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  • Anna Zefferys

The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative: A Land Trust Model for Community Empowerment

The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) is a community-based organization located in the Roxbury and Dorchester neighborhoods of Boston, Massachusetts. The organization was founded in 1984 by residents who were concerned about the disinvestment and neglect that their community had faced for years. About 60 acres of the land was used for rampant illegal dumping.

Dudlnes Street Neighborhood Initiative. Photo: https://www.dsni.org/


DSNI was created to empower residents to take control of their community and make it a better place to live. Over the years, the organization has become a national model for community empowerment and sustainable change.


One of the key early successes of DSNI has been the creation of a community land trust. This land trust has allowed the residents of the Dudley Street area to take control of vacant lots and abandoned buildings, which have been transformed into affordable housing, community gardens, and green spaces.


DSNI has also been successful in improving the quality of life for the residents of the community. The organization has established programs to promote healthy eating and physical activity and has provided access to health care and mental health services.


In addition, DSNI has been a leader in promoting sustainable development and environmental justice. The organization has worked to reduce the impact of pollution on the community and has established programs to promote recycling and reduce waste.


Thriving Communities Advisor Gus Newport was the director of the DSNI project. Under Gus’s direction, the DSNI was able to purchase large properties using eminent domain, allowing local residents to buy homes at affordable costs. This ability to claim land (60 acres) was the first and only winning strategy invoked in the US.


The success of DSNI is due to its unique approach to community empowerment. The organization is led by a board of directors that is made up of residents, representing the various constituents within the community so that all decisions are made by the community. This approach ensures that the needs and concerns of the community are at the forefront of all decision-making.


DSNI has become a national model for community empowerment and has been recognized for its successes by a variety of organizations, including the United Nations and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.


The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative is a shining example of what can be accomplished when residents come together to take control of their community. DSNI has proven that when residents are empowered to take control of their community, they can create sustainable change that benefits everyone.


Learn more at DSNI.org.

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