Notes From the Field #8

Hear from Shelter Music Boston (2013 Social Innovator) and Community Boating Center (2018 Social Innovator)

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


Updates from our Portfolio Organizations 
Shelter Music Boston, a 2013 Social Innovator 

Shelter Music Boston (SMB) provides classical chamber music concerts each month to organizations dedicated to serving individuals who are homeless or in substance recovery throughout Greater Boston. Its concert programming brings dignity, respect, and human connection through more than 80 concerts of healing music each year. Starting in March 2020, Shelter Music Boston suspended all live concerts and pivoted to delivering concert videos online through their YouTube channel. SMB has been able to reach out to homeless service providers beyond their existing eight partner sites and has been providing the links to their concerts to a number of other organizations, including Heading Home, Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, Rosie’s Place, and Boston Rescue Mission.

Individuals who are homeless are more likely to have complex health issues, including chronic medical diagnoses, substance use disorder, and mental illness. Congregate settings like homeless shelters and recovery centers, which can be crowded, pose an increased risk for the spread of COVID-19. As a result, SMB’s partners and other service providers have taken steps to reduce that risk by creating distance between beds, distributing masks, regular testing, and more. Shelter Music Boston will continue serving audiences in need of the therapeutic benefits of music during the pandemic. "

While SMB’s live concerts are paused to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, they are also using this time to address organizational capacity building. Recently, SMB hosted a 4-session online training series on trauma, substance use, and self-care open to musicians, staff, and board members. Musicians who completed the training were paid a small stipend, part of the organization’s efforts to keep artists working and paid during this difficult time. SMB’s board of directors is working to finalize the organization’s first strategic plan and was selected to participate in Cause Strategy’s BoardLead program, in the hopes of adding additional members this year. SMB has also made a commitment to build an equity and inclusion platform that permeates all aspects of the organization's policies, training, programming, and more. The organization’s staff leadership team is participating in the recently launched Cultural Equity Learning Community and has begun conversations with potential consultants/trainers. 

At SMB, funding is used to support concert performances and production, which now includes a music producer to create their videos. Once they are able to host live concerts again, SMB will be looking to add new partner sites for their core and children's programs. Philanthropic support will also help secure office and rehearsal space (once it is safe to do so); gain compensation parity for their artists; and continue to provide training opportunities, including topics on diversity, equity, and inclusion. SMB is grateful to have received a Paycheck Protection Program loan, as well as a CARES Act grant through the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in response to the current crisis. However, the organization plans to cancel its annual fall benefit and projects that the economic downturn may affect future fundraising. Currently, Shelter Music Boston welcomes and appreciates donations of any size. Community support makes comments like this one possible: “Just wanted to reach out to let you know I’ve used the music resource you sent -Shelter Music Boston - and not only do I love it but me and my daughter have been watching some of them on YouTube! Thank you for the information!”

Make a donation here!

For additional information or questions please contact Carrie Eldridge-Dickson,

Community Boating Center, a 2018 Social Innovator 

community boating
Community Boating Center, Inc. (CBC) in New Bedford, MA is a youth mentorship and outreach organization that uses boating and the marine environment to involve kids in safe, fun learning experiences. The current Coronavirus pandemic is affecting everyone in different ways, including individuals associated with CBC. In early March, their full-time staff began working from home and they canceled the remainder of their winter programming and spring program schedule. Despite the closure of the facility, CBC staff stayed busy serving their community and looking towards their options for the summer.

Shortly after Massachusetts’s stay-at-home order was issued, CBC launched their eLearning Portal (which can be found on their website), creating original content and curating and sharing other online resources. They explored online content from the New Bedford Whaling Museum, Mystic Aquarium, and the Boston Museum of Science, to name a few. CBC’s senior staff worked with Junior Instructors on transforming some of their best STEM lessons into online content. The team filmed videos about how to make a paper boat and featured activities from their H2O Olympics learning module. In the long-term, CBC hopes these activities provide an entertaining learning experience to connect kids to the ocean and to their experiences at CBC.

Once small gatherings were permitted, youth programs like CBC’s becoming more important than ever. Particularly in a Gateway City such as New Bedford, the organization’s offerings can play an important role in children’s education and social-emotional learning. The organization explored various options for summer programming, including how to best use existing facilities to serve as many children as possible while still maintaining appropriate social distancing. Their summer program began on June 29, first with only Junior Instructors, and then opening up to regular summer enrollment. Children are being divided into pods, to prevent interaction between groups, and enrollment numbers are limited. As procedures are tweaked and improved, they hope to open more spots to serve more children.  

CBC takes their role seriously and realizes that they need to do everything they can to run their programming for as many kids as possible while continuing to remember their credo of safety, fun, and learning, which now has a new meaning and importance. 

Donations can help CBC in the following ways: 

This school year there will be an opportunity for youth-serving organizations to expand engagement when it is needed most. CBC is already in conversations with their local school department to explore how they can be part of the educational experience during what will most likely be an unorthodox school year. Increased school year programming will allow them to employ more Junior Instructors, many of whom will be home because of altered college schedules. There are limited funds in CBC’s budget to meet this need, but with additional funding, they will be able to employ more youth year-round and provide even more programming to support schools and area youth.

Make a donation here

For additional information or questions please contact Christina Rebello at

Other Resources & Readings
  • In a recent Stanford Social Innovation Review article, Katherine Milligan & Jeffrey C. Walker examine how the internal work of self-inquiry can shift our perceptions and behaviors in ways that positively impact the outer world, and how leaders of social change are incorporating the practice into their work and lives.
  • Philanthropy Massachusetts released the first report on institutional philanthropy in Massachusetts in over 15 years and it includes a message from the CEO, methodology, and data limitations, giving by Massachusetts foundations and more! In addition, our Executive Director, Susan Musinsky will be on the panel for their upcoming event “Giving Massachusetts 2020: What Does This Data Mean for Nonprofits." Find more information on the Philanthropy Massachusetts event here.

View Notes from the Field #7

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