On Tuesday, May 14, the Social Innovation Forum (SIF) put on its annual Social Innovator Showcase featuring the fantastic 2019 Social Innovator cohort. These eight Innovators pitched their forward-thinking and inspirational solutions to our region's toughest social issues to an audience of philanthropists, business leaders, and potential supporters.
SIF’s Executive Director, Susan Musinsky, started the evening at MIT by welcoming the room and acknowledging all the Social Innovators, past and present, for their substantial commitment to social change work. The 2019 Innovators took the stage to present their pitches, developed with the guidance of SIF consultants, coaches, volunteers, and in-kind partners. Each Innovator concluded their presentations by explaining their two-year plans for growth and inviting audience members to become involved in their work.
Here are some key highlights from the event:
Urban Farming Institute (UFI)
Patricia Spence, CEO of Urban Farming Institute (UFI) kicked off the pitch presentations with an exciting vision for the potential of building healthy communities through urban farming education. As Patricia reiterated, "We don't just grow food; we grow people." Urban Farming Institute is flourishing in Boston, where vacant land is abundant, food cultures are diverse, and people are excited to develop and share food. Urban Farming Institute is seeking an investment of $1.85M over the next two years to increase its footprint, programming, and organizational capacity.
Sarah Rosenkrantz, the co-founder of Y2Y, painted a picture of the young people experiencing homelessness in Boston and the many ways Y2Y is actively engaging these youth. Sarah mentioned that Y2Y is "truly youth-led, by young people for young people." Y2Y is the nation's first student-run homeless shelter for young adults. Through its trauma-informed physical space, unique staffing model, and youth-led programming, Y2Y provides sanctuary for vulnerable guests to rest, grow, and lead, maximizing their opportunities for safe and fulfilling futures. Y2Y is seeking an investment of $2.1M over the next two years to expand its footprint and scope of services as well as formalize its growth strategy.
English for New Bostonians (ENB)
Claudia Green of English for New Bostonians (ENB) put faces on the profoundly startling statistic that over half a million immigrants in Massachusetts need English classes. She shared several stories of incredible individuals in the ENB community. More than half of those who come into ENB’s classes unemployed usually find employment by the time they are finished. English for New Bostonians unites public, private, and community support to offer high-caliber, accessible English classes. English for New Bostonians is seeking an investment of $3.3M over the next two years to expand and deepen its work to support immigrants’ economic and educational advancement.
Paige Cook, Program Director at Paige Academy, is continuing her parents’ legacy of investing in high-quality early childhood education. Paige Academy is a unique, independent elementary school located in historic Roxbury Highlands. The school provides children from birth to grade six with rigorous and exploratory arts, science, and nature-focused education and cultural programming in a nurturing environment. Paige explained that "a child's upbringing takes a collective approach, supported through creative leadership," and she is firmly stepping into the next generation of leadership. Paige Academy is seeking an investment of $1M to renovate one of its historic Victorian buildings as the cornerstone of a three-year plan to expand the school’s capacity and impact.
Boston Youth Wrestling (BYW)
Bior Guigni of Boston Youth Wrestling (BYW) shared how wrestling changed her life and how BYW is changing the lives of so many youth today. Boston Youth Wrestling helps students “wrestle with their circumstances,” specifically crime, poverty, lack of access to education, and obesity. Its programs aim to give all students the tools to succeed both on and off the mat. Boston Youth Wrestling is seeking an investment of $570,000 over the next two years to increase its impact for youth in the City of Boston.
LEAP for Education
Linda Saris of LEAP for Education shared the amazing journey of LEAP student, Manny Cruz, who started as a sixth grader in the program and is now a leader on the Board of Directors at LEAP for Education. As Linda explained, LEAP for Education is seeking to empower more youth to be successful in education, career, and life and does so by providing a personalized and comprehensive approach that includes academic engagement, college and career readiness, social-emotional learning, and building social capital. LEAP for Education is seeking an investment of $2.5M over the next two years to hire additional program staff and expand its physical facilities to enable growth in career programs, and the number of youth served.
The Dream Out Loud Center
Tracy Furtado-Chagas of The Dream Out Loud Center described how the center's model is helping youth realize that their "creative dreams can be made possible." Located in New Bedford, MA (a city whose median income of $37,000 is half the state average) the organization provides an enriching arts program to uplift youth in the community and revitalize the economy. The Dream Out Loud Center nurtures the artistic passions of underserved youth, ages 6-21, to find purpose in their lives, build meaningful careers, and develop a community of peers and mentors. The Dream Out Loud Center is seeking an investment of $550,000 over the next two years to double the number of youth it serves.
Disability Policy Consortium (DPC)
Colin Killick of Disability Policy Consortium (DPC) presented on DPC’s work to improve the lives of people with disabilities locally, statewide, and nationally through policy advocacy, groundbreaking research, and consumer support. DPC’s approach is captured in the sentiment, “About us. By us,” which is the belief that when decisions are made that impact the disability community, then people with disabilities should be the people making them. Disability Policy Consortium is seeking an investment of $1M over the next two years to expand its advocacy and research teams to further address local and statewide issues, and engage a greater number of people with disabilities to advocate on their behalf.
Thank you to our generous event sponsors WBUR, Eastern Bank, Goodwin, Marcus Partners, Nutter, RINET, Fidelity Charitable, Rockland Trust, Delta Dental of Massachusetts, Eaton Vance, and First Republic Bank.
Download the 2019 Social Impact Investment Guide for more information about the Innovators.