Notes From the Field #2

Hear from 2020 Social Innovators The 1647 Inc. and Vital Village Network

The Social Innovation Forum (SIF) is incredibly proud of the work Social Innovators are doing every day. During this crisis, their efforts to maintain connections with their community members and ensure their programs continue to operate while they also pivot to meet new, immediate needs with fewer resources makes it exceptionally clear their work is more important than ever. Many of our funders and volunteers have stepped up with support while others are asking, “How can we help?”

With that in mind, we will regularly share stories from our current cohort of 2020 Social Innovators and Alumni organizations, spotlight members of our funder portfolio who have responded quickly and effectively, and offer additional resources that can help you reflect on a range of different perspectives and experiences of those in our community during the COVID-19 crisis. As you receive these updates, we hope that you will respond and reach out about how you can offer support.

Updates from our Portfolio Organizations 
The 1647 Inc., 2020 Social Innovator

The 1647 Inc. works with schools to help them prioritize family engagement as a core strategy for school success. Right now, they are working closely with their school-based and out-of-school partners to support their families affected by the COVID-19 crisis and ensure that students and families have access to necessities such as food, housing, and access to technology for distance learning. They are using the time away from formal programming to drill down into their curriculum and to design modules and pathways that they can use to engage partners as they emerge from this crisis with what will hopefully be a strengthened commitment to family engagement. In addition, with summer partnerships on hold, The 1647 Inc. is designing a program pivot so they can continue to pursue their vision of “schools where all families are empowered to support their children’s learning and success in school.” Their programming will continue and include virtual coaching and training, and they will use lessons from the pandemic to create more culturally responsive family engagement practices that build trust and share power with marginalized families and communities. 

The 1647 Inc. is asking the philanthropic community to donate to their “Family Engagement Fund.” This new opportunity would allow for training and coaching to schools and out-of-school time partners on a sliding scale so that educators can build skills around this important work before and as the schools reopen in the fall. Every contribution to this fund will directly support family engagement training and coaching for educators in schools and out-of-school programs that partner with The 1647 Inc. in Eastern Massachusetts. The 1647 Inc. accepts donations of any size. Below are some examples of how contributions can help:

  • $2,500 provides a scholarship for a school-based team of five educators to attend our Summer Institute in August 2020
  • $3,000 funds a half-day training and follow-up coaching session for teachers at one school
  • $5,000 funds a full-day training and follow-up coaching session for teachers at one school
  • $25,000 funds a yearlong data-gathering and design partnership with a school.

Make a donation here!
For additional information or questions, please contact Executive Director Ann Walsh at

VItal Village Network, 2020 Social Innovator 
Vital Village Network

Vital Village Network’s work focuses on reducing social isolation, so during this time of social distancing, it is more important than ever to find ways to stay connected. Vital Village Network has made a commitment to build a supportive, virtual community during times of elevated family stress. The organization is engaging members in the Boston community as well as national partners in virtual community cafes twice a week. Virtual community cafe topics have included: “What is the Census and Why Does it Matter?”, “Promoting Dignity and Collective Strategies,” and "Network Connection Meeting: “Dominant and Counter-Narratives During COVID-19.” The organization also hosts special interest group cafes weekly for its social justice mediation program, breastfeeding coalition, and male engagement network. Vital Village Network acknowledges bringing people together through these virtual cafes has been very rewarding.

The communities Vital Village serves have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and the organization has identified specific ways donors can give to provide COVID-19 relief for communities. Vital Village is asking funders to donate $100 to support the updating and refinement of resource mapping of COVID-19 essential services for families, including WIC approved stores, free meals for children, and COVID-19 testing sites (an existing resource map can be found here). Donors can also help support the “Equity and COVID-19 Analysis Initiative,” which involves conducting several analyses of equity and access to COVID-19 testing, mortality and morbidity, and access to social distancing and other protective measures in the city of Boston. The data collected will be shared with local representatives and officials and used to support equitable decision making.

Make a donation here!
For additional information or questions, please contact Executive Director Renee Boynton-Jarrett at

Other Resources & Reading

The Chronicle Of Philanthropy reports that nearly 700 Foundations pledged to alter their grant-making practices in response to COVID-19

New SIF blog highlights several funders response to COVID-19

Receive blog updates