Thank you for your interest in the Barr Foundation, and welcome to our website.
Barr hired its first staff in 2000. Since then we have worked to advance a vision of a vibrant, just, and sustainable world with hopeful futures for children. As we reflect on Barr’s first decade and step forward into the next, our dependence on and gratitude for the work of our grantees is uppermost in our minds.
Barr grantees are an uncommon lot. From the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative to the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance to the Huntington Theatre, they work tirelessly on issues as divergent as early childhood development, energy efficiency, and Boston’s artistic soul. What these organizations have in common are highly skilled, committed, hard-working staffs, volunteers, and leaders, who often make great personal sacrifices – financial and otherwise – to achieve their missions.
In order to thrive, these nonprofits have to navigate a capital market that can be highly unpredictable and, at times, even undermine their capacity to achieve their missions. With a penchant for supporting new programs, new buildings, and scale, foundations sometimes unwittingly leave organizations overextended and undercapitalized. When a foundation changes its strategies, it only adds to the angst. Government funding further contributes to the instability by underpaying for services. Fortunately, many nonprofits are led by mission-driven leaders, who deftly navigate this landscape, delivering results far beyond what seems possible. When foundations are at their best, we make time to listen to such leaders, to learn from them, and to build relationships with them. The Barr Fellows Program, which began in 2005, represents our signature effort to do just this.
As you explore our site, you will find information about our strategies, our grantmaking, and what we are learning from our work. You will also discover ways to share what you find with others in your network. As always, we welcome your guidance and insights. And we look forward to another decade of community building and fellowship.
Patricia H. Brandes, Executive Director
Class of 2011
The 2011 class of Barr Fellows on their learning journey to Haiti at the beginning of their sabbaticals in June 2011. Also pictured are Kim Haskins, Barr Senior Program Officer, and Gibran Rivera, of Interaction Institute for Social Change, who joined them on the trip.
Learn more about members of the class of 2011 by clicking on their names below:
Class of 2009
The 2009 class of Barr Fellows on their learning journey to Brazil at the beginning of their sabbaticals in June 2009.
Also pictured are Mariella Puerto, Barr Senior Program Officer, and Gibran Rivera, of Interaction Institute for Social Change, who joined them on the trip.
Learn more about members of the class of 2009 by clicking on their names below:
The Barr Fellowship
The Fellowship Experience
The Barr Fellowship begins with a three-month sabbatical. Fellows spend the first two weeks of their sabbatical traveling together as a cohort of twelve to the global south (for example, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Haiti). The importance of the cohort in building strong relationships among leaders is critical to the fellowship. Structured to immerse Fellows as a group in an entirely disruptive learning context, this trip also creates the freedom to think differently. Fellows interact with social and environmental activists, who, despite scarce resources and great challenges, provide living examples that stir the imagination, inspire and confirm big aspirations, and bolster confidence for Fellows to achieve what they may never have considered possible before.
Following the sabbatical, the Foundation gathers Fellows on semi-annual overnight retreats for three years. These gatherings continue to deepen the peer network of learning, support, and accountability as Fellows seek to manifest their dreams at home.
To support their development, each Fellow also has the option of working with a personal coach.
While the class of twelve are formally together for three years, once an Executive Director is chosen as a Fellow they have the option of joining the larger Fellowship network. Gatherings are held each year for the entire network and these may also include travel.
Support for Fellows’ Organizations
Barr provides each Fellow's organization with a $40,000 grant to help minimize the disruption caused by their absence. This is flexible funding, and organizations use it in a variety of ways, including organizational and/or professional development. Barr also convenes interim leaders twice during the sabbatical for peer learning and support.
There is no application process for a Barr Fellowship. Candidates are nominated by a group of over 80 people, including current Barr Fellows, Barr Foundation staff, other Boston-area funders, and others who have strong knowledge of the diverse mix of Executive Directors working in Greater Boston. All nominees are carefully vetted for eligibility and then reviewed by all the nominators against a set of criteria. A five-member Selection Committee then identifies the finalists. Candidates who are willing to make the three-year commitment, and who wish to pursue the opportunity move to the final stage of the process. They complete a statement of intent and meet with the Foundation's Executive Director to confirm that their intentions and the goals of the Fellowship are aligned.
Measures of Success
Success is measured in three ways. Tenure in the sector and contribution is the first. The Fellowship is intended to rejuvenate great leaders so they continue to make significant contributions in the nonprofit sector - hopefully in the Boston area. Renewed and invigorated, many Fellows remain in their organizations long after their Fellowship ends. Others may be inspired to start new organizations, to take the helm of different ones, or to contribute in other previously unimagined ways. Whatever paths they choose, Barr expects Fellows to bring experience and innovations to bear on persistent social and environmental challenges.
The Fellowship is also intended to have a positive effect on Fellows’ organizations. Sabbaticals have been shown to contribute positively to organizational development for nonprofits. Fellows create more distributed leadership during and after their sabbaticals, and their organizations are strengthened as a result. The second measure of success is an increase in overall leadership capacity in Fellows’ organizations.
Finally, the Fellowship is intended to build a network of boundary-crossing leaders, who are diverse in race, ethnicity, discipline, age and gender, and whose actions build a more inclusive civic table in Boston. The measure of success for this dimension is the degree to which the network is knitting the city together through collaborative actions.
- Barr Fellowship Overview
- Barr Fellowship Logic Model
- Frequently Asked Questions
- "Networking a City" (Stanford Social Innovation Review)
- "First Relationships. Then Results." (National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy Quarterly Journal)
- Creative Disruption: Sabbatical for Capacity Building & Leadership Development in the Nonprofit Sector (CompassPoint, TSNE)
- A Leaders Guide to Executive Coaching (Nonprofit Quarterly)
- NET GAINS: A Handbook for Network Builders Seeking Social Change (Plastrik, Taylor)
Class of 2007
The 2007 class of Barr Fellows (and new friends from the Kufunda Learning Village) on their learning journey to South Africa at the beginning of their sabbaticals in June 2007. Also pictured are Klare Shaw, Barr Senior Program Officer, and Marianne Hughes, of Interaction Institute for Social Change, who joined them on the trip.
Learn more about members of the class of 2007 by clicking on their names below:
Class of 2005
Members of the inaugural class of Barr Fellows (and new friends from the Kufunda Learning Village) on the Fellows' learning journey to South Africa and Zimbabwe at the beginning of their sabbaticals in June, 2005.
The Barr Fellows
There are currently 48 Barr Fellows - 12 members each from the classes of 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011. To see images from their learning journeys, or to read Fellows' bios, click on their class links below:
The Grantmaking Process
At Barr, grantmaking begins with strategy development. Typically a year-long process, this starts with work to clarify our goals. It ends with a set of strategies, logic models, and theories of change that we use to guide all of our efforts. For examples, visit our Strategies page.
The Barr Foundation has a small staff and it reviews funding proposals by invitation only. This gives staff time to focus on understanding systems, identifying key players, and building networks. Drawing on this knowledge and these relationships, program officers invite nonprofits to complete concept papers – which are brief summaries of proposed work and intended outcomes. Staff review concept papers quarterly. They consider how closely the proposed work links to our strategies, and how well it would complement other efforts already underway. Some nonprofits are then invited to submit full proposals. These are considered – also quarterly – by Barr’s trustees, who make final decisions about whether or not to award funding. To peruse a collection of representative grants awarded by the foundation, visit our Typical Grants page.
Contact Us and Directions
The Pilot House
Boston, MA 02110
The Foundation's offices are in the Pilot House at Lewis Wharf, adjacent to 2 Atlantic Avenue. The entrance is located away from the street, at the far end of the building (towards the harbor). Walk along the sidewalk, keeping the Starbucks to your left, until you reach the revolving door - the entrance to the lobby - below the large "Pilot House" sign. The receptionist at the desk in the lobby will direct you to the Foundation's offices.
The closest subway stops to the Barr Foundation are:
- Aquarium (Blue Line)
- State (Orange Line)
- Haymarket (Orange and Green Lines)
View a map of the Boston subway.
The #4 bus stops at 2 Atlantic Avenue.
There is also ferry service to Long Wharf.
More information can be found at the MBTA web site - http://www.mbta.com.
For driving directions to the Pilot House at Lewis Wharf, use the "Get Directions" option in the map above.
Underground parking is available at 2 Atlantic Avenue.
The Barr Foundation staff are:
News, reports, interviews, speeches, and more featuring Barr staff, fellows, grantees and others on the challenges we are focused on and what we are learning.
"As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as in being able to remake ourselves." - Mahatma Gandhi
Celebrating and Connecting Extraordinary Leaders
Every few years, 12 Boston heroes are surprised by a phone call from the Barr Foundation. Chosen from among hundreds of leaders of area nonprofits, these 12 receive a unique offer – to become Barr Fellows. This means a three-month sabbatical, group travel to the global south, and the opportunity to join a remarkably diverse network of leaders.
Collaboration across boundaries - geographic, cultural, or otherwise - is not exactly what the city of Boston has a reputation for. While there are signs of progress everywhere, it was not long ago that few stepped across neighborhood lines. The social sector is sometimes equally divided. With one of the highest concentrations of nonprofits in the country, Boston’s nonprofit leaders are more often competing for dollars than they are working together. After years of leading organizations, and the constant fight for resources, many of these leaders are near burnout. With neither time nor dollars for reflection or rejuvenation, they are not able to maximize their gifts. The Barr Fellowship is an effort to change that.
Since 2005, the Barr Foundation has been quietly surprising extraordinary nonprofit leaders – over half of whom are people of color – with these phone calls. Through the “creative disruption” of their trip and sabbatical, and the deep bonds of trust that Fellows form with one another, they move to new levels of leadership. The parochial, turf-bound competition to which they’ve grown accustomed gives way. In its place, a powerful spirit of inspiration, hope, and collaboration takes hold. “21st century cities are global,” says Pat Brandes, Barr’s Executive Director. “We increasingly depend on boundary crossers like the Barr Fellows to overcome cultural, racial, gender, class, and generational divisions to deal with the complex issues facing cities.
To advance its vision of a vibrant, just, and sustainable world with hopeful futures for children, Barr’s domestic work focuses primarily on:
Our major emphases are on early education, the Boston Public School system, and out-of-school time. Our overarching education goal is to close education opportunity gaps in Boston so that public school achievement is no longer predicted by demographics or address.
To demonstrate how to meet aggressive targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (and to do so equitably), Barr invests in large-scale efforts to help cities and towns make their buildings more energy efficient. We also support work to improve the links between where people live, work, learn and play, and to make all forms of transportation – driving, biking, walking, public transit – safer and more affordable, accessible, and efficient. In this work, our primary focus is the Commonwealth’s metro areas. However, given the global nature of this challenge, and the diversity of cities and towns exhibiting real leadership, we also invest in select statewide, regional, and national efforts.
To enhance cultural vitality in the city of Boston, we invest primarily in mid-sized arts and cultural institutions and in organizations that provide young people opportunities to experience and pursue excellence in the arts.
Increasing Civic Engagement and Community Resilience
Underpinning investments in these areas is Barr’s commitment to a racially just and caring community with robust civic engagement. Our signature Barr Fellows Program connects gifted nonprofit leaders to help make this vision real. A small portfolio of grants provides operating support for organizations with a strong track record of developing new leaders of color.
Barr Global was established in 2010 to improve the lives of children and families in poverty in developing countries. The Global team is building a portfolio of projects that delivers measurable improvements in the interconnected areas of Livelihoods, Health, Environment and Education, predominantly in rural areas. Our investments are currently focused in sub-Saharan Africa, Haiti and India. Barr collaborates with a variety of partners in these settings, ranging from local grassroots organizations to foreign ministries, to internationally recognized social entrepreneurs and large international organizations. Barr Global employs an outcome-driven approach designed to produce the greatest social and environmental return.
In each of our strategies, we work to be clear about what success looks like. Our eyes are on the ends – on specific outcomes and measurable results. Yet we are also focused on the means. At Barr, our approach is guided by a hypothesis that deep and lasting change often requires attention to:
- Networks: Too often in the nonprofit sector, organizations work in isolation. Yet, when leaders cross boundaries and work through networks, the results are often more robust and lasting. In our work that spans multiple interconnected fields, we see many opportunities for organizations to network. These networks can take many different forms. Both funders and nonprofits have much to learn in order to work in this new way more effectively.
- Community-Based Leadership: The real agents of change are those most commonly referred to as "beneficiaries" - the children, adults, families, and communities who literally change their present and future. As catalysts and accelerators of that change, we invest in leaders who live and work in communities and are reflective of their demographics. Such leaders create and strengthen civil society, weaving the deep, trusting relationships that are the fabric of communities.
- Systems Thinking: Complex systems often resist, or even undermine change efforts. Common “solutions” to challenges sometimes just treat symptoms, without addressing root causes. Sometimes our “solutions” have unintended consequences that exacerbate, or create new problems elsewhere. At Barr, we consistently work to improve our thinking about how systems behave, and to identify the leverage points for creating lasting change.
- Racial Justice: As we think about systems and root causes, we are particularly focused on those that contribute to racial inequity. Even if we control for levels of education, income, and other factors, racial gaps often persist in health, wealth, and other quality of life indicators. This is the result of many interwoven historic and contemporary patterns, such as residential segregation and concentrated poverty. We seek to support efforts that disrupt these patterns and bring us closer to a world where race does not predict a child's opportunities.
- Knowledge and Learning: We seek to identify knowledge gaps in our interest areas and to fill those gaps by commissioning and sharing research, by helping nonprofits access information and expertise that can strengthen their work, and by helping people working on the same issues to connect, coordinate, and share what they are learning.
In our grantmaking, we seek to support work that is directly aligned with our strategies for achieving a vibrant, just, and sustainable world with hopeful futures for children.
The Barr Foundation has a small staff and funding requests are considered by invitation only.
The Barr Foundation envisions a vibrant, just, and sustainable world with hopeful futures for children.
The Foundation’s mission is to support gifted leaders and networked organizations working in Boston and beyond to enhance educational and economic opportunities, to achieve environmental sustainability, and to create rich cultural experiences - all with particular attention to children and families living in poverty.
Our Areas of Focus
Our domestic work focuses on providing quality education, mitigating climate change, and enhancing cultural vitality. Our education and arts investments are strictly focused on Boston. Our climate work includes statewide, regional, and some national investments.
Since 2010, Barr has also been exploring opportunities for global investments. The Barr Global team is building a portfolio of projects that delivers measurable improvements in the interconnected areas of livelihoods, health, environment, and education, predominantly in rural areas. Investments are currently focused in sub-Saharan Africa, Haiti, and India.
To learn more about Barr’s strategies and approach, visit our Strategies page.
Heiner Baumann, Director of Global Programs
Heiner is developing and implementing a vision and strategy for the Foundation’s new global portfolio.
Patricia Brandes, Executive Director
Pat leads Foundation staff in advancing the mission and supports our Trustees in developing Barr's future direction.
Rahn Dorsey, Evaluation Director
Rahn helps the Foundation close the “learning loop” so that we continually improve our strategies and how we implement them. He also manages grantmaking and other activities intended to strengthen the system of out-of-school opportunities for children and youth, so that all of Boston’s communities have good options.
Kimberly Haskins, Senior Program Officer
Kim manages grantmaking and other activities intended to ensure access to high quality early education opportunities for all of Boston’s children. She also manages the Barr Fellows Program, a distinguished and diverse leadership network.
Kerri Hurley, Grants Manager
Kerri supports grantees throughout their relationship with the Foundation—with their applications, reports and payments. She also manages the integrity of grant records.
Pierre Imbert, Senior Advisor for Haiti
Pierre manages the Foundation's grantmaking activities in Haiti.
Tanya Jones, Global Programs Senior Associate
Tanya manages grantmaking and other activities within Barr Global’s Health Portfolio and supports the Director to implement the vision and strategy of the Global portfolio.
Jane Joyce, Executive Assistant
Jane is responsible for managing the executive office. She is also the administrator of the Barr Fellows network.
Stefan Lanfer, Knowledge Officer
Stefan manages communications for the Foundation.
Jaime Lopez, Receptionist
Jaime is chief host to our guests, master scheduler for meetings and events, and guru of all office systems, machines, and supplies.
Melinda Marble, Deputy Director
Melinda leads the grantmaking team in advancing the Foundation’s vision.
Ify Mora, Chief of Staff
Ify works closely with the Executive Director on organizational development and strategic projects. She also staffs external initiatives with which the Foundation is involved.
Mariella Puerto, Senior Program Officer
Mariella manages grantmaking and other activities intended to reduce carbon emissions from buildings in Metro Boston and across Massachusetts – in particular by helping cities implement community-wide programs to improve building energy efficiency.
Mary Skelton Roberts, Senior Program Officer
Mary manages grantmaking and other activities intended to reduce carbon emissions from transportation in Metro Boston and across Massachusetts – in particular by creating more connected, complete communities, and improving transportation options.
Christi Tritton, Program Assistant
Christi serves as the program assistant to both the Evaluation Director and the Director of Global Programs.
Lauren Woody, Program Assistant
Lauren serves as program assistant to the Deputy Director. She also assists with communications.