Archive | November, 2011

Tackling Women’s Issues in Boston and Abroad

14 Nov

Last Friday we proudly announced our Boston Founding Members, the first 30 Boston-based organizations to join Catchafire. Today we’re in the Massachusetts capital to welcome them in person and celebrate their membership. Over the next few days we’ll be sharing their stories in a series of blog posts. Today we’re featuring three of the Founding 30. Covering education, healthcare and gender equality in the US and Africa, these three terrific organizations are tackling women’s issues in their own unique way:

The Science Club for Girls (SCFG) provides educational programs for girls in underrepresented communities. More specifically, these programs focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) for K-12th grade girls. All the programs are free and the girls work closely with mentors who foster leadership, and promote tertiary education and careers in science and technology. SCFG was founded in 1994 by two parents concerned about gender equality in STEM-based industries. Today it serves over 1,000 girls in five cities across Eastern Massachusetts and in Pokuase, Ghana.

SCFG was recognized with one of six national MetLife AfterSchool Innovator Awards in 2010 and was a recipient of the Nonprofit of the Year award from the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce in 2009.

Interested in volunteering as a mentor with SCFG? Read more here.

In 2001 Megan White Mukuria, a New England native and Harvard graduate, traveled to Kenya on a one-way ticket. Her mission: to start businesses for street children. She quickly became a global leader in the issue of menstruation management, having witnessed first-hand the impact of this issue on women in Kenyan society. Fast-forward six years to 2006, Megan founded ZanaAfrica, a public charity that promotes African-led innovation in the areas of healthcare, education and the environment to achieve sustainable and replicable solutions to poverty.

ZanaAfrica now has two major programs underway:

    • Sanitary pads: Each month 868,000 Kenyan girls miss 3.5 million school days. The free distribution of environmentally friendly, locally made sanitary pads is helping to keep Kenyan girls in school.
    • Empowerment and EmpowerNet Clubs: With the help of mentors, these clubs help primary and secondary students to make informed decisions about their sexuality and other important life choices. These clubs include a Microfinance-for-University program crafted to help schoolchildren get into and stay in university.

The organization is always looking for future donors and volunteers. Follow the links to see how you can support their cause.

The Komera Project is alleviating poverty in Rwanda by providing girls with secondary education. These girls, who otherwise would not have received an education, are improving their earning potential, their health and their sense of self-worth. With each additional year of school boosting a girl’s potential earnings by as much as 15 – 25%, The Komera Project is also effectively elevating the position of women in a post-genocide Rwanda where they represent 65% of the population.

How did it start? In 2006, Margaret Butler, a primary school teacher, spent the year in a remote Rwandan village. During this time, she hosted a girls-only “fun run.” At the start of the first race, the crowd cheered “Komera” – “be strong and courageous.” Ten of the runners went on to receive scholarships for secondary school and the The Komera Project was founded. Today the organization supports 35 scholars, providing each with tuition and boarding costs, uniforms, health insurance, travel expenses, and the resources they will need to live comfortably and concentrate on their work.

Visit their website to learn about The Komera Project and how you can get involved.

Tomorrow we will feature ArtVenue and Design Museum Boston, two of our Founding 30 promoting arts and culture in Boston.


Meet our Boston Founding Members

11 Nov

Over the past week, we’ve featured profiles of some of our Boston Founding Members and their causes. Today, we’re excited to showcase our final list of organizations coming on board.

This broad group is a testament to the quality and passion of Boston’s social good landscape. Because of the sheer number of amazing organizations who were interested in Founding Membership, we decided to increase our Founding Member Class from 25 to 30 organizations. They represent a diverse spectrum of cause areas and sizes, and we believe our professionals will be truly excited at the opportunity work with these organizations and share in their impact.

Catchafire Boston Founding Members

Year Up

Pine Street Inn

Boston Rising

Greenlight Fund

Boston World Partnerships

City Year

Generation Citizen


Root Cause Social Innovation Forum


Higher Ground

Raising a Reader

Commongood Careers

Environmental Defense Fund

Science Club for Girls

The Boston Harbor Association

Housing Families

Right Question Institute

Youth Villages

Elizabeth Stone House

Partners for Youth with Disabilities

CropCircle Kitchen


Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color


Design Museum Boston



The Komera Project

Calling All Crows

Catchafire is now accepting Boston organizations for Early Adopter Membership. To learn more about membership, visit Catchafire to register your organization and contact

Boston Founding Members innovating on traditional notions of the “Foundation” & “Incubator”

10 Nov
Boston Rising, Greenlight Fund and CropCircle Kitchen fall under the headings of “foundations” and “incubator”, respectively, but each of them is generating impact in a new and innovative way.
Boston Rising is a fund to end the cycle of poverty in Boston by clearing a path for the next Rising Class. Taking a new approach to an old problem, the organization is fairly new in the Boston foundation landscape, but is already generating waves. The Boston Rising team believes that by tapping into the power of local communities, providing access to the right resources and empowering the Rising Class, they can break the cycle of poverty in urban neighborhoods. The organization recently launched the first-of-its-kind resident-led fund, the Grove Hall Trust, to bring choice and control to the residents of a Boston neighborhood.  Grove Hall Trust is funded on two core beliefs: communities know what they need to improve their outcomes, and sustainable impact comes from shared risk and responsibility. Learn more about the groundbreaking work that Boston Rising is doing here and read CEO Tiziana Dearing’s recent article for the Huffington Post.
The Greenlight Fund seeks out innovative, high-performing nonprofits in cities across the country and supports their successful expansion into the local Boston community.  Primarily, these organizations address issues affecting low-income urban children and families in key areas such as education, youth development, workforce development, and health. The Greenlight Fund was conceived to address the obstacles that prevent innovative, high-impact nonprofit models in other cities around the country from spreading. While social entrepreneurs across the US are creating powerful solutions to the many daunting challenges of our time, communities do not hear about innovations in other places that could effectively address the challenges they face. The spread of social innovations is limited because there is no vehicle dedicated to identifying unmet local needs, finding and replicating innovative approaches to meet these needs, and adapting the approaches for success in the local community. Greenlight seeks to achieve this for Boston, and eventually for other cities as well. Another innovative approach Greenlight has adopted to help their members build capacity is to support them for Catchafire membership. This year, Greenlight provided partial sponsorship for two of their members, Raising a Reader and Youth Villages, to join Catchafire as Founding Members.  Read more about their unique approach here.
CropCircle Kitchen is Boston’s only shared use kitchen and culinary business incubator. Founded as a new 501(c)3 non-profit in August 2009,  CropCircle currently supports about 25 culinary entrepreneurs and their fledgling businesses, providing technical support, training, oversight, and mentoring through the early stages of a new food business. Most importantly, CropCircle Kitchen has a deep commitment to sustainability and truly believes in the local food movement and rebuilding the original food economy through an “organic renaissance”. By nurturing entrepreneurs, their mission is to support the local economy and small businesses, a truly unique cause in our class of Founding Members. Read more here.

In tomorrow’s profiles – Boston Founding Members who are behind women’s issues

5 Boston Founding Members passionate about education

9 Nov
Boston, with 26 universities, is fertile seeding ground for startup social enterprises and nonprofit organizations focused on education. Today’s diverse group of Founding Members all share a passion for education. Read on to learn more!

City Year  is one of the seminal education organizations in the United States, with locations across the country, South Africa and the UK. The organization unites young people of all backgrounds for a year of full-time service, providing them skills, opportunities and inspiration (or confidence?) to change the world. As tutors, mentors and role models, these diverse young leaders help children stay in school and on track, and transform schools and communities. As CEO and Co-Founder Michael Brown stated in City Year’s 2010 Annual Report: “Education is the foundation of the American dream. Yet more than one million students give up on school in the United States every year. The high school dropout crisis is a national epidemic that requires bold action.” City Year is taking action. In a 2010 survey of students, 80% of the 4,400 respondents agreed, “City Year helps me learn, and helps me believe I can succeed.” Learn more about City Year here.

The dream for Year Up was born in Boston, through what was perhaps one of the most impassioned college application essays ever received by Harvard Business School. Inspired by his experience as a Big Brother and equally appalled by the injustices of the Opportunity Divide he witnessed whilst mentoring his Little Brother, Gerald Chertavian, Year Up’s Founder and CEO, wrote his Harvard application essay about his dream to open an urban school for young adults. Year Up’s mission is to close the Opportunity Divide by providing urban young adults with the skills, experience and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education. In its first year, Year Up mentored 22 students in Boston; it is now a nationwide movement that will serve over 1,400 students in nine cities across the country this year.

The Right Question Institute (RQI)  is a unique organization. It’s mission is simple yet powerful: To help individuals in low and moderate-income communities learn to advocate for themselves and participate in decisions that affect them. The organization develops uncomplicated but impactful methods for teaching sophisticated self-advocacy and democratic skills to people of all educational, income or literacy levels. They then disseminate these tools to institutions in a “train the trainer” method. For instance, the organization has helped health educators, nurses, doctors, and other health staff use the Right Question Strategy to support patient efforts to participate more actively in their own health care and promote more patient-provider shared decision-making. To read about the universal relevance of RQI’s methods, click here.

For the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC), “…the establishment of a network of schools diverse in their configuration but united in their commitment to educate and affirmatively develop boys and young men of color is critically important.” Ron Walker, COSEBOC’s Founder and Executive Director, has 4 decades experience as an educator and spent the last 15 years as leader of a national school reform project. To realize its mission – of re-imagining and transforming the schooling experience for males of color and help them attain success – the organization builds networked learning community of educators, researchers, policy-makers and caring adults who support school leaders with high quality professional development. To read more, click here.

Raising a Reader (RAR)’s mission is to engage parents in a routine of daily “book cuddling” with their children from birth to age five. This fosters healthy brain development, parent-child bonding, and early literacy skills critical for school success. Operated through a variety of host agencies, RAR rotates a set of bright red bags filled with award-winning children’s books into the homes of participating families on a weekly basis. In its short ten year history, Raising A Reader has already reached 811,000 children. Its long term goal is to extend its reach as a leader in early literacy family engagement and eventually reach one million children. In 2006, 2007, and 2008 Raising A Reader was named one of the top 45 social entrepreneurs changing the world by Fast Company Magazine.

In tomorrow’s profiles – Boston Founding Members who are foundations and incubators behind nonprofits and entrepreneurs

A talented class of Boston Founding Members

8 Nov

With one week to go until our launch in Boston, our Founding Class of 25 is nearly full! We are truly excited to have a class of organizations large and small, representing cause areas that run the gamut from poverty alleviation to design and culture. Over the next few days, we will be profiling a selection of these Founding Members on our blog. Our first group to be profiled are passionate about alleviating homelessness and poverty. Read on to get to know them and the causes they are passionate about.

Pine Street Inn is one of Boston’s most well known nonprofit organizations. They believe that “everyone deserves a place to call home” and provide shelter and nourishment and compassion to hundreds daily. Pine Street Inn began its journey four decades ago, offering approximately 200 men suffering from alcoholism a safe alternative to the streets of Boston. Today they serve over 1,300 men and women daily, and provide a comprehensive range of programs and services, including housing, outreach, shelter and job training, but their ultimate goal is to make permanent housing a real possibility for all.  Pine Street Inn is poised to open two new houses in Boston on November 12th, one of which is dedicated completely to veterans of the US Armed Forces. Check out the celebrations for these openings here.

Housing Families has established itself as an force committed to ending homelessness for families. In 1986, community members concerned about the crisis of homelessness among families in Boston’s Metro North cities of Everett, Malden, and Medford created what is now Housing Families Inc. (HFI).  HFI’s current services include a children’s after school program, an eviction prevention program and a housing stabilization program, and they have grown into one of the largest operators of affordable housing for homeless and very low-income families in Massachusetts. As one beneficiary put it: “The help we received and continue to receive from Housing Families has helped to accelerate the constructive changes in my life, and I know I am taking positive steps toward my aspirations.”  Read more success stories here.

Elizabeth Stone House provides homeless families and individuals with a goal-oriented, outcome-driven environment. By helping to resolve the underlying drivers of homelessness – domestic violence, substance abuse, and mental illness – Elizabeth Stone House seeks to help families and individuals attain and maintain permanent housing, personal safety, and economic stability. The Stone House’s residential programs include a three-month Domestic Violence Shelter and an 18-month Transitional Housing Program. They also provide a number of community support groups and personal economic development programs.  Over 500 women, children and men have been served through the Stone House’s programs. Get involved here.

Tomorrow’s profiles – Boston Founding Members who are passionate about education!

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