Uphams Advocacy - march

The objectives and strategies that guide the work of The Boston Foundation come from a strategic goal to nurture “thriving people and vibrant places” throughout Greater Boston. This goal is a result of continuing conversations with other nonprofits, civic leaders and insight gained through forums, focus groups, surveys and other research. Approaching our work in this way allows The Boston Foundation to maximize the impact of current philanthropy and also reinforces the value of thinking and working with a long term point of view.

Senior Program Officer, F. Javier Torres, uses this lens as the head of a cross-sectoral group of nonprofit organizations and government agencies that are working to build a sustainable “cultural economy” in the Upham’s Corner neighborhood of Boston.

How will the work you’ve begun be sustained after your ArtPlace grant?

Creating sustainability has been one of our goals since the beginning of this project. There is intentionality around the strategies we’ve used and a fervent commitment to “grassroots engagement where people uncover, activate, and energize their community’s own assets, take responsibility for their formal and informal decision-making processes, and further their ability to work constructively with conflict and difference.” This tenet has been brought to our work through the Humboldt Area Foundation’s definition of Community Democracy.  We’ve made a conscious decision to invest in advocacy and organizing strategies because these efforts activate the kind of civic engagement that is independent of the existing financial resources on the table. A recent report by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy found that for every dollar grantmakers and other donors provided for advocacy, organizing and civic engagement work, communities have reaped $115 in monetized benefits. Directly engaging the community and then leveraging the power of the community members clearly pays dividends. Putting certain institutional practices in place and nurturing relationships within the neighborhood are things that will live on after a granting period.

How has this work affected the work you will do beyond the grant period?

As a re-granter, this work has affected the way that we look at our grants. We are working to solve problems but want to have real impact so we are aware that we are working with longer time horizon expectations.  A recent report commissioned by the Kettering Foundation, Philanthropy and the Regeneration of Community Democracy, reminds us that “…the disconnect between a foundation’s expectations for results (both what and when) and what a community process might deliver can be extreme…foundations tend to reward timeliness and predictability. These are traits that rarely produce systems change, even though systems change is typically a stated target of… philanthropies.”

As a result, consideration is being given to how we best prioritize funds for creative placemaking in the future. That may mean working across the different strategic priorities of the Foundation and leveraging more than just grantmaking dollars, with the goal of placing additional resources in these neighborhoods. Finding ways to leverage strategic communications, policy and convening can often enhance the desired outcomes of place-based work.

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