CoLab translates its vision and mission into knowledge-creation, practice, teaching, service, and professional education by:

  • Providing a space for students, faculty, and community partners to improve local and regional practice through inquiry, dialogue, collaboration, and reflection.

  • Generating new and relevant knowledge about urban sustainability and co-crafting theories of community engagement, development, and social change.

  • Preparing new cadres of planners with the commitment, skills, and agency to lead innovation across sectors and address systemic failures.


Working With Communities

CoLab’s work is grounded in the belief that ideas and lived experiences of people at the margins of society provide important insights into institutional failure and social exclusion in cities. Through collaborative learning processes, community and academic co-researchers can generate new knowledge and innovative planning and development approaches to address these challenges. 


Connecting to Our Values

CoLab’s work is values-driven. We encourage staff, students and community partners to connect their work to a deep inner intention and their own personal growth trajectory using reflective practice and methods developed by Otto Scharmer and the Presencing Institute.


Identifying CoLab's Contribution

Once we understand of our collaborators’ context, needs, and their own conception of their problems, staff and students work to identify the skills, tools, and resources that can support collaborators’ work. We are guided by collaborators’ knowledge, insight, and instincts in defining project parameters and goals, while offering the skills, resources and technical skills of MIT.


Knowledge Sharing and Theory Building

As projects move forward, we document our experiences and those of our collaborators, capturing lessons and creating new knowledge about critical issues in the planning and urban studies discipline.

Active Listening and Observation

CoLab staff and students seek to practice deep active listening through which we hear collaborators’ experiences in their words and on their terms. We seek to understand the problems that are meaningful to them, the challenges they face, and where they find inspiration. We combine active listening with close, empathetic observation through which we experience the community context for ourselves, identify key players and relationships, attend to power imbalances, and connect to the essence of places


Collaborative Learning

With our collaborators we identify key areas in which CoLab can make a meaningful contribution and then together embark on collaborative learning processes applying relevant skills, resources, and tools to the problem. We employ a range of methods for collaborative learning, many adapted from former CoLab Visiting Scholar Sebastiao Ferreira, an expert in social cognition and collaborative learning processes.