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Timeline of our IDEA Progress

Boston By Foot has long recognized the value of diversity and has been on a steady journey toward becoming a more inclusive organization. As for many organizations, our work became more urgent and more intentional in 2020. Here’s a brief timeline of our progress.


  • Boston By Foot has offered a Community Pass Program for Libraries across the region for decades. Through this program thousands of individuals have participated in our tours free of charge.

  • BBF has welcomed groups from Boston Public Schools at a steeply reduced rate for many years.

  • Boston By Foot joined Mass Cultural Council’s Universal Participation Learning Innovation Network in 2017. Our staff and volunteers received training and support in making our tours and programs more accessible to people with disabilities.

  • BBF was an inaugural participant in the Mass Cultural Council’s EBT Card to Culture program designed to provide affordable cultural opportunities to people who use transitional assistance.

  • Created Associate and Emeritus Volunteer Roles for those who are not interested in or able to lead tours but want to contribute to Boston By Foot.

  • Created a wish list of tour topics and neighborhoods that were not yet included in our programming


  • Strategic Plan launched in March 2020 that included newly articulated organizational vision, mission and values, as well as goals related to advancing diversity and inclusion

  • Virtual programs launched in March 2020 when we were forced to cancel all in-person programming due to the pandemic. We quickly learned how the virtual format could make our programs more accessible

  • In the summer of 2020, we established a cross-organizational team of staff, volunteers and trustees devoted to IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access). With the help of consultants, we prepared an IDEA work plan that included both quick wins and challenging long-term plans that will touch upon all aspects of our organization.


  • Boston By Foot has the most diverse board in our history with over 40% of trustees identifying as people of color.

  • In early 2021 we took a closer look at our stated values, and wrote a statement for each that demonstrates what that value looks like in practice at BBF. Those statements are included above.

  • In March 2021 we launched our first ever hybrid training program for new volunteers.

  • The Tour Development Committee is established. Using a tour wishlist, this committee supports guides as they develop their ideas, write drafts, and walk through tour routes. The Committee facilitates presenting the tours for members and collects feedback to help tour writers refine their work for public presentation.

  • With over 200 volunteers it’s important to communicate frequently and ensure we have their support in fulfilling organizational goals. In the late summer of 2021, we organized a dozen listening sessions and invited all volunteers to participate in at least one. At each session we asked volunteers for candid feedback as we discussed our newly articulated values and commitment to IDEA principles. We heard resounding enthusiasm for Boston By Foot’s work toward these goals, as well as areas where volunteers felt they could use some clarity and greater organizational support as they carry out their work. This feedback helped to shape our work plan for the next few years.


  • Inclusive Language Guidelines introduced to provide guidance in using respectful and inclusive language when speaking about complex historical topics on their tours.

  • Decision is made to hold another year of volunteer training in a hybrid format.

  • Based on feedback from both newer and experienced guides, staff retooled our Tour Manual Template to make our tours more approachable for guides who are learning a tour for the first time.

  • Tour Catalog Goals are formally established. We expanded our tour wishlist and articulated tour content goals that include neighborhoods we have not yet reached and timely topics we’d like to explore more deeply. This document is shared with all guides and used by the Tour Development Committee as they support the creation of new tours and major revisions of existing tours.

  • Website Overhaul. This new site offers more intuitive navigation for first time visitors and long time volunteers alike.

  • All tour descriptions were reviewed for readability and updated to highlight the range of content included on the tour. Tours listings include details about duration, distance, terrain, so that individuals will be able to make choices about which tours are best for them.

  • MightyNetwork established. Our volunteers enjoy sharing their experiences and learning from one another. They have different schedules and different availability, so we’ve established an online resource using MightyNetwork to allow volunteers to connect where, when and as often as they’d like. This Network contains many resources to help our volunteers lead high quality tours.


  • For the first time, the BBF Board of Trustees elected a person of color to the position of Board Chair. Over 50% of our 2023 Trustees identify as people of color.

  • The Academic Affairs team further restructures the new volunteer training program to focus on content and skills that are critical to leading engaging, accessible tours. Hybrid format to continue indefinitely.

  • New website enhancements:

    • A detailed accessibility page is added and all tour descriptions now include ending locations and information about the nearest accessible MBTA stations.
    • AccessiBE widget added to the website
    • Main pages are now available in five languages
  • Launch of Neighborhood Histories Project, which is focused on connecting with local community members to learn about sites and stories that are important to them, and to work together to share these stories with the broader community. In fall of 2023 we launched a pilot project in partnership with the Dorchester Lower Mills Branch Library.


  • Tactile maps created and issued to volunteers for use as a visual and tactile aid on their walking tours. These 3D printed maps were designed to be portable, durable and provide a visual and tactile representation of the original shoreline of the Boston peninsula, which is often discussed and described on our tours.

  • Two workshops offered to all volunteers to help them improve their accessibility of their tours. One on voice projection and techniques to speak clearly and audibly in an urban setting, and the other on visual to verbal descriptions to improve tour accessibility for people who are blind or visually impaired, as well as for people who are neurodiverse or who aren’t native English speakers.

  • For the first time, Boston By Foot offered tours in languages other than English on the public tour calendar.
  • Creation of Visual to Verbal Description Guidelines for volunteers. Visual description is the practice of communicating visual information in verbal form. It’s an effective tool tour guides can use to translate the visual to verbal to help people better appreciate and understand the visual elements of the tour. It’s helpful for everyone on a tour, but especially for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Trip Advisor Travellor's Choice Awards Winner 2024