Moving On: Reflections on a Decade with SIF

Associate Director Katie Barnett shares her SIF journey
  • By Katie Barnett
  • Published on September 14, 2017
Katie and Evelyn
SIF Associate Director Katie Barnett and Program Director Evelyn Francis of True Colors: Out Youth Theater at the SIF Winter Reception, December 2016

Katie Barnett started as a consultant with SIF in 2008, became Lead Consultant in 2010, and Associate Director in 2014. In partnership with Executive Director Susan Musinsky, she co-led SIF through its spin-off from Root Cause, acquisition of Next Mile Project, and move to One Congress Street. In late September, she will be leaving SIF to take some time for herself and her family this fall, and then to begin to explore next-phase opportunities.  

In the fall of 2007, I received an email asking if I would be interested in a short-term consulting project with the Social Innovation Forum (SIF). Having just completed a project with SIF’s parent organization, Root Cause, and very much eager to continue this work, I said yes without hesitation. Little did I know that this project would be the beginning of a ten-year journey full of learning and inspiration.

Little did I know that this project would be the beginning of a ten-year journey full of learning and inspiration.

I dived into work as the consultant for 2008 Social Innovator True Colors: Out Youth Theater. A program of The Theater Offensive, True Colors uses a community-based theater approach to provide an outlet and safe space for LGBTQ and allied youth leaders to develop artistically and emotionally, and to empower them to change their communities. Working closely with Artistic Director Abe Rybeck and Program Director Evelyn Francis, I learned about their amazing program and stood in awe of their commitment to this work. We spent several months clarifying the messaging around their purpose and their goals for the future, and in May 2008, Evelyn delivered a fabulous pitch at the Social Innovator Showcase event. Our official consulting engagement ended there, but we stayed in touch over the years.

I moved on to work closely with two Innovators in 2009 and then to a leadership role where I had the opportunity to get to know all of our Innovators and Impact Entrepreneurs from 2010 forward. There have been many memorable moments along the way – learning about a wide range of social issues and connecting with funders, mentors, and volunteers across greater Boston.

Meanwhile, my expanding role at SIF allowed me to work closely with Executive Director Susan Musinsky on building SIF itself. With support from Root Cause founder Andrew Wolk, Susan and I worked together to transition SIF from a program to an independent organization. Over that time, our budget has more than doubled, and more important than our budget numbers, we have built an organization that provides a unique combination of capacity building and network building to create positive social change in greater Boston. Today, SIF engages more than 2,600 funders, investors, and volunteers and has an alumni portfolio that includes over 100 high-performing nonprofit organizations and social impact businesses.

In late 2016, my SIF journey began to come full circle. True Colors became the first LGBTQ-specific youth program in history to receive the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, the nation’s highest honor for youth arts programs. I could not have been more proud to see the photo of Evelyn and True Colors participant Traeshayona “Trae” Weekes standing with Michelle Obama at the White House to accept the award. 

Heading into its third year as an independent organization, SIF is well-positioned for its next phase and poised for much success.

And at the same time, SIF reached a significant milestone, preparing to acquire the Next Mile Project and to move from our offices at Root Cause to new space at One Congress Street. This move provides a platform to help advance SIF’s unique vision – to create a marketplace for social change where relationships develop, organizations flourish, and social impact emerges at levels that otherwise would be impossible to achieve. Heading into its third year as an independent organization, SIF is well-positioned for its next phase and poised for much success.

As I prepare to move on to new professional opportunities, it is bittersweet, as I will miss SIF and working with so many extraordinary people – Innovators, Entrepreneurs, funders, mentors, volunteers, and my colleagues on the SIF staff team. I am so proud of the work we have done and all we have accomplished, and I am excited to watch SIF’s continued growth in the years to come. 

About the author

Katie began as a consultant with Root Cause and the Social Innovation Forum in 2006 and became the SIF Lead Consultant in 2008. She led SIF’s spin-off from Root Cause in 2015, alongside Executive Director Susan Musinsky, and brought her experience from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to her role as Associate Director from 2014 to 2017.

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