If I worked in the matchmaking industry and were writing a personal ad on behalf of today’s column subject, it would go something like this:
Effervescent, energetic 27-year-old overachiever who loves in-depth conversation and fact-based analysis and is passionate about problem-solving seeks a high-spirited philanthropist (or two or three) for mutually pleasing and productive long-term relationships.
Yikes! That sounds a wee bit racy. Or it would if my subject were a person.
Fortunately, I’m talking about a civic, not a human, being here. That is, MassINC, also known as the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth, the nonprofit organization that has made such an important contribution to Massachusetts through its research, analysis, and reporting. MassINC could do even better things with a few more financial partners — and fortunately, polyamory in philanthropy is prudent, not prurient.
So: public-spirited philanthropists, please lend me your eyes.
Why MassINC and why now?
For starters, the little nonprofit that could has a dynamic new CEO, Joe Kriesberg, who hopes to grow the organization and broaden its reach, even while cleaving to its traditional nonpartisan, evidence-based mission.
“MassINC is dedicated to expanding economic opportunity, expanding economic inclusion, and creating a vibrant and inclusive civic culture where policy issues are discussed in a thoughtful way based on evidence and information and research,” he told me.
Look for a deeper dive into climate and energy, Kriesberg said. Plus more work on early college, the program whereby 11th and 12th graders take free college courses during their high school years, earning both high school and college credits.
And further efforts on small-business development as well as on digital equity. And recommendations on ways Gateway Cities can tap federal funding streams for clean energy and climate investments.
The notion is to be not just a think tank but a “do-tank.”
“We are trying to produce research that can be actionable and really inform the public debate about how to move forward on certain issues,” said Kriesberg, whose longtime role leading the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations gives him an ideal background for an organization focused on a nonpartisan approach and consensus solutions.
Over the last quarter century, MassINC has made itself a valuable and widely respected presence in Massachusetts policy debates. Its think tank, the Policy Center, produces top-notch, factually grounded reports on matters vital to the state, from expanding the middle class to promoting economic growth to improving public education to meeting the state’s energy and transportation needs to developing a skilled state workforce.
MassINC’s research was an important contributor to the criminal-justice reform push that culminated in 2018’s sweeping law to overhaul the system. The nonprofit has also been instrumental in highlighting the needs of the state’s Gateway Cities and helping them develop policy agendas. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the MassINC Polling Group — a for-profit used to support the policy center, headed by Steve Koczela, who just got a nod from the website FiveThirtyEight — provided crucial and timely information to state policy makers about the public’s experiences, needs, and attitudes.
Full disclosure: Back in 1995, when founder Tripp Jones, now a policy entrepreneur, first began thinking about starting the nonpartisan organization, I played a small role in helping conceptualize it, one confined to kicking around concepts.
MassINC’s small but energetic reporting team for its digital CommonWealth magazine digs deep on crucial issues that are often otherwise neglected. When you read a piece on, say, the state’s energy needs by Editor Bruce Mohl or on education by Executive Editor Michael Jonas, you know it will be well-researched, accurate, and impactful. I’d also mention the excellent work of Shira Schoenberg, but we at Globe Opinion recently stole her away. CommonWealth, however, has found a promising replacement in Jennifer Smith, who cut her teeth at the Dorchester Reporter.
CommonWealth’s reporting helps fill a void that has grown in recent years. A couple of decades ago, the State House’s cavernous fourth-floor press room was chockablock with newshounds. Pop in these days and you’re lucky to find half a handful.
Back to my matchmaking. MassINC does not have an endowment. It can only spend what it raises. Its current budget is about $3 million a year. Kriesberg would love to double that.
This state is home to magnates of the private equity, hedge fund, and financial-service industries, as well as hugely successful biotech, life sciences, and information technology entrepreneurs.
If you are a private-sector patron looking for an organization that will use your philanthropic dollars for proven public-sector good, e-mail Kreisberg at Jkriesberg@massinc.org and arrange a lunch.
My prediction: You’ll feel instant civic chemistry — and want to explore a lasting partnership.
Scot Lehigh is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.