Civic Engagement

Lauren Smith speaking  photo

Over the last decade, the Boston Foundation has established itself as a major civic leader in Greater Boston and the region. Through its Understanding Boston series and with crucial support from the Civic Leadership Fund, the Foundation identifies challenges facing the city and region, commissions fresh research and shares information through a series of forums that thousands of people attend each year.

The Boston Foundation uses strategic, proactive grantmaking to strengthen its civic leadership work and convenes powerful task forces and coalitions of experts dedicated to fulfilling ambitious agendas for change. Along with several partners, the Foundation also coordinates the John LaWare Leadership Forum, a dedicated group of business and civic leaders focused on responding to our region’s competitiveness challenges and opportunities. The Boston Foundation also sponsors the Boston Indicators Project, which provides comprehensive, constantly-updated information about every aspect of life in Greater Boston through bold, groundbreaking reports and an award-winning website.

In recent years the Foundation has made outstanding progress strengthening the budgets of cities and towns through work on municipal health plans. The report, Municipal Health Plans: Gilded Benefits from a Bygone Era, showed that employees of Massachusetts cities and towns had health care plans that were far more expensive than the state’s own GIC and other plans. By engaging in a dialogue and mobilizing a coalition of business and civic leaders, the Boston Foundation played a key role in passing groundbreaking health care reform legislation that was signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick in July of 2011. In its first year of implementation, cities and towns realized $178 million, saving the jobs of municipal employees and keeping public facilities open. The Foundation also played a major role in convening the Race to the Top Coalition, which helped bring $250 million in federal funds to Massachusetts. Also, several reports published by the Boston Foundation and the Crime and Justice Institute at Community Resources for Justice (CJI), contributed to shaping landmark legislation passed in 2010 to reform the state’s criminal offender record information (CORI) system.  The bill reduced the timelines for criminal convictions to remain on CORI checks and called for a “ban the box” provision, requiring the removal of criminal history questions from employment applications in most circumstances. The Foundation also convened the Coalition FOR Community Colleges, a statewide coalition of business, civic and community organizations, to advocate for stronger alignment among the 15 community colleges and with employers. In July of 2012, Governor Patrick signed a budget which not only increased financial support to community colleges, but also included key governance reforms that will bring stronger alignment and accountability to the community college system, while maintaining each campus' ability to serve local needs and prepare students for success.