Real Talk for Change’s approach brings together age-old methods of facilitated small group dialogue, and community organizing with modern machine learning, data visualization, and social network design. Our technology enables communities to organize conversations across the full diversity of their population, identify patterns of what people share across these conversations, and channel these voices to influence decision making in a more grounded and direct way than ever before.


Our pilot program will recruit over 30 community organizations and trusted leaders across Boston to host over 100 small, recorded conversations in the lead-up to the 2021 Boston Mayoral and city council elections. Once captured, our Real Talk Fellows will use our online platform to highlight and summarize the conversations in a publicly viewable dashboard that displays patterns, themes, and insights from the neighborhood conversations. This platform will be made available to the public, in addition to candidates for Mayor and city council. We will then surface these voices and perspectives in the media, electoral debates, and our online platform to constructively shape the 2021 Boston election cycle.

In addition to helping to create a campaign that is generally more grounded in and responsive to Bostonians’ lived experiences, this system is designed to encourage cross-community listening as well as to provide improved visibility and accountability between the candidates and the public. A key role of the technology is to provide transparency to all participants. People who participate in a conversation can see how their voices are being used and – through public forums such as media interviews and public debates – see that community concerns are influencing the election process. We believe over time this kind of visible action will encourage new voters and build trust between historically underheard communities, local media, and local institutions.

Who We Are

Facilitators

Corey Thompson

Facilitator

Dawn Duncan

Facilitator

Quanda Burrell

Facilitator

Fran Smith

Facilitator

James Dancy

Facilitator

Joanne Bannister

Facilitator

Marilyn Forman

Facilitator

Mike King

Facilitator

Shaya French

Facilitator

Shanette Drayton

Facilitator

Zakiya Alake

Facilitator

James Thompson

Facilitator

Julio Perez

Facilitator

Sedric Johnson

Facilitator

Tony Brewer

Facilitator

Toy Burton

Facilitator

Shareef Smith

Facilitator

Campaign manager & Project Leads

Ron Bell

Campaign Manager, Real Talk For Change & Director, Dunk the Vote

Ceasar McDowell

Associate Director, Center for Constructive Communication & Professor, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT

Deb Roy

Director, Center for Constructive Communication & Professor, Professor, Program in Media Arts and Sciences, MIT

Project advisors & communications

Karilyn Crockett

Assistant Professor of Urban History, Public Policy & Planning, MIT

Michael Jacoby Brown

Organizer, Trainer and Consultant

Eldin Villafañe

Public Relations

Center for constructive communication Team

Perris Richter

Head of Design, CCC

Vandinika Shukla

Strategist, CCC

Lorena Tovar

Project Coordinator, CCC

Sarah Ballinger

Head of Program Management, CCC

Dimitra Dimitrakopoulou

Visiting Assistant Professor, CCC

Maggie Hughes

Research Assistant, CCC

Dennis Jen

Lead Research Software Engineer, CCC

Artemisia Luk

Designer, CCC

Wonjune Kang

Research Assistant, CCC

Doug Beeferman

Research Scientist, CCC

Nabeel Gillani

Postdoctoral Associate, CCC

Ellen Hoffman

Special Projects, CCC

Thanh Mai Phan

Research Software Engineer, CCC

Heather Pierce

Senior Administrative Assistant, CCC

Cortico Team

Colleen Butler

Director of Capacity Buildling, Cortico

Alex Kelly Berman

Director of Partnership Strategy, Cortico

David van Dokkum

COO, Cortico

Kelly Paola

Partner Support Specialist, Cortico