Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians
City of Boston
An agency dedicated to helping the city’s newcomers connect with city government services
In 1998, Mayor Thomas M. Menino made the remarkable decision to open a new kind of city agency. One of the first of its kind in the United States, the Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians (MONB) was founded on the recognition that a growing number of residents were immigrants, and that more coordination of city services was necessary to ensure that they felt at home and had the chance to be fully integrated into all areas of civic life.
It was an opportune idea. Two years later, the US Census defined Boston as a majority-minority city (where minority groups make up the majority of the population). Today immigrants make up 27 per cent of Boston’s population, speaking 140 languages.
The Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians is the municipal agency dedicated to welcoming the city’s newcomers and getting them established. What makes it successful is the centralized coordination of services, including a pool of interpreters fluent in 17 languages that is available to 20 city departments and for newcomers, free legal advice relating to discrimination and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes offered by the city. The agency also conducts research and serves as an advocate for immigrants citywide. It is the go-to place where an immigrant can find help with practically any problem, confident that the city will respond.
“I created the Office of New Bostonians because I recognized how important diversity is to our city,” said Mayor Thomas Menino in a MNOB newsletter.
Run by founding director, Rev. Cheng Imm Tan, the Office’s success comes from it’s ability to work across city departments. Services that are not supported directly may be accessed through a paid staff of five, helped by some 60 volunteers, ranging from community workers to immigration attorneys.
Beyond providing services, the MNOB also monitors the changing needs of Boston’s immigrant communities and fine-tunes its work accordingly. In 2006, a survey of 800 immigrant communities resulted in the New Bostonians Summit Initiative and its focus on three policy priorities: English language acquisition, economic success through family-sustaining jobs, and kindergarten to grade 12 education. A series of summits have since brought together stakeholders from a wide range of sectors (such as business, philanthropy, and labour) as well as extensive input from immigrants and the organizations that serve them.
The success of the Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians is easy to assess. It funds 25 English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) for some 1,000 adult learners annually; has helped register more than 5,000 immigrant voters; holds an annual event for immigrants to help them learn how to access city services; developed an ESOL curriculum for parents and caregivers in partnership with the Boston public school system; and developed a dual strategy to help immigrants find productive work through employment and support for immigrant entrepreneurship. The annual “We Are Boston” fundraising gala celebrates the achievements of individuals from diverse communities.
The Mayor’s Office of New Bostonians has become a national model for helping newcomers connect with city government. The latest city to follow Boston’s lead is Chicago which opened its Office of New Americans in 2011, dedicated to welcoming its newly-arrived residents and getting them established in productive lives.
Making it Work for You:
- Recognize the power and influence of city leadership to help you achieve your goals
- Centralize services to better serve client needs and for more effective cordination of service delivery; for example, a pool of interpreters can work across city departments on an as-needed basis.
- Monitor the changing needs of immigrant communities to make sure services stay relevant.
- Celebrate your agency's success and your community's achievements..
For this Good Idea contact:
Cheng Imm Tan
Mayor's Office of New Bostonians
1 City Hall Square, Room 803
Boston, MA, USA,