The Policy Innovation Lab’s work is iterative, using the human-centered design process as its core method for innovation and design.  Its current work focusing on the Anacostia parkland and the adjacent communities is built upon a knowledge base and a set of policy principles, observations, and recommendations developed by prior Lab teams:  

  • Policies and actions affecting the use and management of the Anacostia Park should reinforce the interdependence between the river, the parkland, and the community.
  • A robust, inclusive, and intentional community engagement policy is a critical component of developing, implementing, and sustaining an equitable vision and plan for the parkland.  Community involvement should occur at multiple stages of the planning and implementation process.
  • Social isolation is a health risk.  One of the parkland’s greatest assets is its ability to serve as a hub of community connections for people of all ages. Programming and physical design can fuel those connections. For example, the park can become the centerpiece for intergenerational programming for the arts, recreation, and education.
  • The parkland should generate and support a range of diverse activities that create a sense of community ownership and that enforce the park’s potential as a safe and secure public haven. The Anacostia River Festival is an excellent example of this strategy.
  • Jobs created through park programming, management, and development should benefit local residents, particularly young people, by providing employable skills in the areas of construction, landscaping, park maintenance, and other areas. Job creation strategies that foster local entrepreneurship and the development of cooperative businesses help build individual and community wealth east of the Anacostia River.
  • Safety and security concerns inhibit local residents from taking full advantage of the parkland and can be addressed through the design, maintenance, and programming of the parkland developed in consultation with community residents and park users.
  • Policies and strategies that support safe and easy access to the parkland by residents of Wards 7 and 8 will increase its use by community residents.  This includes providing access points for bicycles to/from neighborhoods to the park; pathways into the park that facilitate pedestrian access, particularly by seniors and people with disabilities; and identifiable walking/biking routes from neighborhood hubs of activity, housing developments, schools, etc. to the park.
  • Using the parkland to expand the breadth and scale of community gardens in Wards 7 and 8 will enhance food access, increase nutrition and food literacy, provide student learning opportunities, and spark an ongoing dialogue on public health.
  • The parkland is a vast educational resource that can be leveraged and creatively accessed by multiple community partners. For example, the Anacostia Community Museum runs a curriculum-based Citizen Science Program.  The goal of the program is to cultivate environmental knowledge and awareness through engagement in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) activities. It also promotes civic engagement, as students work on locally focused projects exploring native plant species, the Anacostia River, and watershed conservation.


Current Projects


Economic and Community Development

Tunneling of the Anacostia Freeway: The freeway currently separates the Anacostia Waterfront Park from the surrounding community. Other cities across the US have addressed similar issues by tunneling their obstructive roadways. We are proposing a similar approach for the Anacostia Freeway. Examples of successful tunneling projects include: Harbour Drive in Portland, Octavia Boulevard in San Francisco, and The Big Dig in Boston.

The Place at Anacostia Park: “A market with a mission” is designed to bring together local artists, entrepreneurs, and community members living and working east of the Anacostia River.  Using Eastern Market as an example, merchants at The Place will offer locally produced arts, crafts, jewelry, food and other products, resulting in overall community wealth building and economic empowerment for Wards 7 and 8 residents.



Comprehensive Community Shuttle: Given the community’s lack of access to resources, we propose expanding the planned shuttle service in Wards 4, 7, and 8 that follow set routes to metro stations, grocery stores, and stops along the way. This service is being pilot-tested by Transco Inc., using funds from a grant won through DC’s Department of For Hire Vehicles. The Lab should monitor this project to understand its impact and feasibility.  

TOPA Community Workshops: The Housing Team proposes to pilot workshops in Wards 7 and 8 focused on the use of the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) in Washington, DC. Inspired by a visit to Galen Terrace, a project-based Section 8 housing complex whose tenants successfully used TOPA to purchase their building and improve their living situation, we aim to partner with the City of DC and the Georgetown University Law School to develop curriculum, target communities, and introduce TOPA and its opportunities and challenges to eligible residents.


Environment and Public Health

Actor Mapping: Who uses the park? Creating an actor map will help Anacostia residents identify barriers to entry and potential solutions. The Lab proposes creating an actor map that is both comprehensive and dynamic in nature. The objective would be to create a tool that would help users, funders, practitioners, etc. better understand each other and place their relationship with the park in a larger framework in which the park exists as a potential hub of opportunity for community engagement and partnership creation. Understanding the dynamics of these relationships will help the Lab and other organizations better evaluate potential impacts of new policy on stakeholders.

 Identifying stakeholders is a crucial part of building a sustainable and  productive relationship between community members, local government, and the park. We envision the actor map operating in two ways: top down and bottom up. While the top down approach focuses on traditional use of stakeholder identification, we also aim to make the map publicly available to residents to promote community organizing and empowerment