Engagement Lab managing director runs for local office

by Megan Anderson / Beacon Correspondent • October 28, 2015

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Mariko Davidson is a Cambridge city council candidate.
via Beacon Archives
Mariko Davidson is a Cambridge city council candidate.
via Beacon Archives

Mariko Davidson, managing director of Emerson’s Engagement Lab, is running as a first-time candidate for a seat on the Cambridge City Council. There are nine open positions and 23 candidates running in the election on Nov. 3.

Davidson, 33, identifies as a feminist and civic activist. She received a master’s degree in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has been committed to public service for 10 years. She worked in the office of former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino’s as a civic engagement fellow, led the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ new open data policy initiative, and mediated disputes in Cambridge Small Claims Courts.

Davidson started at Emerson in July 2015 as the managing director of the Engagement Lab. The lab’s purpose is to explore how civic engagement can be optimized through technology and online games, according to its website.

If elected, Davidson said she would start her term as city councilor in February 2016 and plans to keep her position at Emerson.

Davidson said her mother is one of her biggest inspirations. As a single parent, Davidson’s mother was an artist and professor who taught her daughter to give back to her community. As a candidate, Davidson said she wants to bring real change to Cambridge.

“I’m no longer content with pushing from the outside,” Davidson said.

Davidson said Cambridge is having an affordable housing crisis, and she believes current city councilors are not approaching the issue correctly. Almost half the campaign funding for seven out of the nine incumbents comes from corporate real estate agencies. Davidson says the conflict of interest is obvious.

“I’m tired of representatives, frankly, not representing us,” said Davidson.

Davidson wants to increase access to opportunity for residents of Cambridge by making affordable housing more available, working towards sustainable public transit, supporting young entrepreneurs and their businesses, and advocating for a $15 minimum wage.

Davidson said she believes it is the young generation’s responsibility to be engaged in government.

While the average age of registered voters in Cambridge is 39.3, the average age of those who voted in the 2013 municipal election was 54.6, according to a report from the Cambridge Civic Journal in June. Davidson said that Cambridge is full of young people, and she wishes she saw them getting involved.

“This is the world we are going to inherit, and if we’re not active, then we’ve marginalized ourselves,” Davidson said.

Patrick Scully, Davidson’s communications director, said he joined her campaign because he believes Davidson is exactly what Cambridge needs. Scully has worked on several campaigns during his 23 year career in public relations and says that Davidson is different from anyone he has worked with.

“She is among the most qualified candidates I have ever worked for,” said Scully.

Davidson is taking time off from work at the lab this week to continue campaigning until election day this coming Tuesday. She said she hopes to get as many people involved and voting as she can.

“We have the power to change things,” Davidson said. “We just have to go out and do it.”