The Joyful Eastie approach at the East Boston Social Centers 

Why joy?

The East Boston Social Centers has been advancing joy for 101 years by fostering the five things that matter most: what we call the “roots of joy”:

We know joy matters a lot.  It can sound like a “nice to have,” but in fact joy matters even more for under-served communities, because the factors that foster joy foster resilience and strength.  Learn more about the need at our blog post here or our TedX talk (below).

What is joy?

We define joy as sustained happiness and well-being over time.  We measure it using internationally validated measures of “happiness”—but are particularly focused on sustaining that happiness, and on the happiness that comes from moving purpose forward.

Joy lives in community

We know joy matters.  We also know the only way to build a more joyful world is to focus on building more joyful communities.  While there are many self-help books and booming industries promoting individual pathways to joy, some research suggests joy has been declining in the US in recent years.  This is because joy is not a solo sport.  The East Boston Social Centers is leading a movement to make East Boston the world’s most joyful place—and in so doing, to demonstrate a replicable model for change.

A community of joy; as trees are more resilient in a forest, so joyful people are more resilient in joyful communities.

A community of joy; as trees are more resilient in a forest, so joyful people are more resilient in joyful communities.

How will the East Boston Social Centers help East Boston become the world’s most joyful community?

Our TedX talk overviews some big picture thoughts for doing this.  At a more granular level, we think of our approach as involving concentric circles (see below)

Joyful East Boston Social Centers staff: The East Boston Social Centers is a community, and in many ways, a large family.  People have strong relationships here and work together toward an important purpose.  We know we can always do more however. 

We are seeking funding for dedicated human resources staffing—with a unique human resources role anchored to cultivating staff joy.  This person will:

  • Oversee a staff survey to assess current levels of joy, on and off the job—and to allow for bench-marking (ideally integrated with surveying at programmatic and community levels)

  • Help build committees to engage more staff in cross-agency collaboration

  • Review benefits approaches with an eye toward maximizing joy

  • Leverage our Joyful Eastie app to foster healthy and happy staff competitions to increase joy and win related prizes

  • Help deliver management training focused on what makes people happiest at work

Joyful East Boston Social Centers programs:  East Boston Social Centers programs foster strong relationships for people of all ages, allow volunteers and participants to engage with their purpose, support physical fitness, and include a significant amount of fun.  Further, our role as a community gathering place enables us to support these roots of joy here—and we can have specifically tailored events.  Finally, we know investing in staff joy is also an investment in joy at our programs.  We know we can do more however.

We are seeking funding and/or volunteer support for the following actions to help increase the average joy of program participants:

  • Development and implementation of programmatic surveys measuring the joyful impact of our programming (ideally integrated with surveying at staff and community levels)

  • Integration of mindfulness/ meditation across our programs

  • The development, with our Family Engagement Network, of a Collective Impact Model (this currently is in the early stages) to ensure all East Boston children enter Kindergarten ready to learn, joyful and thriving (stay tuned to learn more!)

  • Additional staff resources to bolster support for parents and families of the children and teens we serve

  • Additional support for our older adult program to enable us to build a volunteer program for older adults and for work to determine how we can collaborate to increase joy for older adults across the community

  • Development of an Advisory Board to support the Social Centers while building relationships and advancing shared purpose

  • An additional staff role to increase our capacity to work with volunteers—to advance important objectives including delivery of free community events

  • An additional staff role to increase the number of engaging, fun community events led by the Social Centers

Joyful East Boston:  East Boston is a diverse, tightknit community where many people—including many Social Centers affiliates, find their joy.  This is a place where many people have found long and strong relationships, work together for purpose, have opportunities for physical fitness, meditate, and have fun.  We have our Joyful Eastie app as a tool to help facilitate our collective move toward joy. We know, however, that not everyone is experiencing this joy.

We are seeking funding/ and or volunteer support for the following actions to increase the level of joy in the community:

  • Development and implementation of surveys/ research instruments to assess baseline and ongoing community joy.  Ideally this would take the form of participatory action research—empowering community members to be a part of it.  Ideally this will be integrated with the staff and programmatic evaluation work.

  • Expert presentations related to joy, the roots of joy, and culture change needed to build the most joyful community.  We would convene these presentations at the Social Centers to foster community conversations and awareness.

  • Convening of a diverse, representative community advisory board to lead this work.

  • Convening of a large, diverse, representative group of community stakeholders to take the research and develop a collective impact approach to prioritize strategies for maximizing community joy.  (This would then impact much of what would follow—however, we have some ideas of steps that could help with some of the roots).

  • Staffing to increase the capacity of the community to give everyone an opportunity to volunteer in a meaningful way.

  • Staffing of a community foundation to give every resident an opportunity to contribute to community organizations in some way.

  • Additional staffing of volunteer managers to help increase community volunteer-led physical fitness and mindfulness initiatives.

 Joyful world:  We can spread the word together and build this movement.  East Boston is beginning this journey, learning what works and what doesn’t.  We know the model will evolve.  Ultimately, we are seeking to build a replicable model that can lead to scalable change.

How can I get involved in pursuing community joy?  How can I help?

  • Partner, volunteer, or donate

  • Review the strategies we describe, and let us know how you can bring your expertise to bear or what you would like to support with your donation

  • Continue the conversation, using the hashtag #JoyfulEastie 

  • Sign up for the East Boston Social Centers newsletter to stay updated (Subscription box in footer)

  • Follow us on social media to stay updated (see links at footer)

  • Download the Joyful Eastie app

  • Share your feedback with us

Thank you for your support!