On June 3rd, the Social Innovation Forum (SIF) hosted Courageous and Creative Leadership, an event to celebrate its 2019 cohort of Social Innovators as they complete their 24-month engagement in SIF’s Social Innovator Accelerator. Read more about their work and impact in SIF’s Social Innovator Progress Report: An Update on the 2019 Cohort.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2019 cohort of Social Innovators have served as a lifeline to their communities.
Together with our funder and supporter community, leaders from these eight nonprofits came together to reflect on the lessons learned that they are carrying forward. Since they first started the Accelerator (January 2019), the essential role nonprofits play in the fabric of our society has become even more apparent. We recognize that this time has also required remarkable innovation from both nonprofits and funders. At the event, we brought together funders and nonprofits to have an open dialogue about innovations that will help build a more impactful and equitable nonprofit sector moving forward. Here is what our funders and 2019 Social Innovators shared with us!
Highlight from SIF Funder
We heard from Karen Pfefferle, Executive Director of the Wellington Management Foundation. Karen reflected on the importance of having deep and sustaining relationships with grantees that go beyond just providing funding. In addition, Karen emphasized the importance of having built a grant strategy and investing assets in such a way that allowed the Foundation to be counter cyclical in times of crisis. Having all that in place allowed the Foundation to act swiftly to offer additional support to grantees during the early months of the pandemic as organizations had to cancel fundraisers and simultaneously pivot to remote programs, often at additional expense. Karen also shared that among the lessons learned over the last year and a half, was that the deep and sustaining relationships that community organizations have with the students and families they serve are just as important and showed how vital they are in those lives, beyond just delivery of their core programming. In the coming months, Karen outlined the Foundation’s expanded commitment to “...programs that add academic rigor, and/or mental health services to existing programs to really respond to what’s happened to students and education in the last year and a half, and help get us back on track for whatever the new normal might look like.”
Highlights from 2019 Social Innovators
Prior to the event, Y2Y Network had their final quarterly check in call with SIF staff. Y2Y leaders Cameron Van Fossen (Executive Director) and Sam Greenberg (Co-Founder) shared a reflection that inspired the name and theme of the June 3rd event. They shared that keeping the doors of Y2Y’s youth-led youth homeless shelter open through a public health crisis led them to be courageous and creative with resources, for example, making decisions before they had the funding confirmed. Y2Y was able to keep its doors open every single night since the onset of the pandemic, with no COVID-19 cases among guests in 2020. Gearing up towards opening a second site, the organization increased its capacity forming a partnership with the Cambridge Housing Alliance to create pathways to stable housing and launching a second site in New Haven, CT. Looking forward, Y2Y’s leadership reflects on the greater trust they experienced from funders during this time of crisis and imagines what continuing that greater trust moving forward would mean for nonprofits.
During the event, it was nice to hear from Paige Academy co-founder Rev. Joe Cook, who shared more about Nguzo Saba - the Seven Principles of Kwanzaa that make up the organization's educational philosophy. Rev. Cook went on to say, “...one principle is unity, and I can see us all coming together to become one and supporting each other. Self-determination is another principle and we have to be self-determined to get through this pandemic and all the barriers that we face now, all the -isms that we are going up against. We have another principle which is collective work and responsibility, which is that we do much better when we work together - many hands make little work. We have cooperative economics - we need each other, we need to share our resources with each other so we can be successful at what we are doing, pulling people together. We have creativity and we already talked about that, how we had to use our creativity in this time and other times preceding this; and then we had faith and purpose and those are really important here because we learn by developing relationships with each other; we learn to trust each other.” It was important for their family to embody those principles during the struggle of the pandemic. While responding to the pandemic, the organization had to shift much of its day-to-day operations and strategic plans. During the shutdown, Paige Academy employed its teachers through a PPP loan to prepare classrooms for reopening, while also maintaining the Paige Academy gardens, supplying the school with fresh, local produce. When the school reopened, summer students harvested the gardens. Paige Academy has made great strides with its outdoor classroom and renovations while continuing to innovate its culturally resonant approach to education.
Show your Support!
Though our Innovators experienced an unusual year before completing the Accelerator, these eight nonprofits continued to create even more opportunities for social change. As we look ahead into the year, we know these organizations need ongoing support and that is why we are welcoming them to our alumni portfolio. We invite YOU to continue supporting them too!
2019 Social Innovators