Notes From the Field #5

Hear from 2020 Social Innovators Project Citizenship and English for New Bostonians

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.

2020 Virtual Social Innovator Showcase 

Our Virtual Social Innovator Showcase was a great success! This year’s Showcase event was a two-part series, highlighting our 2020 Social Innovators. For those of you who either missed part 1 or part 2 (or would enjoy hearing the Innovators pitch again), a playlist with recordings from both sessions is available on our YouTube channel here. With both events combined, we had over 380 active participants in the audience. We are so appreciative of the ongoing support of our 2020 Social Innovators and hope that many more connections are made in the weeks ahead.

Moving Towards Social Justice Philanthropy: One Foundation's Journey, Challenges and Successes

In partnership with Philanthropy Massachusetts, we invite you to a virtual event, Moving Towards Social Justice Philanthropy: One Foundation's Journey, Challenges and Successes on June 30. You will have a chance to hear from family members - Kelly Nowlin and Sam Downes - of the Surdna Family Foundation about their journey towards social justice philanthropy. To learn more or to RSVP, click here.

Updates from our Portfolio Organizations 

The COVID-19 crisis has brought unique challenges to immigrants and their families across the country who already endure hardships on the daily. The next couple of emails will feature several organizations in our portfolio who are making important pivots to their work with the goal of keeping immigrants safe, protected, and increasing their access to critical resources during the crisis.

Project Citizenship, 2017 Social Innovator 

project citizenship
Project Citizenship provides high-quality legal services to permanent residents to help them become U.S. citizens. Since mid-March, the organization has not been able to provide in-person services to their immigrant clients seeking citizenship. As of June 4, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is slowly resuming services in small groups and with challenging social distancing guidelines. Almost 300 Project Citizenship clients approved for citizenship await their oath ceremonies; hundreds more are waiting for interviews and fingerprinting. Despite the COVID-19 restrictions, immigrants remain eager to achieve citizenship, particularly while trying to obtain employment and benefits. 

To assist clients and families, Project Citizenship has introduced a new virtual tutoring service for clients who did not pass their first interview. They have also developed a virtual remote citizenship workshop and are completing citizenship applications by telephone. Unfortunately, this is happening at a much slower rate and is less efficient because many clients lack technology. The cancellation of workshops has affected the organization's ability to gain corporate sponsors to underwrite their workshops. Right now, Project Citizenship is accepting donations as they continue to support immigrants on their path towards citizenship.
  • $250 supports one person's citizenship path
  • $750 supports advocacy for any client with a disability to request a medical waiver to gain exemption from the English language testing requirements
  • $18,000 funds an AmeriCorps legal advocate who can represent clients at their interviews and challenge the many obstacles on the path to citizenship

Make a donation here!
For additional questions or information, please contact Veronica Serrato at

English for New Bostonians, 2019 Social Innovator 

English for New Bostonians (ENB) supports English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs citywide, helping 1,000 adults each year learn English, get jobs, grow micro-businesses, access resources, and engage with children’s schooling. Since mid-March, ENB has equipped and trained frontline ESOL staff to use technology, adapt the technology for individual students, and ensure they can continue learning English and meet families’ basic needs.

Many families they serve are on the frontline of the COVID-19 epidemic so ESOL teachers are building vocabulary — “infection,” “spread,” “sanitize” — sharing information, and working side-by-side with agencies to get food to families. Students are also learning to apply for unemployment, find food pantries, identify new job openings – all-the-while gaining 21st-century technology skills. ENB recognizes that COVID-19 is revolutionizing ESOL training and access that can help immigrants statewide who need English services. 

At a time where demand for ENB’s services is at an all-time high, ENB’s partners Tech Goes Home, the City of Boston, and private foundations have all come together to distribute tablets, computers, and Zoom accounts. The organization is also calling on public-private intervention to help their current relief efforts and ensure people can continue accessing information, order food, medicine, and take English classes. English for New Bostonians is accepting donations of any size as they continue to provide a number of services to immigrants and their families.
  • $1500 will enable a New Bostonian to study English, digital literacy and back-to-work readiness  
  • $10,000 helps expand Allies for Immigrants ESOL Corps, enabling volunteers to support students
  • $25,000 fully funds one “ESOL for Parents” class, keeping parents and schools connected
  • $50,000 covers city-wide teacher training on using virtual and blended models

Make a donation here!
For additional information or questions please contact Claudia Green at

Other Resources & Readings 

In a series of blog posts, David Howse, SIF Board Member, and Senior Associate Vice President & Executive Director at ArtsEmerson, expresses his deep concern for black lives and urges organizations to take more decisive action in the fight against systemic racism.

Marquis Taylor, Executive Director of Coaching4Change (2014 Social Innovator), releases a heartfelt statement responding to George Floyd's death and sharing how his organization will continue to support the next generation of leaders of color.

Vu Le, nonprofit leader and activist, publishes a blog post confronting nonprofit leaders and philanthropists on how privilege, power, and personal conflicts stand in the way of truly making a change in our sector.

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