Impact Initiatives and Co-investments

With a long and celebrated history, Cambridge today stands for educational excellence, innovation and economic vitality. A small city with global impact, Cambridge has a wealth of intellectual and financial resources, innovation capacity and a spirit of generosity. Its booming economy has created more jobs than the city’s population. Cambridge draws residents from around the world – local students speak 104 languages at home, from Albanian to Vietnamese – and the city is prized for its quality of life. Cambridge’s economic prosperity however, is not equitably shared by people across the city. Income and racial disparities remain our city’s key challenges.

Investing in social equity has been core to the Cambridge Community Foundation’s work and we welcome expanding it through civic leadership, donor engagement and grantmaking. Solving big issues and finding solutions for shared prosperity require collective action. The Foundation is therefore utilizing a portion of its discretionary income from the Cambridge Endowment to pro-actively seed or initiate scaled or systemic change related to important community needs or opportunities for impact. We bring together donor, public, and philanthropic partners who are passionate about these issues and use co-investment and collaborative decision-making to create collective community impact.

Grantmaking for Special Initiatives is largely pro-active, but recognizing the skills, capacities and knowledge inherent in our community, the Cambridge Community Foundation welcomes input and brief letters of interest to explore the strategic investments in four areas.

A recent grant to Family Independence Initiative speaks to a fundamental commitment to strong and thriving families. This grant invests in the capacity of low-income families to generate their own strategies and solutions, turning access to resources and existing social networks into improved outcomes. Goals for FII families include increasing incomes, building savings, supporting children in school and strengthening civic participation and social networks.

The new Cambridge is defined by a powerful and growing innovation economy. Our emerging work on equity and opportunity is developing partnerships with innovation economy businesses and institutions. One such effort, the Talent-Ed Initiative is focused on ensuring opportunities for Cambridge residents to participate in the innovation economy. The Foundation supports programs that help them find pathways into this landscape of opportunity. Finding pathways was the subject of a forum in the spring that drew interested participants from schools, industry, nonprofits the funder community and the city as well. The other, an emerging partnership with the Boston Foundation is seeking to engage startups to give back to the community through Pledge 1%, a growing global effort of startups that have committed 1% of their company (either through individual pledges or corporate pledges) to support their communities.

Family & Child Well-being have a symbiotic relationship — from links between maternal educational status and children outcomes to parental economic status and engagement in their child’s life. Research shows that early childhood —from birth to age three is a critical period for cognitive and social emotional development. From memory enhancement as early as one month, to speech sounds by age one, connected speech by age two and relating concepts and categories from age three onwards — these development abilities have long term implications.  CCF in partnership with the City of Cambridge is exploring strategies for interventions that support parenting and early childhood development.

Cambridge has been shaped by dreamers and visionaries throughout its long history. A city of ideas and solutions, Cambridge boasts a long list of creative thinkers, writers, artists, innovators, entrepreneurs. To ensure that our city continues in this tradition of innovation, it is critical to feed the creativity and imagination of its residents. Several emerging efforts are working in that direction. The Foundation hosted a gathering earlier this year of artists, cultural leaders, and members of the business and civic communities.  We explored strategies to strengthen and secure the Central Square cultural innovation district. One outcome: a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts and administered by the Foundation to amplify the voices of local residents.