Xavier de Souza Briggs has a national reputation for his work on social capital and the 'geography of opportunity'—a policy and research field concerned with the consequences of segregation by race and income and with efforts to respond, such as through 'housing mobility' programs that help families exit high-poverty, high-risk neighborhoods in search of better places to raise their kids.
His book, The Geography of Opportunity: Race and Housing Choice in Metropolitan America (Brookings Institution Press, 2005) features contributions by more than 20 policy analysts, political observers, social scientists and urban planners documenting how unequal housing choices and sprawling development create an unequal geography of opportunity, and exploring how we can respond, taking a hard look at both successes and failures of the past.
Raised in the Caribbean and Miami, Briggs received a BS from Stanford University's School of Engineering, an MPA from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and a PhD in Sociology and Education from Columbia's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Before coming to MIT, initially as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Fellow and now as a faculty member, he taught on the public policy faculty at Harvard where he received the Kennedy School's award for excellence in teaching in 2002.
His research and teaching focus on inequality, racial and ethnic diversity, and democratic problem solving, both in the US and the developing world. Drawing on his work on negotiation, participatory planning, collaboration, organizational strategy, political organizing and other skills, he founded and directs the Community Problem-Solving Project @ MIT (www.community-problem-solving.net), a free learning space for people and institutions worldwide where they can access useful tools for problem-solving in the field. More than 80,000 copies of his strategy tools have been downloaded around the world since the project launched at Harvard in 2003.
His research and planning work on youth opportunity, civil rights, and social capital have received awards and fellowships from the National Science Foundation, American Planning Association and the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.
A senior policy official in the Clinton Administration from 1998 to 1999, Briggs was Acting Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. He has been an adviser to The World Bank, The Rockefeller Foundation and other groups and has also worked closer to the streets as a community planner in the South Bronx, Chicago and other cities