Encourage Civic Engagement

Public Matters 2016

Photo by  David Byers

Photo by David Byers

Photo by  Zoar Outdoor

Photo by Zoar Outdoor

To increase civic engagement in Lowell's, the Lowell Plan annually recruits a diverse set of individuals from the business and nonprofit sectors, neighborhood activists, community practitioners, and planners of exceptional skill who work or live in the city. We aim to make people more fully aware of the city’s history, neighborhoods and community-based resources.

The goals of Public Matters are as follows: (1) Create a network of new leaders fully engaged in the future of Lowell; (2) Provide a forum for emerging and existing leaders to develop a vision for community development that strengthens the whole community; (3) Promote an understanding of and appreciation for the history, cultural diversity, and economic and government resources of Lowell; (4) Encourage resource sharing and collaboration; (5) Build the capacity of the public and private sectors through the development of leadership and experiential learning; and (6) Ensure diversity among the leaders of Lowell. 

Each of the 15 sessions has specific objectives. For example, the objectives for the session on The Public Narrative are: (1) Explain public narrative as a leadership art, describe its structure, and the reasons why leaders draw on narrative to inspire action; (2) Evaluate public narrative based on practical and analytical understanding; (3) Construct a Story of Self around choice points--moments when you faced a challenge, made a choice, experienced an outcome and learned a lesson; and (4) Develop a framework for constructing your own public narrative--Story of Self, Story of Us, Story of Now--to translate your values into action.

Public Matters relies heavily on a number of volunteers who lead bus tours, neighborhood walks, and conduct sessions. This year, the following Lowell residents and business owners shared their expertise with Public Matters ’16:


John Power
Paul Marion
Peter Aucella
Adam Baacke
John Wooding
Karen Frederick
Sheila Och
Dorcas Grigg-Saito
Kevin Murphy

Michael Lally
Mary Lou Hubbell
Suzanne Frechette
Marty Lorrey
Lila Lorrey
Bob Forrant
Brian Martin
Tom Golden


For some participants, the most challenging and thrilling component of the program is the white water rafting trip on the Concord River. In springtime, the Concord plunges over three major class III-IV rapids: Twisted Sister, Three Beauties, and Middlesex Dam.  The rafting trip concludes with passage through an 1850's lock chamber that brings the participants right to the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center. A portion of the proceeds from this trip benefit the Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust, which helps to preserve green space in the city of Lowell. This year’s Public Matters’ trip was on April 9.