Steve and Ellen Segal at SIF's Winter Reception

Steve & Ellen Segal

After being introduced to the Social Innovation Forum (SIF) through a colleague, Steve Segal's initial engagement was as a presentation advisor in 2011. Steve found the one-on-one volunteer role to be extremely rewarding, and he began to attend SIF events where he learned about a range of social issues and met like-minded funders and innovative community leaders. In 2012, Steve and his wife Ellen became financial supporters of the Social Innovation Forum.

Steve continued to look for additional ways to deepen his philanthropic involvement and increase the direct impact of his resources. In 2013, SIF was able to provide Steve with exactly the engagement opportunity he was looking for by facilitating a unique funder collective called Boston Open Impact.

Our eyes were opened to the breadth of social innovation taking place right here in Boston.

Steve joined a small group of fellow entrepreneurs and business leaders to sponsor a social issue track for the 2014 Social Innovation Forum. The group, who chose the name Boston Open Impact, was interested in helping innovative, effective organizations scale their impact, but the group did not have a particular social issue area in mind. Their track, titled, “Anything Goes: Innovative, Effective, and Sustainable Approaches to Our Region’s Toughest Social Issues,” welcomed applicants working in any social issue sector that helped underserved populations.

All of the Boston Open Impact members knew from their experience with SIF that the Innovator supported through their track would have a tremendous opportunity for capacity building and growth. The members also hoped that the experience of sponsoring a track would help them get closer to their philanthropy and learn about innovative, effective social change organizations in greater Boston.

“As a track sponsor, our eyes were opened to the breadth of social innovation taking place right here in Boston," said the Segals. "Through this process, we have been able to invest in organizations with tremendous potential, be instrumental in their growth, and engage deeply in the philanthropic process."

As they reviewed applications, interviewed mission driven leaders, and conducted site visits, Boston Open Impact became a tight-knit group that learned from one another and from the SIF process. With the support of the SIF team, they selected Silver Lining Mentoring (previously AFC Mentoring) as a 2014 Social Innovator. Boston Open Impact was quick to sign on for a second year of the “Anything Goes” track for the 2015 Social Innovation Forum. Ellen became involved in 2015 and added an important voice and another unique perspective to the conversation. 

During the 2015 selection process, Boston Open Impact opted to select two Innovators: Catie’s Closet and Courageous Parents Network (CPN). Steve was especially impressed and interested in the work of CPN and signed on to be their presentation advisor. Deeply appreciating CPN’s strong leadership, highly innovative, cost effective approach, and important work serving families with children battling serious illness, Steve was honored to be asked to be Board Chair of CPN shortly thereafter.

The following year Boston Open Impact selected the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, a center of healing, teaching, and learning for those families and communities impacted by murder, loss, and grief, as the Social Innovator. In 2017 the group selected Project Citizenship, an organization that paves an easier path to citizenship by offering immigrants information, free legal expertise, and a streamlined process. Having the “Anything Goes” track has allowed SIF to support organizations working on important social issues that did not fit any of a given year’s track categories.

Now in its fifth year funding the “Anything Goes” track, the Boston Open Impact collective continues to learn and grow together as a group. While Steve and Ellen had been active philanthropists prior to joining Boston Open Impact, this experience has given them a unique opportunity to support earlier-stage, high-impact organizations in a hands-on way, knowing that their support will be multiplied by the SIF process. Steve and Ellen are thrilled to have found a way to use their experience, skills and resources to engage and create positive social impact in greater Boston.