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Boston's Higher Ground

 384 Warren Street, 3rd Floor
 Roxbury, MA 02119
[P] (617) 652-8014 x 302
[F] (617) 536-4311
Mossik Hacobian
 Printable Profile (Summary / Full)
EIN 27-3660369

LAST UPDATED: 05/30/2018
Organization DBA Higher Ground Boston
Former Names --
Organization received a competitive grant from the Boston Foundation in the past five years Yes



Mission StatementMORE »

Higher Ground is dedicated to achieving excellent outcomes for children, youth and their families in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan, by connecting residents with existing programs and services, by helping to improve the outcome of service providers, and by encouraging the establishment of new partnerships that will ensure that needed opportunities and better services are available to all residents of the target communities.  

Mission Statement

Higher Ground is dedicated to achieving excellent outcomes for children, youth and their families in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan, by connecting residents with existing programs and services, by helping to improve the outcome of service providers, and by encouraging the establishment of new partnerships that will ensure that needed opportunities and better services are available to all residents of the target communities.  

FinancialsMORE »

Fiscal Year July 01, 2014 to June 30, 2015
Projected Income $375,000.00
Projected Expense $348,400.00

ProgramsMORE »

  • 1. Early Childhood
  • 2. Early Childhood Development
  • 3. Education
  • 4. Youth Development and Leadership
  • 5. Health Initiative
  • 6. Engaging Communities

Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2015 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2014 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2013 (%)

For more details regarding the organization's financial information, select the financial tab and review available comments.


Mission Statement

Higher Ground is dedicated to achieving excellent outcomes for children, youth and their families in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan, by connecting residents with existing programs and services, by helping to improve the outcome of service providers, and by encouraging the establishment of new partnerships that will ensure that needed opportunities and better services are available to all residents of the target communities.  

Background Statement

Higher Ground was founded in 2010 by Dean Emeritus of B.U. School of Social Work and City Year Social Entrepreneur in Residence Hubie Jones.   He was supported by a Board of Incorporators including current Chair Charlie Titus, former Chair and current Vice-Chair Charlotte Golar Richie, Treasurer William Pinakiewicz, Clarence Cooper, Chair of the Early Childhood Development Committee, Shirley Carrington, Chair of the Governance Committee, Rona Kiley, Chair of the Education Committee, Pablo Calderon, Co-Chair of the Program and Partnership Committee and three additional incorporators Hortensia Amaro, Phil Clay and Monalisa Smith.  The current Board of 20 members is a diverse and talented group including the local residents, educational professionals and leaders in the African American, Latino and Asian communities.

Higher Ground defined its initial impact area as a section of Roxbury that includes Census Tract 817, bordered by Washington, Dudley and Warren Streets to the west, north and east and MLK Blvd., Humboldt Ave. and Monroe and Elmore Streets to the south. While as a place-based initiative our work remains focused in this area, we expect that boundaries of Higher Ground’s primary target area will be based on the final footprint of the schools and child care centers we work with and the neighborhoods where children and students in the selected centers and schools live.

We share office space with Teen Empowerment, Whittier Street Health Center’s WIC Program, Brigham and Women’s Passageway Program and KIPP Charter School. We host Parenting Circles in collaboration with Families First. More than 90 parents and 100 children have participated in one or more of seven 8-week Parenting Circle sessions over the past two years.

Higher Ground is an active member of the Place-Based Initiatives Community of Practice and engaged with several local community-wide efforts to increase access to high quality health services, improve safety and reduce violence, improve services for residents in local affordable housing developments and increase economic development opportunities for area residents and businesses. 

Following the sudden closing of the RoxComp Community Health Center in March 2013, Higher Ground served as the community outreach, organizing and communications infrastructure for the Court-appointed receiver, organized several well-attended community meetings and issued regular updates to more than 300 community stakeholders.

Impact Statement

Higher Ground completed its third year of operations in 2014 by developing a new program and business model and applied lessons learned during our start-up period. Higher Ground was founded in July 2010 following an analysis that showed that residents in Boston’s inner city neighborhoods live and work in an environment that is resource-rich and impact-poor. Higher Ground is an innovative approach to community-based service delivery. We are a lean organization that helps improve outcomes for children and families by leveraging the capacities of existing high-quality service providers.  

We help improve educational outcomes in local schools by mobilizing parents, convening community partners and advancing their shared vision.  School readiness and education are important for individual success of residents but also strong drivers of economic growth for neighborhoods. To reach our cradle to career initiative aspirations, we begin at the cradle and focus on early childhood development and education as a gateway to community transformation. 

During the past year, Higher Ground made progress in weaving together a network of service providers committed to working with local schools and child care centers to improve educational outcomes for children and increase access to resources for their families. The network includes three local schools, Higginson K-2, Ellis K-5 and Higginson Lewis K-8, ABCD, Brigham & Women’s Passageway Program, City Year, Families First, Friends of the Children, Generations Inc., Italian Home for Children, Nurtury, Teen Empowerment, Thrive in 5, Whittier Street Health Center and its WIC Program and local organizations and churches.  Targeted resources and support has already shown significant improvements at one school and we are confident will show improved outcomes in all three schools Higher Ground is supporting.  In the year ahead we will help mobilize 1,000 parents to advocate for improved educational outcomes for their children.

Needs Statement

During Higher Ground’s start-up phase, we have successfully secured necessary funding to build our infrastructure. However, our most pressing need – sufficient resources to achieve our mission – remains an outstanding goal.  Our resource goal for the next three years is $1.8 million with 50% coming from private individual donors and 50% from philanthropic sources.  We will demonstrate over that time the improved outcomes through collaboration and leveraging of existing resources.  We need continued access to talented and committed board and staff members who will be creative and entrepreneurial in the school-based organizing and mobilization work.  We expect to continue operating with a small staff and leverage the capacities of our partners and collaborators.  We are setting up a robust data management and evaluation process so that we can document the impact of our leveraged model in the schools and child care hubs that will be the focus of our developing network.

CEO Statement

Too many children are attending schools that are failing them. They start school not ready to learn and enter high school off track for graduation. This is unconscionable and we can no longer tolerate it. Higher Ground leads a partnership focused on achieving systemic change for residents in the section of Roxbury within Census track 817 and beyond. We serve as a catalyst for working together across sectors and along the educational continuum to drive better results for children. We provide a critical gateway to civic engagement for parents by engaging them in their top priority, their child’s success. 

At the core of our model is a commitment to empower residents to take charge of their lives and hold service organizations accountable. 

Higher Ground has used its substantial social capital to get service providers to partner and align their services with others to achieve positive collective impact. For the next two years we will focus that capacity on early childhood development and education. The track record of our board and staff leadership is one of persistence and results. We will not give up until we succeed.

Board Chair Statement

Boston is a resource-rich city with a wealth of service organizations (world-class hospitals, health care facilities, top-notch schools) and social service programs.  Yet, residents of Boston’s inner city neighborhoods are not always aware of or able to access these resources.  Moreover, resources vary from neighborhood to neighborhood.  There is a need for a more integrated system of care to ensure that people get the right service in a timely manner.

Our Board Members are our greatest asset and are well positioned to address these challenges. They are recognized individuals in their field of specialty - finance, health care, community organizing, education, early childhood initiatives, and others. We are united in our vision and commitment to serve Higher Ground. 

Following three years of experience in our efforts to apply the Higher Ground leveraged service model, we have concluded that we can achieve better results by focusing on the early part of the birth to career pipeline. By mobilizing parents to engage more with the schools their children attend we will help build a strong educational foundation for children and families in our target neighborhood. Moreover, we believe mobilized and engaged parents will see the impact of their efforts in improved outcomes in the schools and will become engaged in other areas of concern in their community. Mobilization and engagement in the schools will serve as a gateway to mobilization in other areas of concern in the neighborhood. We see the potential here for a substantial neighborhood transformation.

Geographic Area Served

City of Boston- North Dorchester
City of Boston- Roxbury
City of Boston- South Dorchester
City of Boston- Mattapan

Higher Ground defined its initial impact area as census tract 817 in Roxbury bordered by Washington, Dudley and Warren Streets to the west, north and east and MLK Blvd., Humboldt Ave. and Monroe and Elmore Streets to the south. While our work remains focused in this area, we expect our target area will be revised to include the footprint of the schools and child care centers we work with and the neighborhoods where children and students in the selected centers and schools live.

Organization Categories

  1. Education - Elementary & Secondary Schools
  2. Community Improvement, Capacity Building - Alliances & Advocacy
  3. Civil Rights, Social Action, Advocacy - Alliances & Advocacy

Independent research has been conducted on this organization's theory of change or on the effectiveness of this organization's program(s)

Under Development


1. Early Childhood

In collaboration with Families First, Higher Ground has completed seven 8-week cycles of Parenting Circle for new and expectant parents. More than 90 parents and 100 children have participated in one or more of the seven cycles. The program enables Higher Ground to make connections as early as possible in a child’s life. Many parents report that while they appreciate the curriculum and content of the program, they return to the Parenting Circles because of the bond that they have developed with a network of parents experiencing similar challenges. Parents also benefit from access to other services leveraged by Higher Ground and from support as they navigate their way to services intended for them but often difficult to access. 

Families First is a Cambridge-based nonprofit that provides parenting training and workshops to approximately 4,000 people a year. We plan to continue the Parenting Circle with up to five 8-week cycles per year and support between 50 and 100 parents annually.

Budget  $50,000.00
Category  Human Services, General/Other Parenting Education
Population Served At-Risk Populations Adolescents Only (13-19 years) Adults
Program Short-Term Success 

We will have at least five Parenting Circle sessions per year with increased attendance at each cycle.  We will provide ongoing support for graduates. In our first seven cycles, we served more than 90 parents and more than 100 children. Several parents attended one or more session in two or more cycles.  The average attendance continued to grow with the seventh cycle with the highest number if initial participants and one of two highest number of graduates.  Returning parents are excellent ambassadors and advocates and a big help in the recruitment of new parents for future cycles.  In a focus group between the two cycles, parents indicated that they enjoyed the interaction with other parents and expressed their desire to continue to engage with them.  

We hope to hold some of the sessions at one or more of the local schools and child care centers and begin to establish a relationship between parents and the schools their children may attend when they reach kindergarten age. 
Program Long-Term Success 

Supporting new and expectant parents provides the optimal entry point for pipeline of services from cradle to career. The 92 parents that have already participated report that their homes are much calmer and that their relationship with their children is richer and much improved. Children thrive better in calm and supportive home environments. 

According to the 2010 census 239 children aged 5 or younger lived within census tract 817, indicating and annual birth rate of less than 50. Higher Ground seeks to reach all families with newborn or young children and provide them the support they need so that all children in our target area begin life in a safe, calm and supportive environment. The cohort of households with young children is small enough for this goal to be achieved relatively quickly. 

An important long term outcome is the continued development of a network of parents that provide support to one another and engage in the schools that their children will attend.

Program Success Monitored By 

We track all the ways in which we support program participants directly and indirectly through referrals and follow-ups for other services.   Additionally, Families First conducts an evaluation at the end of each session. We have held a focus group for past participants to gather information on what approaches worked well and what they would like to see done differently.

Responses in the self assessments included comments such as: "I learned to communicate with my child so our relationship would be healthy in the long run"; "I need to see things from my daughter's point of view to understand her tantrums"; "Use positive reinforcement vs. negative reinforcement"; "Dealing with anger and helping my children deal with theirs"; "Preparing children for activities ahead of your expectations of them"; "Communicating with them on their level"; "Not to revert to yelling, spanking or hitting"; "I'm going through same issues as other parents".  

Examples of Program Success 

Through our Parenting Circles, we have connected more than half of our participants with Urban Edge’s Earned Benefit Program that has enabled them to receive additional benefits and participate in other programs.  As participants enter our programs, we do a full assessment of their circumstances to determine if they are in need of housing, child-care, educational support and health care.  We provide as much support as we are able to, including follow-up with other agencies and service providers.

As a result of sharing offices with the Whittier Street Health Center WIC Program, WIC clients have joined the Parenting Circle and Parenting Circle participants have accessed benefits of the WIC program. 

2. Early Childhood Development

In collaboration with ABCD and Nurtury we support local child care hubs and children and families already receiving child care services or in need of quality child care.

We see schools and child care centers as support centers for families with children starting at birth. We hope to open school buildings to playgroups, parent meetings, parent education and community events. We are mapping where all the local children go for child care and will use that data to determine which entity is already most engaged with local families and likely the best partner to serve as the clearing house for parents seeking quality child care.

We work with ABCD and Nurtury to target subsidies to families served by Higher Ground, place children in ABCD and Nurtury centers where there are openings, develop and implement school readiness curriculum for children in our Parenting Circles, and increased access to training for local residents to qualify for family child care licensing and certification.
Budget  $10,000.00
Category  Education, General/Other Education, General/Other
Population Served Children and Youth (0 - 19 years) Poor,Economically Disadvantaged,Indigent Families
Program Short-Term Success 

During the first year ending June 2015, we will have selected at least one child care center operated by ABCD or Nurtury to serve as the clearinghouse for all parents interested in quality child care.  We will have assisted at least 20 families to secure quality childcare either at a center or with a certified home-based provider.

90% of parents with children already in up to two local centers and all parents that gained access to quality child care will report that they read to their child at least one hour per each day. 

Program Long-Term Success 

Up to 200 families whose children attend local child care centers will have access to primary health care and other services.  Parents will know their role as their child's first teacher and will prepare the children to be ready for schools.  Children will know their letters, numbers, colors and will have benefited from daily reading by their parents.  They will be comfortable entering kindergarten and will know how to behave in class.  Parents will have learned the value of engagement with their child's care givers and will continue to be actively engaged with their children and the teachers and administrators of the schools they attend.

Children with special needs will have been screened and will enter school with full knowledge of the support they will need as they proceed through elementary school.  Parents will have the tools to evaluate the schools available to them and choose the schools best suited fort heir child and their family circumstance and will not settle for whatever school to which they are assigned by default. 

Program Success Monitored By  Every family that Higher Ground serves is asked to complete a detailed intake form which provides data on household composition, employment, access to health, care, educational level and assessments of their neighborhood.  All program participants are asked to respond to surveys and assess their own progress or accomplishments as a result of the program.  We use the results of the surveys and assessments to evaluate the impact of the program and make changes in the program designed to improve outcomes.
Examples of Program Success 

In the pre- and post-workshop self-assessment forms of our Parenting Circles for example, we asked parents and caregivers to rate their skills and capacities along eight indicators. In addition, we asked specific questions about what they learned and what practices they would continue or discontinue as a result of the workshops.  


The message that came through consistently from the responses was that parents expect to be calmer, better manage stress, better communicate with their children and resort to yelling less often. Children of participating parents benefit from a more understanding and supportive home environment as a result of the program.


In a focus group we conducted with several parents, the group expressed their connection to one another as a driving force to being part of the Parenting Circle.  Typical comments included “We are family, we are sisters…and we have added a few brothers now”;  "I leave feeling positive, not judged".

3. Education

Higher Ground Education Initiative has two main elements. We assist local schools to be the best they can be, to become true community assets and attract local households to enroll their children in schools walking distance of their homes. We want parents to have the tools to select the schools – public, charter, parochial or private – that provides children the best possible education.

We pursue our mission of community transformation by leveraging capacities of organizations with quality services and connect them to local schools. We focus on education through 4th grade as the GATEWAY to empowering parents to work with administrators and teachers to build first-class educational programs. We see a strong connection between school improvement and community mobilization/neighborhood transformation. Such dynamic mobilization/empowerment will have a “spill-over” effect in our primary impact area, leading to eradicating negative environmental conditions and strengthening positive assets.

Budget  $300,000.00
Category  Education, General/Other Educational Programs
Population Served Children and Youth (0 - 19 years) Poor,Economically Disadvantaged,Indigent Families
Program Short-Term Success 

With support from BPS we have begun work with three local schools, Higginson K-2, Ellis K-8 and Higginson Lewis K-8. We have connected the schools with City Year, Friends of the Children, Generations Inc., Families First, Boston Architectural College and Whittier Street Health Center.  We continue with efforts to bring additional resources to these schools and support principals and teachers to make these the best schools they can be and attract more local residents to select these as their first choice for their children because of the high quality of education and proximity to their homes. 

We will make progress in addressing the issue of students attending Boston Public Schools from families that are documented homeless by advocating for policies to prioritize such families for subsidized housing within walking distance of local schools. We will work with housing providers to secure affordable housing for the families of 51 homeless students currently attending three local schools.

Program Long-Term Success 

First, our local schools will become a desirable choice for many and be oversubscribed in the public school choice process. Second, incoming students will be ready to learn at or above grade level. Third, families with young children in and around our impact zone will be connected to local health centers and have access to early assessment followed by early intervention for special needs. Fourth, students completing grade 4 will have a strong foundation and be prepared for transitions to middle and high school. 

Leadership and parents of local public and charter schools will meet regularly to share best practices so that all children in the neighborhood have access to the highest quality education regardless of the school they attend. We seek to develop a network of local educational institutions that agree to collaborate, review progress and over time jointly report to the community on the progress of the participating schools.  

Program Success Monitored By 

MCAS scores in target schools will steadily increase. Police and Public Health Commission data will document that there are reduced emergency room visits and reduced injuries and fatalities from gun violence in the neighborhood. Target schools will experience high demand and local families will actively support and advocate for their neighborhood schools. There will be increased civic engagement documented by growth in voter registration and actual voting. The neighborhood served by Higher Ground will be seen as desirable places to live and be reflected in reduced vacancies of rental apartments, increased levels of owner-occupancy and increased willingness of banks and insurance companies to invest in the neighborhood based on rising rents and property values. The neighborhood will avoid gentrification and displacement due to preservation of the substantial stock of affordable housing in the area.

Examples of Program Success 

A team of City Year corps members was assigned to the Higginson Lewis K-8 School at the start of the 2012-2013 school year and over the next two years contributed to significant improvements in MCAS ELA and math scores. Higher Ground connected the School to a student team from the Boston Architectural College (BAC) Gateway Program that spent a semester developing a building improvement plan that we have shared with BPS and the Mayor’s office. Due to Higher Ground efforts, Friends of the Children is working with high risk students at Higginson K-2 School, Generations Inc. is working with David Ellis School on reading and literacy skills, Families First is working with Higginson K-2 School on a Family Engagement pilot program and the BAC Gateway Program is working with the Ellis School on a building improvement plan.

4. Youth Development and Leadership

Higher Ground began operations in June 2011 by teaming up with the Center for Teen Empowerment (TE) and supported TE to advance a youth development and employment program. Research indicates that it is critical for urban youth aged 14 to 21 to have paid work experiences as part of healthy social development. We launched this effort as a summer pilot in 2011 through the hiring of teenagers and young men and women from our initial impact zone. We continued the program through the 2013-2014 school year by adding an after-school employment component. More than 100 youth have been employed to date and we have reached more than 500 additional youth through events, parties, dialogues and outreach activities. The neighborhood has benefited from increased safety as a result of the community outreach work of the TE Youth Organizers and there is increased understanding and cooperation between police and the community as a result of the dialogues and peace summits they organized.


Budget  $10,000.00
Category  Youth Development, General/Other Youth Leadership
Population Served Adolescents Only (13-19 years) At-Risk Populations Unemployed, Underemployed, Dislocated
Program Short-Term Success 

In the three years that TE has been operating at the Warren Street site, their presence has already brought a level of calm and peace to the intersection of Warren Street and MLK Blvd. Violence has not been eliminated by any means. But, TE has laid a strong foundation for substantial reduction in youth violence for years to come. In the aftermath of a double fatal shooting of two young men in May 2013 TE and Higher Ground led formation of a coalition of residents, organizations and police and public officials to combat violence. On August 20, 2014, TE Youth Organizers sponsored a police community dialogue attended by a diverse audience of 150, mostly youth, along with Police Commissioner Evans and most of BPD's command staff. These kind of short term accomplishments will continue throughout the coming year. 

As a result of TE and Higher Ground collaboration youth and their families have increased access to needed services and the support of our Navigator/Advocate.

Program Long-Term Success 

We expect that the graduates of the Warren Street Teen Empowerment Youth Organizing and Leadership Development program be key element of the transformation of the Higher Ground target area. Risks associated with incidents of violence and trauma resulting from being a victim or witness of violence are major barriers to healthy communities. Children concerned about safety going to and from school are less likely to be able to concentrate on the learning that needs to take place within school and are denied the education that takes place in out of school time in the neighborhood. TE Youth Organizer will not only improve their own chances for graduating from high school and on a clear path towards finding meaningful employment and/or accessing higher education but will increase such opportunities for hundreds of other youth in the neighborhood.

Program Success Monitored By 

Teen Empowerment tracks attendance at events and conducts self-assessments following completion of each summer and after school session.  Youth that ask for Higher Ground support complete an intake form that provides detailed information that is the basis of referrals to other services offered through Higher Ground or its network of social service providers.

An independent study of Teen Empowerment’s work in the East End of Somerville suggests that the program’s efforts were responsible for a 50% decrease in the level of juvenile crime in Somerville’s highest crime neighborhoods during the six years since Teen Empowerment began its work in Somerville. 

Compared to their peers, youth who have worked at Teen Empowerment leave the program with higher levels of employability and greatly improved self-esteem and are more civically engaged, and these impacts are sustained over time.

Examples of Program Success 

The police and community dialogues the TE Youth Organizer sponsored, the most recent one on August 20, 2014, are good examples of success as they continue to build better understanding between disconnected youth and the police. At the most recent dialogue there was a diverse attendance of 150, mostly youth, along with Police Commissioner Evans and most of BPD’s command staff.   

Another example of success specifically of Higher Ground’s offer of services to the TE Youth Organizers is when Higher Ground staff and counselors from partner organizations were able to arrange safe haven for a young woman who had been nearly choked to death by an abusive boyfriend that she could not leave because she would otherwise be homeless.  

We have also witnessed the power of informal networks formed by the youth that encourage disaffected youth to embrace the mission of TE and Higher Ground and take advantage if resources we leverage.  For many youth our shared space is a second "home."

5. Health Initiative

We are committed to help residents in our impact area, especially the families whose children are enrolled in the three target schools and child care hubs, secure a medical home and ensure that they have regular, sustained primary health and dental care. Our efforts in the health area will be integral to all our early childhood development and education initiatives and not a separate activity. Every participant in our program completes an intake form that includes data about medical care and health insurance.  We will use our capacity with our full-time Navigator/Advocate, collaboration with Families First, Teen Empowerment, local health centers and the Brigham & Women’s Passageway Program to ensure that residents in our impact zone and the families whose children attend the target schools and child care centers are safe, have healthy diets and have access to the highest quality health care available within the community and in the Boston region.

Budget  $10,000.00
Category  Health Care, General/Other Health Care Referrals
Population Served Families Poor,Economically Disadvantaged,Indigent Unemployed, Underemployed, Dislocated
Program Short-Term Success 

Higher Ground will develop a protocol with partner organizations to share data about children and families that attend target schools, child care centers, and participate in WIC and other programs leveraged by Higher Ground. Higher Ground will use the information to engage families to connect them to services that they may need, be eligible for but unable to access. Every family we so engage will complete a detailed intake form and we will assist in finding a medical home and referral to other necessary care. Within two years, Higher Ground will have engaged with 50% of the 1,000 families we plan to mobilize in local schools and child care centers.

Program Long-Term Success 

Rates of obesity, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, infant mortality, injuries or death due to domestic violence or gun violence and other indicators of health within Higher Ground’s impact area will be same or lower than rates throughout the city of Boston. Every resident in our target area will have a medical home that provides high quality care, both preventative and acute care. People will go to emergency rooms only for true emergencies. Children will be assessed for special needs early in life with appropriate intervention planned and implemented as soon as possible.


Program Success Monitored By 

Within one year, Higher Ground will have developed an evaluation and tracking system agreed upon by all its partners and collaborators including health, education and other indicators that will demonstrate the impact of the Higher Ground’s leveraged model and will be of value to all partners and collaborators. Health indicators will include those already tracked by local health centers and will include number of emergency room visits, annual wellness checkups, regular dental care and other indicators that we and our partners and collaborators determine will reflect the impact of our collaborative efforts and will add value to the ongoing work of the partner organizations.

Examples of Program Success 

Through our intake process, we have been able to ascertain mental health needs of some of our clients and have been able to find and provide timely resources for clients in high need. Through our collaboration with the Boston University School of Social Work, two graduate student interns offered mental health counseling and referral services at Higher Ground to local residents including youth participating in Teen Empowerment’s programs and parents in our Parenting Circles.  Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Passageway Program domestic violence counselor, in our office two days a week, provides ready access to local residents including WIC or Parenting Circle participants. The collective resources leveraged by Higher Ground very likely saved the life of a young woman who was a Teen Empowerment Youth Organizer and at high risk because she tolerated an abusive relationship since it provided her with housing. 

6. Engaging Communities

We continue to work with Warren Gardens Housing and other area housing communities with focus on safety and  support residents in increased engagement in decisions affecting the developments.

Several local affordable housing developments are owned by local community development corporations (CDCs). Many of the children that attend local schools live in these developments. The owners and managers of these developments know the demographics of the residents including the ages of the children, both pre-school and in school.  Community-based owners of this housing have an interest in early childhood and educational support for the residents in their developments. 

We coordinate efforts with Nuestra Comunidad and its Mission 180 initiative, support local coalition and police to improve safety and reduce violence and continue as active member of the Place-Based Initiatives Community of Practice and share best practices, data and develop common outcome measurements.


Budget  $10,000.00
Category  Community Development, General/Other
Population Served Families Adults
Program Short-Term Success 

Short term success will come in several fronts. At Warren Gardens, contesting resident factions will come together and elect Resident Association and Housing Board members reflective of all views and positions.  With a new management agent in place, there will be improved services and all residents will feel they are treated fairly and equally.

Higher Ground will help connect to needed resources and services all families at Warren Gardens and other local housing developments with children from birth to 4th grade. Resident leaders in local housing developments will participate in resident leadership trainings and all cooperative housing development residents will learn more about their roles and responsibilities as resident owners.

Teen Empowerment Youth Organizers will continue to organize community and police dialogues and engage local youth in productive and fund activities.  Incidents of violence will continue to be less frequent.

Program Long-Term Success 

There will be increased civic engagement documented by growth in voter registration and actual voting. The neighborhood served by Higher Ground will be seen as desirable places to live and be reflected in reduced violence, reduced vacancies of rental apartments, increased levels of owner-occupancy and increased willingness of banks and insurance companies to invest in the neighborhood based on rising rents and property values. The neighborhood will avoid gentrification and displacement due to preservation of the substantial stock of affordable housing in the area. 

The several housing developments that are home to half the population of Higher Ground’s initial impact zone, will agree to coordinate their efforts, share best practice and see themselves as critical parts of the community rather than isolated enclaves within the neighborhood they share.

Program Success Monitored By 

All residents in local housing developments will be aware of and regularly access needed programs and services leveraged by Higher Ground at one of the local school and child care hubs. Police and Warren Gardens residents will reach agreement for real time police access to the development’s security system which will help reduce or prevent gun violence within and around the development. Police data shared at community meetings will show reduction if crime rates in general and incidents of gun violence in particular. 

Voter registration and voter participation rates will increase and consistently be at or above citywide rates. 

Changes in local homeownership rates, demand for rental housing and property values will be documented by accessing various publicly available data sources including city of Boston assessing, the Warren Group’s periodic reports and data from local owners of affordable and market rate housing.

Examples of Program Success 

Higher Ground responded to concerns about the lack of opportunity for new resident leadership and need for predictably-scheduled, open and transparent elections, by facilitating the Resident Association board election at the Warren Gardens Housing Cooperative in July 2012. The result was greater overlap of resident leadership between the boards of the Resident Association and the Housing Board that had previously been at odds with one another. 

Our support for increased opportunities for residents to be able to express their concerns was partially responsible for HUD recent decision for a change of management agent at the development that will lead to improved services.

Other examples of success include Police and community dialogues organized by Teen Empowerment Youth Organizers, the most recent of which attracted 150 people including the Police Commissioner and much of his command staff and the more than 500 youth that have been engaged in constructive events and activities.

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

Higher Ground learned many important lessons during its three-year start-up period. We collaborated with more than 30 organizations in attempting to build a birth to career pipeline of services for local children and families. We set out to do something whose effectiveness and value would take years or decades to fully demonstrate and document but with a short window of time and very limited resources. Although inspired by the Harlem Children’s Zone, Higher Ground did not have access to the levels of annual resources that had been available to the Harlem effort. We nevertheless forged ahead and built many strong relationships with area residents, local organizations, funders and local and regional service providers. 

We have applied the lessons of the past year in the new model we have developed and are ready to launch. The model remains one of leveraging and integrating capacities of existing organizations and service providers but with a focus on early childhood development and education starting in kindergarten through 4th grade. Although the ultimate value of the model will still take a long time to fully demonstrate, we believe we are already seeing some of the benefits of this approach from some of our start up experience in one school where MCAS scores have improved as a result of new resources to support the teachers and the students. 

Engaged and mobilized parents will contribute to improved educational outcomes for their children which in itself is a most valuable goal. Increased family engagement in schools will serve as a gateway to increased civic engagement in broader community affairs. As parents see the results of their efforts within schools they will see the benefit of applying the leadership and organizing skills they learned there to other efforts in the community. Increased civic engagement will help transform neighborhoods served by Higher Ground to thriving places of growth and development.


CEO/Executive Director Mr. Mossik Hacobian
CEO Term Start June 2011
CEO Email
CEO Experience

Mossik Hacobian joined Higher Ground as its Executive Director in June 2011 following a 33-year tenure in senior positions including Executive Director and President of Urban Edge, a nonprofit community development corporation, serving the Jamaica Plain and Roxbury neighborhoods of Boston.  During Mossik's tenure, Urban Edge developed or preserved over 1,300 units of housing and managed more than 1,100 homes and apartments.

Mossik's interest in community development was sparked during a nine-month design project in East Harlem, which he had undertaken while attending Columbia University School of Architecture. His awards include Barr Fellowship (2005), Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Leadership Award (2005) and awards from MACDC, UMass. and MIRA.


Co-CEO --
Co-CEO Term Start --
Co-CEO Email --
Co-CEO Experience --

Former CEOs and Terms

Name Start End
-- -- --

Senior Staff

Name Title Experience/Biography
-- -- --


Award Awarding Organization Year
Keepers of the Garden Warren Gardens Housing Cooperative 2012


Affiliation Year
-- --
Member of state association of nonprofits? No
Name of state association --

External Assessments and Accreditations

External Assessment or Accreditation Year
-- --


Higher Ground’s program and business model is based on its role as an integrator and coordinator of services and connecting existing high quality resources to individuals and organizations to achieve better outcomes for children and families especially in the areas of early childhood development and education. We have collaborated with or are continuing to collaborate with the following organizations and service providers:

  • ABCD

  • America’s Promise Alliance

  • Boston University School of Social Work

  • Center for Teen Empowerment

  • Boston Architectural College

  • Boston Public Schools

  • CityYear

  • David Ellis K-5 School

  • Families First

  • Friends of the Children

  • Generations Inc.

  • Higginson K-2 School

  • Higginson/Lewis K-8 School

  • Italian Home for Children

  • KIPP Charter School

  • Massachusetts Advocates for Children

  • Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care


  • Nuestra Comunidad Development Corporation

  • Nurtury (formerly Associated Early Care and Education)

  • Roxbury Presbyterian Church

  • Roxbury YMCA

  • RoxComp Community Health Center

  • Suffolk University Moakley Center for Public Management

  • Twelfth Baptist Church

  • Urban Edge

  • Warren Gardens Housing Cooperative

  • Warren Gardens Residents Association

  • Whittier Street Health Center

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

Willingness to collaborate and take on the risks of working differently is directly related to balance between additional effort required and the value gained by the collaboration. We are welcomed with open arms if the value gained by each potential partner is greater than the effort required. This is especially true if the value is realized quickly. Collaboration is less viable if the effort required is too great and the value generated is not enough or too far in the future to justify the effort in the short term. 

Collaboration takes effort and most organizations are already under a great deal of stress. We ask each potential partner what they are trying to do and how Higher Ground can help. Organizations are willing to work together to get better results for the people they are trying to serve as evidenced by the strategic partnerships and collaborative relationships Higher Ground already has after only three years of operation.  

Sustaining an effective collaboration or partnership is subject to the same effort-value balance on a continuous basis. The challenge is to find work that can be shared and consistently generate greater value relative to effort until it becomes second nature to the partners. Higher Ground has achieved this balance to various degrees, at different times and for different durations with City Year, Teen Empowerment, Families First, three local public schools, the Whittier Street Health Center and the Moakley Center for Public Management at Suffolk University. The service provider network we are building will include a core group of partners including the above organizations anchored in the three local target schools and one or two child care centers. This core will grow in the years ahead as more organizations and service providers move from being collaborators to strategic partners with Higher Ground and with each other. 

All agreements require work and commitment and some involve exchange of payments for services. All effective partnerships require that the parties be self-confident and earn one another’s trust. The greater the level of confidence and trust in one another the greater the willingness to take risks together and try to do business differently to achieve better outcomes. 

Higher Ground’s Board and staff come to our work with full commitment to the collaborative and leveraged model. Board members bring to Higher Ground decades of experience and relationships in fields of education, health, finance and community development relevant to Higher Ground’s mission and operations.

Foundation Comments


Staff Information

Number of Full Time Staff 1
Number of Part Time Staff 2
Number of Volunteers 2
Number of Contract Staff 2
Staff Retention Rate % 100%

Staff Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 1
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 1
Caucasian: 1
Hispanic/Latino: 0
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 0
Other (if specified): --
Gender Female: 1
Male: 2
Not Specified 0

Plans & Policies

Organization has Fundraising Plan? Yes
Organization has Strategic Plan? Yes
Years Strategic Plan Considers 2
Management Succession Plan No
Business Continuity of Operations Plan No
Organization Policies And Procedures Yes
Nondiscrimination Policy Under Development
Whistle Blower Policy No
Document Destruction Policy No
Directors and Officers Insurance Policy Yes
State Charitable Solicitations Permit Yes
State Registration Exempt

Risk Management Provisions


Reporting and Evaluations

Management Reports to Board? Yes
CEO Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Tri-Annually
Senior Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Annually
Non Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Annually


Board Chair Mr. Charlie Titus
Board Chair Company Affiliation UMass Boston
Board Chair Term Jan 2013 -
Board Co-Chair Ms. Charlotte Golar Richie
Board Co-Chair Company Affiliation --
Board Co-Chair Term -

Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
Mr. Matthew Cammack CP Global Partners Voting
Ms. Shirley Carrington Carrington Company Voting
Mr. Arthur Choo Choo and Company Inc. Voting
Mr. Clarence Cooper Suffolk University Voting
Dr. Gerard Cox Independent Consultant Voting
Ms. Karla Damus Northeastern University Exofficio
Mr. Randall Davis Randall S. Davis & Company LLP Voting
Rev. Arthur Gerald 12th Baptist Church Voting
Mr. Hubie Jones Founder, Boston's Higher Ground Voting
Ms. Rona Kiley Educational Consultant Voting
Ms. Tulaine Montgomery New Profit Inc. Voting
Ms. Charlotte Golar Richie Mass. Commission Against Discrimination Voting
Ms. Renee Simmons Higginson Lewis K-8 School Voting
Ms. Alejandra St. Guillen City of Boston Office of New Bostonians Voting
Mr. Charlie Titus U. Mass Boston Voting
Ms. Kathy Traylor Warren Gardens Resident Association Voting
Mr. Leverett Wing Lee Wing Management Voting

Constituent Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Youth Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Advisory Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Board Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 13
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 2
Caucasian: 4
Hispanic/Latino: 2
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 0
Other (if specified): --
Gender Female: 7
Male: 13
Not Specified 0

Board Information

Board Term Lengths 3
Board Term Limits --
Board Meeting Attendance % 60%
Written Board Selection Criteria Under Development
Written Conflict Of Interest Policy Yes
Percentage of Monetary Contributions 86%
Percentage of In-Kind Contributions 40%
Constituency Includes Client Representation Yes

Standing Committees

  • Board Governance
  • Development / Fund Development / Fund Raising / Grant Writing / Major Gifts
  • Education
  • Executive
  • Finance
  • Program / Program Planning
  • Project Oversight

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

Higher Ground has benefitted from the service of a dedicated, talented and diverse board of directors. Following our first year of operations, our Governance Committee recommended that Higher Ground recruit additional board members representing local residents, service providers and beneficiaries of its programs. We added six new members during the second year of our operations. Constituent representation on the Board allows us to better serve and engage the community. We will continue to develop our board so that it fully represents all elements of the Higher Ground leveraged model.

Having Ground was launched in response to concerns for residents living in an neighborhoods that were resource rich but impact poor. The concern was documented by a study that showed that more than 130 service providers were active in the Dudley to Mattapan Square corridor with most doing excellent work but with little or no improvement in outcomes in health and education. Rather than wait until we secured the optimum level of resources, we launched with modest and limited resources to address what we saw as an urgent needs in Boston’s inner city neighborhoods. Although we made good progress and achieved much in our start-up years, these were years of constant challenges due to constrained resources. So we engaged a consultant team and concluded that we needed to focus more and go deeper in fewer areas and work with fewer partners. 

We also concluded that for Higher Ground to be sustainable we could not rely on philanthropic sources alone and we needed to engage private donors as long term investors and partners in our work. The result is a model that is focused on early childhood and education through 4th grade, the early part of our original birth to career pipeline and a reliance on private donors for 50% of the resources needed going forward. 

We have already assembled many of the partners and collaborators that will become the network of service providers leveraged by Higher Ground. We have been received with open arms by local schools, parents, service providers and BPS. We have received encouragement from city and state officials, are encouraged by the level of interest and indication of support in response to our request to private and philanthropic sources and are ready and anxious to launch our new model as soon as we have secured sufficient resources. 

Based on the experience of our first three years we want to be sure we have adequate resources as we prepare to launch the new model.

Foundation Comments



Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2015 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2014 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2013 (%)

Fiscal Year July 01, 2014 to June 30, 2015
Projected Income $375,000.00
Projected Expense $348,400.00
Form 990s

2015 990

2014 990

2013 990

2012 990

2011 990

Audit Documents

2015 Financial Compilation - Per Nonprofit

2014 Review

2013 Review

2012 Audit

IRS Letter of Exemption

IRS Letter of Determination

Prior Three Years Total Revenue and Expense Totals

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Total Revenue $103,110 $372,606 $245,393
Total Expenses $87,979 $392,011 $402,238

Prior Three Years Revenue Sources

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
$59,875 $195,000 $130,000
Government Contributions $0 $0 $0
    Federal -- -- --
    State -- -- --
    Local -- -- --
    Unspecified -- -- --
Individual Contributions -- -- $34,984
Indirect Public Support -- $10,273 $50,000
Earned Revenue $43,234 $1,000 $29,980
Investment Income, Net of Losses $1 $9,453 $429
Membership Dues -- -- --
Special Events -- $100,000 --
Revenue In-Kind -- $56,880 --
Other -- -- --

Prior Three Years Expense Allocations

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Program Expense $39,063 $245,330 $298,108
Administration Expense $29,807 $70,445 $62,287
Fundraising Expense $19,109 $76,236 $41,843
Payments to Affiliates -- -- --
Total Revenue/Total Expenses 1.17 0.95 0.61
Program Expense/Total Expenses 44% 63% 74%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue 32% 25% 19%

Prior Three Years Assets and Liabilities

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Total Assets $10,180 $26,909 $27,915
Current Assets $10,180 $26,909 $27,915
Long-Term Liabilities $0 $0 $0
Current Liabilities $2,492 $34,353 $15,954
Total Net Assets $7,687 $-7,444 $11,961

Prior Three Years Top Three Funding Sources

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
1st (Source and Amount) -- --
Barr Foundation $125,000.00
Boston Foundation $50,000.00
2nd (Source and Amount) -- --
Special Events $100,000.00
Partners HealthCare $50,000.00
3rd (Source and Amount) -- --
In kind $56,880.00
United Way of Mass. Bay and Merrimack Valley $50,000.00

Financial Planning

Endowment Value --
Spending Policy Income Only
Percentage(If selected) --
Credit Line No
Reserve Fund No
How many months does reserve cover? --

Capital Campaign

Are you currently in a Capital Campaign? No
Capital Campaign Purpose --
Campaign Goal --
Capital Campaign Dates -
Capital Campaign Raised-to-Date Amount --
Capital Campaign Anticipated in Next 5 Years? --

Short Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities 4.09 0.78 1.75

Long Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2015 2014 2013
Long-term Liabilities/Total Assets 0% 0% 0%

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

Higher Ground has operated with a modest budget averaging about $400,000 per year over its three-year start-up period. We have been fortunate to be in a strategic partnership with and share office space and operating infrastructure with Teen Empowerment. This relationship has enabled Higher Ground to continue to operate event through challenging financial times which we have experienced regularly over the past three years.

Any start-up organization expects to face financial challenges. Higher Ground faces a financial challenge somewhat unique to its mission and model. Since we are committed to leveraging capacities of existing service providers and not duplicating services that already exist, we are in the difficult position of having to explain that we do not provide any services ourselves and any results and outcomes we are able to document are due to the work of others. We have not yet been able to quantify the value of the connectivity and network weaving that is at the core of our model.  

More often than not we have had to secure resources for the organizations whose services we are trying to leverage. In a couple of instances early on in our history, foundations did provide resources for the collaborative work we did. But later they concluded that they would prefer to fund the services directly without using Higher Ground as a funding intermediary.  

The organizations and individuals for whom we create value are generally hard pressed themselves to make ends meet and are reluctant or unable to compensate Higher Ground for the benefits we bring to them. In a couple of rare instances we have been paid for our work by collaborating organizations but the amounts of such compensation has been very modest.

With our proposed model, we estimate that we will be leveraging $1 million to $1.5 million in resources to the schools, child care centers and individuals that we will serve annually. We are not asserting that these are new resources that we are generating as much of those resources would have gone elsewhere.  The value Higher Ground generates is in aggregating and directing those resources to achieve better outcomes in targeted places. That is the value that is difficult to quantify.

Foundation Comments

Financial summary data in the charts and graphs above are per the organization's IRS Form 990 for FY15 and per the Reviewed financials for FY14 and FY13.
For FY14 and FY13, revenue breakout detail for Foundations & Corporations and Individuals was provided by the nonprofit. Contributions from Individuals are listed under Foundations & Corporations when the breakout was not available.
Please note, the FY15 Financial Compilation document posted above is per the nonprofit.


The Impact tab is a section on the Giving Common added in October 2013; as such the majority of nonprofits have not yet had the chance to complete this voluntary section. The purpose of the Impact section is to ask five deceptively simple questions that require reflection and promote communication about what really matters – results. The goal is to encourage strategic thinking about how a nonprofit will achieve its goals. The following Impact questions are being completed by nonprofits slowly, thoughtfully and at the right time for their respective organizations to ensure the most accurate information possible.

1. What is your organization aiming to accomplish?


2. What are your strategies for making this happen?


3. What are your organization’s capabilities for doing this?


4. How will your organization know if you are making progress?


5. What have and haven’t you accomplished so far?