Green Hub at CoLab

The Green Hub at MIT is a collaborative project of MIT’s CoLab, Oxfam Great Britain (GB), and the Presencing Institute. The mission of Green Hub is to work collaboratively with MIT schools, departments and research centers, NGOs, governments, private sector groups, and others to create resources that are of value for the world at large. We work to promote a focus on equity, social inclusion, and social innovation in green transformations.

Our focus

More than 700 cities in the United States alone have pledged to undergo “green transformations.” There is growing public awareness that an unprecedented opportunity for urban transformation is underway. Yet, addressing the interrelated issues of poverty and social isolation is the critical missing element in many approaches to “green.” Since dense cities are essential to long-range ecological sustainability, greening efforts must address the root causes of urban poverty, white flight, and suburban sprawl. We call this approach “deep green.” The Green Hub works to advance and support comprehensive strategies that incorporate poor and marginal groups and create solutions to poverty and social isolation that will bring about effective and equitable, deep green transformation in cities.


Our work

The overall goals of the Green Hub are to:

  • Promote a sharp focus on equity, social inclusion, and social innovation within existing responses to the coming wave of green transformations.
  • Develop on-the-ground projects that demonstrate the utility of socially transformative approaches to greening cities. 

With the combined expertise of MIT’s CoLab, Oxfam GB, and the Presencing Institute, the Green Hub works through three avenues to achieve these goals. Our three impact areas are:

  • Global Prototypes (Oxfam GB)
  • Research and Innovation (MIT)
  • Social Technology (Presencing Institute)

How We Work: Global Prototypes with Oxfam GB

The Green Hub aims to support targeted cities across the globe in their transition to a low-carbon future. We see this work as an opportunity to restructure markets to ensure that poor communities have an economic and political stake in their future. The climate change agenda is opening up huge opportunities for redistributing power and wealth, and cities will be a key locus for this change. While the potential is significant, it could be lost without an immediate and concerted effort to develop and spread models of how poor and marginalized communities can capture the advantages of these new markets.

Beginning in 2008, the Green Hub aims to work with several cities in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Southern Hemisphere to frame major initiatives on green transformation. In partnership with Oxfam, the Green Hub will facilitate these efforts by identifying and leveraging support and resources for locations, organizations, and individuals where there is a high potential for innovative initiatives of significant scale that address both climate change and economic and social exclusion. The Green Hub aims to work with local partners to develop a sound political analysis of how change evolves in these locations, and to identify the key actors who will be central to framing and leading these initiatives. This initial scoping phase and analysis will be followed by work in each location to convene leaders and to work together toward defining a number of initiatives.

How We Work: Research and Innovation at MIT

Within MIT, the Green Hub works to connect key thinkers who are engaged in different aspects of green urban transformations to foster a vibrant arena for knowledge sharing, innovation, and on-the-ground implementation. To that end, we facilitate the transfer of interconnected knowledge in technology, business and financial models, methods, social technologies, and relationships for social inclusion and policy.

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MIT DUSP Working Group

CoLab has convened a Working Group on Environmental Justice. The Working Group hosts monthly meetings in which MIT Department of Urban Studies (DUSP) professors discuss strategies to address the intersections of social equality, racial justice, and environmental sustainability. CoLab aims to work with this group to convene key thinkers and generate innovative strategies for urban green transformations that incorporate shared wealth formation for marginalized communities. The Working Group plans to develop comprehensive policy strategies to help US cities implement innovative, socially inclusive, deep green transformations.

Current participants include:
DUSP Professor Phil Thompson
DUSP Professor Anne Spirn
DUSP Professor Judy Layzer
DUSP Professor Chris Zegras
CoLab Program Director Amber Bradley
DUSP Graduate Student Amit Sarin


CoLab is supporting MIT graduate student Amit Sarin in researching green urban transformations and the opportunities these initiatives present for income generation in marginalized communities.

MIT Course-based Projects

CoLab works with MIT professors to identify community partners and develop client-based courses in which MIT graduate students work to create useful deliverables to community-based organizations. Course-based projects span the breadth of our work, and are often directly related to green transformations.
To learn more about green-related projects as a part of our GainShare work, click here.

Tools and Resources

CoLab is currently compiling information on a variety of green-related resources, with an emphasis on tools and resources relevant to social inclusion and deep green transformations. Initially, this resource will provide a clearinghouse for information on green-related resources, projects, people, and programs at MIT. Eventually, this tool will grow to include information on green resources and information across the globe.


How We Work: Social Innovation with the Presencing Institute

Systemic change in cities will require a different kind of leadership: leadership that involves communities, reaches across sectors, and builds deep levels of trust, collaboration, and collective innovation. This approach is key to deep green transformation as it aims to fundamentally shift economic and social relations through the work on environmental regeneration and climate change.

Ecological challenges have become a critical consideration for a broad range of leaders beyond the environmental movement. As a result, today’s movement to “greenify” cities calls for a fundamental shift in the way that humans organize urban life. Massive public expenditures to reach ecological goals in urban areas create the potential for equitable investment in poor communities and a fulfillment of the New Deal’s unfinished promise of broad social inclusion for poor and minority people. However, there is little capacity for deeply addressing issues of equity and inclusion within current environmental efforts. Approaches that reach across sectors and build deep levels of trust, collaboration, and collective innovation are desperately needed to fully realize the transformative opportunities that green initiatives present.

In partnership with the Presencing Institute, the Green Hub will:

  • Convene high-leverage, cross-disciplinary players to explore and address the lack of an integrated base of knowledge and practice encountered by governments, investors, businesses, and communities.
  • Work with cross sector groups seeking to develop high-impact, creative solutions to socially inclusive, comprehensive green transformation.
  • Facilitate processes of analysis and creative development among a group of influential people and organizations that lead to concrete initiatives.
  • Apply the Presencing Institute’s social technologies, which allow people with highly diverse views and conflicting interests to engage in a focused way and generate new thinking, productive conversation, and practical breakthroughs.
  • Capture and share learning on both the initiatives themselves, as well as the “social technology” behind them—how different interest groups come together to transform their cities.


Our partners

Oxfam Great Britain

Oxfam Great Britain (GB) is a founding partner of the Green Hub. Oxfam GB will engage in the framing of the initiative, contribute policy and program experience, and work with a number of concrete initiatives on the ground. As a first step, we aim to identify several locations where Oxfam and MIT can begin working together to support initiatives that meet the dual objectives of addressing climate change and reducing poverty and inequality. For more information on Oxfam GB’s work, click here.

Presencing Institute

The Presencing Institute (PI) is a founding partner of the Green Hub. The Green Hub is a living embodiment of the Presencing Institute’s commitment to create places and infrastructures that convene strategic cross-sector groups of frontline leaders to strengthen their practices and networks, and thereby their capacity for dealing with profound leadership challenges.
PI will apply social technologies to the Green Hub in an effort to bring together key players from several sectors, including business, government, labor, academia, and NGOs. For more information on the Presencing Institute, click here.

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