We Hit the Jackpot!
We were dreading the task. When looking for real estate in Boston, who wouldn’t?
We are a small nonprofit urban camp for kids looking to transition from our home office to a more formal and interactive workplace. Despite market realities and being “first-time home buyers,” we were optimistic. We had our wish list, our non-negotiables. We aimed high.
• Affordable rent
• To be part of a community of nonprofits committed to issues of social justice, equity, and access
• Opportunities to network, share ideas, best practices, and resources
• A central location in downtown Boston, near MBTA lines, and our partners
• A welcoming place that would befit the high-quality and intentional work we do with children.
• A well-appointed office to host our staff, supporters, and visitors—an environment that for-profit entities take for granted.
I put the word out to neighbors, friends, and anyone who would listen: “Do you have any leads for rental office space for Boston Explorers?” In passing, my neighbor said, “You’ve got to talk with Susan over at Social Innovation Forum (SIF). They’re an amazing organization that you need to know about.”
On a raw and dreary early January morning we met with Yvrantz, SIF operations manager, a gracious and welcoming host. She made us feel like we were high-end clients touring prime office space. We could hardly contain ourselves, but we told Yvrantz we needed to talk about it. We did not want to be too impulsive. At the coffee shop across the street, it took us 11 seconds to realize that we hit the jackpot!
That was just the beginning. On move-in day, we were warmly welcomed by SIF staff and other nonprofits that were part of the large open space. There were no executive suites. Power and hierarchical dynamics were not visible. Whether an organization had a budget of 100K or 4 million, it didn’t matter—you claimed your space equally.
Little things mattered to us: People were not plugged into headphones. They talked to each other and shared ideas. This is big for Boston Explorers because, one, the camp is based on building relationships and two, it is an electronic-free setting.
More benefits emerged: Monthly themed luncheon discussion meetings on race and disparities in Boston, on stress and anxiety, and celebrations during Pride month. Recently, we were asked to talk about our work at Boston Explorers. (And did I mention the snacks, food, and beverages, private meeting rooms, and tech services?) Meet-and-greets are a regular occurrence at SIF. It is not hyperbole to say that SIF functions as a town hall—a marketplace of ideas. They are true to their mission of “engaging leaders, strengthening organizations, and building networks.”
Now, seven months into our newfound office space, we are off to meet our campers and begin a summer that we know will be amazing. We do so with the strength of being a part of this unique working community in town. Our team knows the realities of the Boston real estate market that have come to bear on Boston Explorers and our nonprofit neighbors. As this One Congress community moves into a new space in the upcoming months, we hope that this community treasure of collaborative nonprofits will be valued, indeed prized, for their innovation and commitment to urban challenges. SIF has created a space where change happens. Organizations like this should be uplifted and supported in our city.