Youth Visions Make Headlines in Dorchester

The Dorchester Youth Council poses with Leah Bailey of the Boston Globe Foundation and Tom Kennedy of Sovereign Bank.

With assistance, all youth have the capability to make a difference,” proclaimed 17 year old Andrew Klein from a podium at the Boston Globe during the SCI Dorchester Youth Council’s 3rd Annual Mini Grant Award Ceremony. The event, held last Tuesday night, honored the hard work of the members of the Dorchester Youth Council and the youth recipients of the 2007 Mini Grant Awards.

The Mini Grant process awards youth-led community service-learning projects that aim to strengthen the Dorchester community. After months of drafting an application, interviewing groups, and intense deliberation, the youth council chose seven worthy projects to fund. The grant recipients span many different neighborhoods and topics from tackling negative media images, to creating a traveling peace mural, to planting gardens throughout the community. The range of interesting projects clearly shows the initiative and insight of the young people organizing in Dorchester.

The 2007 grantees include: The Food Project’s Build a Garden Project, Close to Home Youth Team’s Acting Our Against Teen Dating Violence performances, Grover Cleveland Middle School’s Peace Week, Smith Leadership Academy’s Media Bust project, B.O.L.D. Teen’s Peace Mural project, Boston Project Ministries Safe Park’s Project, and Dorchester Bay EDC’s Youth Violence Documentary.

To read more, click here.

A Rewarding Route to Sustainability

Social commerce has existed for a long time. Old-fashioned vestibule bulletin boards are an example. So is craigslist. It began as one man's online recommendations to a group of friends and mushroomed into a worldwi de electronic network of people offering everything from housing to jobs to romance. Brick-and-mortar social commerce is alive and well, too. And one recent innovation has the potential to enhance local communities, as well as help ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) increase merchant retention.

The new project is Boston Community Change. It rewards shoppers by splitting 4% to 6% of each retail sale three ways:

  • Cash rebate to the consumer
  • Donation to the nonprofit organization or local school of the consumer's choice
  • Allocation to one of 19 neighborhood commercial districts participating in the program.

The percentage of retail sales devoted to the program is determined by merchants individually.

Benefactors budding
This loyalty program is a joint effort between Boston Main Streets, a public-private initiative established by the City of Boston to revitalize the city's neighborhood commercial districts, and the Interra Project. Brian Goodman, Neighborhood Business Manager for Boston Main Street, said the "intersection of interest for the parties involved - the merchants, the nonprofits and the consumers - has great potential. We're very excited. "It doesn't cost the merchant a penny until a customer comes into their store and uses their card, and even then, it is seamless.

Because it is a rebate, not a discount, accounting is very, very simple for the merchant. It will just appear on their statements as a rebate." Any qualified merchant with a MasterCard-accepting POS can participate with just a 10-second setup.

Interra was established by Greg Steltenpohl, who founded Odwalla Inc., and Sridhar Rao, who founded the e-commerce site Dee Hock, founder and Chief Executive Officer emeritus of Visa International, is Interra's Principal Advisor.

Concerned about local communities and economic sustainability, Interra's objective is to empower consumers through understanding the greater consequences of their purchase decisions. Interra's payment card is integral to its efforts.

In June 2006, Interra selected Santa Rosa-based Nietech Corp. to provide the retail loyalty technology platform that makes its three-way POS rebates possible.

Technology working
Nietech provides payment technologies that automate transaction-based philanthropy by distributing a portion of cardholders' purchases to their designated charities. Through its proprietary Nietech Administrative System (NAS), the company provides an open-system solution that requires no POS modification. NAS enables payment processors to electronically collect and distribute merchant rebates and loyalty points from multiple sources to multiple parties.

The collaboration with Boston Main Streets is Interra's pilot program. It intends to expand nationwide. "The Boston Community Change program is actually a three-legged stool, with three partners enabling the program to occur," said Christine Koncal, Chief Marketing Officer of Nietech Corp. She credits Jon Ramer of Interra for having the vision to initiate "this social-commerce effort and to get the partners together and to build the entire solution chain, which goes beyond the Nietech-provided payment and loyalty processing to a very robust Web site that incorporates Google maps and other social-networking aspects for merchants and consumers alike."

The planning took a year and a half. Goodman said the time was necessary to build a solid system that would meet the mixed needs of merchants, nonprofits and consumers. "Interra and Nietech have been great partners," he said. "We've built a system with great perceived value to both the nonprofits and the merchants, and the ease of participation is excellent."

Although the card itself is swiped through a POS system, it tracks purchases using any tender - including checks or cash. Participating retailers, consumers and nonprofits can all track donations at the Web site.

Merchants boarding
"Getting merchants on board has been our first focus," said Goodman. "But we are working with the nonprofits and our corporate 'Main Street buddies' to get the word out to consumers, as well." Boston Main Street expects to have enlisted 500 merchants by June 2007.

"Many processors are increasing focus on merchant retention and using merchant loyalty programs to reduce merchant churn," said Koncal. "Merchants participating in this program are universally glad to be giving back to the communities in which they do business and are being offered special pricing and packaged services by a common processor to further induce and facilitate participation.

Though Nietech's technology is processor-agnostic, acquiring processors have seen the program's advantages in acquiring and maintaining a stable merchant base. Our loyalty platform and unique swipe technology work with any POS terminal in the market today, enabling programs to quickly launch and scale and providing merchants of all sizes with tools to measure ROI."

For the last four years, Nietech has been managing a similar initiative, CommunitySmart, in Sonoma County, Calif. Consumers swipe the initiative's cards at more than 175 retail locations. And participating merchants donate cash back to the schools or nonprofits chosen by consumers.

Summit State Bank is a sponsor. It has overlaid the program onto its MasterCard Worldwide debit and credit portfolio, enabling donations and consumer rewards through its bankcards, as well.

Communities soaring
This POS service looks like a boost for all parties involved, especially locally owned businesses, which are prime prospects for ISOs and MLSs and the communities they serve.

"Money leaks out of a local economy many ways," Ramer said. "The terms 'leaky bucket' and the 'multiplier effect' help people grasp the impact that their purchase choices make."

Ramer provided an example: When Wal-Mart Stores Inc. enters a market, it typically derives 84% of its business from pre-existing businesses within the local community. Studies show only $13 of every $100 spent at a Wal-Mart stays within the local community. The same $100 spent at a locally owned business retains $45 within the community. This number is greater if the products purchased are locally made, he added.

"Connecting what matters most with our purchasing patterns gives us an easy way to act on our values," he said. "Community sustainability is an issue that affects each of us and our neighbors. Paying a fair price, as distinct from the lowest price, is a way to support economic reliance and sustainability."

A Card That Helps Bring Change

From West Roxbury Transcript
By David Ertischek
February 21, 2007

Boston residents can now get rebates back from some of their favorite stores while at the same time helping out local nonprofits, thanks to the Boston Community Change Card. And it won’t cost an extra dime.

“It is a community loyalty card which if you go to a shop like Fern’s, you will get a 10 percent discount off a purchase of more than $100,” said Kelly Tynan, director of West Roxbury Main Streets. “You get a rebate back from that purchase. A portion of that goes to the customer, and a portion of that goes to Boston Main Streets Foundation, and then another portion of your purchase goes to a charity of your choice.”

Presently, there are at least 10 West Roxbury and 10 Roslindale businesses that are accepting the Community Change Card, and the list is growing every week. Some of the businesses include Sullivan’s Pharmacy and Village Books in Roslindale, and Sugar or Atlas True Value Hardware in West Roxbury. And you don’t need to purchase $100 worth of goods to see a rebate.

Purchasers also get to choose a Boston-based charity of their choice which will benefit from their purchase. So far, organizations such as Parkway Youth Baseball and Friends of the Lyndon School have already benefited from the Community Change Card.

To get a Boston Community Change Card is simple; just go to the Web site at The first 10,000 people to sign up get the card for free.

This is currently a pilot program, and it is scheduled to be used in Seattle and Chicago over the coming year. ::West Roxbury Transcript 

Features Of The Website

Dot Board: The Dot Board is a community bulletin board where you can post all kinds of information about what's happening in the neighborhood.

Community Calendar: Use this section to view events and happenings in Dorchester and plan your week!

Dorchester Blogs: A blog is a user- generated content where entries are made in journal style and displayed in a reverse chronological order. Click here to check out who is blogging in Dorchester. Are you Interested in blogging? contact us.

Neighborhood Guide A searchable database of civic and community-based organizations.

Young Dorchester provides links to local organizations that will conect you to information, activities, and, programs for young people in Dorchester.


DOT-Shot: Capturing Dorchester A photograph submitted by Dorchester residents that show a favorite scene or place in Dorchester

Can you guess where this week's DOT-Shot was taken?

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Boston first city to launch small business incentive card

From Boston Business Journal
By: Naomi Kooker
November 21, 2006

Mayor Thomas M. Menino announced the launch of a new Boston Community Change card Tuesday. The card is a rewards and loyalty-incentive program launched in partnership with The Interra Project, a Seattle-based nonprofit effort to strengthen communities through encouraging local spending. The program works in conjunction with Boston Main Streets, an economic initiative program that helps encourage local economies. "Boston is considered the leader in how seriously they've taken the program," said Greg Steltenpohl, co-founder and chairman of The Interra Project. "Roslindale is the first neighborhood, and Boston is the first city in the United States."

The card, free to consumers and merchants, allows small businesses to offer sophisticated loyalty programs and give-back programs other larger corporations do, said Steltenpohl, founder of the Odwalla juice company. When making a purchase, consumers swipe their Boston Community Change Card, making them eligible for the rewards program. The swipe automatically makes a donation to an organization chosen by the consumer from a selection of participating nonprofits. The merchant can choose the rewards program of his or her choice. "Small businesses can't afford these kind of sophisticated systems, unless we amortize them over a whole national network," said Steltenpohl. "I learned how big you can grow something when you start with neighborhoods."

The Interra Project is supported by Washington state-based The Russell Family Foundation and by other contributions, including Steltenpohl, who's given $750,000. He started Odwalla in his San Francisco back yard in 1980, and sold the company in 2001 to the Coca-Cola company. At the time, Odwalla had $100 million in revenue.

If you shop in Boston, get your FREE card today!

Order your card online now!

  • For a limited time, cards are being made available for FREE
  • All you will need to provide is a name, address and e-mail.
  • Unless you choose to receive promotions from participating businesses, your information will not be shared with anyone.
  • You will receive monthly e-mail statements highlighting how much of a rebate you have earned and how much you have donated to the community nonprofit of your choice through your shopping at local participating businesses.


Shop Locally, Share Locally

Posted by our friends at Treehugger
by Stephen Filler
February 20, 2007


For the past four years, the Interra Project has developed an ingenious model for people to use financial networks to support their local communities and sustainability. Recently, Interra rolled out its first project -- Boston Community Change - in partnership with Boston Main Streets.

Boston residents can get a free (at least for now) Boston Community Change card that they present to participating local merchants. Every time the card is swiped on the merchant’s credit card terminal, portions of the transaction are returned to the user as a cash rebate, donated to a local community based non-profit or school of the user’s choice, and donated to the local Main Streets organization. Merchants sign up for free, and decide how much of a rebate to grant to users.

The Boston Community Change card is not a payment card, and users can pay for their purchase with any payment form accepted by the business. Users receive monthly electronic statements detailing total rebates and donations. As Paul Ray, author of the “The Cultural Creatives,” has said: "The Interra model is a brilliant social and financial invention that can help bring a green economy into greater practicality.

This is hot stuff, and needs all our support. It functions rather like an alternative currency or an airline miles program, to help encourage mutual loyalty among green/socially responsible consumers. In particular, it does a better job of incentivizing a mutual loyalty of businesses and customers who share the same values." Interra has identified more than 100 cities for possible roll-out over the next 3-5 years.

Shop Locally and Share Locally with Boston Community Change

You care about the schools, businesses, and nonprofits that make up your community. Boston Community Change rewards you and your community when you shop at participating neighborhood businesses. Get involved today as either a participating merchant or by registering for your FREE Boston Community Change card. Start supporting your community today by SHOPPING LOCALLY and SHARING LOCALLY.

If you are a not school or non-profit and want to help us spread the word so that YOU can be chosen as a beneficiary, contact us any time at 617 635 0115.

I heart this place!


I'm in no way subscribing to forced celebration of love that was Valentine’s Day, but I couldn't help but wonder….when do you realize that you are in love? 

For the human relation you tend to know it. It’s usually marked by a moment, a kiss, a glance and or a feeling. In many cases it is verbalized or you simply cannot function in your usual capacity because you are just overwhelmed by this emotion. 

But back to the question at hand. When do you know that you are in love…with a place, its people and its happenings? 

Is it when you no longer feel the need to go elsewhere…or go home?

Is it when you call it your home and use references like “my neighborhood”?

When all your needs and most of your wants are met by the place?

Is it when you sacrifice the “never ever” rules and go with its flow? 

And when you know or think you know, are you supposed to turn to that place and say I love you? Tammyanka 

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