About the Report

Research Methods

The MIT Community Innovators Lab team employed a combination of qualitative research methods to tell the story of the Coalition to Save Interfaith, its relationship with Community Care of Brooklyn (CCB), and their evolving partnership to address the social determinants of health in Brooklyn. These methods included participant observation; in-depth videotaped interviews; and close review of reports, archival materials and news reports.

The case study was set up as a dual documentation and capacity-building effort. The research documented the methods and approaches that have begun to shift culture, change public attitudes and activate critical stakeholders’ commitment across sectors to make deep investment in health equity within Central Brooklyn.  Simultaneously, it was designed to build local capacity for, and deepen understanding of, stakeholders’ own role in accelerating momentum toward health equity. This documentation and capacity-building effort was intended to provide insights broadly about how communities can shift public attitudes towards health in ways that lead to significant equity improvements in health systems.

Participant observation

CoLab’s involvement in the events considered in this case study spanned several years, from 2013 to 2019. CoLab began working with the Coalition to Save/Transform Interfaith in 2013 at the invitation of the Coalition’s leadership. Under the leadership of Professor J. Phillip Thompson III, CoLab prepared an initial assessment and set of recommendations for the Coalition. Many of the key recommendations of the report were adopted by the Coalition and the partnership that it would go on to develop with CCB. These recommendations are grounded in the belief that good health requires a healthy living environment (physical, economic, political, social and cultural).

CoLab also introduced Participatory Action Research (PAR) methodology as a community engagement and capacity building effort. Between 2016 and 2019, the CoLab team worked with the Coalition and CCB to design and carry out the PAR efforts that are described in Chapter 7.

Productive and trusted relationships were built over the course of CoLab’s work with the Coalition, CCB and their partners between 2013 and 2018. In 2018, and through 2019, the CoLab team was invited to continue in the next stage of the partnership’s work during which they began developing the strategy and organization for implementing the recommendations from the 2016-2019 PAR studies. The CoLab team participated in, observed, and documented informational, strategy development, engagement, and related meetings.


The CoLab team conducted 17 in-depth interviews with labor leaders, elected officials, community leaders, healthcare workers, health system leaders, and healthcare advocates. These interviews were videotaped, with follow-up questions taking place in person and via telephone and email correspondence. Interviewees were asked about the following:

All interviews were videotaped and transcribed. Each transcript was closely reviewed for key events, themes, challenges and lessons. Once an initial review was conducted, each response was entered into a matrix that allowed for the analysis of responses across participants. The interview protocol can be found here.

Review of news reports and archival materials

The CoLab team also carried out an extensive review of news reports of the circumstances that led to the formation of the Coalition, of the Coalition’s efforts, and of the outcomes that it catalyzed. The team also reviewed archival materials (for example, meeting agendas, flyers, correspondence, and briefs) provided by interviewees as well as a range of official documents relevant to the restructuring of the healthcare in Brooklyn and in New York State.

About MIT CoLab

Building a Culture of Health in Central Brooklyn: From Protest to Health Systems Transformation  was researched, written and produced by the staff of the MIT Community Innovators Lab (“CoLab”). CoLab is a center for planning and development within the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning. CoLab facilitates the interchange of knowledge and resources between MIT and community organizations. As an MIT-based hub for collaborative action and innovation, our work supports communities seeking to democratize their local economies and advance self-determination.  CoLab engages students to be practitioners of this approach to community change and sustainability.

CoLab has been an active participant in the events examined in this case study since 2013, beginning with its collaboration with the Coalition to Save Interfaith to support a community health needs and assets survey.  Its involvement continued through a series of community participatory action research projects  (PAR) conducted for both research and capacity building purposes in Central Brooklyn neighborhoods between 2016 and 2019.

1. An Epidemic of Hospital Closures
2. Crisis at Interfaith
3. Time to Mobilize: Forming the Coalition to Save Interfaith
4. Protest and Resolution
5. Medicaid Reform
6. Research-Based Action
7. Participatory Action Research as a Tool for Change
8. Healthcare System Reform: Cross-Sector Collaboration
9. Reinventing Interfaith
10. Focus on Health Equity
11. Creating Healthier Communities: Leveraging Community Assets
12. Community Planning for Healthier Communities
13. Making Health a Shared Value: Building Civic Infrastructure
14. Building a Culture of Health: Outcomes
15. Planning for the Future
16. Sustaining Transformation in the Face of Challenge
About the Report