LeadBoston, a community of leaders working across sectors to address COVID-19


In the midst of responding to COVID-19’s wide-ranging impacts, it is as important a time as ever to reach out to others, create community, and work together to advance social equity. The ways in which LeadBoston alumni and current participants have found support among one another over the past month and a half make this clear. LeadBoston, YW Boston’s inclusive leadership program, brings together leaders from across Boston’s sectors to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in their organizations and in the city. The program deepens participants’ commitment to social equity, working with them to create action plans to bring back to their organizations. Their experiences within the LeadBoston program have enabled these leaders to respond effectively to the disparate outcomes of COVID-19. Learn more about how the LeadBoston community is working together to find more equitable solutions.

The LeadBoston Alumni Network leverages their cross-sector expertise to devise community responses to COVID-19

Soon after the Massachusetts stay-at-home advisory went into effect, LeadBoston alumni held a conference call to determine how they, as a community, could support one another and influence pandemic responses through an equity lens. The alumni on the call spanned LeadBoston class year and sector. A few of the ideas that emerged included:

  • Bringing alumni together to share insights, resources, and supports related to leading and living with integrity during a crisis;
  • Connecting alumni who have business expertise with small business owners for coaching on getting through this crisis and becoming better prepared for future crises;
  • Mobilizing alumni to support local efforts to provide healthy food access in the short- and long-term as the economic ramifications of this health crisis unfold.

Carol Roby, Class of 1999, responded to the first idea by hosting a webinar for LeadBoston alums on taking care of one’s own well-being during crisis. The webinar recognized that, in addition to being there for others, resilient and effective leadership requires one to be mindful of one’s own health, which has been particularly difficult amidst COVID-19.

The LeadBoston alumni community has also been compiling resources, opportunities to help, and requests for expertise in a shared document.  

The LeadBoston alumni community has also been compiling resources, opportunities to help, and requests for expertise in a shared document.

LeadBoston alums are represented amongst all of Boston’s largest sectors and include those serving essential roles in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, from doctors to non-profit directors to community activists. These LeadBoston alums’ dedication to social equity, in addition to their extensive professional knowledge, has made them particularly effective in addressing community needs during this time. The LeadBoston team at YW Boston has created a Twitter campaign honoring these alums on the front lines. See who has been featured so far and learn about what they are doing to meet their communities’ needs:

To make a donation to Community Servings, click here. You can read more about David, the work of Community Servings, and his LeadBoston experience here.
The Boston Ujima Project has also created a member emergency fund, for this pandemic & beyond: Ujima Boston Resident and Worker Care Fund. Monies from this fund will go to Ujima's Voting Members, Workers of Ujima's Founding and current Business Alliance members, & workers of businesses on Ujima's Businesses.
You can support Lisa's work by donating here or reaching out to her at lisagraustein2@gmail.com.
The Greater Boston Food Bank and its partner agencies are providing nutritious food to those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more, donate, or sign up to volunteer here.  
You can support Boston Healthcare for the Homeless's efforts by donating to their Covid-19 Response Fund. To support the needs of patients in isolate, contribute to their Amazon Wish List.
Lend your emotional and/or financial support to My Life My Choice here.

Two LeadBoston alums who are making changes in healthcare are Dr. Julie Levison, Class of 2018, and Dr. Jonathan Jackson, Class of 2019, both of Massachusetts General Hospital. On Tuesday, April 14th, they sat down with YW Boston President and CEO, Beth Chandler, Class of 2014, to discuss the intersectional dimensions of COVID-19.

Dr. Levison, Co-Director of MGH Chelsea HealthCare Center’s Community Research Program, is working to ensure that communities home primarily to people of color, such as Chelsea, are well-equipped against COVID-19. Dr. Jackson is the Founder and Executive Director of the CARE Research Center, which addresses accessibility and accrual rates to clinical trials, particularly for underrepresented groups. Currently, he is working to ensure that COVID-19 vaccine trials include diverse populations such as people of color, non-binary individuals, and the elderly.

Both leaders are stepping up to ensure we address this public health crisis through an equity lens and offered pragmatic recommendations for how individuals across Boston can do the same. You can view a recording of the webinar, transcripts of the conversation in English and Spanish, and a list of COVID-19-related resources here

Moving to virtual program days, the LeadBoston Class of 2020 creates community online

Despite having known each other for only four months, the current Class of 2020 has likewise found support among their LeadBoston cohort. For the time being, the class’s monthly program days, which are typically day-long and experiential learning-based, have been moved online. Their first shortened virtual program day, “Class and Poverty,” took place on April 1st and featured an expert panel. In addition to topics already planned for discussion, the panelists explored how black and brown communities and communities with few economic resources are being disproportionally impacted by COVID-19. Following the panel discussion, the class broke out into small groups to brainstorm ways they could collaborate to create more equitable outcomes. For example, they discussed how they as leaders can effectively respond to current needs while utilizing learnings from this crisis to build a more equitable future. As one participant mentioned, LeadBoston participants are likely to have a “seat at the table” and are uniquely capable of responding to COVID-19 with effective change.

Leading up to and following April’s program day, participants have connected with one another through the online platform YW Boston Connect to check in on one another and share resources.

The LeadBoston staff also used the program day to check in with the current class and learn about how they and their organizations are adapting. Each participant spoke about their experience personally and professionally, sharing challenges and solutions. For instance, they shared how they are innovating around working remotely and what tools their organizations are creating to serve their stakeholders more effectively. The LeadBoston staff is working to be responsive to the needs of the current class and to continue fostering the supportive community they have created together.

A snapshot of the LeadBoston current class’s program day, “Class & Poverty,” on April 1st.
We must work together, cross-sector, to create equitable outcomes

Like everyone, members of the LeadBoston community are adapting to life amidst COVID-19. What sets the alumni and current class apart is that they recognize the individual and collective power they have to advance social equity as part of the LeadBoston community. The COVID-19 pandemic is a health crisis that intersects with all sectors, identities, and dimensions: race, gender, class, ability, citizenship status, and more. As a city, country, and world, our response to COVID-19 must be cross-sector. By sharing knowledge and creating solutions together, we can ensure that our responses not only mitigate disparities caused or worsened by COVID-19 but also allow us to emerge from this pandemic a more equitable, just, and resilient society.

LeadBoston creates a community of leaders committed to doing this work together. As the effects of COVID-19 on Greater Boston continue to unfold, they will be working together to create more equitable outcomes.


About LeadBoston

Become a part of YW Boston’s LeadBoston program and join a network of over 1,000 inclusive leaders in Boston. During this 10-month program, participants explore and learn how to address barriers to inclusion through facilitated dialogue, expert speakers, and peer learning. Through experiential activities, participants delve into the socioeconomic realities of Boston and explore innovative solutions to inequity.