COVID-19, Community and a Chance for Real Change

CEO Paul S. Grogan reflects on what the COVID-19 crisis is teaching us about our society, and how TBF will approach our work moving forward.

April 30, 2020

Editor’s Note: Paul Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation, shared this email with members of the Boston Foundation’s community of donors, nonprofits and friends this morning. It has been edited for sharing generally here.    


By Paul S. Grogan, President & CEO

Dear Friend of the Boston Foundation,

All of us are in a response and relief mode now, as we should be, and will remain so until this pandemic runs its course. But we at the Boston Foundation and many of our community partners also see this crisis as a rare, even singular, opportunity for profound change.

Suddenly, seemingly overnight, all of America knows what the people who are struggling in this country have known for some time: We are living in a profoundly unequal society. They see it in the statistics reflecting those who are dying and in the faces of those who can’t work remotely because, though they are woefully underpaid and unsupported, they are central to our ability to function as a society.

The Foundation’s research center, Boston Indicators, has published irrefutable evidence that the tremendous wealth and boundless growth enjoyed by a small percentage of Bostonians exist side-by-side with searing poverty and a shameful lack of future prospects for others—primarily low-income people of color. I believe it is the true test of our time, finally, to do something about it.

Americans have devised ways to push back inequality and grow the middle class before. We saw it in the rise of the labor movement. We saw it in the GI Bill after World War II that transformed the lives of so many families. The latter was a federal response, but in my experience, some of the best solutions to the biggest problems in this country have been fostered at the local level.

Several months ago, I announced that I am stepping down as President and CEO of the Boston Foundation as soon as a new leader takes over. I will leave behind an organization that has far more than philanthropy in its arsenal. Today’s Boston Foundation knows that real change can only happen when we come together across all sectors, including government, base our discussions in research and listen to all perspectives.

We will continue our response work, but we will also take the long view and reach out to our partners to start an important dialogue about the economic and societal inequities this pandemic has revealed and the search for a way forward.

I implore everyone reading this message not to squander this opportunity for dialogue and real change. With our expertise in medicine and technology and our leadership in workforce development, what other city is better prepared to lead the way to a more equitable future? And what better time to do it than now, when we are all experiencing a renewed awareness of the power of community?  


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Paul S. Grogan