Boston’s Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM) serves as Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s civic innovation group.

A City agency that was formed in 2010, we pilot experiments that offer the potential to significantly improve the quality of City services.

Boston’s MONUM focuses on four major issue areas: Education, Engagement, the Streetscape, and Economic Development. To design, conduct and evaluate pilot projects in these areas, MONUM builds partnerships between constituents, academics, entrepreneurs, non-profits and City staff.

If you would like to work with us on an idea you have to make Boston even better, we would love to hear from you: newurbanmechanics@boston.gov

You can also learn more about our work below, or by checking out some of our projects, or by following our work on twitter.

Education

In support of the Boston Public School district, MONUM is exploring how new programs and new technology can improve student achievement.  Our focus is on two major efforts:  (1) strengthening parent engagement and (2) prototyping the digital district.

Recognizing the central role of parents in the educational lives of their children, Boston Public Schools and MONUM have built and are refining Where’s My School Bus and DiscoverBPS – two platforms that help improve the parent experience.

Following Mayor Walsh’s call for Boston to be the premier digital school district by 2020, MONUM is supporting the District in prototyping tech programs that could scale citywide.  These efforts range from a new student ID card and a mobile fablab to the Girls Make the City program and the development of a “Digital Academy” model in Boston.

Engagement

New technology – from smart phones to GPS – and a resurgent spirit of civic engagement have created increased opportunities for closer connection and communication between City government and its citizens.  MONUM is exploring ways to deepen this connection by (1) piloting new programs for community deliberation and empowerment; (2) increasing government transparency through both data and story telling; and (3) deepening our relationship with universities as a source of new ideas and new talent.

Programs that engage and empower residents are the oldest area of work for MONUM.  Partnering with the City’s Office of Constituent Engagement and its Department of Innovation & Technology among others, MONUM supports everything from mobile apps for reporting neighborhood issues – such as Citizens Connect – to programs that make it easier for residents to access City services – such as City Hall To Go.

MONUM is also experimenting with a range of methods to increase the transparency of City government.  This includes drafting data sharing and privacy policies that support the Department of Innovation & Technology’s data initiatives and using media such as video and data visualizations to better tell the stories of the city.

Some of these MONUM projects stem from research done at area universities and are executed by fellows from those universities.  MONUM specifically focuses on strengthening partnerships between the City and universities to bring new ideas and new talent into government.

Streetscape

From green building standards to smart sensor networks, there is a revolution going on in how cities are designed & built. In Boston, MONUM is focused on (1) making public space more beautiful, exciting and fun, (2) making parking easier, and (3) improving mobility options and awareness.

In partnership with a range of departments inside City Hall, MONUM is experimenting with new designs in public spaces.  This includes everything from new public benches, to new platforms for public art, to new methods to engage artists.

Working with the City’s Transportation Department, we are piloting a series of programs to making it easier to find and pay for parking in Boston.  This includes new mobile apps to see available parking and to pay parking tickets.

In addition to improving parking, we are working with our Transportation and Public Works departments to improve mobility in Boston.  Recently, this includes the implementation of vehicle sideguards to increase bike safety, our collaboration with Waze to better manage traffic flow, and the development of Street Bump to help improve the quality of our roads.

Economic Development

The newest area of work for us, we are focused on supporting the City’s economic & neighborhood development departments in (1) making Boston the best place for new and small businesses and (2) keeping housing affordable for all families.  Among other efforts, this year we are launching a new platform to celebrate startups and a new app to help encourage people to shop local.