going to have to have a lot more transparency. That was shown in its exercise with the Council on extending urban renewal. Now, for the first time, the BRA is required to come to the City Council for Ways and Means hearings. They also have to come to the City Council to report to us twice a year. If there are any minor or major modifications being sought, they have to report that to the City Council. Then the City Council can choose to hold a hearing. That’s big stuff. Just in the Charlestown Navy Yard over the last two years, the BRA has been listening to residents and that’s made a difference. They’ve hired a contractor to clean up the park. I have seen some positive changes in the BRA over the last two years, so I support their re-branding.”
The BRA indicated that the contract and effort by Continuum would be more than just a marketing campaign.
“The collaborative effort will look to create a clear and compelling organizational identity, mission, and set of values that communicate the BRA’s commitment to sound urban planning and economic development strategies in order to inspire greater trust and confidence in the agency,” read a release on the matter from the BRA.
The BRA staff was set this week to meet with Continuum in a day-long session to kick off the effort.
Over the course of the 14-week contract, Continuum will engage with the BRA and the community to chart a path for the agency’s continued transformation. A team of consultants will immerse themselves in the BRA’s work to hear from employees, residents, and other stakeholders about improving the way the BRA interfaces with the public and communicates its values through its branding and workspace.
Opportunities for public engagement will be woven throughout the process, with one of the first actions being a website where people can provide feedback and follow progress.
Continuum is experienced in creating cultural changes within organizations, having worked with a variety of public and private sector organizations on similar projects.
Continuum recently helped the Boston Public Schools define a vision for the future of high school in Boston that was based on robust input from students, educators, administrators, and families. Boston College also worked with Continuum to completely overhaul the school’s core curriculum, which had fallen out of alignment with what students and faculty desired from the courses.