Grassroots Strategy

Seeking to recognize, include and support the leaders and communities that have historically been excluded


Activating Grassroots Leaders

We recognize the leadership and vision of community members and seek to support their growth and work. We do this by sponsoring professional development opportunities for grassroots leaders, connecting leaders to resources and other support systems, and hosting the Boston Neighborhood Fellows.

Seeding Grassroots Ideas

Grassroots grant making at the Boston Foundation is set up to respond quickly to community needs, with the Grassroots Fund proactively providing grants that range from $200 to $10,000 to grassroots organizations and efforts led by leaders with lived experiences in the issues we work to address through all of our grant making.

Key Partner: Urban Guild, Inc.

In the heart of Bowdoin-Geneva, you will find the Community Hub, a community greenspace created out of an abandoned lot that had gone undeveloped for a number of years. Urban Guild, Inc., decided to reclaim the space and work alongside Bowdoin-Geneva residents to create a community garden. Urban Guild founder and life-long resident of Dorchester, Jhana Senxian, describes these abandoned lots as “wounds on the body of the community,” and it was her hope that from these wounds a new sense of community engagement could grow. Through this process of reclamation, the Community Hub has become an oasis for residents to come together, share meals and create a collective sense of responsibility over the space.

Deepening Grassroots Connections

We work to deepen grassroots connections by partnering with leaders to co-create safe and welcoming spaces and opportunities for community members, grassroots nonprofit leaders and Foundation staff to meet together, exchange stories and discuss lessons learned from community action to ensure that voices of communities historically excluded are present in all of our work.

Cornerstone Programs

My Summer in the City

My Summer in the City

In 2010, the Boston Foundation launched My Summer in the City (MSITC) as a funding initiative focused on strengthening education, employment and recreational opportunities for young people during the summer months. In the early years, MSITC partners/recipients focused on providing programming in underutilized parks and open spaces during non-traditional hours. Through the initiative, the Foundation was able to support 150 organizations to broaden activities in the parks and to increase employment opportunities for young people. 

The focus of this approach is twofold: 1) create quality pre-employment programming and a pipeline to summer employment focused on our middle school–aged young people who are often left  to “self-care” during summer months with a resulting lower likelihood of participating in structured activities (enrichment as well as employment) and 2) provide job experience and job training to young people who are the least employed and most at risk. 

My Summer in the City seeks to find partners that will support young people who have experienced the greatest difficulties in finding both pre-employment and employment opportunities in the summer. MSITC also seeks to increase teens’ exposure to the world of summer employment as well as increase their basic employability skills (attendance, team work, communicating with other workers and customers).

Collaborate Boston

Launched in October 2013, Collaborate Boston is an open prize competition for community-led, collaborative ideas. Each prize cycle, $100,000 in funding is awarded to the most promising collaborations focused on achieving specific outcomes for the people and/or places that make up our communities and that demonstrate strong leadership by a specified group. Collaborate Boston is based on the dual premises that it will take all of us working together across organizations, sectors and other silos to achieve the complex and lasting change we seek; and that some of the best, most powerful ideas about how to strengthen communities come from the communities themselves.

Boston Neighborhood Fellows

The Boston Neighborhood Fellows Program has provided funding to local leaders doing important grassroots work in support of the Boston community for 27 years. The Boston Foundation is proud to host the Boston Neighborhood Fellowship directly since 2016, with the expansion of the program to include more learning opportunities for participating Fellows. The two-year program provides grassroots leaders with opportunities to build community across sectors, develop their skills in nonprofit leadership and work together toward equity and justice. In addition to recognition, the program gives each Fellow a stipend of $5,000 over two years, and seeks to expand their access to resources while supporting their growth in creativity, vision and leadership. 

Learn more about the Boston Neighborhood Fellows Program.