Chinatown preservation 

Since the construction of the Capital One Arena in 1997 and Walter E. Washington Convention Center in 2003 near DC Chinatown, the community’s Chinese residents, Chinese-owned businesses, basic amenities, and public spaces have continued to dwindle.

On the Chinatown team, we work with DC Councilmember Brooke Pinto to propose policy measures that address the displacement and loss of community in DC Chinatown. In addition to conducting legal and policy analysis on the impact of existing initiatives in the District, we are also interviewing community leaders, advocacy organizations, elected officials, agency representatives, business owners, and developers from a cross section of Chinatowns and ethnic enclaves across the United States.

Through this deep community engagement, we are providing the Councilmember with questions for agency oversight hearings as well as policy recommendations focused on strategies for land use, business longevity, historical preservation, cultural placemaking, and affordable housing. Many of these recommendations will be shared with national audiences through a series of panels at the end of the semester, which will explore the shared challenges and opportunities faced by Chinatowns across the country.  Claris Park, ’23; Justin Chuang, ’24

Just Purchasing Consortium

Poultry workers across the country suffer horrific working conditions: they risk amputation and other injuries, are exposed to hazardous chemicals, experience harassment and retaliation, and lose their salaries to rampant wage theft. Existing avenues for change, like legislation, have been ineffective in enacting meaningful change.

The Just Purchasing Consortium hopes to leverage the millions of dollars universities across the country spend on poultry to create and enforce just standards for  workers. We are leading a national working group (including Georgetown’s Workers’ Rights Institute and the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor; six worker centers; and other universities) working to produce a purchasing code to improve workers’ conditions. We are proudly working closely with and strengthening ties with the workers who are most affected to craft this code.

Our work includes statutory and case research to support the creation of  the JPC’s purchasing code, including human trafficking, employer retaliation, and the NLRA, and building relationships with worker centers. Alex Parseghian, ’23; Sam Keselman, ’23

Oral health

Maintaining oral health is essential to achieving overall well-being. A key component of oral health is preventive care, such as annual cleanings, much of which is performed by dental hygienists. However, hygienists’ ability to provide this care varies greatly across states, and the District of Columbia is one of the most restrictive places in the country for dental hygienists to practice. These restrictive policies create barriers for care that disproportionately impact disadvantaged communities, including communities of color, the elderly, and the unhoused.

We represent Registered Dental Hygienists who are trying to improve the oral health of their communities while expanding their own profession’s independence. We represent our clients in meetings with D.C. Council staff, the D.C. Department of Health, and in coalition meetings. To best support their efforts, we also craft advocacy strategies, conduct a variety of legal and public health research, draft legislative language, and prepare outreach materials to recruit allies and persuade decision-makers.  Blake Hite, ’24; Emily Schneider, ’24

Pilot cash transfer program 

As redlined and under-resourced neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. become increasingly attractive targets for large-scale development projects, current residents are at greater risk of becoming priced out of their communities, potentially facing economic, cultural, and even physical displacement. Community organizations, private entities, and governments have developed initiatives that attempt to help residents stay-in-place and keep communities whole, but few interventions provide residents with a direct economic stake in the changes occurring in their communities.

The Harrison Institute is working with a local housing nonprofit and a private developer to pilot a cash transfer program that enables Ward 8 residents to share in the profits from local development projects. Significantly, the unconditional cash transfer program recognizes the importance of residents being able to determine their own financial priorities and uses of the cash without preconditions.

The Community Equity team is leading the legal research to help design the pilot program, including by drawing on interviews with other cash transfer programs to identify transferable best practices for the Ward 8 community. Annika Hoffmann, ’24