Boston – One year after launching a pilot program to build a network of place-based organizations, the Boston Foundation today announced it was awarding $200,000 in grants to an inaugural cohort of the Place Leadership Network (PLN) to advance equitable, accessible and vibrant community spaces in Greater Boston. The grants represent the Foundation’s emerging investment in organizations that steward shared places and the vital cultural and civic infrastructures they sustain.
The grants come after the eight organizations spent a year in a peer-learning process conducted in partnership with the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Throughout the year, place-based groups strengthened connections to policy and philanthropic resources, shared promising practices to strengthen cultural identity and the public realm at neighborhood scales, and built a much-needed mutual support network during the shock of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID has made even more visible the economic, social, climate and health inequities that these organizations are working to address every day in diverse communities around Greater Boston,” said F. Philip Barash, Fellow at the Boston Foundation and convenor of the Place Leadership Network. “It has been a deeply rewarding experience to work alongside this group of leaders as they inspire and support one another in transformative placemaking.”
Bowdoin Geneva Main Streets entered the Place Leadership Network with a vision to reimagine vacant parcels as cultural and entrepreneurial venues. "Since we take the holistic approach to community advancement and empowerment, our time with PLN has only emboldened our vision, while learning new approaches toward accomplishing our goals,” said Tania Anderson, Executive Director of Bowdoin Geneva Main Streets, one of the eight member teams in the cohort. Likewise, other PLN participants have used the learning process and grant funding to strengthen and expand urgent work in their neighborhoods – from enhancing the public realm of Chinatown with community murals to strengthening local governance and cooperation in Nubian Square.
In the spirit of solidarity that characterized the peer-learning process, cohort participants co-designed a transparent grantmaking process and recommended award levels for each other. Keeping with tenets of trust-based philanthropy, grant funds are intended to amplify the impact that PLN organizations and teams are already making in their neighborhoods. The grants also align with the Boston Foundation’s commitment to support innovative, multidisciplinary, locally-led work to address core issues of inequity in Greater Boston. Following a jury panel review, the following grants were made:
The PLN cohort reflects the demographics of the neighborhoods it serves. Of the eight participating neighborhood teams, five serve communities of color: predominantly Afro-Caribbean Bowdoin Geneva; Roxbury’s Nubian Square; historic Chinatown; Boston’s Latin Quarter; and a community of South American residents in Salem’s El Punto neighborhood. Two participants - the Trustees of Reservations and the Charles River Conservancy - maintain open space networks that stitch together communities of varied socioeconomic profiles, with a focus on inclusive audience development. The last, a consortium of creative organizations led by the Central Square Business Improvement District, oversees cultural placekeeping in a diverse area that encompasses Cambridge’s largest public housing development, artist workspaces, and a sizable population of unhoused people.
Leveraging new skills and networks that emerged in the first year of the initiative -- as well as grant funding -- PLN teams will pursue efforts that range from tangible interventions such as community murals and performances to long-term capacity-building and strategic audience development. To date, PLN cohort partners have accessed more than $435,000 in funding from the Boston Foundation with generous support from the Wagner Foundation, the Phyllis & Jerome Lyle Rappaport Foundation, and an anonymous donor. To learn more about the program, visit tbf.org/pln.