Gaining Ground: Building Community on Dudley St.

An inside view of community organizing at its best.
Llewellyn Smith
Christine Herbes-Sommers
Kelly Thomson
Year Released
Film Length(s)
58 mins
Closed captioning available
Remote video URL


Foreclosures. Unemployment. Childhood poverty. All these problems have hit American cities hard since the Great Recession. Gaining Ground, a follow-up to the award-winning documentary Holding Ground (1996), shows how one diverse Boston neighborhood has stemmed the tide against enormous odds.

Featured review

There are lessons in this inspiring film for every local activist, nonprofit practitioner, urban scholar, and city planner who is looking for new ways to create stable communities in turbulent economic times.
John Emmeus Davis
Editor, The Community Land Trust Reader


In the midst of the economic meltdown, Gaining Ground explores the innovative, grassroots organizing efforts of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) in Boston. DSNI was created 25 years ago when the community had been devastated by bank redlining, arson-for-profit and illegal dumping, and has become one of the preeminent models for community-based change. Over the course of two years, we watch a new generation of leaders working to prevent foreclosures and bring jobs and opportunities for young people to one of the city's most diverse and economically challenged neighborhoods.


A powerful portrait of the challenges faced by the residents of Dudley Street and of the community's long-term commitment to demand the best and to achieve results.
Mayor Ted Ellis
Bluffton, Indiana, President of the National League of Cities
This inspiring story offers important lessons for urban planners, policy makers, and activists across the country.
Barbara Abrash
Director of Public Programs, Center for Media, Culture and History at NYU
Gaining Ground shows the potential for change and the possibility for betterment through community activism.
Jason R. Harshman
The Ohio State University, Educational Media Reviews Online
Gaining Ground delivers a powerful and inspiring story of vision and persistence. Highly recommended.
M. Puffer-Rothenberg
Video Librarian

Awards and Screenings

Community Empowerment Film Award, National Community Reinvestment Coalition

Features and Languages

Film Features

  • Closed Captioning
  • Subtitles

Promotional Material

Promotional Stills

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