A storytelling project sharing snapshots of the people in Kendall Square who are leading, pivoting, and problem solving to drive real change.
Meet Justin Feng, Senior Manager, External Innovation at Johnson & Johnson and Inclusion Drives Innovation alum
How did you get involved with Inclusion Drives Innovation?
My site head here at Johnson & Johnson Innovation pushed me to do it, she flagged this as a great opportunity for personal development. She knew that DEI work, education, outreach and having a more formal structure around this work was something I have had an interest in, and I’m glad she was able to encourage me to participate.
What was your favorite part of this program?
I would say two parts. One, was having sessions with different people from the community– which was really powerful. Many of the people I connected with were in Cambridge, but there were also opportunities to connect with people in other communities around the country. These sessions allowed us to learn about everyone’s personal experiences and compare, contrast, and reflect on our own experiences. We’d unpack how our identities, race, and equity played out in our lives and how they dictate the ways we interact at work and in the community. It was really special to have a space to speak about that kind of stuff because that level of sharing doesn’t ever come up in the workplace.
Secondly, the curated reading lists and guided discussions were immensely helpful and thoughtful. Specifically, the Cycle of Liberation reading provided an opportunity to take pieces of information that I’d had independently uncovered and fold new content into my understanding to understand a bigger narrative.
Why is it important to send a team?
The sessions where people from the same organization get sorted into groups with their colleagues to discuss critical topics at their organization and begin planning is critical. MIT had 10 people enrolled in the course, which was awesome to see. I can see why organizations that go through this program find it really useful and push to have more people participate in this kind of comprehensive program – even more than the programs mandated from the enterprise level. If companies really care about this kind of work, we need more than one person participating in this type of training to really develop an antiracist framework and make workplaces and our communities better for everyone.
How do you think you’ll use some of the things that you’ve learned from the program?
There are many ways to apply this learning to my work. One obvious example is examining the way I think about inclusion and antiracism. I think it’s helpful for me personally because now I can recognize some of these patterns as problems with the system. In the last three or four sessions of the course, we really dug into how we can implement an antiracist framework and action plan into our organizations – identifying ways we can work with leaders in our organizations to start to recognize problems and create solutions. Working at a large 130,000 person organization, I’m still trying to figure out how to best implement an action plan, working with leaders at various levels to lead change.
Meet Cara Pelletier – Senior Director, Culture and Belonging, Moderna
What makes this year’s PRIDE celebrations and acknowledgement different from past years?
First, there are many LGBTQ+ people who are not able to live openly and freely at home. Pride is a time for people to be fully accepted for who they are regardless of how they want to express their gender identity and sexuality. For some, it may be the only time of year they are comfortable being “out and proud.” I heard many stories of people in uncomfortable, or even unsafe, lockdown situations last year as they moved back in with estranged family members to ride out the pandemic. It took a toll on people’s well-being and mental health. There is an urgent need for LGBTQ+ people to reconnect with others who share their experiences and can provide understanding, community and support. Pride celebrations are an opportunity to do just that.
Second, I think some folks outside the LGBTQ+ community assume that the fight for LGBTQ+ rights ended when marriage equality became the law of the land in the United States in 2015. While it was an important step in our journey, there is still much to do both locally and globally. Trans community members, particularly trans women of color, are still victims of violent crimes at a heartbreaking rate. Trans, non-binary and gender non-confirming kids are being excluded from the opportunity to play sports in their schools. LGBTQ+ people across the country still face discrimination in employment, housing, credit, adoption laws, and so much more.
So Pride, a time where we honor the revolutionaries of the past, is also an opportunity to push forward. Moderna is offering two special events for our team members this month to spark conversation: a book club especially for LGBTQ+ allies who want to improve their allyship knowledge and skills, and a panel discussion with leaders working in the fields of LGBTQ+ healthcare and human rights.
Tell us about some of Moderna’s strengths when it comes to culture, especially around DEI?
I chose to join Moderna because it’s different than some other organizations where DEI is considered to be just another an HR initiative or PR campaign. At Moderna, there’s a deep understanding that diversity and inclusion are essential to developing vaccines and therapeutics for a global population. Equity is also an important part of the commitments we’ve made around vaccine access to provide effective and affordable vaccines and therapeutics to all populations. Diversity is part of our DNA—and how we will know when we’ve succeeded. It’s amazing to work in an organization where our leaders are active participants in the DEI effort.
Why are pronouns so important, for everyone, not just the LGBT+ community?
If you could do one small thing that cost you nothing, but had an outsized positive impact on others, would you do it? For my trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming friends, being misgendered is a daily struggle. It sends a constant message of “you don’t belong,” and leaves them feeling unwelcome and unsafe. As a cisgender, (mostly) gender-conforming woman, I am not often misgendered, and sharing my pronouns doesn’t always feel necessary to me. But it sends a signal to others that they are welcome and safe with me, and creates a culture of inclusion for everyone.
Meet Segun Idowu – President + CEO, Black Economic Council of Massachusetts
What was it like growing up in Boston, attending Morehouse and then coming home as a civil rights activist?
I think of what James Baldwin said, that “when America talks about progress, all they are really saying is how quickly I become white.” In many ways it felt that the only way to be seen and treated well was to become white. In elementary school, I could count on one hand the number of kids who looked like me. In high school, I became much more aware of race and racism because of my family’s involvement in advocacy. When I went to Atlanta, I no longer stuck out and ownership of everything around me did not seem foreign. The businesses were owned by Black people, the local government was managed by Black people, the schools were led by Black people, and I became one of 10,000 like minded students in the Atlanta University Center. It was certainly a culture shock compared to Boston. The experience certainly prepared me for my return to the city.
What changes have you seen in the area that you are proud of and what do you eye as the next challenge?
One of the challenges we face as a city is that we have not been as dedicated to defeating racism as we have been to appearing not to be racist. Many of the changes we have made thus far have been largely symbolic. Today, we have many people of color in various leadership positions, elected or otherwise, and this is important and has needed to happen for a long time. But, it’s not just about changing the color of the faces of the few leadership positions that are available. Success must come from closing racial wealth and achievement gaps, improving quality of life and increasing home ownership opportunities. Success can no longer be measured in one or two Black people doing well, but in the entire Black community doing well.
With BECMA, what do you see as a recent accomplishment ? How can others take action alongside your team on an individual level, and also from a company level?
I am proud of the work we’ve done in the last year to respond to the impact that COVID-19 was, and still is, having on our businesses. We built partnerships with groups like the MA LGBT Chamber of Commerce and Berkshire Bank and created The Futures Fund, which has extended $1 million in lines of credit to our members; worked with Gov. Baker to prioritize minority businesses in the grant-making process, steering millions of needed capital toward them; set up a new marketplace where Black and Latinx producers of PPE could sell their products to new markets and customers; launched the Black Mass. Coalition, a collective of a dozen Black and Indigenous-led groups that created a blueprint for companies, anchor institutions, and political leaders to follow; and held the City of Boston accountable by filing a federal civil rights complaint against them for awarding less than one half of one percent of their contracts to us between 2014 and 2019. We invite others to join our organization and sign up for updates to learn more about specific ways they can support our various initiatives.
More people are becoming familiar with Juneteenth and its historical significance. What do you encourage someone to do to go beyond knowing the holiday’s history?
Juneteenth is the day that General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas to deliver General Order No. 3 to a people still in bondage. What we have always known, and what we continue to reflect on every June 19th, is that the freedom espoused in that document remains elusive for the descendants of the enslaved who learned that chattel slavery was over. Though iron shackles were stripped from their limbs, the newly freed would also be stripped of their rights to political representation, economic opportunity, and the space to just be. Juneteenth is not merely a day of celebration, nor just one of acknowledgment, but rather a day that the nation must commit itself to atonement and to action. I encourage more people to become educated about the significance of June 19, 1865. But, I also encourage people to support Black-led organizations like BECMA, or Boston Ujima Project, or King Boston and work with us to ensure that this generation of humanity can one day truly celebrate a Juneteenth where liberation is not rhetoric, but reality.
Meet Ahmad Dixon – Program Coordinator, The Loop Lab
What is The Loop Lab and how did it come to be?
Co-founders Christopher Hope and Moise Michel began The Loop Lab by asking residents of the Port Community in Cambridge about their needs. Desperate to generate positive change and equity for young adults of color in the neighborhood in 2017, Hope and Michel used the design method to ask Port neighborhood residents what kinds of opportunities they wanted to see available. Two responses consistently came up in those early conversations: creativity, and economic opportunities. Artplace America, the creative placemaking movement, and local Cambridge foundations empowered and provided the financial support necessary for Hope and others to create a local media studio for young adults in the Port neighborhood. Today The Loop Lab offers a 19-week media arts workforce program that provides 1700 hours of paid work (above the livable wage) through comprehensive professional internships to disconnected young adults of color ages 18-26 in the Greater Boston area.
What is the significance of young people getting an early introduction to AV and digital storytelling from The Loop Lab?
One way to think about it is that there are a lot of people who feel they have no agency in life. They don’t have the ability to take on the, sometimes unpaid, internships necessary for entering the creative economy after highschool. They may feel trapped. What AV and digital storytelling does is that it allows people to work with meaning and work on projects that have some sort of significance to them.
What are some examples of programming The Loop Lab offers young people in the Cambridge area?
We have the Media Arts Apprenticeship program that we offer twice a year with six spots per season. We plan to expand that as our position in Cambridge continues to rise. Through this workforce program, we offer three month internships around Cambridge and Greater Boston. One of the biggest ones is with WBUR.
Internships are very important! It’s a great opportunity for local businesses to get into digital storytelling and marketing. Digital marketing is not even the future. It’s already here! So you need people that have those skills if you want to thrive. We can provide that. It’s also a good way to diversify your employee pool. A lot of businesses, especially in the tech world, are white spaces and there is a big push these days to have these businesses better reflect the changing demographics of America. By giving people job training and experiential learning, you can really close the gap and make an equitable society and business model.
How does being in Cambridge amplify your mission? How does The Loop Lab amplify Cambridge?
Cambridge has a lot of resources and we want to bridge the growing tech economy with a pipeline of more diverse professionals. Many of our program and education partners, such as Amazon Audible and Lesley School of Art + Design, are located within the city. There is also a population of people who have historically been left out of opportunities in the city and we work to address that. Primarily when our mission began, we exclusively served people in The Port neighborhood. Many in this community are very creative but lack the resources and education to take advantage of jobs in the surrounding tech industry. The idea behind The Loop Lab is to allow them to have the ability to succeed on their own. Since there are so many great companies in Cambridge, our production team gets a lot of work and we are able to offer well-paying jobs to those in our learning community.
How did your team respond to the pandemic/how was it affected?
Throughout the pandemic many businesses took advantage of our production studio. People needed help with teleconferencing, telecommuting, streaming, and taking shows that were formerly live and adapting them into a new digital medium. One great example is the play Hype Man by Idris Goodwin. When all theater venues temporarily closed down, the producers of Hype Man decided to film it. The Loop Lab took part in all the production decisions around the project and the film ended up getting a stellar review in the Boston Globe.
The pandemic also gave us an opportunity to expand. Many companies closed their offices, but we ended up opening a new one in Kendall Square while at the same time doubling our staff. And over the next two years, we have even more plans to expand.
The pandemic disproportionately affected people of color – and because of the nature of our work, we were able to keep a lot of the people in our cohort employed with freelance work. With the work, they were able to put the money [they earned] into their community whether it be Dorchester, Mattapan, or The Port.
What does summer and fall look like for the Loop Lab?
Our media arts apprenticeship starts the first week of June. We’ll have six adults getting experiential work – mixing audio, working a camera. We’ll also be doing some high school programs and there are a lot of interested clients contacting us for production work. The final thing I want to say is Cambridge and Greater Boston is really coming to grips with its less than stellar racial past and the call for reconciliation – must also coincide with economic justice. When seeking businesses led by people of color and women, we get to a step closer to a more equitable and just society.
Meet Sara Nochur – Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals
What have you learned about yourself during this unprecedented year?
I have an even greater appreciation for the resilience of people. Everybody had to adapt in a myriad ways to deal with the pandemic as never before and it was surprising to see how we adjusted. It soon became apparent that we thrive on social connections and I missed it very much, but as a family, we found ways to make-do with virtual meetings and meals and games “shared” over zoom! My son got married last year with a total of 11 of us in our backyard, with family and friends from India and elsewhere joining us via zoom; something that none of us would have ever dreamt of doing before the pandemic. I wish that the term used during the pandemic had been “physical” distancing as opposed to “social” distancing, because it is indeed important to emphasize the importance of maintaining social connections even while physically distanced.
Last year of course also highlighted the drastic inequities in healthcare access and the many other racial and socioeconomic disparities faced by people all over the world, underscoring the need for racial equality and justice.
What does Asian American and Pacific Islander Month mean to you?
The AAPI month is called a “heritage” month, but is intended to celebrate the role that Asians and Pacific Islanders have played in the history of the United States. The very fact that we celebrate it indicates that there is not enough attention given to those that are not in the majority or those that don’t have equal rights – so we have a Latinx Heritage Month, a Black History Month, and we have a Women’s Heritage month even though women are currently slightly over 50% of the US population! I think these months presently serve a purpose for education and advocacy, but I long for a day when we don’t need these months because we have reached a point where all history and heritage is accurately and truthfully represented and taught in schools. In the meanwhile, we use these months to celebrate the history, legacy and heritage of the minority groups or those that have historically been disenfranchised, and this by itself does indeed serve the purpose of raising awareness of the diversity and beauty of the peoples of this world.
As an industry leader what responsibilities does Alnylam have on addressing inequality?
Everybody has a responsibility to address inequality. As a society, we are well past the stage of having to demonstrate that inequalities and inequities exist; it is time to take action. Alnylam accordingly has a responsibility to ensuring that our workplace is diverse, equitable and inclusive with equal opportunity for all, and where employees can bring their authentic selves to work each day. Alnylam also has a responsibility to advocate for equality and to denounce all forms of prejudice, bias, bigotry and discrimination. Given our focus on patients, we also need to help address health inequities and to increasing diversity in clinical trials.
How is Alnylam taking action on building equity and implementing anti-racist policies?
It starts with acknowledgement and wanting to make change happen. We have been implementing employee culture surveys for over a decade now and have routinely had >90% participation! Each year, we have taken active steps with the help of groups of employees to rectify and improve on lower scoring aspects on the survey, and have continued to monitor progress. Alnylam had begun incorporating aspects of Diversity and Inclusion training and awareness over 4 years ago. We believe that DE&I is something that everybody in the entire organization needs to embrace and work toward; it cannot be the role or job of a select few to implement. We have full support from Senior Management and a very dedicated and committed team of employees who support DE&I initiatives in the company.
We have started gathering metrics on gender, race and ethnicity to the extent that we are allowed to/is volunteered by employees. We realize that there is more work to be done in closing the gender gap at higher levels of the organization and in ensuring our workplace reflects the diversity of the world we live in. We are shoring up our hiring and retention strategies to increase diversity in our workforce and to foster inclusive behavior. Alnylam provides opportunity for employees to learn new skills and take on new roles within the organization; we have done this many times over the years and I am a posterchild for this initiative, given that until January of this year, my entire career was in Regulatory Affairs! We continue to provide leadership training programs as well as coaching and mentoring, enabling equitable opportunities. We actively denounce all forms of discrimination as well as anti-immigration policies and have not hesitated to express our opinions externally as well. With training, conversations and “roadshows” on various aspects of DE&I, we are in active communication with our employees to educate themselves on race, ethnicity, cultural and other differences, encouraging engagement in difficult conversations empathetically, to speak up when microaggressions occur, to advocate and be allies, and to be aware of our unconscious biases.
Is there anything you’d like to start, stop, or continue doing as we transition back to offices later this year?
As an organization, Alnylam rose to its motto of “Challenge Accepted” during the pandemic and all our employees did a remarkable job in continuing with our mission to bring drugs to patients in need. Additionally, the company pivoted early, using science-based evidence to guide our principles for ensuring the safety of employees who needed to come to our research and manufacturing facilities. Further, we provided funding as well as technical help to support our work-from-home employees. Employees found new ways of adjusting their work and home lives and productivity did not suffer at all. We increased our communication and built trust, took periodic pulse surveys and responded to employees’ needs. We plan to continue to support our employees as we begin to transition back to offices.
We are doing this in a staged manner with a soft pilot opening for those who are vaccinated and willing to come in a few days a week. We will be flexible and provide employees the option of working from home a few days a week, or fully remotely for some, depending on their roles. While we believe that there is benefit to face-to-face interactions to foster innovation, we also realize that employees want to have greater flexibility in their work schedules, and that we have to find new and creative ways to continue to engage employees and foster close networking, communication and sharing of ideas even when remote.
We are a global organization and have had remote working and virtual meetings prior to the pandemic. The pandemic has taught us that there are different ways of working effectively and productively than had been previously the norm. However, it is not clear that everybody knows what they really want, because the new normal will be different than it was during the pandemic, with schools reopening and other activities resuming. Accordingly, it will be important for us to be agile and make adjustments to our policies as we listen to employee feedback and understand what’s working and what’s not working over the upcoming months.
Meet Roy Charles – Principal Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Draper
What does Kendall mean to you?
I go back a long way in Kendall Square. My career in diversity began in the early 1990s in the Office of the President at MIT, working for the special assistant to the president and assistant EEO officer. This work exposed me to efforts around diversity support and administration and to the efforts of broadening participation for underrepresented individuals whose careers were to be in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). I spent time in Kendall Square often and even then I knew Kendall Square was an innovation hub. Now I’ve come full circle, returning to Kendall Square and joining Draper. It’s impressive to see the area develop to the level it has, with startups alongside major international companies.
How does Draper engage with this community?
Draper is a proponent of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I)—in the workplace and in the community. In Cambridge, Draper has collaborated on several initiatives with Kendall Square Association, including sharing our DE&I program with KSA as a source for KSA’s DE&I program, and planning a joint DE&I event at Draper before the pandemic forced the cancellation of public gatherings. Draper was an early member of KSA, and Tara Clark, our vice president of operations and commercial programs, currently serves on KSA’s board of directors.
What’s a favorite part of your job that you are working on right now?
Among the favorite parts of my job is engaging with Draper’s employee resource groups. ERGs are employee-led communities that foster a diverse, inclusive workplace. Since joining Draper earlier this year, I have gotten to know the culture, the people and the practices of the company. Understanding an organization in those ways is critical to managing its diversity, equity and inclusion program. It also ensures the lens I bring to the work is applied to various needs and actions in the right way.
As an industry leader what responsibilities does Draper have on addressing inequality?
As an industry leader Draper has a great deal to offer to advance the DE&I conversation in such areas as pay equity, gender equality, increased participation of underrepresented individuals in STEM fields, LGBTQIA+ equity and other areas. My advice to employers is to ask the hard questions. Are your DE&I practices being carried out at all levels of your organization, and who is responsible for ensuring that these objectives are met? How are you adapting policies to accommodate each of the components of DE&I? What actions are you taking for DE&I to advance cultures of inclusion? Above all, I encourage organizations to move beyond the performative work—the stuff that feels and looks good on the surface—and dig deeper into the work that will deliver more significant outcomes.
What is your hope for this work in the larger Kendall community?
Draper is a longstanding member of the Kendall Square community. Our hope is to continue to build on the connections that exist and create new ones that share best practices for building cultures of inclusion that are supported by a foundation of transformative DE&I practices. A good example is our sponsorship of KSA’s Inclusion Drives Innovation (IDI) professional development program.
Meet Dominique Brewer – U.S. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Lead at Takeda Pharmaceuticals
Get to know Takeda’s pledge to corporate responsibility here.
What makes DE&I work so challenging?
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) work is deeply personal. The emotionally charged topics that fall under the umbrella of diversity, equity and inclusion often elicit strong emotions in us all. Although there are many learned responses for managing discomfort, you can’t easily reconcile emotions with responses. We all have work to do in engaging more emotional intelligence in the face of discomfort. The Inclusion Drives Innovation program allows us to receive individual learning aligned with what’s currently happening in society. Within the United States, many individuals have never considered the impact of identity and race within a broader environment. This is where we need to begin our journey.
As an Inclusion Drives Innovation alum, what sets this professional development program apart?
Inclusion Drives innovation creates a psychologically safe space, which can be hard to find. I appreciated that program facilitators, She+ Geeks Out, greeted participants by sharing a fundamental baseline that engaged attendees of all levels. By considering how the emotional components of the learning materials might affect participants differently, attendees also received fact-based information to better understand the basic concepts of identity.
As the new U.S. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Lead at Takeda, what do you want people to know about learning journeys?
We all have biases. Inclusion Drives innovation helps participants become aware of their biases, so they can better understand the impact on others. As we think about how to represent people of different identities and fueled with a baseline introduction to our societal history, we have the opportunity to open doors and create space for trust, courage, and comfort with people we meet for the first time. DE&I learning journeys extend beyond this program to influence all facets of our lives, even if you are not actively involved in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives.
Meet Kevin Mosher – VP of Operations at AIR Communities
Get to know AIR Communities and one of its new residential buildings in Kendall Square: Prism.
What makes a good community both in a building and in a neighborhood?
Location of these buildings is top of mind. With great location comes proximity to work and where you go to school, or where your daycare center is. And while this is a very urban area, our team tries to align our buildings with outdoor spaces. We think we have a real winner here. Prism is our third building in the market – we have Axiom and Vivo, too. We feel the third building here is going to be a home run. Our theme is trying to find a location that connects people with where you live, where you cook dinner, and also where you relax and enjoy life. We feel like Kendall Square is always getting better and better every day; the location is just spectacular.
There are lots of great places to live all over Cambridge and Boston. We feel what separates us is our team. The building needs to be spectacular, but our team needs to be exceptional. And 2020 taught us something: we were essential. Our buildings were never fuller, people were home a lot. It meant having a great team on site that could listen and deliver world class service. We feel our operations team – how we train, hire, coach and develop – just makes the building that much better.
What makes living in Kendall a unique experience? At Prism?
We have cultural pillars that we really built into our vision and one of those pillars is “we drive innovation and change.” It’s not just a tagline, it’s really something we strive to do. To offer a building like this in the heart of one of the most innovative places in the world – these people are out changing the world right in front of us- we feel like our location in Kendall Square just aligns with how we at Prism think about innovation and change. It makes it the perfect place.
What are some green/sustainability initiatives that Prism/AIR Communities are taking?
We have a strong commitment to doing as much as we can on the green initiatives side. The building is finalizing its LEED certification. It’s a nice marker to have but as we build, we look at many things – energy efficient doors, windows, roofs, insulation systems, LED lighting, low flow plumbing fixtures, and smart technology. We like to make recycling in the building as easy as possible. And as of a few years ago, you would see one or two electric cars rolling around. Now it’s hard not to see one when you pull into a parking garage. So now we are installing EV charging stations from day one.
What are some of your favorite spaces in Kendall Square by Prism?
I am a runner so I like the access to the Charles River walking and bike paths. Cambridge has a great biking initiative, so we have fantastic bike room for residents. And Timothy Toomey Jr. Park is going up soon. There is a dog park and splash pad there. The sledding hill is going to be amazing. We also have a great commercial vendors in Prism including Toscanini’s Ice Cream, the owners are there a lot of the time. Then there is Sumiao Hunan Kitchen, the food is exceptional. And Tatte Bakery has amazing baked goods.
What are some of your favorite amenities that Prism has to offer?
The courtyard is really what sets Prism apart. The building was built around it. To find some green space and sanctuary inside all that concrete is really nice. It’s got barbecue grills, fire pits, and outdoor TVs. The gym and courtyard are adjacent to each other – we built a 30-foot sliding door that we can swing open in the spring and summer. Just to have that fresh air as you are on a treadmill will be extraordinary.
How is Air Communities connecting itself to the Cambridge community?
Air Communities has heavy involvement in the community. We allocate time each year for our employees to give back and volunteer in their communities. We have an event coming up in June working with the Charles River Authority to paint benches, pick up trash, and plant flowers. We found doing things together helps the surrounding area and helps our team.
Meet Alex Gladwell – Co-Founder of Restaurant Worker Mutual Aid
Get to know Restaurant Worker Mutual Aid: Created by two restaurant workers, RWMA is a local nonprofit that gives groceries to those within the industry that face food and wage insecurities heightened by the pandemic.
What was the inspiration behind Restaurant Worker Mutual Aid?
Having worked in the restaurant industry and seeing the disparities that already existed, then restaurants announcing they had to close overnight – it just sent shockwaves. But then I thought about how I would have access to unemployment: I’m single, I don’t have children; I would be OK. Co-workers of mine and knowing people in the industry that were not as fortunate was a launching point for me. It’s long been a reality that many restaurant workers have faced food insecurity.
Then I contacted Kaitlin because her restaurant [Abigail’s] would be empty and could be the place [we operated from]. We wanted to help our friends in the community.
What is the process of Restaurant Worker Mutual Aid?
Initially, we would begin by reaching out to community members and Facebook groups to acquire donations. We didn’t know we would grow into being more, though we weren’t surprised knowing the demand would be there. We also reached out to restaurants about their non-perishables and extra produce. From there, other groups connected with us.
While we still accept food donations, the majority we buy wholesale- it makes things more efficient and we are able to buy more culturally sensitive items. When grocery stores couldn’t keep things in stock, we tapped into the restaurant supply chain. As a result, we never had issues getting food, even when food banks and pantries were overwhelmed and struggled to keep things in supply.
How does someone get assistance; what qualifies them? How can others help to spread the word or volunteer their time?
We started by reaching out to restaurant workers that had been furloughed and nonprofits that had connected to folks that would be in need of the items we had. Eventually, people just started reaching out to us. We always want to make sure we are serving those without access.
After posting about RWMA on Facebook, we had friends that said they would love to donate money. That was not something we had set out to do. Accepting monetary donations completely changed the structure of RWMA, allowing us to provide consistent and nutritionally balanced food at a low cost, to reach more people. It takes between $400 and $600 a week to feed our families. Currently, we serve 77 households, 196 adults and 157 children.
In Kendall Square, what are you most excited to get back to?
That is a hard question. What I miss the most is seeing familiar faces. I bartended in K-Square for 7 years and have met many wonderful people, both at my bar and as a patron at other neighborhood restaurants. One of those being Abigail’s, where we have been running RWMA. Too many restaurants, like Abigail’s, will not be reopening their doors. I feel such a great sense of loss and mourning.
But I will say, Kendall Square is a great example of how innovative, adaptive, and resourceful people are. And restaurant folks are no exception to that. Being in the restaurant world, by nature you have to be all those things, pandemic or not. So I am excited to visit and continue to support those restaurants still with us. I am especially excited to support the High Roads Restaurants in Kendall Square (Bon Me, Mamelah’s, State Park, Vincent’s @ Cafe du Pays) who are using this devastation as an opportunity to address some of the long standing inequities in the industry. I’m excited and hopeful at the prospect of having a better reality to “get back to”.
And, man, I can’t wait to be in a bar, serving or sitting, and see familiar faces. And to become familiar with new faces. I am so excited to get back to that. For us all to get back to that, when the time is right.
Meet Ian Kilpatrick – Head of Corporate Partnerships, Inner City Weightlifting
Get to Know Inner City Weightlifting: ICW’s mission is to reduce street violence by amplifying the voice and agency of people who have been most impacted by systematic racism and mass incarceration.
ICW partners with program participants through case management and careers in and beyond personal training. Individuals are elevated as experts in fitness and the social issues they’ve lived.
What makes a good partnership?
The willingness to find mutual benefits. The companies we partner with are always communicating about what we can do. Sage Therapeutics is super engaged. The team is always team chatting about what else we can do. On a personal level, they’ve supported our trainers when they’ve been sick or had car issues – their team has a relationship with our team. We enhance each other’s culture and help each grow– finding new ways to help, especially with inclusion and diversity work.
What’s your favorite part of the collaborative process?
My favorite part is the feedback that’s shared after. I really love when companies see our trainers in a new light, and I get to witness that first hand! To see our trainers, who often have stigmas on them, workout with Fortune 500 leaders and share moments with people of completely different backgrounds, it’s really special. Everything else in the world says the corporate leader is the expert, but during these sessions we see that dynamic flip.
What do you miss most about Kendall?
Tatte. The food. Human perspective, really. I miss being in the gym and having people from different walks of life come in and interact with each other– making connections. We still have virtual sessions, with a few seconds in between sets to connect. But I miss the personal exchanges the most.
How can Kendall employees get involved with ICW?
There are two avenues for getting involved with us: become a client for personal training or become an advocate for ICW at your company. Working with us is a win for everyone! The more clients we have the more trainers secure economic sustainability and career mobility, while clients get healthier. Being an advocate for ICW at your company really drives culture enhancements for all employees and shifts perspectives on a larger scale.
What’s the one exercise everyone should do?
Everyone should be resting at the end of a workout. People can do whatever workout they like, whether it’s HIIT, heavy lifting, light mobility training, whatever, but the thing that makes me cringe is if you go straight from workout stress to the next thing and don’t stop to rest. That’s the moment when your workout can hurt you. If your nervous system doesn’t get the rest it needs that’s a problem. As simple as it sounds, rest goes a long way – and it’s more important now than ever because we have more stress in our bodies. From pandemic stress to work stress, taking 10 minutes to lay down and breathe is just as important as the 10 minutes you spend warming up.
What should people expect from ICW workouts?
We’re doing a virtual work out on April 15th – drop in, and see! You should expect a body weight workout, but if you have equipment you want to incorporate, you can. We pride ourselves on making inclusive workouts for all levels of fitness – modifications are always welcome! Our trainers are great at providing multiple options to scale back or add intensity. You’ll get a little bit of everything: mobility to avoid injury and strength for technical training. What I like about our group approach is that every one of our trainers has a background in personal training, which leads to smarter circuit training.
If someone is new to personal training, what should they expect to gain first?
Growth in confidence in day to day movements. I see people go from nervous and wobbly to having amazing form– which makes highly efficient workouts.
Meet Nookie Postal – Owner, Commonwealth Cambridge
What does your reopening plan look like?
Our reopening looks slow, methodical and patient. Not opening the floodgates wide open quite yet. We will be doing Wednesday to Saturday to start with as many weddings as humanly possible. We’ll have two tents this year instead of one. And of course, super smoker Sundays will be back by the summer!
What do you want the Kendall community to know?
I think I’d want the Kendall community to know that we are still here and we need them more now than ever before. With the office economy shifting to a more hybrid model from the traditional 5 day work week, well, that’s definitely going to have an effect on us. So, for any event or catering or welcome back dinner or gathering or, really whatever, super helps.
What is your favorite thing on your menu?
The Pastrami Rachel – it’s marble rye bread, pastrami, coleslaw and Swiss cheese.
What is your favorite part of having a brick & mortar restaurant?
Commonwealth is my first restaurant; it’s my baby. I love the quirkiness of it and the parties that we do. I’m proud that we morphed into this premiere space for weddings. I never imagined in a million years that people would want to get married here. We have 40 wedding books! And the majority of people whose weddings were impacted by the pandemic pushed their date.
Meet Belinda Termeer – President and Co-Founder, Termeer Foundation
What does Kendall mean to you?
I worked at Genzyme for many years and seeing Kendall’s transformation these past 25 from dirt lots to a world class biotech cluster is the most incredible thing. The work these companies are doing for their patients is catalyzing a new era for medicine and life science work.
What part does this community play in the legacy of your late husband?
The Termeer Foundation’s mission to identify and empower people who can champion change in medicine. Emerging and established leaders get to interface with one another as we mentor the next generation of companies and leaders. The inspiration for the foundation was to champion Henri’s legacy and carry forward his spirit of mentorship.
How does the Termeer Foundation engage with this community?
Our fellowship program is at the heart of the Foundation’s work. These past three years, we’ve worked closely with 16 healthcare leaders and 14 fellows. Each year we host a dinner to announce new leaders and connect our fellows with mentors. We also host lunch and learn-style Ted Talks to share advice on critical issues.
What are your favorite memories of being in Kendall?
The most powerful thing about being in this community is the inspiration derived from being surrounded by these types of industry. Henri’s passion was profoundly impactful, not just to industry and surrounding leaders in academia and world class hospitals; he wanted to continue supporting the talent here by making critical connections between hospitals and biotech. To have this concentration in this square mile is incredible and my favorite memories are tied to the impact of these connections nurtured here.
What are your aspirations for the newly unveiled Henri A. Termeer Square and sculpture, and how would you like to see Kendall employees, residents, and visitors engage with it?
I want this new space to serve as an inspiration for those who live and work in Kendall. I want Henri A. Termeer Square to become a place to meet and share ideas that have an impact on patients’ lives – welcoming engaging conversations and leading to new connections for collaborative work. This is more than open space, it’s a place to dream big.
Meet Wendy Richard – Director, Corporate Social Responsibility & Community Relations, Sanofi Genzyme
How has 2020 changed you, and what surprising things did you learn about yourself?
Last year certainly impacted every single one of us in some ways regardless of our standing in our personal lives or our professional lives. For me, I’ve always thought of myself as someone who has general endurance in life and an inability to truly multi-task with some success. I think that 2020 really challenged these thoughts in terms of my ability to be flexible and to stay grounded and focused because there are just so many emotional challenges regardless of whatever degrees of privilege we may have in our lives. That’s just something all of us had to confront individually and then understand how this dialogue impacted our kind of professional work in the things that we were doing. In many ways I think we all individually felt called to do even more last year but yet we’re balancing many different types of stressors in our lives. Those things have to be acknowledged and we have to speak to them. And we have to connect with them so we can together solve them and continue to move forward and bring new paradigms of working, serving people and uplifting one another.
What’s your favorite project or campaign that you are working on right now?
I don’t know that I have a favorite one right now but I do love that so much of the work that we do in community relations, even prior to last year and the civil rights movement that we’re living in – in addition to this global healthcare crisis – certainly has an intersection on underlying disparities which also relates to what’s happening in terms of this modern civil rights activism that we’re seeing in this country.
I don’t know that there’s one particular project but what I am so galvanized by and passionate about is that our work in community relations is really getting at the heart of these issues. Getting at the foundation on why such disparities in the larger sense and what that means, whether we’re talking about health or educational equity, or just critical unmet community needs and why those exist and continue to persist in the way that they do, in spite of our collective efforts over time. I am very galvanized by the relevance of the conversations and the work that we’re doing that I think has been brought to the forefront because of the things that are happening at a societal level. This is what gets me up every morning even on days that are more difficult than others.
As an industry leader what responsibilities does Sanofi Genzyme have on addressing inequality?
The first short answer to that question is we unequivocally have a responsibility to speak to and act upon the opportunities that arise out of this crisis that already existed. These are issues and discrepancies that have existed prior to 2020 and I think we all have an understanding of that.
So do we have a responsibility, yes. I have been with Sanofi Genzyme for eight and a half years and last year we saw our leaders and people at every level of the company have so many rich dialogues and assessments about where we are in terms of the creation of this diverse and equitable workplace that we absolutely strive to have. We are doing our own self assessments and having conversations internally and many times even bringing the outside in which I got to participate in with our CEO Bill Sibold, leader from the Dimic Center and some of our other community partners. We have been bringing in these insights into our company and thinking: what does good look like? What are the things we should be striving for and what are the metrics we should be hitting in terms of the gender and racial equity, in terms of our workforce and getting the true diversity we aspire to. I think 2021 is our year to make an external impact in the leadership roles we are trying to take around the global equitable community where everyone can thrive. Sanofi Genzyme is and will continue to be a part of doing what we can to ensure that in the Greater Boston/Cambridge, MA community that everyone is able to thrive. This is something that is so exciting because it’s an opportunity for us to make lasting and important changes.
What has Sanofi Genzyme done to address the issues?
At SG, we have had many long-standing different types of mentorship programs and internship programs at the high school level and all up to postdoc. Those programs are continuing and the lens is becoming sharper, ensuring we have a diverse array of candidates, particularly as we look at the college level, and postdoc level and up. There’s much more heightened attention about who we are partnering with, recruiting and how we make sure we’re looking at all the talent in all the ways it can show up. Forming different partnerships externally has also helped with this. Although we’ve always had these types of programs and at the high school level we’ve always had a lot of diversity and offered these opportunities to kids that may not have otherwise had the exposure to the life sciences, but that starts to change as kids move up in their schooling and their graduate work. We make sure there is equity and diversity in everything that we touch.
Meet Melissa DesRavines – Human Resources Manager, Turner Construction
Why are you a member of the Inclusion Drives Innovation host committee for a second time?
We want to continue to stay engaged. It’s important for this work to continue to progress and keep the relationships we’ve built front of mind. We all need to think about how we can prepare Kendall to embrace this work. One key learning from Inclusion Drives Innovation is that not all companies are in the same place and we need to prepare them for the shift that must happen here.
How is Turner taking action on building equity and implementing anti-racist policies?
There are a lot of things that are going on. We conducted an internal audit of our staff, and our people of color and their progress over the years in terms of opportunities and growth. We have made some hard and good decisions about how we are going to tackle the progress of all people – meaning more training, planning, fostering connections, staff development and, of course, networking. The shift we have seen is a mental shift in the way in which people of color are prepared, not overlooked.
I was in a breakout group during one of the large group calls and one of the participants shared her company’s philosophy regarding panel participation. If they are being asked to be on a panel if there are not members of minority groups represented the executives will ask for facilitators to add people then if that isn’t an option reject the opportunity to participate in a panel. That is a whole shift, a whole different way in thinking. Prioritizing an inclusive environment at all levels. There is a whole momentum happening from what feels right personally and how to manifest it in the business.
What was your favorite part of the program?
I’d have to say it was really getting the opportunity to deepen my knowledge around the topics of diversity and inclusion – opening that social justice lens. Then I got to take all of my perceptions and feelings about the content and actually hear the thoughts and opinions of others, who I don’t work with on a regular basis, respond to this personal and critical information.
What advice would you give to new participants joining the program?
They really have to make time to utilize the tools – don’t think it is a quick call in. The program is not lecture style. Be prepared to do some homework and participate because that is how you’ll get the most out of this work.
What is your hope for this work in the larger Kendall community?
I hope this work goes beyond the Kendall community. It shouldn’t just stay here. So many things are born in Cambridge and Kendall Square, this is just one of those great things, and I hope that it spreads far and wide.
Imari Paris Jeffries—Executive Director, King Boston
Tell us a little bit about the Kings’ history in Boston and how you’re using this time of racial awakening to change our regional reputation of inequality.
One little known fact that I think people don’t know is that the Kings first met while they were college students here. To be honest, I kind of knew that doctor King came here for college, but I didn’t know much about Mrs. King’s college journey. Coretta was a student at New England Conservatory while Doctor King was at Boston University. The story goes that on their first date, here in Boston, he asked her to marry him. We all know he was pretty good with words, so I can only imagine what it was like on their first date when he asked this question. Boston is the fourth largest college town in the country, but they came to a place that is not the most welcoming region we imagine it to be. Can you imagine if we were? And if the Kings came here to go to college, fell in love, and decided to make Boston the epicenter of the civil rights movement?
Tell us about the monument.
The photo “The Embrace” was the inspiration for the memorial that was chosen. Hank Willis Thomas, a New York based, internationally acclaimed African American conceptual artist, along with MASS Design Group, was selected to create the image for this memorial. This photo captures the moment when Dr. King learned he had been awarded the Nobel Prize, and his first reaction was to embrace his wife. The sculpture that will be placed in Boston Common is meant to be touched and experienced. We want people that come to Boston to interact with this piece in America’s oldest park. It’s important that when we talk about what it means for us to be a welcoming city to have a symbol of racial equity in Boston’s center.
What will these new tributes mean for the community?
The new memorial and King Center represent equity. It will make our region welcoming, and show that we are being active and internalizing what we are learning. We are using humanities, TED-style talks, music, food experiences, connections, book clubs, and more to interrogate what racism means. Current anti-racist discourse is not just about policy, it’s just not just data, it’s not just organizing – it’s also about how we, on an interpersonal level, have this conversation about racism, how we interrogate the ways in which we were socialized into racist behaviors, how do we embody what it means to be an anti-racist. This is what King Boston is about.
What can we do differently now than we could 56 years ago?
We have an opportunity to come together and redefine what it means for this region for Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville to emerge as a region that is representative of the values that we want it to be. We are starting some work at building coalitions with business leaders and nonprofits to plan this day when our new labor secretary Walsh returns with Vice President Harris to conduct the proverbial tradition of breaking a bottle of champagne over this three-story memorial and say NEW Boston is open. That these old notions where our region was the most unfriendly region have changed and we’ve gone from being the least friendly big city in the country to the most safe, welcoming, racial minded city in the nation. The true city on the hill we aspire to be.
Meet Rachel Miller Munzer—Owner and CRO, Mamaleh’s Delicatessen
How are you guys doing?
It’s a mixed bag, they say you’re only as happy as your saddest child. Mamaleh’s was already set up for takeout but the pandemic provided a window for change.
The other two restaurants are a different story. Café du Pays pivoted and the team run by my partner, Evan Harrison, has been constantly moving to make that work as a charming all-day cafe and local grocery store. Some days are great and others not so much…we are still learning from all the roadblocks we face and hope to get more people through the door.
State Park has been the biggest challenge. We fell behind with the patio under construction over the summer, (in regular times) the energy at State Park is elbow to elbow, games, great drinks, and delicious food. But it was heartwarming to have people on the patio in the fall even though it’s a new and different environment.
Tell me about the subscription?
For years we’ve thought about offering a “CSD” Community Supported Deli Monthly Pickup … and then we saw Shybird offering subscriptions. They connected us with a third party software platform, Table 22, which helped launch Mamaleh’s and Vincent’s new subscription programs. There’s so much mutual love in this industry and we are so thankful for the support of people signing up.
Tell us about the signature Lady & the Tramp dinner?
We first launched this idea 7 years ago for Valentine’s Day. We wanted to do something quirky for our State Park folks that involved romantic tablecloths, spaghetti, and a bottle of chianti in a straw basket. This year, couples will be able to recreate their delicious State Park dinner in the safety of their homes with homemade breadsticks, meatballs, caesar salad, molten chocolate cake, tablecloth, candles, and a bottle of wine. It’s become a tradition to celebrate Valentine’s Day with us and this is a new effort to keep State Park alive for when you all come back to Kendall.
What are you working on currently?
We want time to reflect on where we are and how we want to move forward to stay alive and make the restaurant industry better. The whole restaurant industry was struggling before the pandemic and this moment has helped us take the steps to change. It takes community support to bring that change about, like changing the federal minimum wage and innovating the tipping system to better serve our workers. I’ve been working with legislators at the state level to get a federal bill to pass.
Kendall – Keep us in mind as we keep trying to provide you with fresh new ideas on how you enjoy our food and drinks. Just like back in 2008, we will survive this together!
Meet Krista Licata—Managing Director, LabCentral Ignite
What excites you most about the LabCentral Ignite platform?
There are so many things to be excited about! LabCentral is already a fixture in our biotech innovation ecosystem as a convenor, connector, space, and service provider. LabCentral Ignite is adding a layer to this work. We are now also engaging with an overlapping ecosystem of organizations addressing talent development, access to equitable educational and career opportunities, and diversity and inclusion for our industry. The LabCentral leadership team and board recognize this as an opportunity to turn what started out as a side project, into a significant piece of our work. Our whole organization is leaning in on this work, and that’s really energizing.
How has the pandemic impacted this work, and how are you addressing those specific challenges?
Anyone near education right now knows that is extremely challenging. The pandemic has significantly widened the gap for underserved populations. From LabCentral Ignite’s perspective, what we’re doing is pooling our talent and resources together to actively strengthen the next generation of science. This is a critical moment for leaning in on how to do this effectively, especially since this challenge is bigger due to the lasting impacts the pandemic may have on students that have fallen behind.
A hallmark of this program is the ecosystem wide approach to ramping up STEM talent to tackle today’s challenges. What do those interactions look like?
This year will be a big building year as we engage with local nonprofits and other organizations to understand what’s happening in this space. We’re finding that many organizations don’t know about each other. If they don’t, they can’t strategically plan or learn from each other. Then on the investment side, big pharma and grant makers also have a disorganized approach. What LabCentral Ignite will do is help bring focus to organizations and their programs to leverage learning, pinpoint problems, and create a better process for everyone. This is a long game, but we’ll know more about where gaps are and where we need to lean in to help the places succeeding at this work, scale their operation.
What about Kendall inspires you?
When I joined LabCentral and the biotech world seven years ago, I didn’t realize how amazing this community would be. The collective energy here is something I have come to love – there is a desperation to make a difference in the lives of everyone by building better science for the world. I want everyone to access this global community of innovators, especially people of different backgrounds. This community creates opportunities to unlock doors with its energy and programs like LabCentral Ignite. This program isn’t elite, it’s an open door for collective action.
For more information on LabCentral Ignite and how to get involved, visit their website.
Meet Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau—CEO & Publisher, MIT Tech Review
In this agonistic climate of fake news, how important is it for people to access correct information? How do you address these challenges in your work?
Our journalists, editors, and writers are dedicated to the discipline of research, reporting, verifying information, confirming interviews — to feature very robust reporting. Our research complements everything we publish. There’s a lot of information that gets published before it’s verified and that’s not how we do things. We are always aware of our parent MIT, and want them to be as proud of us as we are of them. The impact of bad information is incredible, especially in this moment politically. What we are experiencing is a fight for quality reporting – our readers know they can trust us. Those who do not know us will give us a closer look because they understand we carry a brand with 150+ years of rigor behind it.
The recent and unprecedented collaborations happening in Kendall Square around COVID-19 responses are heartening. What do you feel is the greatest upside, possible or probable, that could come from these advances in testing and targeted therapeutics?
Kendall Square is such a hub of innovation, discovery, and academic achievement. It’s such a special location – while you grab a sandwich you can encounter people you’ve read articles about who are at the forefront of their field. Doing good for the world pervades the MIT ethos. We have spent a lot of time emphasizing the use of scholarship and accomplishment to make the world better for everyone. What was happening here was always of increasing global significance, but never more than today. What’s happening in this square mile should solve a global crisis that we’re all stuck in and its implications will support people all over the world.
What do you think about the remaining real challenges around this pandemic?
As a business leader, I’ve never spent more time than these past few months thinking about the lives of people who work for me. The first priority in March was to get everybody home, secured and safe. We needed to get through that first transition and now we know we can work and collaborate remotely. The focus now needs to be caring for co-workers, dividing time, and stress management. I have teenagers, and they’re more autonomous, but little kids and parents of little kids need more support for screens and staying safe if they are attending school. When this is over, I hope that our orientation toward supporting the whole employee will remain. This is also a moment in thinking about diversity and the different experience staff members bring and what some of the headwinds may be that are different than others, especially those who don’t feel quite as heard or cared for. Caring for the whole person is something that I think needs to continue beyond this moment – let’s have this be something we really mean, not just say.
What bright spots would you want to share with our community?
I think that as citizens in an open and free society, we have to expect that there is value to information about what’s happening in our world. You have to pay for content, the internet has taught us that when content is free, you get what you pay for. I’m an avid media consumer, it’s the job, and I would encourage community members to pay for the publications on topics that are most valuable and matter to you. We cannot take vetted, quality, content for granted because there are no guarantees in the media industry at this point. The free content everyone can access varies in reliability. You have to believe information has value and I believe you must assign that value from your wallet. If not, then information becomes about what makes the most noise, and that’s not a society I want.
Meet Rodrigo Martinez—Chief Marketing & Experience Officer, CIC Health
What is the mission behind CIC Health?
The idea of our service offer is really around three specific words: accessible, fast, and easy. The mission is to get high-quality testing at the lowest possible cost—for safer work, school, and daily life. This program is transforming the larger testing landscape. We offer a wide range of testing services to organizations—schools, colleges, healthcare facilities, state-run testing sites; as well as offering testing services to individuals.
Who is CIC Health available to?
We have two main channels, B2B and B2C. We are testing thousands of teachers, students all across New England, as well as supporting hospitals, elderly care facilities, and even prisons. Overall we have enabled more than 250,000 tests with over 100 organizations. We are also supporting the state of Vermont with their state-wide testing efforts. We design our services around the needs of the organization or geography. This October, we’ve opened our services to the public at 245 Main Street in Kendall Square with the plan to expand this offering around Boston—and nationally.
How are you feeling overall about the company?
From our perspective, our growth has been terrific! We couldn’t have done it without the team at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard—the first lab we began collaborating with; so we’re lucky to find ourselves in this innovative and collaborative ecosystem. We are expanding across New England and soon nationally; we have a fantastic network of collaborators and partners. We want to do our part in getting the country back on its feet. We are just getting started!
Meet Stephen Pitt—Head of JLABS, US North East, Johnson & Johnson Innovation
How has Johnson & Johnson Innovation used COVID-19 to get creative?
When COVID-19 hit, our biggest consideration was how can we help keep our employees, partners, and residents safe? Because we saw early on that each start-up was impacted differently and found ourselves in the epicenter of the global pandemic, we deployed a Financial Relief Program for companies experiencing economic hardship as a result of the pandemic. That way they could either refocus efforts to address the current crisis or continue to drive forward other potentially critical healthcare solutions for people around the world. More than 50 companies in our global JLABS network are exploring novel ideas with the aim to help address the COVID-19 pandemic.
We also decided to use this time as an opportunity to fine tune the work we do with the life science community. We view ourselves as the “Red Door” into Johnson & Johnson, and we feel it’s vital that the outside world understand how people can work with us, which can be challenging with an organization this complex and dynamic. To help bring the best ideas into Johnson & Johnson Innovation, we offer a range of tools to serve start-ups at every stage of development, including mentorship, equity investment, strategic collaborations, incubation, and many more.
How are you supporting entrepreneurs?
We aim to bring the scale of Johnson & Johnson’s resources to help start-ups, from early-stage companies just starting to develop the next potential breakthrough to established companies further along the development path. A lot of start-ups will tell us that we’re a part of their teams, not vice versa. We’ve also built programming into our ecosystem tailored to helping life science entrepreneurs– from how to write a grant and think about D&I to providing feedback on what products will be commercially viable.
And this summer we announced the first class of companies selected from across our portfolio to be part of BLUE KNIGHT™, a joint initiative between Johnson & Johnson Innovation and BARDA, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority aimed to accelerate science and technologies with the goal to help address potential health security threats and emerging infectious diseases. The collaboration supports start-ups focused on combating emerging infectious diseases – such as COVID-19— as well as other public health threats. We’re currently exploring opportunities for engaging Boston-based companies for Blue Knight.
We look forward to concluding 2020 with our BARDA symposium on December 8-10, which will convene the emerging Blue Knight community of thought leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs working with the aim to bolster our response to capacity and capabilities to address 21st-century health security threats.
What do you see as bright spots from the Kendall community and beyond?
What we’re seeing is the entire industry coming together on whole new levels of collaboration aiming to solve the most important healthcare challenges of our time. We’re also seeing the COVID-19 pandemic help accelerate very important areas such as democratizing clinical trials, focusing on underserved populations, developing new diagnostic tools, and many more. People also want to know and do more about their health than ever and progress towards home diagnostics, education, and telemedicine are all dramatically changing how we access and think about healthcare.
Meet Jen Faigel, Executive Director—CommonWealth Kitchen
How is your staff doing?
It’s such a challenging time. We’re doing the best we can to lean into our core values around equity and opportunity, which is what’s gotten us here, and what feels meaningful right now. We’re not a traditional office with desks and cubicles. Most of our staff work in the kitchens or facilities. So much of our work happened informally. Not all being together is a big challenge, especially for Luddites like me who have to get used to all sorts of new technology, but overcoming challenges is a key part of who we are!
How have you pivoted your business model?
COVID has been a nightmare for us. In March, we had to temporarily close the kitchens because none of our 50 members had any work and we needed to figure out how we could possibly safely operate a shared kitchen and maintain proper distancing. We saw 40% of our budget evaporate overnight. Initially, we were focused on helping our business community figure out the alphabet soup of PPP, EIDL, and P-unemployment and advocating for government support. A few weeks later, as hunger and unemployment swelled in Boston, we launched our CommonTable emergency food program, which has been providing prepared meals and grocery boxes to feed families in need. We named it CommonTable because, when you have more than you need, you build a longer table, not a taller fence. With help from our network of restaurants (all owned by POC & immigrants), our members and staff, we produced almost 80,000 meals to feed families across Boston in just three months.
At the same time, we’re still deeply engaged with our member businesses as they figure out a path forward in this new environment. This month alone, two of our businesses are launching products in Whole Foods, and we were able to secure food truck spots at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and soon near the MFA. These opportunities came our way because of our strong, aligned networks.
What are you doing to be creative?
The hallmark of our organization—what’s felt powerful—has been finding ways to partner with our network of businesses. Everybody is in pain, everybody is hurting, everybody is looking for a solution. The idea that we’ve been able to mobilize more than 30 Black, Latinx, and immigrant-owned businesses at this crazy moment and paid them to feed their neighbors is so tangible and inspiring- it feels incredible. But we know it’s not enough and that without a government bailout, most of the businesses we work with probably won’t survive. So, we’re actively engaged in finding interim solutions that can help our businesses weather the storm-like advocating for use of FEMA funds to pay restaurants to feed neighbors in need. This is already happening in New Orleans and across California and there’s no reason we can’t be doing it here. We’re also trying to find ways to mobilize our networks to help solve the puzzle of how to provide breakfast and lunch to thousands of school kids that will be learning from home. This is definitely a time where creativity and the ability to adapt are key!
Meet Michal Preminger, Head—Johnson & Johnson Innovation, East North America
Tell us about Johnson & Johnson Innovation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Michal: From the very beginning, Johnson & Johnson has been actively engaged in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic through the development of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate, which has been made possible through a collaboration with the Biomedical Advanced Research & Development Authority (BARDA) and with academic collaborators right across the river from Kendall. In addition to vaccine development, we’ve also been trying to support external opportunities and ideas relating to COVID-19 that were developed by the community. In March, we brought in our 3D printing technology to help support the need for ventilators.
Additionally, together with our global partners, our Johnson & Johnson Innovation network continued to engage with entrepreneurs and life-science startups, evaluated and advised on more than 100 COVID-19 related solutions, moving beyond PPE and ventilators to testing and diagnostics, prevention, and treatment against the virus, as well as more broadly, especially when we learned that the virus attacks through acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
How has COVID-19 reinforced your mission?
Michal: COVID-19 also taught us that, working together toward a well-defined common purpose, has unlimited potential. This confirms our belief at Johnson & Johnson Innovation that transformational innovation can be achieved when innovators are inspired and presented with clear unmet needs while given access to the resources a partner like us offers. The ability to pivot toward a need is so important, and, indeed, innovators did just that in tackling the unfolding series of COVID-19 challenges, giving further confirmation to our innovation philosophy.
How do you feel about the Kendall community?
Michal: Being a part of this community has always given us a sense of pride, especially now. Look at what the Broad Institute, and also the CIC, has done with testing! Look at how new companies are formed, funded, and settling in Kendall despite COVID-19. The lights are on all around, in the labs that are delivering the next wave of new therapies, vaccines, and enabling technologies. My trust in the resilience and strength of the community makes me optimistic. At Johnson and Johnson, we blend heart and science to change the trajectory of human health. This is exactly what this community is doing, as well. And when you do the right thing in science, driven by the right purpose, you will prevail, and I trust that thanks to the ingenuity of our people from Kendall and beyond, we will deliver the right solutions, learn from this pandemic, and come out wiser, stronger, and better prepared for the future.
What do you see as bright spots from the Kendall community and beyond?
Michal: Johnson & Johnson Innovation has been pioneering a shift toward a world without disease through early disease detection, interception, and prevention. This is an aspiration shared by many, but it has been slow to develop, due to an absence of sufficient incentives to change. COVID-19 accelerated the need for home-based care solutions and has triggered a wave of new approaches in telemedicine and diagnostics. It’s exciting to see the progress that is driven by this pandemic. The great Winston Churchill, who said “never waste a good crisis,” would be proud to see what we have achieved.
Meet Eric Quadrino, Partner—Sulmona Restaurant
How is your staff doing?
The key to getting back to business is wearing multiple hats—and we need utility players. At the end of the day that’s the retooling needed to make any business function. Morale is high, but we’re struggling with logistics for getting to and from work and balancing childcare needs. We have a strong sense of camaraderie though. COVID-19 has helped our staff feel united—like going to war and returning with a sense of service and part of something bigger.
How has your menu changed since returning to work?
We’re focusing more on comfort foods: pastas and pizzas. We’re dipping our toes into our more traditional menu by adding higher end items like steaks into the specials using a seven-count, so we don’t overextend our own ordering. This is Kendall, so we’re treating menu items like a test case to see what will go back on the menu.
How can the community be helpful to the small business community at this moment?
People have different risk tolerances. Whether eating indoors, outdoors, or doing takeout, we want folks to come out to eat with us and share their positive experience.
What’s the restaurant community’s greatest asset for bouncing back to business?
Sharing positive experiences by word of mouth and social media is local businesses’ greatest opportunity for rebounding business. Unfortunately, I can’t say “come back to work,” but I can advocate for sharing your stories so consumer patterns begin to return.
Meet Jon Feinman, Chief Executive Officer—InnerCity Weightlifting
InnerCity Weightlifting is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to reduce gun violence by amplifying the voice and agency of people who have been most impacted by systemic racism and mass incarceration. At InnerCity Weightlifting, individuals are elevated as experts in fitness and the social issues they’ve lived creating a culture and community in which power dynamics are flipped, social capital is bridged, and new leaders emerge in the fight to combat long-standing inequities.
How has business changed since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic?
We’ve been doing extremely well during this challenging time. This hasn’t been a maintenance year for us – we’ve grown over 40%. Through virtual classes, we’ve been able to satisfy our community’s need for group connection and activity. We’re even using an unused section of the gym to create a new studio space to support our virtual coaching and grow our platform.
Do you have any wisdom you’d like to share with the Kendall community?
In businesses, CEOs are, at best, responsible for 17% of companies’ successes which means the majority of business successes depend on teams. Our growth this year is because everyone stepped up to make it work. Early on we talked about how we were going to be together to support each other and uncover opportunities to grow and change. As James Baldwin said, “An identity would seem to be arrived at by the way in which the person faces and uses his experience.” It’s important to remember that in this incredibly challenging year, we’re reshaping our identity—by how we respond and how we grow in the face of a global pandemic that has exposed longstanding inequities and systemic racism in this country.
As a peer leader in this fall’s Inclusion Drives Innovation program, what are your ambitions for how the community will activate our collective diversity and inclusion priorities?
My hope is that through this program we can take an honest look at how we got to where we are today and that we can shift as a society to valuing people. To destroy the racial caste systems that have endured and continue to exist in this country.
Meet Jeremy Bluestein—General Manager, Formaggio Kitchen Kendall
What makes your days brighter?
Every day someone comes back in who we haven’t seen in months! A few weeks ago we saw the return of a dear Kendall friend, who is a devoted fan of our gazpacho. Everyone is genuinely concerned about how we’re doing and I consider us lucky. We’ve been open, we have customers and products—not always what we planned, but better than where we’ve been.
What are you doing to be creative?
At the start of COVID-19, we looked for ways to take our engagement with customers and neighbors to the next level. We chose to take our partnership with Lamplighter virtual. We paired wines with cheese and asked people to connect with us on Zoom three to four times a week–it was a really great way to connect with customers and neighbors.
How has your store’s business model adapted to meet the demands of COVID-19?
We had to shift the way we do business. Where we used to encourage folks to come in and linger, we now are trying to make that happen over the phone and social media. This took a while, but our curbside staff has found a way to make “browsing” a conversation starter with customers. This has allowed us to track purchases in a new way. Now someone can say, “I love what I had last week,” and we can suggest things that are similar, but different to build a meaningful dialogue and foster stronger relationships.
Meet Vanessa Brown—Chief People Officer, CIC
How will this program change the way we learn and talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion?
There is space and learning for everyone—and you should be here. Inclusion Drives Innovation creates an opportunity for executives to get closely involved with diversity, equity, and inclusion work. There is so much space for peer understanding, including at the C-suite level, so that we may collectively build more effective business models and department goals—an area as important as finding talent.
What parts of the program do you think participants will find most helpful?
This program has all the elements—and the combination will work! The facilitators will be important to move conversations along and help small groups reach their goals. This program will be meaty and will get personal and emotional. Having facilitators will encourage that type of sharing while keeping the cohort moving forward to create sustainable change in our organizations.
Meet Tarikh Campbell—Diversity & Inclusion Business Program Manager, Microsoft
What excites you most about Inclusion Drives Innovation?
The agenda for Inclusion Drives Innovation, and the course content, is all about personal learning and understanding the traditions that drive systematic thinking. This program will move the business community into action, not just drive individual impact.
How will this program change the way we learn and talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion?
What’s different about this course is that the structure is split between large and small facilitated settings. The self facilitation skills and peer-led engagement is significant to the overall course. Participants will be empowered to lead their peers and serve as facilitators at their own organizations using the tools they’ll learn at Inclusion Drives Innovation.
Meet Chef Andy Husbands— Owner, Smoke Shop BBQ
Tell us about your staff.
Staff is everything. I have been in the restaurant industry for a long time and something I’ve valued and learned along the way is it is all about the team. They’re doing as good as can be and we’re happy to be back together again.
How did your collaboration with Joanne Chang at Flour come to fruition?
Joanne and I were texting about the state of the restaurant industry (and world), and we decided to jump on the phone to talk about how we could help. We decided to partner with Flour and Smoke Shop BBQ boxes for weekend customers. All the money made would go toward employees and next week’s meal expenses. This creative collaboration gave us real practice for the transition back to reopening.
How can the community best help the restaurant industry?
There’s not going to be a lightning bolt, we just need to keep our heads down and work together to survive this. There’s legislation in place right now to unite and support the restaurant community, any calls or emails to your elected officials to support us would be greatly appreciated. We want to see our brothers and sisters in the small business community survive. From hairdressers and nail salons to local restaurants, it’s going to take everything and everybody to get through this. Most of all, continue to support us in a way that feels right for you.
Meet Noelani Gabriel—Director of Family and Community Engagement, Community Charter School of Cambridge
What excites you most About Inclusion Drives Innovation?
The most exciting thing about Inclusion Drives Innovation is the balance this program brings by combining academic learning (through readings and lectures) with cohort experience. I have found it is critical to learn in the context of relationships–the way that peers can support one another and push each other to their learning edges. Inclusion Drives Innovation’s balanced approach toward training participants real-time will help our community push to the next level and take the next steps in creating an inclusive and socially just workplace.
How will leaders and managers benefit from this program?
The benefit for leaders and HR professionals is included in the title of this program–inclusion will drive innovation. We have a moral imperative to contribute positively to social and racial justice in this country and world. The impact of this program and work goes beyond relationships with colleagues to employee relationships with their company. Ideally, everyone feels empowered to bring their full self to work every day.
Meet Andrea Windhausen—Community Manager, BioMed
Tell us about your latest mural space?
Last year we commissioned Adam O’Day to complete the vent shaft in front of Evoo, which was a great local artist partnership. Now, we are looking for new local artists for our second (and final) vent shaft in Canal District Kendall. This is the perfect time for artistic expression and a fun way to welcome life back to the neighborhood. Local artists are in crisis and this is a great way to support this important community. The deadline for proposals for this space is Monday, August 24.
What makes this piece special?
Kendall has some great public art pieces already, but this new installation is even more important when you think about its location right next to the 585 Third Street Project. This anticipated large scale arts and culture center and green space will transform the Canal District into a destination–this art piece will reflect what’s coming to Kendall and help enliven the neighborhood.
Meet Pamela Greenley—Environment, Health & Safety Office Director, Draper
As an essential business, how have you responded to the challenges of protecting employees?
Being a major defense operator for the government, private industry and academic sectors, Draper has maintained operations throughout the pandemic. Our response was quick. To protect employees and ensure business continuity, company leadership formed a COVID Task Force that has continued to meet daily and implement safety measures that have become standard: thermal temperature self-checks, safety posters and signage, mandatory mask-wearing, social distancing, disinfection stations on every floor, more-frequent cleaning of high-traffic public spaces, and much more. Our experience has lessons for others laying the groundwork for the day when employees return to their facilities in force.
What were some challenges facing Draper employees?
Employees, of course, rarely sit in one place all day. Because the pandemic has focused attention on people movement, Draper has developed a track-and-trace algorithm, powered by artificial intelligence, which management uses to understand day-to-day trends and crunch the data further for its safety forecast. The goal is to maintain the headcount of employees onsite at a number that meets the needs of the business (currently about 400) but avoid too many people in the building. Another benefit from this algorithm is that we will know immediately where confirmed COVID-19 cases are and who has been exposed.
What sources have informed Draper’s pandemic protocols and best practices?
Draper developed its pandemic protocol in part by adopting guidelines from local authorities in Cambridge and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, International Facilities Management Association, and the National Restaurant Association. Employees have also shared their own suggestions, which has led to the installation of Plexiglass panels between lab personnel and implementing staggered shifts. Anyone working in an open floor office can understand the challenge.
Meet Kent Kunkel—Vice President & General Manager, Turner Construction
What excites you about Inclusion Drives Innovation?
I think that people very much want to learn more about and be effective in this space. I feel like things have changed so much in even the past two months. We’ve evolved beyond needing to just meet previous goals laid out by our companies–this is a personal mission as well. People are personally being activated and want to educate themselves more about the gap in racial equity-–as individuals and leaders, it’s time to be more aware and take additional actions.
How will this program change the way we learn and talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion?
It will take talking about race as a business community not just individual companies to create real change. The drive to reach diversity, equity, and inclusion goals is different now, and creating opportunities for real equity provides the most critical value. This is an inspired moment for us to collectively build better tools and practices.
Meet Nicole Liu—Founder, VESTER Cafe
“Being a resident of the Cambridge community, I take great pride in Kendall’s innovative spirit and focus on addressing the challenges facing the world. As a female, minority small business owner, I love being a member of the Kendall community. Customers have become friends and I want them to know that, as an entrepreneur, I won’t give up on them. We’re all in it to win it and Kendall will continue to thrive and embrace opportunities to be strong. VESTER Cafe will continue to bring small luxuries to their everyday routines and pivot to support our customers.”
Meet David Downing—Managing Director, Leasing & Retail Strategy, Graffito.
What is important to you now that wasn’t at the start of COVID-19?
I’ve gained a great deal of perspective since the start of COVID-19. It’s been heart-wrenching to watch the small business community struggle to stay afloat. Many of these entrepreneurs I’ve known for 10+ years and their futures remain very uncertain. Our local communities are more fragile than one ever could have imagined.
Spending more time with my 3-year old daughter has been another highlight for me. The small gains she’s making each day feel like major accomplishments. It’s pretty special and provides a needed relief valve from the chaos.
How are you using this moment to advance work that is important to you?
My normal day job has literally been thrown out the window. There won’t be many retail leasing transactions in 2020, so I’ve really tried to channel my time and energy into supporting our clients and the small business community through the sharing of information and resources. Now, more than ever, the Graffito team is committed to facilitating vibrant retail communities that include arts, culture, food, services, etc.
What’s the most inspiring example of leadership you’ve seen since the start of COVID-19?
As the novel coronavirus hit our doorstep in early to mid-March, I can remember dozens of Kendall Square restaurants and retailers making the tough decision to close their doors and lay-off their entire staff without the benefit of knowing the real health risks, economic impacts, and the future of their businesses. It was a complete leap of faith and took enormous courage to make these types of decisions.
Harry Gerard—Senior Associate, Operations, LabCentral
Meet Harry Gerard, Senior Associate, Operations, LabCentral. LabCentral is a first-of-its-kind shared laboratory space designed as a launchpad for high potential life sciences and biotech startups. It offers fully permitted laboratory and office space for as many as 60 startups comprising approximately 200 scientists and entrepreneurs.
“Creating collaborative environments is part of our DNA. We have a strong culture of proactivity and we’ve built the muscles that allow us to communicate effectively with our community during this time. We err on the side of over-communication, especially around safety policies to ensure we can continue the critical work happening here. We’ve also reinforced that collaborative spirit with what we call a “culture of care” by encouraging folks to assume the best of others and treat each other with compassion and kindness, and through offering programming with a focus on mindfulness.”
Jacob Becraft—Co-Founder & CEO, Strand Therapeutics
Co-founded by MIT biological engineers, Strand Therapeutics is an early-stage biotechnology company that delivers revolutionary therapies for patients around the world through genetically programmed mRNA.
Is COVID-19 reshaping public perception of the biopharmaceutical industry?
The collectivism of the biotech community is inspiring. Media cycles have been tough on biotechs and the pharmaceutical industry. With this experience, we’re seeing up close just how important our community’s work is. When therapies are tucked away in corners of hospitals treating sick people, it’s not immediately obvious what we’re doing or creating.
How are your scientists doing right now?
Our Strand community cares about patients and public health. Our scientists are doing all they can to help—and there’s a lot of excitement to do something. We all hope that what we’re working on is important. With a massive threat like COVID-19, the things we’re making can be most impactful and that’s a fulfilling process. This is an amazing time to witness.
Meet Duong Huynh, Project Manager, Leggat McCall Properties
For over 50 years, Leggat McCall Properties (LMP) has been a leading provider of real estate development, spearheading large-scale development projects like 40 Thorndike, the former East Cambridge courthouse.
“As a Cambridge/Somerville resident for over 10 years, I feel the hurts of our community so acutely right now. I was walking through my neighborhood the other day and saw the owners of a new neighborhood restaurant struggling in front of their laptops. We must ask ourselves: how do we conduct our daily lives before a vaccine is ready in a way that can prop each other up? What will our future city look like without mom-and-pops? And, how will we support the survivors? Right now we collectively must survive before we thrive.”
Meet Eli Feldman—General Manager, Shy Bird
Shy Bird has remained open throughout the pandemic collaborating with other restaurants by offering barbecue kits, cocktail mix, and other creative offerings for hungry customers.
“It’s definitely been an interesting and challenging time here in the Square, especially for retail and restaurant businesses. But it’s also been a time for creativity and perseverance–two things that we think really embody the culture of Kendall Square. For us that’s meant, serving thousands of front line worker meals, new products like our SB Dunks, and now using our takeout and delivery platforms to take and match donations to support the Black Lives Matter movement. We look forward to seeing everyone in the Square soon.”
Meet Lee McGuire—Chief Communications Officer , Broad Institute
Fellow KSA Members,
It was wonderful to connect with many of you, albeit virtually, at last week’s Annual Meeting: Kendall Together. The experience (and especially the remarks from Mayor Siddiqui, Danielle Allen, C.A. and Sarah) reminded me that our vibrant, mission-driven community matters more now than ever before.
We like to say Kendall Square is “the most innovative square mile on the planet.” Over the last few months, the team at the KSA has worked to recreate the remarkable proximity that fuels Kendall Square, even when we’re physically distant.
I’m grateful for their efforts and am honored to continue to work with them and all of you as the incoming Chair of the KSA Board of Directors. We’re fortunate to have C.A. leading this exceptional team with vision, urgency, and purpose; a talented Board that reflects a diverse set of voices across Kendall; member organizations leading the crucial work ahead; and we will long benefit from the last four years of Sarah’s expert guidance and relentless optimism!
At the Annual Meeting, Mayor Siddiqui urged all of us to unite behind the work of “creating new networks.” As a community, we can only be successful if we build networks that include everybody, across many perspectives, all taking coordinated and sustained action to overcome the inequities that drive inequality.
This year the KSA is helping our members drive essential diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies. We hope you’ll take part in our Inclusion Drives Innovation (IDI) initiative: a professional development program, led by a professional facilitator, to offer a practical, tactical approach to listening, learning, identifying, and scaling up DEI best practices that have meaningful impact.
Finally, please consider donating to the Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund, which so far has helped more than 1,400 Cambridge families navigate financial hardship as a result of the pandemic, regardless of immigration status.
I look forward to partnering with you in 2020 as we push the boundaries of what’s possible in Kendall Square and beyond.
Meet Jimmy Liang—Founder, CEO, & Chef, JP Fuji Group
How are you reimagining the way your restaurants will do business?
Without a vaccine or herd immunity, we will all have to approach reopening in a careful and thoughtful manner. No one knows what the effects of COVID-19 truly are yet. How will it affect jobs? How will it affect consumer confidence? How will it affect the overall economy? I have three restaurants open right now. We are doing takeout and delivery only. We are doing contactless food service.
What’s keeping your team going?
Thankfully my core team and I have a shared vision. We all still believe in our business. We all believe in humanity. For the time when we closed, we worked to help our staff with translation, unemployment, and just overall navigating through the pandemic. We also worked to donate meals, and masks to front line workers. We all wanted to help support the workers that have kept America going. We all believe in leaving every place we find just a little better than we first found it. It is important to keep doing.
What are your hopes for when we reopen local businesses?
I hope all businesses will survive this pandemic. It is vital to our economy that Main Street businesses keep going. I hope for life to go back to normal as we reopen.
Meet City of Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui
She spoke at our 12th Annual Meeting on Tuesday, June 9th.
What’s driving you right now?
The realities of two simultaneous pandemics are driving me to action right now: COVID-19 and racism. In both instances, I am driven by the needs of our constituents. I want everyone to feel safe. As local leaders, we are capable of real change within our communities on both fronts. For COVID-19, we saw an opportunity to help Cambridge residents by re-launching the Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund, we opened a temporary emergency shelter for our homeless residents, provided universal and neighborhood specific COVID-19 testing, and my Office launched Mental Health Mondays to address mental health during COVID-19 and the resources available to help. For the pandemic of racism, I’m driven by the energy throughout the country demanding justice, accountability, and reform. To address the community’s concerns, I and the Cambridge Police Department will be hosting a virtual town hall on Thursday, June 11th.
How have you adapted your leadership to meet the demands of COVID-19?
Addressing COVID-19 in Cambridge has required me to be a flexible leader. Since the middle of March, every day has been different and presented new challenges and opportunities. The pandemic has also required my leadership to focus on the long-term effects of COVID-19 – the effects on our education system, small businesses, and housing. Everyone in the City had to adapt quickly, and my job is to make sure that as things start opening again, that we have solutions to help people get back on their feet and are not left behind.
Meet Lindsay Crockett—Associate Manager, Communications, & Design, LabCentral
LabCentral is a first-of-its-kind shared laboratory space designed as a launchpad for high potential life sciences and biotech startups. It offers fully permitted laboratory and office space for as many as 60 startups comprising approximately 200 scientists and entrepreneurs.
What’s an inspiring story you’ve heard from the LabCentral community recently?
I’ve been inspired by the teams who are pivoting their diagnostic, therapeutic, vaccine and other technology platforms to address COVID-19 challenges. One example: alumni company Aldatu Bioscience was able to create a testing platform for COVID-19 that directly enabled Massachusetts hospitals to ramp up on-site testing.
How is COVID-19 making you think differently about your work?
Now more than ever it’s apparent how important it is for LabCentral to act as a platform for amplifying the great science happening in our communities. This all goes back to our main mission of fostering the early stage ideas that address the biggest challenges in human health. It’s COVID-19 now, but who’s to say what the next big issue that needs tackling will be? Continuing to support science is essential.
Meet Emma Lees, Vice President, Oncology Discovery & Site Head, Bristol Myers Squibb Kendall Square
What has been the biggest takeaway for the biopharmaceutical community from COVID-19?
We know that now, more than ever, responding to this crisis requires partnership across the global biopharmaceutical community. Among other efforts, we have identified approximately 1,000 compounds in our discovery library that we are making available to collaborators for screening for potential treatments for COVID-19.
Are you working on a COVID-19 therapy?
We are evaluating certain medicines in our portfolio that could have an impact on the inflammatory immune response associated with COVID-19 and potentially be included in near-term clinical trials and are more committed than ever to our mission of providing life-saving medicines to patients who depend on us during this pandemic.
How is your team doing?
Our team in Cambridge has shown great agility in adapting to the current remote working environment, utilizing all tools available to ensure that our research efforts can continue with as little disruption as possible. We know that the team is eager to return to the labs, but until that time, our work will continue with the same sense of urgency and dedication that has always been at the heart of our mission.
Meet Aoife Brennan, M.B., Ch.B., CEO, Synlogic
Synlogic works at the intersection of biology and engineering to pioneer the application of synthetic biology to design living therapeutics programmed to treat disease in new ways.
“Last month, our Chief Medical Officer, Richard Riese, M.D., Ph.D., who has a background in intensive care, announced he was going back to Brigham and Women’s Hospital to work directly with local COVID-19 patients. The hands-on insights that Richard has shared with the broader team about what front-line workers and patients are experiencing has provided so much motivation and helpful information to our team, and we have rolled up our sleeves to advance our own drug therapy work.”
Meet Chandra Ramanathan, Global Head, Pharma R&D Open Innovation, Bayer
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we look at pharmaceutical companies?
The COVID-19 crisis has shown us much about our society, not the least of which is exactly how critical health and nutrition are, in times both normal and extraordinary. This experience has given new importance to Bayer’s vision: “Health for all, hunger for none.” And in order to achieve this vision, we have truly showcased our flexibility as a company and an industry, changing the way in which we work, on multiple levels, throughout our sites. I also believe that this pandemic has highlighted to our society the importance of collaboration. This crisis has presented challenges that individual companies cannot fix. As a result, biotech companies are now partnering with the government to make new public/private partnerships which will help get us the vaccines and therapies needed now and for a healthier future.
Why is Kendall Square still such a valuable location for an international pharmaceutical company like Bayer?
The reasons for Bayer’s presence in Kendall are just as compelling now as they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The intellectual capital and entrepreneurial spirit of this community, as well as the power of its advocates like Kendall Square Association and MassBio, as well as the strong network of hospitals, reinforces our mission and our need to build a healthier, global future. This area is unlike any other in the United States, and its unique qualities make it a great addition to the list of communities Bayer calls home.
Whose leadership style inspires you right now?
Amid the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis, some of the greatest examples of leadership I have seen have been exhibited by those who are leading by example. As I have watched healthcare providers, first responders, essential workers, and others on the front lines who are responding to this pandemic, I have been inspired to ask myself “What more can I do to support my community and others beyond my work?” We all talk about mission; what lies before us today is an opportunity to live our mission.
Meet Felicia Jadczak, CEO & Co-Founder, She Geeks Out.
She Geeks Out’s mission is to educate, promote, and support diverse and inclusive companies and organizations by taking a holistic approach to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.
How has COVID-19 impacted the way She Geeks Out operates?
Remote work is not equivalent to virtual work. A lot of us are working remotely, but that doesn’t mean it serves as a “normal” work environment. The challenges we’re experiencing are nothing like any of us have ever seen in our lives. The shift online has brought more opportunities for accessible events, programming, content, and communications. What’s really been great is that we’re now learning to scale beyond Boston with all the look and feel of She Geeks Out programming–we’re reaching a lot more people than we would have a few months ago.
How has DEI work changed during COVID-19?
One of the tensions that sits at the heart of DEI work, is doing impactful work while wearing a business hat. Business goals are not always completely in line with DEI goals, and how do you continue to support DEI when you don’t have any budget? We’re learning that there is so much value in being there for people. Every email and call is an empathetic opening—even with strangers. As a small business, we’re dealing with a lot of challenges, but feel optimistic about how we are reframing 2020 from an anticipated growth year to a survival year—we’re doubling down on supporting each other.
How are your clients doing?
The value of community and bringing people together has always been top of mind and is at the heart of everything we do. Now we must double down on how we can help people. This extends beyond our community side and includes the corporate training side of our work. A lot of our clients have had to hit pause on programming to make space for more vulnerable conversations.
Ceasar McDowell—Professor of Practice of Civic Design MIT
Meet Ceasar McDowell, Professor of Practice of Civic Design MIT. Ceasar served as the leader of the Kendall Square Association’s 2019 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Learning Community.
“We all need things like access, security, connections, and mastery to sit at the forefront of society, but the absence of any one of these things will move any of us to the margins. This leads us to ask two critical questions: What is the future of America? And, do I have a place in this future? I am developing a national campaign called America’s Path Forward to create a space to connect over a facilitated dialogue about these questions and shared experiences. Now, more than ever, we need to connect and find ourselves in rooms with people you wouldn’t otherwise interact with.”
Meet Tara Clark—Vice President, Commercial, and Corporate Officer, Draper
As a Department of Defense contractor, Draper’s work involves many classified and non-classified projects in the service of national security and national defense. With many employees in the Cambridge office as essential lab personnel, Draper leaders have been navigating safe return-to-work protocols and procedures.
“We began a very controlled ‘bring back’ beginning the week of March 30 for all employees who must come to the office to fulfill their duties. We’re taking many precautions and have rolled out new protocols to ensure safety. But because employees’ safety comes first, Draper is offering several options for folks who need to be in Kendall, but still feel uncomfortable due to their personal situations.”
Michael Dawson—CEO & Co-Founder, Innovators with Purpose
Meet Michael Dawson, CEO & Co-Founder, Innovators with Purpose. Innovators for Purpose (iFp) is a Cambridge based nonprofit that is reimagining STEM education using a hands-on multidisciplinary approach to produce a more inclusive talent pool.
How are young people feeling right now?
Across the board, our students are really nervous. We’ve had several conversations, especially around the postponement of classes, and while they agree with the Governor’s decision from a public health standpoint– they are still struggling with unstructured time and missing school. After several weeks of adjusting, we are all trying to remain productive. However, I am extremely concerned with how students will make up three months of learning loss especially in math and science. We emphasize that our tech and science students take calculus before graduating high school. Making up for lost time while staying on track is challenging for some.
What can we do as a community to support and inspire these students?
We’ve been hosting a bi-weekly virtual speaker series to engage students in thoughtful dialogues with Cambridge-based innovation professionals. Previous conversations have included teams from MIT, Lemelson-MIT, Google and Lesley University. Our students would be thrilled to have an opportunity to interface with the people from our community developing vaccines and therapies on the front lines of COVID-19.
What are educational institutions learning from this experience?
Unfortunately, we’re learning that some students are being left behind. Equal access to high speed internet is a large part of the problem. We are an extremely hands-on learning organization and we are pushing Zoom harder than most. A few days ago, several of our students could not fully participate due to bandwidth related internet issues. The younger generation needs more than Zoom online lectures to stay engaged in learning. How might we address the social emotional aspects? We must get more creative in our teaching approaches.
To get involved in an Innovators with Purpose Speaker Series please email Michael Dawson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet Sarah MacDonald—Executive Director, Life Science Cares
An organization that brings together biopharma executives and employees to fight poverty in the community, Life Science Cares has raised over $670,000 in grant funding to help nonprofits continue their mission driven work amidst COVID-19.
“Hi Kendall Square community, it’s Sarah MacDonald from Life Science Cares. We have pivoted from our usual support of nonprofits fighting poverty in our community, to a COVID-19 response, working to connect Life Science companies with organizations that are responding to the need for food, shelter, medical supplies—anything we can do to help. I’m so motivated to see how creative, flexible, and willing to take risks our companies are when it comes to helping their neighbors. I’m looking forward to the time where we can connect again and I’ll see you via Zoom soon.”
Many KSA members have already contributed to the LSC COVID-19 Response Fund such as Moderna, Alnylam, Takeda, Sanofi, IPSEN, and Biogen. These funds benefit local nonprofits like Circle of Hope, College Bound Dorchester, Home for Little Wanderers, Household Goods, More Than Words, Waltham Fields Community Farm, and many more!
Meet Tim Rowe—Founder & CEO, CIC.
Tell us about life at the CIC right now.
COVID-19 has made CIC feel like an early stage startup again. I remember this feeling when everything was a question mark. Startups are constantly coming up with ideas to solve basic problems and just trying new approaches.
How are you engaging your team is tackling these problems?
We have delegated little bits of this creative endeavour to every part of the company. We are working to make our centers touchless and are asking things like, “What does a shared kitchen look like now?” And we are setting the standard that it has to be the best possible kitchen offering in the “next normal.”
Are you reinventing everything right now?
Our approach has been one of rapid evolution as opposed to revolution. We have been busy gathering best practices from other parts of the world, reviewing the latest research about transmission, and looking at what US hospitals are doing today to keep their populations safe. The new safety plan we shared last week was reviewed by 400 members of our team, clients, and outsiders including key partners like MassRobotics and LabCentral.
How does all of this change feel for you and your team?
Pulling all of these new ideas into a single set of decisions has been exciting. Everybody expects you to rethink everything and expects you to do things in ways you’ve never done them before. It’s a unique moment in history when society is given the opportunity and obligation to rethink everything.