Tivoni Devor's Philadelphia: Urban Affairs Coalition, Newbold, and Prosciutto
Anticipation builds as Tivoni Devor takes you down a flight of stairs and toward the front corner of his basement, where one is met by a narrow, makeshift, but fully functional door. On the other side awaits heaven for Devor and many of his meat-seeking brethren.
Swing the door open and two large pieces of meat from Sweet Stem Farm
in Lancaster hang precariously, coated in salt, peppercorns and lard, waiting to become prosciutto. There’s enough meat there to keep Devor and his friends in fine, salty meats for at least a year, maybe more. The room is rigged with an air conditioner that keeps the temperature under 60 degrees and a humidifier that maintains the humidity at about 50 percent, both powered by electricity purchased from the Energy Co-Op
“I actually use more solar than most,” says Devor, who bemoans a lack of specialty butchers in the city and readily available, high quality prosciutto. So he just makes it himself. He also created a neighborhood meat club
to defray costs and revel together in such carnivore activities.
Devor has just arrived from work at his home on Carlisle Street in what some refer to as the Newbold section of Point Breeze, not far from Passyunk Square. He is offering a quick tour of his house and the huge flower box he fashioned from discarded wood a block away. He quickly explains the back patio, where a fig tree towers over kiwis, cucumbers and pepper plants, and describes the string-trellis system he has in the works, before heading off to another in a long line of neighborhood meetings to try and bridge longtime Point Breeze residents and newer residents in Devor’s part of the community.
“Some people think we’re living in crazy land, but we’re not,” he jokes.
You want crazy? Devor has also found time to pilot the Philly Food Shed
, which aims to create a sustainable business model for urban farming in Philadelphia. Perhaps most impressive is he recently became a certified barbecue judge by the Kansas City Barbecue Society and has already served as a BBQ master at his first local event.
“You swear an oath to meat, and America,” says Devor, now not joking one bit.
Devor is clearly the kind of guy that makes most men feel a little inadequate; he’s passionate enough about a variety of pursuits and gifted and focused enough to make them happen in his nearly nine years in Philadelphia.
In some ways, his new position as Business Development Manager for the Center City-based Urban Affairs Coalition
is a perfect fit. In this capacity, Devor is part-idea man, part-logistics maven and part-ringleader for the 43 year-old nonprofit that aims to solve a number of emerging issues like digital inclusion and poverty through fiscal sponsorship, capacity building and program evaluation.
“One of the things I love about Tivoni is it didn’t take him long to feel comfortable to jump right in,” says UAC President and CEO Sharmain Matlok-Turner. “The culture of our organization is not ‘You’re here to sit at our knees and receive the wisdom of the world.' We want to know what you know and how you can put it to work here".
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, and I pay attention to how our team develops and organizes its thoughts and ideas. I love a good debate. Tivoni comes to the table ready. He does his homework, pays attention and then gets in the rough and tumble of it.”
Devor is part of a youth movement at UAC that has injected new life into the organization and opened up increasing opportunities for a variety of constituencies in Philadelphia and beyond, helping build a 21st
century model for fiscal sponsorship and nonprofit program management.
Matlock-Turner cites Director of Government and Strategic Partnerships Arun Prabhakaran, Youth Division Director Farrah Samuels, and Performance Management Associate Carlos Cartagena, as examples of younger hires making an impact at UAC.
"This kind of talent both in our center city office and in our programs has reenergized the organization” says Matlock-Turner. "Successful organizations continue to grow and change. Young people that come to an organization with fresh ideas allow this growth to happen
The Heavy Lifting of Effective Programs
Devor estimates it costs about $5,000 and takes between six and 12 months for someone to start a nonprofit. Considering 100,000 nonprofits live and die every year, it’s easy to see how UAC provides value.
UAC has about 75 program partners, many of which are familiar organizations like Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network and West Philly Tool Library. These make up the bulk of UAC’s partners – nonprofits that are big enough to need fiscal sponsorship but too small to do it efficiently themselves. Fiscal sponsorship includes paying bills, audits and 990s, payroll and human resources, insurance and cash flow analysis.
Just as important, though, is UAC’s role as a convener. In August, UAC played a significant role in bringing together Bank of America, Citibank, Citizens Bank, PNC, TD Bank and Wells Fargo to provide $322,500 for micro-lending to FINANTA
, a nonprofit community development financial institution that makes loans to under-banked and underserved micro-entrepreneurs. Eighty percent of FINANTA’s funding has gone to minority or immigrant business owners.
Look no further than the Freedom Rings Partnership and the 80-plus KeySpots
computer center locations across the city as evidence of UAC’s impact. UAC is now playing a role in creating a vision for the future of the Freedom Rings Partnership, and one area of focus, according to Matlock-Turner, is integrating the technology with the mission-based work of the partner organizations, rathe than an add-on. A good example of that is Philadelphia Fight
, which uses its KeySpot as part of its AIDS education program.
Technology and systems are things UAC is able to provide to all its partners in one way or another. Its Efforts to Outcomes offering helps partner organizations understand how to collect data and use it effectively to better report to funders and deliver services. UAC spreads the cost around its partners and everyone gets to use it.
Devor is leading a business development plan that will help guide UAC forward. Part of that includes continued geographic expansion. Since many of UAC’s tools are online, it can provide services to organizations anywhere. It is now working with groups in Chester County, Baltimore and Pittsburgh, and that trend figures to continue.
“We’re only going to grow at a pace that makes sense for us,” Matlock-Turner says. As she looks around the city, she sees great universities and new interests in developing our waterfronts, yet she worries about creating a “permanent underclass” in parts of Philadelphia.
While there is much work to be done locally, Devor believes expansion can help elevate UAC’s profile, especially considering there are less fiscal sponsorship organizations than most would think.
“There are a lot of open markets,” he says, pointing out that UAC’s rates are among the lowest in the nation, even lower than the largest fiscal sponsor in the U.S., San Francisco-based TIDES
, which serves nonprofits with budgets that are at least $100,000.
Devor says the plan will also include exploring other large-scale collaborations like Freedom Rings and to ensure UAC has systems in place to continue to expand its fiscal sponsorship activities.
As he walks out the door of his home on this summer evening, Devor is barely breaking a sweat as he says goodbye to his wife Jen, a dynamo in her own right who recently left the Sustainable Business Network for a job at Campus Philly and with whom he is expecting their first child next year. For Devor, solving big-city problems isn’t just a job – it’s what drives every aspect of his life.
Says Matlock-Turner: “When we sit down and talka bout the future, I always ask ‘Is Tivoni here?’”
JOE PETRUCCI is managing editor of Flying Kite. Send feedback here.