BOSTON — Four game-changing community partnerships became the first to win grants of up to $75,000 at United Way of Massachusetts Bay’s first-ever Venture Fund competition, held in collaboration with Aetna, a CVS Health Company. The live “pitch event” featured eight finalists, narrowed from an original pool of 76 applicants, who presented their ideas to an expert panel of judges and the broader community, with four winners awarded up to $75,000 on the spot from the United Way Social Innovation Venture Fund, presented by Aetna, to implement their initiatives.
“We are excited about the United Way Venture Fund because it specifically looks to identify local programs that provide individuals and families with social supports known to help improve their health outcomes,” said David Edelman, Chief Marketing Officer at Aetna. “These programs address the types of issues we collectively call the Social Determinants of Health and include things like education, housing, and employment. We are eager to work with the winning recipients to understand their programs, collect data on what works and where we can make improvements, and ultimately to look to scale these types of initiatives across the country.”
In a surprise twist, corporate event host and sponsor Boston Consulting Group pledged to provide funding to the four finalists who were not selected to receive grants last night, ensuring that all eight finalists receive support for their innovative and collaborative solutions.
The winning partnerships are:
- A ground-breaking initiative to create clinical research career opportunities for underserved communities: Urban College of Boston aims to provide financial security for people without a postsecondary degree by creating an entirely new career path through a partnership with Tufts Medical Center. They’ll offer a brand new, one-year certificate program, and those enrolled in the program will achieve the credentials to be Clinical Research Coordinators and access entry-level opportunities in clinical research positions.
- A new partnership with Boston Public Schools to support children experiencing housing instability: FamilyAid Boston will work to reduce homelessness by identifying students and families experiencing housing instability long before they reach a crisis point. Alongside Boston Public Schools, they’ll develop a data system that will fuel collaboration and action toward removing a family’s housing instability.
- A vision to transform local manufacturers into bilingual workspaces: Lawrence CommunityWorks will create opportunities for struggling workers to achieve financial stability by transforming local manufacturing workplaces, shifting them into bilingual environments that can hire a Spanish-speaking workforce. They aim to close the unemployment gap by ensuring employees are ready for their jobs, ensuring employers can offer training and support, and help companies take active steps to engage in building a workforce on their own.
- A community-wide effort to end food insecurity in Newburyport: Our Neighbors’ Table wants everyone in Newburyport to have the means to achieve financial stability by bringing the entire city together to provide food security to children and families. Through strategic partnerships with organizations from city government, schools, healthcare programs, and others, this effort looks to raise awareness, increase screening and intervention, and ensure everyone has access to fresh, nutritious food.
In addition to a Venture Fund award, Our Neighbors’ Table also won the evening’s $5,000 Audience’s Choice Award.
United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, in collaboration with Aetna, a CVS Health company, created its first-ever Social Innovation Venture Fund competition to seed new, innovative and collaborative solutions to entrenched community issues. Through this process, United Way will make one-year grants to a portfolio of nonprofit organizations that have the experience, community presence, and relationships to approach a big problem in a new way, as well as a long-term vision for how their approach can be scaled to achieve lasting change for all those who need it in their community.
“This has the potential to be transformative for those who need our help,” said Karley Ausiello, Senior Vice President for Community Impact at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “Our goal as a catalyst fund is to support those projects are led by an experienced nonprofit that knows the issue inside and out and has the staff to get the job done, depends on partnerships between nonprofits and organizations in other sectors, like business or government, to work, engages the community they aim to serve and has clearly defined and measurable goals.”
The winners were also judged on their readiness for a successful launch this summer with support from the Venture Fund and the potential for the solution to be scaled up to improve outcomes for an entire population over time.
The additional finalists who competed and will receive funding from United Way and Boston Consulting Group include:
- Cross Roads House, which plans to attack three causes of homelessness: eviction, lack of affordable housing, and lack of support for housing vouchers. They’ll pioneer a unique eviction prevention program that directly engages landlords, create a property tax credit that incentivizes housing construction, and work to reduce the stigma around providing housing to those with housing vouchers or those just leaving shelter.
- Family Independence Initiative, which will work to help people fulfill their basic needs and achieve financial stability by partnering with the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance and the City of Boston. They’ll be taking direct feedback from struggling yet dedicated families, generating data that will inform services provided on the ground. Served families will also have access to the UpTogetherFund, a digital platform connecting them to others in their position, shared resources and emergency funding, and more.
- The Home for Little Wanderers, which aims to help young children of incarcerated parents prepare to enter school ready to learn by providing the social and emotional support they sorely need. Through a partnership with the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, the program will offer the services and wraparound supports an inmate’s family needs to keep their children from experiencing developmental delays.
- UTEC, which aims to provide proven-risk and criminally-involved youth with the chance to succeed in school and in life by developing a first-of-its-kind street outreach training and professional development program. Designed specifically to meet their needs, this program offers these young people the chance to learn and grow personally and professionally, find economic stability, and give back to the community.