Stay Classy Boston | City of Ideas

Posted 06/22/2016 by James Burnett & Tim Smith

And we were pretty happy with the knowledge that 16 of our Boston-area grantees were among the Classy Awards finalists, including GreenLight Fund, Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, Interise, and Match Education. They were all recognized for uniquely tackling social problems through technology and holistic approaches to education, wellness, and even investment. If you are a conspiracy theorist, relax. Our grantees were chosen to be recognized long before the Boston Foundation signed on to support Collaborative/Classy.

Anyway, other topics covered during the three-day conference were healthcare innovation, refugee crisis, new trends in educational excellence, movement building, and data for impact.

Bloomberg Markets recently named Massachusetts the most innovative state in America. And the folks at brought their conference here because there's a strong argument that Boston's the most innovative city in the nation right now. In an interview posted to the Classy blog, Justin Kang, of City Awake, and a local organizer of Collaborative/Classy, explained the pro-Boston argument this way: "Boston historically has been a hub for revolutionary ideas beginning with the American Revolutionary War and the country's independence from the British Empire. "We were one of the first states to abolish slavery, the first to offer public education, the first state of gay marriage, the first to move toward universal healthcare. So historically, Boston has always been progressive in terms of moving the needle around social issues...We have all the characteristics of an innovation hub. We have major universities, we have the highest density of venture capitalists in the area, we have research centers. There's a willing and supportive government. The combination of our innovation ecosystem with our historical commitment to social progress has really allowed us to become one of the leaders in social innovation."

If you want to read more of Justin's interview with Classy, the whole thing is here. But his comments above lead us back to the Boston Foundation for a moment: At a glance, you might not think there's a natural marriage between our 100-year-old community foundation and a tech-heavy movement calling for social change. The thing is internet technology is just the latest means to the end. As Justin pointed out, using other means decade over decade, century over century, Massachusetts has been a social innovator for a very long time. And the Boston Foundation has helped lead the way for the past 100 years.

We call it our "There at the Beginning" movement, which is also the title of a book that highlights 100-plus organizations that have changed the social landscape in Greater Boston - organizations that got their starts thanks to seed money and strategic support from the Boston Foundation. We helped get the ball rolling at Year Up. And it's now a national organization that helps disadvantaged young adults get the education and hands-on training they need to land good jobs that lead to good careers. We issued the first grant ever to WGBH. Approve of the fact that fish can breathe and swim in Boston Harbor? We were there at the beginning for Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, the group that engineered and led the harbor cleanup. New England Aquarium? There at the beginning. Playworks Massachusetts? There at the beginning. Commonwealth Shakespeare Company? There at the beginning.

So the Boston Foundation is serious when we say that we look forward to having a hand in the next incarnations of social innovation in our region, and potentially, nationwide. Just how serious? Suzanne DiBianca, Executive Vice President of Engagement at and founder of, announced at Collaborative/Classy a new partnership between The Boston Foundation and Pledge 1% to bring the "Pledge 1%" movement to Boston in the near future. Stay tuned for more details on that.


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