New Urban Mechanics: Experimenting with civic engagement



Policy type

Hosting and convening /capacity building

Sector focus

Housing, Third spaces, Urban development

Circular principle

Enable openness and participation


New urban mechanics in Boston works across departments and communities to explore, experiment, and evaluate new approaches to government and civic life.

The Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM) in Boston, MA was set up in 2010 to encourage greater civic engagement in the city through the use of innovation and experimentation, because Mayor Thomas Menino felt that government was too bureaucratic and lacked a human face.



MONUM’s main aim was to improve the quality of Bostonians’ lives by involving them in participatory civic engagement. It has created many different projects to improve city services for citizens and workers, such as the app BOS:311 to report local maintenance issues to Boston City Hall.  MONUM has been widely successful and remained a feature of the Mayor’s Office under the leadership of Mayor Marty Walsh. It currently works on a variety of projects across the city’s departments, such as housing and education, and has even prompted other cities across America to adopt its approach.

Under Mayor Walsh’s leadership MONUM has addressed complex and challenging projects involve housing, education and the future of Boston. The Housing Innovation Lab’s mission is to increase housing affordability for the fast-growing city. One of its projects pairs elderly people to live with graduate students, and another provides information and assistance to first-time homebuyers. MONUM has also carried out experiments in education. Discover BPS is a user-friendly website that allows parents to compare Boston’s public schools, replacing the existing dense and lengthy booklet. The website functions like a travel comparison website and “helps parents find which available schools might be the best fit for their child” by applying criteria such as class size or available school facilities. Another experiment with far-reaching ambitions is the first Civic Research Agenda, launched in spring 2018, which invites all Boston residents to contribute their ideas on how to improve their local community.



Boston officials, Boston citizens, education and research institutes.



Go to the new urban mechanics website


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