Common Impact Blog

Boston Debate League benefits from Skills for Cities

By Common Impact Guest Blogger | Feb 21, 2019
Written by Nikke De Year
Associate Consultant, Common Impact

Last year, Common Impact worked with IMPACT2030 and Social Venture Partners Boston to demonstrate the power of cross-sector collaboration and skilled volunteerism by piloting the first-ever Skills for Cities Boston, hosted at The Boston Fed. Skills for Cities, a one-day cross-company skilled volunteer event, included more than 80 volunteers from 14 corporate participants to support capacity-building projects at 15 Boston-based nonprofits to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Today, we are sharing an impact story from one of our nonprofit participants. The Boston Debate League works in partnership with Boston Public Schools (BPS) to support academic debate teams in Boston public high schools and middle schools and to train BPS teachers to use argumentation as part of their classroom practice. The Boston Debate League aims to develop critical thinkers ready for college, career, and engagement with the world around them.

After changes to BPS’s partnership funding model, the Boston Debate League was required to shift from working directly with BPS’s central office to contracting with individual schools. At the time, the Boston Debate League’s client fee structure varied on a case-by-case basis. As they continued to expand to new schools and districts in the Boston area, the Boston Debate League recognized the need to approach pricing more systematically.

The Boston Debate League joined the Skills for Cities event to seek a team’s assistance in defining a program pricing strategy that would set clear expectations for existing partnerships, build flexibility necessary for working with variable school budgets, and support the continued expansion to new schools and districts. A skilled volunteer team of business and finance professionals from State Street, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Harvard Pilgrim worked with the Boston Debate League staff to develop ideas for a new client pricing model. The deliverable from the day was a high-level, strategic summary of three new potential models that the Boston Debate League could use moving forward to better structure their contract fees.

Following the event, the Boston Debate League spoke to a number of coaches and school leaders in their network to determine which model would best support their clients moving forward. The ultimately chose a pricing model that will make their fees cleaner and differentiate between the costs a school must carry to run a team and the cost of receiving the Boston Debate League support and participating in their larger debate leagues. The new pricing model provides flexibility and clarity to participating schools while also protecting the Boston Debate League’s funding.

Mike Wasserman, Executive Director of the Boston Debate League, shared his feedback with the volunteer team, stating “Thank you all so much for your support and thought partnership at the Skills for Cities event. It was wonderful to meet you all! I got so much out of the conversation with [you]…I wanted to take a quick moment to thank you again for your support this Fall and for your partnership in thinking through some critical strategic questions for the Boston Debate League.”