Mass. and Cass Reconciliation Initiative

One of RIZE’s strategic priorities is to convene for action to align thinking and approaches to substance use disorder to drive social change. Through this initiative, RIZE aims to initiate a reconciliation process to bring lasting, positive changes at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard (Mass. and Cass) in the city of Boston.

RIZE believes a road to meaningful change involves a comprehensive community-led mediation process, rooted in principles of reconciliation. By building (and rebuilding) relationships and trust, RIZE intends to initiate a reconciliation process for healing and lasting social change in collaboration and acceptance with all stakeholders including – people who use drugs, people in recovery, clinical, non-clinical, unhoused, housed, public and private entities, and advocates.

RIZE intends to partner with a reconciliation expert and Mass. and Cass community stakeholders to develop a lasting mediation process that is:

  • Fueled by voices that have been historically underrepresented, those uninvited or unable to participate in community dialogues, or who have been discounted
  • Rooted in trauma-informed approaches and led by reconciliation experts
  • Focused on person-centered care for people with substance use disorders, and
  • Centered in social and racial justice practices

RIZE has issued a request for information (see RFI) to engage a consultant, or a consulting partnership, with expertise in trauma-informed reconciliation who will help us refine the specific parameters of this initiative. We recognize it is unlikely that any one consultant will have relevant experience and expertise in all areas of interest for this RFI. We welcome creative responses as well as those that do not touch on every aspect of the requested set of services.

In addition to seeking a reconciliation consultant(s), RIZE has engaged Brendan Little, former Policy Director of the Mayor’s Office of Recovery Services, who has both lived experience with homelessness and substance use, to lead the project. Little authored two recent opinion articles in the Boston Globe on Mass. & Cass which serve as foundational pieces for this effort. Please reference them here and here.

Key dates:

March 21, 2022 RFI released to qualified applicants
April 6, 2022 Questions due to RIZE (see Frequently Asked Questions below)
April 13, 2022 Virtual information session for interested applicants (see video)
April 22, 2022 Applications due

We welcome responses from all qualified consultants. Please email Sarah Merrefield, senior program officer, with any questions about this initiative –

Frequently Asked Questions

Will the consulting team be responsible for the outreach to engage people to join the community of changemakers and participate in the reconciliation process?

We envision that, in partnership with RIZE and Brendan Little, the selected consultant(s) will help engage people to join the community of change makers to support the design of the reconciliation process. How, or whether the change makers participate in the reconciliation process, will depend on the design, intended audience, phases or timing, change maker interest and/or bandwidth, as well as other programmatic considerations.

Is it RIZE's expectation that support for stipends, catering for meetings, transportation, etc. will be budgeted by the consulting team and built into the proposals?

Consultants may use their discretion when determining the budget for this project, including the use of stipends and other financial supports for participants. RIZE firmly believes in the concept “nothing about us without us.” People with lived experience and those working on the frontlines bring valued expertise to this work and should be compensated as would any other subject matter expert.

What are the expectations for year one?

The project assumes a one-year timeframe, including design, with an interest in launching the reconciliation process as quickly as possible. At the same time, we are sensitive to the fact that for this initiative to be as impactful as possible, it cannot be seen as a routine series of convenings. We would like to engage a consultant, or consultants, that see the urgency of this initiative, and can leverage relevant expertise to begin quickly, while remaining open to community input to design a process with the potential to serve as a national model for community reconciliation. Consultants may use their discretion when determining the best design, whether it includes phases, tiers, or other approaches. It is also our vision to create a self-sustaining or next level initiative to keep momentum going beyond this engagement.

Will there be additional resources for this ambitious initiative?

We recognize that more resources could be helpful, and as warranted, we will seek to partner with other funders who can bring additional resources to the project. We also anticipate that this process could develop over phases and has the potential to grow over time. At this stage, we do not anticipate that we will increase the budget for the scope of this RFI.

How do you define the geography of Mass. and Cass?

For this stage of the work, we will consider the initiative place-based, or firmly fixed on the epicenter of Mass. and Cass, though we recognize its impact across greater Boston, and beyond. It is our vision to share relevant lessons learned with other communities.