Notes From the Field #4

Hear from 2020 Social Innovators OrigiNation Cultural Arts Center and PAARI (Police Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative)

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 make 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.

SIF Updates & Events 

Get ready for our 2020 Virtual Social Innovator Showcase Series! This year's Showcase event will be a virtual two-part series highlighting our amazing 2020 Social Innovators. Part one is on May 28, and part two is on June 3You must RSVP for each event separately. Please note that if you are registering for someone other than yourself, you must use the person's unique email address otherwise they will NOT be able to access the Zoom webinar.

Updates from our Portfolio Organizations 
OrigiNation Cultural Arts Center, 2020 Social Innovator

OrigiNation Cultural Arts Center utilizes innovative dance instruction, performance opportunities, and other effective development strategies to promote self-esteem, leadership development, physical fitness, and self-sufficiency among youth ages 2-18. In mid-March, the organization transitioned all of its dynamic on-site programmings to online, using the Zoom platform to hold all classes and rehearsals for dancers. OrigiNation’s team is creatively engaging and supporting everyone on the platform despite the many technical challenges of working in a virtual setting. OrigiNation is also scheduling virtual check-ins with young people to help them with their projects and some of their academic requirements. OrigiNation is exploring options for sharing student performances and work with a wider audience in the coming weeks. 

OrigiNation would be grateful for donations to help cover staff salaries and rent at their studio which they look forward to returning to as soon as it is safe to do so. Since early March, all of their performances have been canceled, impacting their earned income for the upcoming months. They have set a goal to recoup $40,000 expected from those performances and would appreciate donations towards that goal. 

Make a donation here!

For additional information or questions, please contact Executive Director Musau Dibinga at

PAARI, 2020 Social Innovator 

PAARI (Police Assisted Addiction & Recovery Initiative) continues to provide support and resources to help law enforcement agencies nationwide create non-arrest pathways to treatment and recovery. In 2019, there were over 2,000 overdose deaths in Massachusetts, 93% of which involved fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is over 50 times more potent than heroin. People who engage with opioid use could also be put at a higher risk for a fatal overdose should they contract COVID-19 and suffer diminished lung capacity from the virus. Studies have shown that social distancing can lead people down a road to isolation, exacerbating mental health challenges including substance use disorder. It is unfortunate that people will increase their use during the pandemic. PAARI recognizes that these individuals will mostly depend on the organization's services to help them through the crisis.

Additionally, those with opioid use disorder released from incarceration are at an increased risk for fatal overdose at a time when area hospitals and medical care centers are being burdened significantly as they work to treat COVID-19 patients. PAARI is currently working with six sheriff departments: Suffolk, Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, and Worcester. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, PAARI and their community partners quickly launched a Survival Kit program to reduce the risk of overdose for those released from the Essex, Middlesex, and Suffolk County House of Correction facilities. The Survival Kits include information about COVID-19 safety, information for individuals to connect with Boston Medical Center’s Office-Based Addiction Treatment Program telemedicine and prescribing hotline and local pharmacy partners, and much more. PAARI continues to work with law enforcement and public health partners to ensure access to treatment and recovery support. 

To support PAARI's Survival Kit program, please donate here and write “survival kits” in the comments field.

For additional information or questions, please contact Executive Director Allie Hunter at

Other Resources & Readings 

Writing in The Nonprofit Quarterly, Kururama Masomere notes the urgency with which philanthropy has responded to the COVID-19 crisis and urges philanthropists to “redefine urgency” and what constitutes a crisis. What if the funding community put the same level of effort, resources, and nimbleness towards addressing the crisis of systemic racism as it has put towards its COVID-19 response?

The Boston Globe looks at the challenges facing local nonprofits who are seeing a drop in fundraising at the same time demand for their services is rising. 

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