Creating lasting impact by centering youth voice & choice

One of our core values at Camp Harbor View is to center the voices and experiences of our community in everything we do. We see it again and again, when the teens and families in our programs play a meaningful role in shaping our community initiatives, we maximize impact. 

The two of us recently had an opportunity to share with the American Camp Association community about our philosophy on centering participant voice and choice, as well as some of the tangible steps we’ve taken as an organization to make this aspiration a reality. Here are the three keys: 

  1. Always be learning
    We believe that to be our best, we must acknowledge the wins while constantly focusing on how we are learning from the participants in our programs. This is easier said than done, and we are working on it. 

    We’re relentless about inviting feedback and input after our programs, and we’re dedicated to building real relationships so teens and families know we’re really ready to listen, not just check off a box. And we make sure that we don’t rely on just one format or avenue of listening and learning. 

    • Surveys can be a quick method to hear from lots of folks, but they’re impersonal and might get lost in inboxes. One essential element is to make them easy to fill out and keep them short. One tactic we use is to ask one question after a session: “Did you like this activity?”
    • There’s nothing like an in-person conversation, but this requires travel, child care, and more. 

    The key is to offer more than one avenue to engage so everyone has a chance to contribute.
  2. Collect data and review it regularly
    Our process of becoming a learning organization is ongoing. One of the best ways we’ve instituted this culture change is by collecting data, analyzing it, and adjusting our programs—over and over again. 

    One of our areas of focus has been to create simple systems to review data regularly and reflect on what we’re learning as a team. A pile of data is useless unless you’re looking at it, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. A monthly team meeting to review survey results, attendance, and other data is a helpful milestone.
     
  3. Commit to co-design
    At Camp Harbor View, we’ve established a Youth Council and Parent Advisory Board. These are new leadership groups in our organization. We are not just asking them for feedback, we are working with them to co-design our programs. We know that if we want to elevate our game and maximize our impact, it will be led with young people and parents walking the journey with us.

Whether you’re also running programs for youth and families or if you’re at a different kind of organization or company, we’d love to hear how you center voice and choice in your culture. Join the conversation over on Linkedin.

CHV’s Guaranteed Income pilot project is having a transformative impact for Boston families

New data released this week by Camp Harbor View show that direct cash payments to Boston families are having a transformative impact on nearly every aspect of their lives. 

The Boston Globe covered the new data in an article on Nov. 8th — read it here.

It has been just over a year since two nonprofits, Camp Harbor View and UpTogether, teamed up to launch a privately funded $800,000 guaranteed income pilot program. The program provides 50 Boston households $7,000/year for two years, distributed in monthly payments of $583. These families are able to use the funds however they choose and do not need to pay it back.

Evaluations of survey data from the first year of the program provides strong evidence that cash payments to families helps them relieve economic stress, achieve stability, and invest in growth. The pilot also tracks a group of families who are not receiving funds in order to understand the qualitative and quantitative impact of the pilot. 

Initial data show that:

  • Families receiving the payments are 40% less likely to have unmet household needs than the group not receiving payments (eg. child care, heating costs, or dental care)
  • During the first year of the pilot, families receiving payments reduced their risk of distress by 23%, while families not receiving payments had an 11% decrease.

Families receiving payments are more likely to…

  • Be able to pay bills
  • Save money consistently
  • Have over a month’s worth of income saved for an emergency
  • Pay for household needs like transportation, groceries, and childcare

Tierra Lyons, a parent in the program, said joining the program was a “no brainer” and that the monthly income has helped to stabilize her family’s finances and allowed her to save toward a down payment for a house.

“I had just never experienced this level of radical generosity. Now I can put all of my time, my energy, my resources into just supporting my family because I know that I’m supported as a parent,” Lyons said.

Camp Harbor View Executive Vice President Lisa Fortenberry said the early results are very encouraging — but not surprising.

“It’s an idea that seems too obvious to be as groundbreaking as it is,” said Camp Harbor View Executive Vice President Lisa Fortenberry. “People know what they need to support a healthy family, and with trust and partnership, they can make changes that lead to better physical and mental health, better housing, and education and career paths.”

Jan 2024 update: For numbers and insights from two-year pilot, see our full report on Direct Cash for a Better Boston.

Ready to Run campaign launches across Greater Boston

Today, we’re proud to launch a campaign called “Ready to Run” featuring young people from our programs on billboards and on video screens across the city of Boston and suburbs.

Highlighting CHV’s partnership with Boston teens and families, the campaign will feature on two billboards on the Southeast Expressway (I-93), at Boston Logan Airport, across other transportation hubs and shopping centers across the metro area along with digital media.

Photo of a digital Camp Harbor View billboard on route 93 in Boston that says "WE'RE READY TO LIFT UP THIS TOWN" with an image of one teen helping another on the ropes course on the summer camp island.

We’re also launching a new short video about our work — including summer camp, the Leadership Academy, and our partnerships with families on guaranteed income and economic mobility.

Our goal with this campaign is to introduce Camp Harbor View to a new generation of Bostonians and raise awareness across Greater Boston about the impact CHV is having every single day. Like the billboards say, these young leaders are ready to run this town — and we’re ready to do everything we can to make that happen.

Friendships are made, a ferry ride away, at Camp Harbor View

BOSTON (The Boston Globe) — Nobody says good morning like Chazz Guerra says good morning.

“G-O-O-D M-O-R-N-I-N-G,” Guerra half sang, half shouted into a bullhorn in front of the Great Hall. There are few things Guerra, a 25-year-old camp counselor, likes more than The First Day of Camp.

More than 200 Camp Harbor View middle schoolers were assembled in front of him on the sports fields, wilting in the hot and humid conditions around 9 a.m. on Monday — a tough crowd.

Camp Harbor View is a free summer camp for Boston middle schoolers on the southern end of Long Island in Boston Harbor. The Great Hall is the mess hall in the center of camp, with the ferry dock, sports fields, and high-ropes course to the north and the pool and arts pavilion to the south.

Camp Harbor View provides summer camp experience for local youths free of charge

BOSTON (Boston 25 News) — Camp Harbor View is the brainchild of former Boston Mayor Tom Menino and Boston businessman Jack Connors, who wanted to find a use for the then-untouched land on Long Island. The idea was just to engage middle-schoolers during summer months. But whether it’s learning to sail, fish, climb a rock wall or learn a new sport, the free summer camp has become so much more to the city’s young people over the last 15 years.

When we meet families where they are, we all win

Wearing earrings that said “Young, Black, and Educated” and walking across the stage to  accept my diploma from Salem State University, I felt awash in pride and heard my mom cheering loudly from the crowd.

I knew that this accomplishment wasn’t mine alone — my mother had put in 22 years of hard work to make this moment possible. Every sacrifice she made, every dollar she spent, it was all building toward this moment. 

I see this same relentless determination and willpower in many of the teens and parents I work with at Camp Harbor View. I work as the Community Resource Coordinator here, and just about everyday I see a mom or dad who remind me of my mom — simply doing everything they can so their kids can thrive. It’s so rewarding for me to be able to help families that remind me of my own, and I wanted to share a few of the lessons I keep coming back to as I strive to support folks as completely as possible.

1. Start with an open mind
Families know and feel that our support comes without judgment, and they learn quickly that we’re ready to show up for them through thick and thin. We don’t just offer support in certain ways or during certain hours — we’re here to meet families where they are. Once we establish with a family that we’re 100% committed to meeting them where they are, the work and relationship building becomes almost effortless.

2. Understand cultural differences and varied needs
Although families experience similar struggles, not every family “struggles” the same, and not every family needs support in the same way. When supporting anyone, it is important to make resources equitable, attainable, and fitting for each person.

3. Commit to building long-term relationships
Everyone comes in with their own life experiences. With each family that I work with, I know that it will take time to build trust and relationships. As a mother myself, I know this firsthand. The one thing that I keep in mind is a simple old lesson I got from my mother; always work to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Relatability comes with effort, listening, and practicing that very principle in each interaction. 

It is the mission of Camp Harbor View to open new doors to opportunity, and I am proud to be part of that mission. The families that I work with never cease to amaze and inspire me and I am proud to support them along their journeys. 

With the growth of our family service programs, I know that I will only continue to learn more from our amazing community, and I could not be more excited about the road ahead. 

Can an extra $800 a month lift someone out of poverty? Local nonprofits put cash to the test.

BOSTON (The Boston Globe) – Cities aren’t the only proponents of giving no-strings-attached cash to people in need. Here come the nonprofits.

The national movement, which had its local roots in Chelsea and spread to Cambridge, aims to empower low-income households with monthly stipends and settle an age-old debate about whether we can trust poor people with money instead of having them constantly jump through hoops to receive aid.

Advocates of so-called guaranteed income programs believe that low-income households know best how to lift themselves out of poverty rather than being told what to do. It’s that combination of confidence and cash that can help people move up the economic ladder.

At least three local nonprofits have launched pilots in recent months: Camp Harbor View with 50 families that are receiving $583 a month for two years; United South End Settlements with 16 families that are getting $800 a month for 18 months; and UpTogether — in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, Harvard Business School, and others — has embarked on a research project providing nearly 1,500 families with varying amounts of money and social capital over 18 months.

Making the season bright [video]

From Thanksgiving dinner to gifts at the holidays, this annual tradition seeks to alleviate family stress and bring kids joy. It’s one of our most meaningful programs for families and donors alike, with both experiencing the generosity of spirit in the holiday season.

Take a look at this heartwarming video to see the Camp Harbor View community’s holiday celebrations with over 400 families from start to finish.

Thanks to the generous support of hundreds of donors, partners, and volunteers, we doubled the number of families reached this year, distributing $101,800 in gift cards for parents to use to purchase their children items on their wishlist, bins with household essentials, and festive holiday supplies. Happy Holidays for all of us at Camp Harbor View!

Partnering with Boston families [video]

At Camp Harbor View we believe that it takes real relationships with the entire family to fully support Boston’s next generation. In this video you’ll meet Paula and three of her kids — Lereca, Bryan, and Gyara. They’ve been part of the Camp Harbor View family for over ten years — and their story shows how powerful we can be together when we invest in Boston families.