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State dollars double Career Wardrobe's budget, making way for a five-county expansion

Thanks to a huge new contract, April 2016 is the biggest month yet for the Philadelphia-based Career Wardrobe, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year.

But back in 2011, things weren’t so rosy for the nonprofit, which connects jobseekers with professional clothing, career counseling and resume help. Career Wardrobe Executive Director Sheri Cole spent a month in Harrisburg after former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s administration cut funding for PA WORKWEAR, a Department of Health and Human Services program that helps provide career clothing to those living in poverty. Thanks to data showing the program's success in reducing reliance on public assistance, funding for PA WORKWEAR was reinstated that same year.

Fast forward to 2016 and a major new contract from PA WORKWEAR will double the nonprofit’s budget; the money has already enabled them to hire five new employees. Career Wardrobe is also expanding from Philadelphia County into Montgomery, Chester, Delaware, Bucks and Berks Counties. As of April 1, Career Wardrobe is operating out of its Spring Garden location in Philadelphia, as well as new boutiques in Chester City and Bristol, while overseeing similar programs in other counties.

Starting with their new fiscal year on July 1, Career Wardrobe’s budget will jump from about $700,000 to $1.5 million. In the coming year, Career Wardrobe will be able to serve up to 7,000 people, 80 percent of whom will be referred through PA WORKWEAR.

The results are real, says Cole of the outcomes Career Wardrobe measures through surveys, conducted at six months and a year after the initial appointment at their boutiques.

"Of those individuals, over half are successfully at work, and only 30 percent of them are still receiving cash assistance," explains Cole. "If you’re a government official looking for programs that move people out of poverty, that’s a great program to be interested in. If we can capture you and help you bounce back into employment before you hit cash assistance, that’s great."

Currently, the PA WORKWEAR dollars -- which Career Wardrobe will administer with the help of partnering county organizations -- will benefit referrals who are on cash assistance. Fortunately, since half of its budget still comes from non-government sources such as corporate, foundation, and individual donations, Career Wardrobe can continue its Philadelphia-based programs, which are open to a wide range of people facing hardship because of unemployment, with a sliding scale of fees ranging from $5 to $20.

People currently ineligible for help through PA WORKWEAR programs in nearby counties can still be referred for sessions within Philadelphia, and Cole hopes that with time, this flexibility will expand to other counties. And while the vast majority of Career Wardrobe clients are women, the new dollars are aiding expansions in programs for men, too.

"We really believe that the cost of a suit should not be a barrier to you being able to go out and market yourself and conduct a proper job search," insists Cole.

To support Career Wardrobe, learn more about donating clothing or volunteering.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Sheri Cole, Career Wardrobe


Green City Works expands employment opportunities in University City

So how will University City District (UCD) transform $300,000 into sustainable, career-launching jobs in a traditionally tough business? Last week, we spoke with Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN) leaders Hoa Pham and Jennie Sparandara about the Win Win Challenge grant UCD received this winter, following a $50,000 planning grant award in 2015.

The grant-winning Green City Works (GCW) program grew out of the organization’s existing West Philadelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI), which has been connecting long-time unemployed West Philadelphians with job opportunities at major local institutional partners for over five years.

"We were looking at partnerships that would allow us to broaden our demographic base," explains Sheila Ireland, vice president of workforce innovations at UCD, noting that WPSI cohorts tend to skew toward African-American women ages 25 to 35, with jobs in healthcare or educational institutions.  

The idea for GCW was born when Valley Crest landscaping approached UCD about recruiting landscaping technicians from the West Philly area. For an organization already managing up to $400,000 of work in green spaces within its district (think The Porch at 30th Street), a jobs program geared toward landscaping seemed like a natural fit, as well as an opportunity to broaden its programs into a male-dominated industry.

When Sparandara approached UCD about applying for the planning grant, "We said, 'Here is the opportunity for us to not just work on greenspace projects…[but] to do a social venture as well," recalls Ireland. The program targets applicants struggling with challenges such as longterm unemployment or re-entry from the criminal justice system, and helps them build transferrable job skills. "We used that Win Win Challenge planning grant period to prove a couple things: Could we build this program? Could we take on fee-for-service contracts? How would we incorporate?”

The experiment was successful, even in an industry as difficult as landscaping. Though wages in the field are slightly higher than standard minimum wage, the hours can go from dawn to dusk six days a week in the growing season, with workers laid off in the winter. In other words, not a ton of stability. And with many companies recruiting workers on H2B visas, local job-seekers often don't look at the industry for entry level positions.

"Can we change the way the industry looks at workers?" asks Ireland. At GCW, that means peer mentoring and support, a livable wage ($13 an hour to start, versus an industry average of $9), work hours from 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and pay regardless of rainy days that delay the work.

That $300,000 in seed money from JOIN has allowed GCW to hire general manager Brian English and bring in its latest cohort: 12 workers who began a 26-week program on March 28. Those who finish the program stand an excellent chance of joining the GCW staff.

Ireland says the program is important because it honors a range of skills -- GCW’s staffers are people who are happy outdoors and who love community beautification.

"When you activate people’s talents, you really speak to what they should be doing in their lives," she enthuses. "And you can change people’s lives by doing that."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Sheila Ireland, University City District 

The Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN) has partnered with Flying Kite to explore how good jobs are created and filled in Greater Philadelphia. Stay tuned as we follow the progress of these exciting grants and track the city's continued workforce development challenges.


Win Win: $300,000 for a new jobs program at University City District

Many who want to work face challenges such as poverty, long-time unemployment, or transitioning to life outside the criminal justice system. They may not be ready for the traditional workforce, but they’re adults with the capacity to build skills given the right mentorship. Enter a new landscaping program from University City District (UCD), which just received a $300,000 two-year seed grant.
The Green City Works employment initiative -- which earned a $50,000 planning grant last year -- is now officially launching with support from the Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN), a program of United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. JOIN awarded the nascent program (an extension of the existing West Philadelphia Skills Initiative) that planning grant in January 2015; 24 regional organizations competed for four awards.

The grant program was dubbed the Win-Win Challenge because it aimed to build a win-win scenario for workers and employers. The local nonprofit community was invited to "come to us with new ideas around partnership…that seek to address actual business needs," explains JOIN Executive Director Jennie Sparandara. But at the same time, they wanted to help those who most need a leg up in the workforce.

JOIN assessed the four grantees one year later, determining who was ready to translate their plans into action. Green City Works, a nonprofit landscaping venture, was the clearly prepared for the next step.

"UCD is really recognizing that not everybody…is ready for work with a big employer," says Sparandara of the program’s appeal to JOIN. "[They] need a safe space to learn on the job, with practical skill-building and workplace coaching designed to help participants progress in their careers beyond Green City Works. With UCD, the hope is to connect them with these big institutional employers in the Philadelphia area."

"From JOIN’s perspective, we’re interested in learning how these positions can serve as an entrée into the trade,” adds JOIN Program Manager Hoa Pham.

According to Sparandara, UCD was able to demonstrate and articulate "a very clear vision for how they wanted to use funding to build out this program…They are open to and interested in learning and growing along with us as funders.This fits very well with JOIN’s mission as seed-funders and a learning community.

The project will formally launch on March 22, with JOIN dollars beginning to flow this month.

In the future, we’ll take a look at how Green City Works grew from the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative and the program’s specific goals over the next two years.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Jennie Sparandara and Hoa Pham, JOIN 

The Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN) has partnered with Flying Kite to explore how good jobs are created and filled in Greater Philadelphia. Stay tuned as we follow the progress of these exciting grants and track the city's continued workforce development challenges.


Philly's top women business leaders tell their stories

What do Philly's women business executives have to say about their career journeys? To answer that question, the nationally operating CPA firm Citrin Cooperman hosted an inaugural "Women at the Wheel" forum at the Union League of Philadelphia. The January 21 event featured four of the city's most notable business leaders telling their stories and taking questions from the crowd.

Julie Coker Graham, a former Hyatt Regency Philadelphia general manager, is the new president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau. Suzanne S. Mayes, a 2012 Alice Paul Equality Award winner and leader at several women’s initiative organizations, is the chair of the public and project finance group at Cozen O’Connor. They were joined by Cheltenham native JoAnne Epps -- currently dean of Temple’s Beasley School of Law, she was appointed by Mayor Michael Nutter to chair the new Police Department Oversight Board and earned the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Justice Sonia Sotomayor Diversity Award. Catherine M. Cahill completed the panel. Originally a musician, she has had a distinguished career in arts administration and been the president and CEO of the Mann Center for the Performing Arts since 2008.

Citrin Cooperman partners Mary Brislin and Colleen S. Vallen moderated the panel.

In her opening remarks, Vallen noted that only about thirteen percent of U.S. business board and executive positions are held by women (though in local healthcare and higher education sectors, that number has topped twenty percent).

Graham touted her lifelong "passion for hospitality." Just a few decades ago it was virtually unheard of for a woman -- especially an African-American woman -- to pursue a four-year degree in hospitality management.

"The culinary scene here is just exploding," she said of moving Philadelphia in 2007.

Mayes spoke about her formative years at an all-girls high school where a you-can-do-anything attitude wasn’t aspirational or visionary, "it was a fact," with women leaders on sports teams and in school clubs. She took this attitude with her to college, where she remembers a "five-minute meeting" with her male undergraduate advisor -- she wanted to discuss her grad school options. He told her to focus on finishing college, not going to business or law school.

"Happily, I didn’t listen to him," she recalled, earning her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

"It didn’t occur to me that African-American women could run anything," said Epps of her school days; she thought becoming a legal secretary would be the apex of her career. She remembers her own mother, whose school counselor "laughed until he cried" when she said she was interested in medical school and put her on a secretarial track instead. Epps herself went on to attend Trinity College just after it became co-ed and was greeted on her first day with signs that read, "Co-eds go home, we hate you!"

But her years there were successful, leading to a prominent legal career.

"Be vigilant as to what is happening to us, and be vigilant as to what is happening to others," she advised attendees on improving gender parity in the workforce.

Cahill, a Temple undergraduate and Drexel graduate alum, has managed major music institutions such as Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall, the Dallas Symphony, the New York Philharmonic and the Toronto Symphony before landing in Philly. She touted a recent "sea change" in the world of leadership for women.

The panel took several audience questions, including one about coping with "imposter syndrome" in high-powered jobs.

"It’s about recognizing the moment of self-doubt," said Mayes. "What do you do about it?" There’s no such thing as a work-life or mom-career balance, she continued. Instead, it’s about "integration" with the right personal and professional support.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Citrin Cooperman Women at the Wheel speakers


Sixth annual State of University City celebrates 75,000 new jobs

On November 18, University City District (UCD) hosted its sixth annual State of University City event at World Café Live. The headline of the night was the 75,000 jobs created within this 2.4-square-mile neighborhood, home to some of Philly’s premier education, healthcare and science institutions. According to UCD, the area is on track to add an additional 1,000 jobs in 2016.

Craig Carnaroli, executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania and UCD’s board chair, noted that this density of jobs is among the highest of any neighborhood in the country. Speaking at World Café Live, he cited the impact of startup hubs like the Enterprise Center and Drexel’s ic@3401, which now hosts 50 technology entrepreneurs from 30 member companies.

Carnaroli also noted the groundbreaking work of companies like Spark Therapeutics, which will soon seek FDA approval for its gene therapy; studies indicate they can achieve restored vision in people blinded by certain retinal diseases. Another University City breakthrough made national news this year when eight-year-old Zion Harvey received the world’s first pediatric double hand transplant from Penn Medicine.

Carnaroli touted "the power of community and institutions coming together in partnerships to produce results."

UCD Executive Director Matt Bergheiser spoke about why 75,000 jobs is a "magic number" for the area. Businesses and institutions are "feeling the growth of the regional economy" with a substantial spike in well-paid jobs, he insisted. According to UCD, between 2008 and 2013, the neighborhood saw a 79 percent increase in middle to high-wage jobs -- wage growth far above the city’s overall average. It’s exciting news, especially paired with a ten percent jump in University City’s population since 2013 and expansions in the restaurant, hospitality, retail and real estate sectors.

Another way to look at the job density in University City, Bergheiser pointed out, is to count 30,000 jobs per square mile. He also emphasized some essential ingredients in the neighborhood's success: entrepreneurial, civic and "opportunity" infrastructure. 

Because innovation needs places for people to come together, entrepreneurial infrastructure flourishes at cutting-edge hubs like the Science Center and Wexford Science + Technology.

Civic infrastructure -- which Bergheiser called "splendor at the ground level" -- includes elements such as new parklets, the Porch at 30th Street, a revamped Market Street Bridge and the upcoming $2.1 million transformation of the 40th Street SEPTA portal, slated to open in 2017.

"Opportunity infrastructure" is paying attention to an equity of opportunities, or "how we connect the talent in our West Philadelphia neighborhood" to meaningful jobs, he explained.

That led naturally to talk of UCD's West Philadelphia Skills Initiative -- many participants are low-income residents who struggle with longterm unemployment or a criminal record that prevents them from getting a foot in the door with job applications. Bergheiser said that 91 percent of Skills Initiative graduates succeed in landing a job, with an average starting wage of $13.60 per hour.

It all adds up to "a new first and lasting impression" for our metropolis, he concluded.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: University City District

Worked Up: Philly�s biggest-ever Early Childhood Education jobs convention is coming

In response to a proposed $120 million bump in the Pennsylvania budget for Early Childhood Education (ECE) from Governor Tom Wolf, Public Health Management Corporation (PHMC) and partners are hosting the largest career fair of its kind ever to hit the Philly region.

If the new funding becomes law, that means 1,400 new jobs could open up in the industry statewide, and up to 400 in Philadelphia. Local childcare centers are already gearing up to hire more teachers, assistant teachers, administrators and directors; the jobs could start as early as September. To that end, the non-profit PHMC is bringing its Early Childhood Education Workforce Transformation (ECEWTI) Career Convention to Centre Square East (on the Lower Mezzanine of 1500 Market Street) on Friday, July 31 from 12 - 4 p.m.

"This is a completely free event," enthuses PHMC program officer Lizette Egea-Hinton -- there will even be childcare on hand for job-seeking parents who need someone to watch the kids. The event will feature a mix of the region’s premier ECE service-providers -- some will even interview qualified candidates on the spot -- and activities from partnering organizations that allow the Convention to cast a broader net.

PHMC is teaming with the Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children and the Montgomery Early Learning Centers for the convention; training organizations such as 1199c and some local universities will also be on hand. They’ll offer interview workshops, resume tips and what the ECE industry calls "career lattice therapy."

Not familiar with the term "career lattice"? Egea-Hinton explains that it’s a multi-layered metric for childcare workers that encompasses factors including your degree level, your training and how many years of experience you have. Those who want to enter or advance in the industry should start by understanding where they are in the ECE lattice, and what they need to do to obtain the jobs they want.

Egea-Hinton notes that filling jobs in the sector can be challenging because of a consistent gap in pay between what ECE professionals earn and what their counterparts in schooling for older kids make. Addressing that is one reason PHMC partners with the Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN) -- the organization is a Win-Win Challenge grantee.

"A part of our work through JOIN is to see how we can remedy this issue," she says. "We do need the staff, but our biggest barrier is pay. So what can we do to bridge that gap?"

Despite the challenges, this remains a growing field in the education sector, and Philly has to be ready to meet the needs of its youngest citizens (and their parents).

"We’ve never had [an event] like this before," enthuses Egea-Hinton. "We’re offering a lot of things and we plan on it being really large. We hope that it’s very successful, so we can have more in the future…it shows it’s a need."

The Convention will also boast refreshments, raffles and "swag bags." Any questions? E-mail [email protected]
The Job Opportunity Investment Network (JOIN) has partnered with Flying Kite to explore how good jobs are created and filled in Greater Philadelphia. For more on the Win-Win Challenge, click here.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Lizette Egea-Hinton, Public Health Management Corporation

Do you love kids and hate litter? If so, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful wants to talk

For the past 18 months, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful Executive Director Michelle Feldman has been spreading the organization's message of environmental stewardship to local public school students. From educational presentations and workshops to hands-on projects, Feldman has been tireless in her efforts to inspire and empower children to beautify their communities.

To date, the organization's programs have reached over 1,500 students, and they want to do more.

"We came to the realization that we could do so much more if we had volunteer teachers who were out there and passionate about this [work]," explains Feldman.

In an effort to achieve its goal, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful is seeking five volunteers willing to train with the organization and then work as part-time ambassadors in area elementary, junior high and high schools. 

Prospective volunteers should have a passion for recycling and other environmental issues, and must commit to two presentations per month, with each engagement lasting roughly an hour.

Volunteer teachers will be responsible for leading presentations similar to Keep Philadelphia Beautiful's signature program, "Litter-Free School Zone." Supplemental activities include field trips, local clean-up events and on-site recycling demonstrations.

Keep Philadelphia Beautiful also coordinates with community groups to create unique one-off learning opportunities such as DIY-style programs on creative reuse.

The organization will attract and engage with prospective volunteers through its website and social media channels, and additional details will appear in its upcoming October newsletter.

Interested in applying? Complete the online application by November 30.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Michelle Feldman, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful


Spartan Hackathon Tour comes to Citizens Bank Park

In a city like Philadelphia, where the startup and technology industries have become so well-established that we now have a boulevard known as NERD Street, there might not seem to be anything unusual about the announcement of yet another hackathon.    
But thanks to a partnership between Hackfit, a Boston company that arranges events where entrepreneurs create health and fitness technologies, and Spartan, organizers of extreme obstacle races across the country, a decidedly unusual hackathon will kick off inside Citizens Bank Park on September 19.   
Only 60 total spots are available for the event. Teams of developers and designers will be tasked with pitching fitness industry-relevant business ideas, prototyping them, and then demonstrating the results of 24 nonstop hours of work on the idea. (Sign up here.)
RFID timing sensors, Sony Smartbands and other wearable technology devices will be made available to hackers, says Hackfit founder Justin Mendelson, who adds that most former participants have focused on building mobile applications.
"A few of [the teams] focus on hardware-oriented devices, like wearable trackers," says Mendelson. And during past events, "Other teams have even focused on timing technology, which is very important to the [obstacle race] experience."
Philly is one of four locations where Spartan Hackathons are happening this summer. Some of the winning teams will be flown to Spartan headquarters in Boston, where they'll have an opportunity to pitch their business ideas to company executives, perhaps earning a partnership or investment capital.
Here in Philly, however, even team members who don't succeed at building the quantified self movement's next big app will still have a chance to celebrate: After the Reebok Spartan Race Stadium Sprint wraps up on Saturday, hackers will be allowed to run the obstacle course at their own pace.
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Justin Mendelson, Hackfit 


Nominations now open for Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs' 2015 Fellowship program

In 2009, when Jeanne Mell took a position with the University City Science Center, a colleague and friend -- Victoria Burkhart of The Burkhart Group -- gave her a powerful piece of professional advice: "If you're going to be [working] in Philly, you have to join [the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs]."
Today, Mell serves as the Fellows Committee Chair for the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE), a nearly 20-year-old organization "dedicated to fostering high-growth businesses founded or led by women," according to its mission statement. It's the largest group of its kind in the Mid-Atlantic.
Along with a schedule of educational and networking events, AWE also runs the annual Building Bridges Fellowship Program. Each year, up to four female early-stage entrepreneurs are selected to participate. The fellowship includes extensive one-on-one business coaching and professional mentoring from an AWE mentor-liaison, who helps to integrate the fellow into the larger AWE community.
Nominations are now open for the 2015 Building Bridges program, which will kick off this November.   
"What we're really looking for is a fellow who is committed to her business -- that's No. 1," says Mell. "We want somebody who will participate in the coaching sessions, and take full advantage of the fellows program. And it's not right for everybody."

The current fellowship class of 2014 features three women who not only operate three very different companies, but are also at very different stages of their careers and lives.

Still, "it's really interesting to see that these women share a lot of the same challenges and experiences, regardless of what sector they're in," she muses. "And I think that's really the value of the AWE Fellows Program: being able to help these women entrepreneurs on that level."
To access nomination materials, click here.
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Jeanne Mell, AWE Fellows Committee

The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians receives $692K to establish high-skilled immigrants

The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians -- an organization that helps recent immigrants with job-placement assistance and English-language classes, among other services -- has received $692,000 from the Knight Foundation and The Barra Foundation to launch the Immigrant Professionals Career Pathways Program.
According to Welcoming Center Director of Outreach Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, the new program represents a sea change for the nonprofit, which was founded 11 years ago by a physical therapist who had immigrated to Pennsylvania from Ireland. Incredibly, it took her three full years to become professionally relicensed in the Keystone State.   
And so while The Welcoming Center was technically launched to help immigrants who have legal work authorization find jobs of any sort, "it's always been a dream of ours to not just serve people looking for their first American job," explains Bergson-Shilcock, "but people who are looking to rejoin their profession in the U.S."  
"It's one thing to get your foot in the door [as a recent immigrant] and be working for $9 or $10 an hour," she adds. "It's another thing to get your first professional job with a white collar salary."
With that philosophy in mind, The Center's new program will work not only to help immigrant professionals reestablish their industry credentials in Pennsylvania. It will also offer them a range of new services that Bergson-Shilcock likens to an a la carte menu for striving newcomers. Test-prep classes for licensing exams will probably be an option. Immigrants who need assistance having their university transcripts transferred to Pennsylvania schools will also find help through the program.
Ultimately, "[the] program is really about giving people the tools they need to fill in whatever gaps they have, so they can transition to a professional-level career," says Bergson-Shilcock. "That's the mission."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians

Partial schedule announced for November's 13th annual First Person Arts Festival

It's hard to believe, but Philadelphia's First Person Arts Festival -- a twelve-day-long theater gala known as "the only festival in the world dedicated to memoir and documentary art" -- is about to enter its thirteenth year.
The festival will run November 4 through 15 at four separate venues throughout the city; a portion of the schedule was released last week. The true-life stories shared onstage will come not just from prominent local performers, but also from a number of bold-name celebrities.
Actor Kathryn Erbe of Law and Order: Criminal Intent, for instance, will take part in an onstage reading of Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day’s Journey into Night," culminating in a frank audience discussion of themes germane to the play's content. Yowei Shaw, who produces the year-old FPA podcast, will present a live performance. The Obie Award-winning playwright Dael Orlandersmith will stage a reading of her recent memoir, and celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson will host a dinner featuring recipes from his latest cookbook.

In short, as FPA executive director Jamie Brunson puts it, "There’s no other festival out there quite like it."
When Vicki Solot founded FPA in 2000, "she saw the rising interest in memoir and documentary art as a way to foster appreciation among diverse communities for our shared experiences," explains Brunson. Throughout FPA's history, "the festival has always had [a sense of] consciousness about it," she adds.
Visit the FPA website for scheduling updates -- Brunson promises a few surprises as the festival date draws nearer -- and to purchase tickets once they become available.
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Jamie J. Brunson, First Person Arts

Replica Creative hosts early-morning lecture series with an artistic bent

In mid-May, Flying Kite brought you the story of Creative Mornings, a wildly popular breakfast lecture series that had finally launched a Philadelphia chapter. (The most recent event featured a talk by The Heads of State, a local design team.)

Now comes news that Creative Cafe at Replica, a print and design firm/coffee shop in University City, has teamed up with Young Involved Philadelphia (YIP) to offer an early-morning monthly lecture series of its own.

Known as the Creative Cafe Coffee Chats, the events run from 8 - 9 a.m. on the last Monday of each month, and feature five-minute "flash talks" from four presenters. Twenty minutes of intimate conversation follow the talks. And because attendance at each event is capped at just 15 people, the hope is that attendees will walk away with the feeling that they've genuinely learned something new.
Not unlike Creative Mornings, each Coffee Chat is organized around a specific theme. June's inaugural event, for instance, took a look at the state of the creative economy in Philadelphia, and featured speakers including CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia founder Thaddeus Squire and Erica Hawthorne of Small But Mighty Arts, a micro-grant program for early-career artists.  
According to Mike Kaiser of YIP, an all-volunteer group that works to engage young professionals locally, the emphasis of each lecture will revolve around issues and topics that are relevant to Philadelphians today.
"The hope is that this inspires new ideas or a new connection for people," he says. "And that they can leave the event feeling excited as they walk into their day."
Tickets for each Creative Cafe Coffee Chat are $6.25; they can be purchased online.
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Mike Kaiser, Young Involved Philadelphia

Get psyched for the 2014 Philadelphia Geek Awards

The nominees for the fourth annual Philadelphia Geek Awards have officially been announced -- there are 38 of them, spread across more than a dozen categories.
And at precisely 8 p.m. on the evening of August 16, the show will commence at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. Roughly 400 audience members will be introduced to some of the city's most inspirational and unusual passion projects, many of the extremely geeky sort: comic books, mobile video games, YouTube videos, and odd art and science projects, to name a few.
Come evening's end, one of three nominees will be crowned Philadelphia's Geek of the Year, an honor that in 2013 went to Dan Ueda, who ran the robotics program at Central High School .
All told, the upcoming 2014 Geek Awards are shaping up to be the ultimate celebration of an obsessive subculture that has grown exponentially.

"It isn't really a subculture anymore," says Drexel's Jill Sybesma, the event's organizer. "It's just culture."
The Geek Awards began back in 2011 when Geekadelphia co-founders Eric Smith and Tim Quirino approached Sybesma with the idea to create an award that would match their geeky site. 

"The city really didn't have anything that encompassed all its geeky projects," she recalls.

Indeed, many of this year's nominees are not bold-faced names from the science or tech scenes. The creators of an enormous Rube Goldberg machine, for instance, are up for a 2014 award, as is an artist who creates and installs fake street signs.  
"We say that it doesn't matter what you're geeky about," Sybesma explains. "Just that there's more people doing this now."
Tickets go on sale August 1 at phillygeekawards.com.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Jill Sybesma, Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

Next City launches a job listings site for the urban affairs crowd

Originally a highly-regarded print magazine for the city planning and urban issues set known as The Next American City, the Philadelphia-based publication Next City has grown its influence substantially since becoming an online-only outlet three years ago.
Today, Next City features daily coverage of international public policy, infrastructure and economic development. It also publishes Forefront, a news and analysis newsletter. And for five years Next City has produced a popular annual conference, Vanguard, which attracts young urban leaders from around the country.
In mid-June, the site’s editorial staff announced its latest project: a national job search engine, Next City Jobs, which lists open positions in the urban development and civic engagement sectors.  
"I think Next City has always informally served as a convener for people in the urban affairs field," says Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief Diana Lind. "We've decided to take on more of a role as a professional development leader within the field, so the jobs page is one step in that direction."
Though it went live just weeks ago, Next City Jobs is already displaying more than 6,600 available positions. And while many of those listings were aggregated from other sites, Lind says her staff is taking steps to increase the percentage of jobs exclusive to Next City’s portal.  
Lind also hopes to increase the diversity of positions offered.

"The idea is to reflect the cross-discipline approach that Next City has in its content," says Lind. "So you'll have everything from a job for a transportation planner to a public policy expert at a for-profit [company]. Our hope is that it'll become a site people will be looking at every single day, or every week, depending on how [seriously] they’re looking for a job."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Diana Lind, Next City


Creative Mornings, a monthly breakfast lecture series, arrives in Philadelphia

Josh Goldblum is founder and creative director of Bluecadet, a respected local design agency. He's also pretty keyed-in to the local creative community.
Recently, a couple of Goldblum's friends relocated from New York City to Philadelphia, and asked the same question: "Where's the Creative Mornings chapter here?" They were surprised to find that he didn't have an answer.
"In New York, [Creative Mornings] is a huge thing," explains Goldblum. "It's like a part of the local fabric there."
Launched in 2008 by designer Tina Roth Eisenberg, Creative Mornings is often referred to as "TED for the rest of us." More simply, it's a breakfast lecture series specifically geared towards the creative community. Each early-morning event features one speaker speaking for roughly an hour on a pre-chosen topic.
And while the events now take place monthly in nearly 70 cities worldwide, Philadelphia's chapter is brand new. Goldblum is the city's host -- he applied after fielding those inquiries from his two friends. At 8:30 a.m. on May 16, he'll be hosting Philadelphia's second Creative Mornings speaker at Drexel's URBN Center. Game designer Will Stallwood of the video game studio Cipher Prime will be riffing on the topic of freedom.
"I think he's going to be talking about creative freedom," says Goldblum, "because he has complete creative freedom himself."
Creative Mornings events are free, and as for the 8:30 a.m. call time? "Basically, the whole idea is that it's always early in the morning, so you can go and get your inspiration, and then get to work on time for your first meeting," explains Goldblum.
Sign up here to receive announcements about future events and to reserve tickets. 

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Josh Goldblum, Bluecadet

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