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From Startup to High Impact: The latest Exchange PHL Breakfast talks nonprofit innovation

On December 2, wake up with more than just coffee at the latest installment of the Exchange PHL Breakfast Series. At Wednesday's event, regional leaders in innovative social good will tackle "the Path from Startup To High Impact." 

"I think there is something that’s profoundly shifting among nonprofits and their openness to look at these possible changes in how they do business," explains Nadya K. Shmavonian, director of the newly formed Nonprofit Repositioning Fund, who will be speaking at the breakfast.

Hosted by nonprofit-centric co-working space The Exchange, located in Center City’s Friends Center, the event will shift the conversation from entrepreneurship to operations, and discuss how great programs become part of the fabric of the city, touching on sustainable revenue models, evaluation and adaptation.

"We just launched on October 7, so it’s a very new effort," Shmavonian says of the Fund. "We have been pleasantly surprised at how much interest there’s been."

The seven founding members include North Penn Community Health Foundation, Samuel S. Fels Fund, Scattergood Foundation, the Barra Foundation, the Philadelphia Foundation, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, William Penn Foundation and Arizona’s Lodestar Foundation.

The Fund targets nonprofits in transition in the greater Philadelphia area, including Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Philadelphia and Montgomery counties. Hosted and administered by the Philanthropy Network of Greater Philadelphia, seed awards and grants will support nonprofits as they explore and formalize new collaborations, joint ventures and consolidations.

In rare instances, the Fund will also help with dissolution planning for individual organizations outside of a merger or acquisition. That, along with the work of "repositioning" nonprofits, can lead to questions about the Fund’s goals.

"How do foundations work with nonprofits in a way that is not threatening?" asks Shmavonian. "Because obviously there’s a power imbalance there. This isn’t about thinning the herd. It really is about finding ways to allow a nonprofit to…deliver on their mission in a sustainable high-performance way."

That can include tweaks like merging back office realms or making an informal partnership an integral piece of an organizations’ structure, allowing the pooling of resources and best practices.

"There’s a whole array of arrangements that people are looking at that stop far short of a formal merger or acquisition," she adds.

Shmavonian is looking forward to the December 2 conversation, which will also feature Lauren Fine of the Youth Sentencing and Re-entry Project. She thinks the next several years will bring very interesting deals for regional nonprofits, and that the Fund will grow a portfolio of creative models for participating organizations.

"It’s a fast-changing environment out there," she argues. "I’m as much about shifting the culture and dynamics around this as I am the actual individual deals that we’re going to engage in." 

The latest Exchange PHL Breakfast Series is happening Wednesday, December 2 from 8:30 - 10 a.m. at 1501 Cherry Street. Attendance is free; click here to register.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Nadya K. Shmavonian, the Nonprofit Repositioning Fund

Philadelphia is America's first World Heritage City

While the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance was fighting to maintain the city's Cultural Fund budget -- which faced steep cuts for the next fiscal year -- Philly was on track to become the United States’ first World Heritage City. The designation, announced last week after a vote from the World Congress of the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) in Arequipa, Peru, went up like a firework in local news feeds.

Philly is the 267th World Heritage City, having logged one major qualification back in 1979, when Independence Hall became a World Heritage Site.

"Philadelphia is the largest and most complete fulfillment of the kind of model city envisioned by Enlightenment architects," OWHC notes on our city’s new page.

It’s an exciting first for a city already spreading its wings on the national and global stage, hosting Pope Francis in September and the Democratic National Convention in summer 2016.

Cultural Alliance president Maud Lyon is excited about the possibilities of Philly’s new distinction, but notes that our identity as a city with strong ties to the rest of the world is not a new one.

"It’s really important for us to focus on being a global city," she argues. "We have been from the very beginning, and I think it’s important for us to have that perspective. 

"I think culture is always the first ambassador that goes out for a city,” she continues, noting the success of a world tour for the Philadelphia Orchestra in the past year. "Those concert halls were packed everywhere the Orchestra went."

It’s a good time to be getting our world-class cultural offerings out there because according to a Global Philadelphia study cited in the Inquirer, the city could be looking at a significant tourism boost: a one to two percent increase in domestic visitors (generating an economic impact of up to $200 million), and a rise in foreign visitors that could reach 15 percent, or the addition of up to 100,000 tourists annually.

Lyon is excited by the possibilities of more visitors from overseas, particularly a growing population of middle class travelers from throughout Asia, especially China and India.

"I think that we will in the next ten years be seeing more people coming from that part of the world who want to tour Philadelphia, and we absolutely want to be a destination for them," she adds.

The next ten years will be important ones for America, too, as the 250th anniversary of the country's independence approaches.

Culture is "the most approachable and welcoming and inclusive way of being an ambassador [for a] city," says Lyon, and the influx of international visitors -- and hopefully more collaborations between foreign artists and Philly institutions -- will be "the kind of cross-fertilization that you need between cultures.”

From Philly’s history as the United States’ birthplace to our musical tradition to our scientific and educational institutions, our city has plenty to offer. In considering the World Heritage designation, Lyon says we need to take pride not only in the international visitors we attract, but in the longtime diversity of our home. It’s not just about honoring the framers of the Constitution.

"Certainly the diversity of ethnic heritage that’s part of this city and this region is very rich and very important to who we are," she explains. "It’s important for us to remember that and to really own being a global city."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Maud Lyon, the Cultural Alliance of Greater Philadelphia

New manager at Germantown United CDC has all the neighborhood news

Emaleigh Doley, a longtime community activist, has a new hat: she's one of two full-time employees at Germantown United CDC (along with executive director Andy Trackman). Thanks to support from the Philadelphia Department of Commerce, she started in late August as the nonprofit’s corridor manager, and is now nurturing and managing a slew of projects at the upstart community development corporation.

These include the latest round of GUDCD's Fund for Germantown grantees, who receive micro-grants for "community-driven beautification projects" in the neighborhood; those winners were announced October 1. The dollars come via local real estate developers Ken Weinstein and Howard Treatman, and have supported 17 initiatives (with amounts ranging from $100 to $1,000) since the program’s inception.

The latest grantees include photographer Tieshka Smith for her "Peaceful Places" public signage project, Maplewood Mall’s iMPeRFeCT Gallery, which will be installing an interactive sidewalk mural, and Susan Guggenheim’s Freedom Gardens, which connects local gardeners eager to share crops with those looking for homegrown produce. Other grantees include the Germantown elementary school Fitler Academics Plus, the West Central Germantown Neighbors, Men Who Care of Germantown and the East Germantown's Chew-Belfield Neighbors Club.

According to Doley, the Germantown Artists Roundtable, a previous grantee, stands out as a successful example of what the funds can do. The group recently mounted a display of information on current arts and culture events outside the Chelten Avenue train station, and plans to keep it updated as a community resource for happenings around town.

"We’re starting to see how that could be a really attractive feature in other areas of Germantown," she explains. "We’re learning from the project ideas that are coming through, and thinking about how we might like to build initiatives around some of them."

Applications for the next round of Fund for Germantown grants are due December 31, 2015.

Also looming large on GUCDC’s horizon is a new website for the neighborhood featuring a business directory. Doley notes that while Historic Germantown does a good job of providing online information about the area’s historic sites, residents and visitors alike often aren’t aware of other amenities, from parks and public spaces to hardware stores and restaurants. She hopes the new website will remedy that.

GUCDC is working with P’unk Avenue to develop the site. Input is being gathered via interviews and workshops with community leaders, residents and business owners. The site is on track to launch in early 2016.

Other projects for the commercial corridor in Germantown include the installation of new security cameras and a storefront activation initiative in partnership with local artists. Check back with Flying Kite as we keep up with the latest in our former On the Ground home.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Emaleigh Doley, Germantown United Community Development Corporation


On the Ground: One city block yields almost 6,000 pounds of produce

When Flying Kite moved into our new On the Ground digs in Parkside, we didn’t know how close we were to Neighborhood Foods Farm, one of the city’s most productive urban farms.
Operating under the umbrella of Philly’s Urban Tree Connection (UTC) and its Neighborhood Foods program, the site at 53rd and Wyalusing is the size of one city block, or about three-quarters of an acre.
Rachel deVitry, agricultural director at UTC, has overseen the farm since spring 2014, but it got started around 2010, when local block captains approached UTC founder and executive director Skip Wiener about the space.
"It used to be a parking lot with a factory across the street," recalls deVitry. "Ownership of the lot just lapsed and it became a chop shop," and a hub for drugs and prostitution. The block captains invited Wiener to take a look, and plans for the farm got underway, beginning with a major clean-out of the accumulated garbage. Then came the break-up of the cement that covered most of the site, and the application of thick layers of leaf mulch and mushroom soil.
These days, the farm yields rotation crops such as lettuces, arugula, kale, collards and chard, along with radishes, carrots, beets, cucumbers, squash and heirloom tomatoes.

Neighborhood Foods also operates three other urban farms in the neighborhood -- one adjacent to the First African Presbyterian Church at 4159 West Girard, another next to Ward AME Church at 43rd and Aspen, and a new four-acre site on Merion Avenue near Girard.
Though not the largest, the 53rd Street farm is the most productive site -- so far this season they've harvested 5,850 pounds of produce.
Some of that goes to neighbors who volunteer a few hours per week in exchange for fresh vegetables, and some goes to the Saturday Neighborhood Foods Farm farmers' market, which runs on the site from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. May through November. (The market also features produce like fruit and potatoes purchased from other local growers.)
The farm operates with the help of two full-time and two part-time staffers, as well as neighborhood volunteers and young apprentices hired after successful runs in after-school programs.
The farm stays open in the winter months thanks to "high tunnels," unheated structures that keep plants such as cold-friendly kale, collards and lettuce from freezing.

"We did grow through most of the winter last year," says deVitry. "And [we] hope to grow through the whole of the winter this year."
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Rachel DeVitry, Urban Tree Connection 

Follow all our work #OnTheGroundPhilly via twitter (@flyingkitemedia) and Instagram (@flyingkite_ontheground).

On the Ground is made possible by the Knight Foundation, an organization that supports transformational ideas, promotes quality journalism, advances media innovation, engages communities and fosters the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit knightfoundation.org.

Making great food products while combating poverty in southeastern Pennsylvania

Lancaster entrepreneur Charlie Crystle, whose food products are finding an enthusiastic audience in Greater Philadelphia, has a specific philosophy on the trouble with America’s economy.

According to the Lancaster Food Company CEO, what we need is "an effort to make jobs that meet people where they are, rather than where we want them to be." Politicians and civic leaders talk a lot about job training, but especially in a city like Lancaster -- which has a 30 percent poverty rate -- this falls short. Focusing on job training programs rather than immediately accessible jobs "continues to push the responsibility for unemployment onto the unemployed…if we don’t do something to meet them halfway, or all the way, [they] will never have decent employment," he argues.

Hiring people in poverty with a good living wage is a part of his company's mission. Crystle founded the company alongside his childhood friend Craig Lauer, who serves as chief product officer, in 2014. After launching and then exiting two software startups, living coast-to-coast and working in Central America with a program for street kids, Crystle felt a strong desire to create a company at home with a social as well as an economic impact.

Lancaster Food Company specializes in organic and sustainably sourced breads, spreads, salsas and jams, including sandwich rye and cinnamon raisin swirl bread, sunflower seed spreads, and limited-edition small-batch toppings from locally grown ingredients such as golden orange tomato salsa and organic strawberry jam. A Lancaster Heritage Grain bread is also on the way this fall.

While their products are handmade, Crystle insists Lancaster Food Company is already a scalable business -- their target market ranges from Washington, D.C., to the New York metro area, with a large presence in Philly. Currently, you can find their products at Mariposa and Weavers Way food co-ops, Reading Terminal Market, area Shop-Rites and the Lancaster Farm Fresh CSA. They just closed an exciting deal with five Wegman’s stores in Southeastern PA, and have their sights set on Whole Foods; look for their products on the shelves of a location in Wayne soon.

That increased reach means more room to advance the company’s social philosophy: hiring people in poverty struggling to find jobs. The company was launched with "a demand for jobs that require relatively low skills, and could meet people where they are in terms of their education, work history or legal background," explains Crystle, something that was difficult to achieve with his prior work in tech startups. "We’re trying to scale so that we can hire hundreds of people, not dozens."

He’s also adamant about the value of supporting local businesses and enjoys being able to tap into the vibrant agriculture of the Lancaster area.

"Every dollar that we spend locally has…three times the impact on our local economy" as money spent on goods from corporations in faraway states, he explains. That adds up to a business as committed to combating poverty as it is to pleasing customers.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Charlie Crystle, Lancaster Food Company


Community funding propels G-Town Radio from the internet to the airwaves

G-Town Radio station manager Jim Bear says that though it might not yet be visible to the public, big changes are underway for Germantown’s Internet radio station, which at its highest listenership has over 15,000 people tuning in worldwide.

The major news broke in January, when the station got its permit from the FCC to become a Low Power FM radio station -- new federal legislation gave non-commercial neighborhood groups access to low-power airwaves previously denied them in favor of major broadcasting frequencies.

"To serve the community as best we can, being on the radio allows us to do that much better than we can online,” explains Bear who is still "a big believer" in Internet radio. "I love the medium. I love what you can do with it, but at the same time, there are real limitations to who you can expect to reach. I think that would be true anywhere, but I think it’s even more evident in a community like Germantown."

In many neighborhoods, the digital divide is still very real. Unlike Internet access, which can be costly and require certain skills to tune in, radio is still a ubiquitous and easily accessible medium, free for everyone with a car or a radio in the home. (The station will continue to broadcast online as well.)

With an existing studio and programming, G-town Radio (which will share airtime with Germantown United CDC and Germantown Life Enrichment Center) is ahead of some nascent LPFM stations who must build their presence from the ground up.

Right now, Bear is looking into locations and lease agreements with local property owners who might be able to host a radio antenna on the roof. The studio space itself won’t require much additional equipment: the primary expense of shifting to LPFM will be that new transmission equipment, including the gear that beams the audio from the studio to the tower.

To that end, G-Town Radio has launched a "Drive for the Sky" crowdfunding campaign through Indiegogo, hoping to raise $5,000 by October 3. That will cover the initial costs of equipment and installation, and possibly the first few months of rent for the antenna location.

"We want to make sure we get to the air… [and] demonstrate our worth, and hopefully when we’re doing that, people will recognize the value of community radio, and give us access to a larger pool of donors and supporters and listeners," enthuses Bear.

He hopes the new G-town Radio signal -- available at 92.9 FM -- will hit the airwaves as soon as possible: They’re on an FCC-administered deadline requiring completion of LPFM construction within 18 months of receiving the permit, which means launching by next summer at the latest. The signal is expected to reach what Bear calls "greater Northwest Philadelphia," including Germantown, East Falls, Nicetown, Mt. Airy and West Oak Lane. (Depending on location and the density of area buildings, LPFM signals typically have a three to five mile radius.)

"A lot of it’s behind the scenes so there’s not much to see," says Bear of the LPFM progress so far, "but we’re actively working on it and we’re still moving forward."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Jim Bear, G-Town Radio

Meet A Poet Art Gallery, On the Groundís host in Parkside

On August 11, Flying Kite announced the official relaunch of On the Ground, and we’re already enjoying the hospitality of our home for the next three months, Girard Avenue's A Poet Art Gallery.

The gallery, founded in late 2010, was originally located at 4510 Walnut Street before moving to 40th and Girard in Parkside. The three founders, Rachelle Pierre-Louis, Shar Coles and New York-based Tina Albright recently chatted with Flying Kite about their history and mission.

"We just wanted to create a space for artists to basically have a home," explains Pierre-Louis.

Events at the Girard Avenue space include weekly (every Tuesday night) and monthly ("Sounds in the Gallery" every first Saturday) open mic events for poetry and music, plus art exhibitions, African dance classes and, coming soon, painting classes. The gallery is also available to rent for a variety of events, including weddings.

The three women's artistic backgrounds are about as diverse as they come. The Haitian-born Pierre-Louis came to the U.S. when she was 11, first settling with family in Los Angeles for a year, then relocating to Philly where she completed the rest of her education, including a graphic design degree.

"I’ve been drawing since I was six years old," she says; Pierre-Louis now works in acrylics and oils, as well as tattoo art.

Coles, an alum of University City High School, is a Philadelphia native who grew up in South and West Philly. She loves all kinds of art and describes herself as "an inside poet" because she enjoys putting words together, but doesn’t always share them in public.

Albright is an interior designer and art-decal maker, but she also shares carpentry skills with Coles. Her artistic expertise extends into the culinary realm: She creates custom cakes in a variety of shapes including handbags and shoes.

"We pretty much all had a hand in building the gallery," recalls Albright.

The three put even more work into their Girard Avenue space than the Walnut Street one -- they raised the ceiling, laid down new floors, and designed and created the bathrooms. The location even boasts a backyard.

The women admire the better-known gallery corridors of Old City, but saw no reason not to bring the same caliber of art and community-building to West Philly. According to Pierre-Louis, they have a broad client base across the city, but want to connect more closely with their nearest neighbors. When she got wind of On the Ground, it sounded like the perfect "missing piece" of their mission for the gallery.

"We’ve been trying to get in touch and pool a little bit more of the community and we haven’t had that chance," she continues; the Flying Kite connection was the right thing at the right time. "We want people to come out and appreciate art and see something different…and decide to pick up some paint and write some poetry, and we want to inspire people and be in our home base, which is West Philly."

The address is 4032 Girard Avenue, and Flying Kite will be in residence there every Monday and Tuesday, 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. through October.

"We’re always looking for artists," adds Pierre-Louis. "The door is always open."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Rachelle Pierre-Louis, Shar Coles, and Tina Albright, APoetArtGallery 


An urban farm sprouts in Chinatown thanks to Grow Where You Live

Meei Ling Ng, a Singapore-born, Philly-based artist, designer and urban farmer, has taken on a multifaceted project in Chinatown North. The initiative features a vertical urban farm, a job-skills program for people in recovery from addiction or homelessness, and a new fount of fresh food for the partnering Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission.

The impetus for Ng's new project grew out of Grow Where You Live, her year-long Social Practice Lab residency at the Asian Arts Initiative. It was supposed to wrap up in June, but the current urban garden project has proven so successful that Ng's Asian Arts residency has been extended at least until the end of this year.

"Ideally I was looking for a vacant lot around the neighborhood," says Ng of a long search for an appropriate urban farm space and partner organization. Such a space -- open to the work of an artist and farmer -- was hard to find, partly because of recent gentrification in the area.

A tour of the Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission late last year proved extremely propitious: Ng learned that the organization, which provides a range of vital services to the city’s homeless, was in the process of a parking lot space swap with their neighbors to the west, Roman Catholic High School.

The switch would leave a large space along Sunday Breakfast’s kitchen wall -- about 20 feet wide and 100 feet long -- empty of cars by law.

"This is amazing. This is exactly what we want," Ng recalls thinking on seeing the space; she envisioned a specially designed and built vertical urban farm. "We can use a whole big empty wall with asphalt under…this could be an awesome, awesome project."

The artist spent a month on a meticulous rendering of her idea, then pitched it to Sunday Breakfast. The project became reality through support and donations from Asian Arts, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Philadelphia Orchard Project, City Harvest and South Philly’s Urban Jungle, a landscape design firm.

Since then, the little farm has provided pounds of produce that go directly into meals served at Sunday Breakfast.

The partnership also has a human component: The farm runs with help from workers at Overcomers, an intensive 16-month program for men in recovery from addiction and homelessness. They reap a wealth of skills -- not only the ability to grow their own healthy food in an urban setting, but practical job training in a rapidly growing industry. The formal part of the Overcomers project is finished, but a few participants have stayed on as official apprentices and volunteers.

"This is very exciting that we have a team now to work on the farm," says Ng, adding that she has high hopes the project will continue in future summers.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Meei Ling Ng, Asian Arts Initiative

A major merger supports big plans in Fairmount Park

Big news keeps coming out of Fairmount Park: On April 21, the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the Fairmount Park Historic Preservation Trust, the two nonprofits that support the city's park system, formally announced their merger.

The Conservancy, founded as the Fairmount Park Foundation in 1997, began primarily as a fundraising agent for the park, but in the last few years, the organization has partnered with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to branch into many aspects of planning, project management and outreach. It’s now also helming the recently-announced Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative.

The Trust, a public/private venture launched in 1992, focuses on professional preservation services to nonprofits and City agencies, managing historic buildings, public art and "cultural landscapes."

The new combined organization -- boasting the name Fairmount Park Conservancy -- isn’t shedding any jobs on either side; it will employ a combined staff of 16 and have an annual operating budget of about $2 million. Former Conservancy Executive Director Kathryn Ott Lovell will continue in that role while former Trust Executive Director Lucy Strackhouse has transitioned into the title of senior director of preservation and project management. 

Bringing the two groups together was a long process.

"We started talking about merging in 2007," recalls Strackhouse. A lot of meetings took place, but "then 2008 happened," and city-wide financial pressures caused by the recession led the organizations to table the talks until 2010.

But once the discussion was back on track -- with the help of pro bono legal services from Pepper Hamilton -- the boards reached a memorandum of understanding in mid-2014, with official notice of the merger reaching both offices at the end of the year.

While the January merger was no secret, the delay of a formal public announcement until late April had to do with getting the new organization’s branding and website up to speed.

"What we’re really going to be looking at is not just preserving these resources for history’s sake, but really thinking about how the historic properties are activated in new ways," says Lovell. "What you’ll see from our combined entities are some really exciting announcements about historic properties reimagined."

Between PennPraxis' plan The New Fairmount Park, the Civic Commons, and other initiatives, "City government can’t manage on their own," says Lovell of the Conservancy’s increasingly important role in Fairmount Park stewardship.

These plans encompass the natural, historical and cultural assets of the park, she adds, "reinforcing the fact that the merger is a really positive thing for both organizations, but ultimately for the park."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Kathryn Ott Lovell and Lucy Strackhouse, the Fairmount Park Conservancy

Community College of Philadelphia makes tuition free for eligible students

Earlier this month, Community College of Philadelphia announced its 50th Anniversary Scholarship program -- the school is offering associate's degrees at no cost to eligible Philadelphia high school graduates. And that was only the beginning of the good news.

On April 16, word came down that Philly native and Community College of Philadelphia graduate Deesha Dyer has been named White House Social Secretary. According to a statement from the White House, before starting as an intern in 2009, Dyer worked for the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust for nine years; she also worked as a freelance journalist from 2003 through 2010. Dyer returned to college at age 29 to get an associate’s degree in Women’s Studies.

"It really is great news," says Greg Murphy, vice president for institutional advancement and executive director of the Community College of Philadelphia Foundation. The national limelight seems perfectly timed to shine a light on the school's new program, which jump-starts a college education for motivated local students who might not otherwise be able to afford it.

"Basically, it’s meant to eliminate barriers," he explains, adding that these are "last dollar scholarships." That means eligible students file a FAFSA and those dollars get added to any state help available (including Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance) and funds from applicable grant programs. But if there’s still a gap in the tuition owed, Community College of Philadelphia can now step in with a scholarship to cover those costs, putting an associate’s degree within reach for the cost of the textbooks.

The program covers any Pell-eligible 2015 graduate of a Philadelphia high school who wants to enroll this fall. They must satisfy the college-level academic placement requirement and be enrolled full-time (at least 12 credits per semester) in a degree program of study.

The scholarship, which the students will apply for annually along with their FAFSA, is good for up to three years or through the completion of an associate’s degree, whichever comes first. To remain eligible for the dollars, students will need to maintain a 2.5 cumulative GPA at the end of each year and meet a few other requirements, including at least one campus or community-based extra-curricular activity.

"The idea is you really want to fund students who are making progress," insists Murphy. "All of that contributes to a student who is eager and ready to enter the workforce or further their education. It’s truly part of what the city wants. The city is looking at a future where they need many workers with higher-level skills, and so we are trying to match what the city needs in terms of creating skilled workers."

The college's 50th Anniversary Scholarship dollars are philanthropic not public. According to a statement, the program is projected to cost $200,000 in year one, $300,000 the following year and $350,000 in year three.

"I don’t think anything before has excited the Foundation board to raise money as much as this has," adds Murphy. "They’re really inspired by this scholarship and what it can do for the City of Philadelphia."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Greg Murphy, the Community College of Philadelphia


Update: Lancaster Avenue's Neighborhood Time Exchange makes a difference

Winnipeg native and Montreal resident Kandis Friesen loved the two months she spent in Philly this year as part of Lancaster Avenue's Neighborhood Time Exchange (NTE) residency, which offers studio space and a stipend for hours of service the artists contribute to community-based projects.

The intitative, continuing with multiple artist cycles until the fall, is a partnership of the Mural Arts Program, the Ontario-based Broken City Lab and the People's Emergency Center.

An interdisciplinary artist who works with media including sound and video, Friesen, in her mid-30s, has been working as an artist only for the last five years or so.

"Before that, I was doing social justice-based and community-based work," she explains. "I’ve always seen it as part of my life, whether I’m making art or working a different job."

During her NTE stint (which ran from February 1 through April 1), she offered some of those project-manager skills to her peers: negotiating time, projects and space. In a program connecting residency artists to community service requests, that meant "working with really diverse groups of people who might have really different ideas, or similar ideas but…really different personalities," she explains.

Her own contribution to the neighborhood had many facets. She worked with the New Africa Center on a walking tour of Black History in West Philly, focusing on the saga of the self-identified Black Bottom Tribe, a thriving 19th-century African-American community living where University City stands today. The Tribe suffered forcible evictions under city development plans and university expansions in the early 1900s, alongside redlining laws that made it nearly impossible for African Americans to obtain mortgages.

This especially touched on Friesen’s interest in archives and memorials -- and how they’re made and maintained.

She also did a lot of work for the Artistic and Cultural Enrichment (ACE) Program at Martha Washington Elementary School.
ACE instructor Hope McDowell had written a script called More Than Martin, and enlisted Friesen to help her shoot and edit it. In the film, now available online, Martin Luther King, Jr. comes back to say, as Friesen explains, "I’ve been carrying Black History for myself for too long…I would like to introduce you to all these other people in African-American history, and you also might make history."

"It’s a great film, in line with my own practice as well," enthuses the artist. "People being able to tell their own histories."

She also led a variety of arts workshops for Martha Washington students, and collaborated with her fellow NTE artists on other projects, including time with the Earthship Philadelphia project and the New Bethlehem Baptist Church.

"We all helped each other in different ways, and that was also really nice to have a collaborative environment for our community work," she adds. "I think the strength of this residency was that it really was an infrastructure created." The artist residents didn’t operate on any assumptions about what they were bringing to the neighborhood: instead, they listened to hear what needed to be done, to "reinforce or connect what is already happening."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Kandis Friesen, Neighborhood Time Exchange


A North Philly grant leaves no excuse for litter

Earlier this year, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful (KPB) announced a new micro-grant program to help local community organizations boost safety, walkability and commerce through resident-led clean-up programs. The first round of grantees included the North 5th Street Revitalization Project, which received $1000. The dollars are already going a long way on a range of initiatives.

The North 5th Street Revitalization Project has been operating since 2008 with funding from the Commerce Department. While their umbrella organization is the Korean Community Development Services Center, they have their own branding and offices.

The initiative's service area covers about a mile and a half of the Olney neighborhood: It runs from Roosevelt Boulevard to Spencer Street, and then a block on each side of N. 5th Street. The organization runs a sidewalk cleaning program (including two staffers who work five days a week to keep litter off the streets), removes "bandit signs," logs and repairs dozens of 311 issues each month and leads neighborhood cleanups, like April 11's city-wide Philly Spring Cleanup Day, which drew about sixty neighbors to volunteer.

The Project also focuses on public safety, holding twice-yearly meetings with police representatives and local merchants to discuss issues of crime and security, and helping participating businesses install security cameras through a dedicated city program. And it provides a wide range of business assistance, from helping locals get business permits or apply for eligible grant programs, to facilitating a business association and offering financing help.

"We have 340 active businesses on North 5th Street," says Program Director Philip Green. Most of them are small "mom and pop" stores, and many are "immigrant-owned and operated, so it’s really hard for them to obtain traditional bank loans."

Finally, the Project promotes the corridor in general through events such as open mic nights, community clean-ups and seasonal programming.

The KPB dollars funded a fun DIY photo-shoot for Philly Spring Cleanup Day volunteers, which the organization will share throughout the coming year, keeping the spirit of the clean-up alive and reminding people that maintaining the neighborhood is a year-round activity.

Leftover dollars will go to projects such as revamping the Project’s existing brochure on responsible homeownership and neighborhood maintenance, and translating it into multiple languages for Olney’s diverse community. Green also hopes the money will help buy more "Keep 5th Clean" tee-shirts -- like the ones teen clean-up crew captains wore on April 11 -- as well as decals for neighborhood recycling bins.

"Community clean-ups aren’t really about the trash ending up in a trash bag and going away to the dump," explains Green. "It’s really about the message that community residents cleaning up sends to other people."

Teenagers working in festive matching shirts are particularly motivating, he hopes.

"People will see that and realize that they have absolutely no excuse to litter, and no excuse not to take pride in their neighborhood."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Philip Green, North 5th Street Revitalization Project


New GSK dollars at the Food Trust will boost youth health and wellness citywide

A $5 million GSK IMPACT Grant to a Philadelphia collective led by The Food Trust will allow the local food and health access leader to significantly expand its existing HYPE (Healthy You, Positive Energy) program to reach 50,000 kids over the next three years.

The dollars, administered through the Philadelphia Foundation, are going to boost programs at nine partner organizations citywide, with a special focus on North Philadelphia. The new collective’s work will be known as Get HYPE Philly!
HYPE has already been working with local kids in about 100 different schools over the last several years, explains Food Trust executive director Yael Lehmann.

"It’s going to build on this existing program," she says. "And at the same time we’re going to be working with all these other groups," who will also be expanding their own work. 

The Get HYPE collective includes Guild House West’s Greener Partners, East Park Revitalization Alliance’s Common Market, The Village of Arts and Humanities, and the Garden Education Program of Norris Square Neighborhood Project. Also partnering under the Food Trust umbrella are the Free Library’s Culinary Literacy Center (and branch-based teen mentoring program), The Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA, The Philadelphia Youth Network, The Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation and Equal Measure, which will help evaluate the Get HYPE programming’s impact throughout the grant’s three-year span.

Some of these organizations will focus on urban farming, nutrition, literacy through food-based activities, and exercise; others will build on different aspects of overall health such as workforce development and entrepreneurship.

"This is really going to strengthen the networking between all of our agencies," insists Lehmann. "It’s going to have this awesome ripple effect throughout the city."

Lehmann is particularly excited about the new youth advisory board the grant will create, which will consist of about fifteen to twenty teens from around the city. They will be able to direct mini-grants of up to $2,000 (or a total of $70,000 per year for the life of the program) to student-led initiatives focused on things such as exercise, urban agriculture and healthy food donations.

"It’s not just window-dressing. They’re going to have some work to do," Lehmann says of the students who will be involved (their selection process is still TBD).

The grant’s allowance for evaluating the programs is also important, she insists, "to be able to tell the story, and look at how this is impacting kids in Philly, and help us adjust as needed."

And she hopes Get HYPE Philly! will continue far beyond the initial three-year roll-out.

“From day one, all the collective partners and the Food Trust will be thinking about how to sustain this beyond the grant," she says. "We see this as a long-term project."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Yael Lehmann, The Food Trust


PlanPhilly finds a new home at WHYY's NewsWorks

Ever since its launch in 2006 as a project of University of Pennsylvania’s PennPraxis design school, PlanPhilly has been in a fortunate yet challenging funding situation. Now, with a new home at WHYY's NewsWorks, the publication is looking at some exciting new horizons.
In itself, PlanPhilly is "not an entity," explains manager Matt Golas, a veteran journalist and former Metro editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The publication features in-depth reporting on the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, zoning code battles, and all aspects of the Philly's built environment, from transportation to historic preservation to casinos and the Delaware Waterfront.
"We're a project of something else that’s a 501 (c) 3, so the idea of bringing money in was unbelievably complex," says Golas. "We were very reliant on foundations."
Though PlanPhilly had the good fortune of funding from the William Penn Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation (which is making the current move possible), and the Knight Foundation, it had long wanted to expand and diversify its financial footing. And with increasing readership -- up to 150,000 pageviews per month -- that shift is warranted.
Their new home will help them achieve this goal. Golas will transition into the new title of project editor at NewsWorks, while maintaining a "non-fiduciary relationship" with Penn -- the university is supportive of the move and will continue to help PlanPhilly get the scoop. (The site's reporters and editors will become independent contractors at WHYY.)
"They’re fundraising experts," says Golas of WHYY. "It has way more potential for us to generate some revenue and work toward being more sustainable."
With longterm financial stability, Golas hopes PlanPhilly will be able to expand their coverage in the Northeast and other outlying areas of the suburbs such as Conshohocken, Cherry Hill and King of Prussia. They want to produce a record of more zoning and development meetings, and also to begin to master the world of podcasts and radio segments.
And the benefits aren’t just for PlanPhilly: WHYY’s NewsWorks, a longtime content partner, will get a boost as well.

"We have some unique areas of coverage and unique people doing it," explains Golas. Examples include their in-depth coverage of zoning issues, their attention to the Land Bank, and stories about transportation geared towards the user experience. Since so many people listen to WHYY in their cars or while riding on SEPTA, it’s a perfect fit.

In the future, the PlanPhilly site may merge with the NewsWorks site, but for now, they're staying put. While PlanPhilly reporters will work out of WHYY headquarters when they’re not out on their beats, "you’re going to able to find PlanPhilly the same way you find it now," insists Golas.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Matt Golas, PlanPhilly

Alaina Mabaso is also a freelance contributor at WHYY’s NewsWorks. 

Rad Dish is Temple's new sustainable student food co-op

Temple University junior Lauren Troop started out as an environmental studies major, but when she became part of a bold new food co-op business plan with her fellow students, she found the perfect convergence of her interests, and switched to studying entrepreneurship.

The concept for Rad Dish, which opened on February 5 in a former Sodexo café space in Ritter Hall, grew out of a student research project completed a few years ago. The idea failed to move forward once the original thinkers graduated.

But then founding Rad Dish co-op members got hold of the idea, and began working in fall 2013 to make the space a reality. The group met under the auspices and mentorship of Temple’s Office of Sustainability, with participation from campus organizations such as Students for Environmental Action, Temple Community Garden and Net Impact, the university’s sustainable business club.

The team started meeting once a week with help from a three-credit independent study course that allowed them to devote the necessary number of hours to getting the co-op café off the ground. Meetings with West Philly’s Mariposa food co-op, as well as other student groups, including one from the University of Maryland, helped them clarify their vision.

"Our mission was really to provide affordable locally and ethically sourced fresh food to our Temple community," explains Troop, a Lancaster native. "We do that by sourcing everything within 150 miles."

Items like tea and coffee and certain spices, which the co-op can’t get locally, are sourced through a major organic and fair-trade supplier. 

Rad Dish opened its doors with the help of one year of free rent from Temple and $30,000 in seed money from the Office of Sustainability to help cover the first round of inventory and salaries for workers.

The space is a café now, but Rad Dish organizers hope to expand into more of a grocery model as they gain experience and more local, seasonal produce becomes available. In the meantime, the space already has its own appealing vibe, with floor-to-ceiling windows and art on the walls.

The community has already started to embrace the idea. Someone donated a bike-powered blender, and then a record-payer.

"People have just started to bring in random stuff that made it a unique space to hang out in," says Troop.

Prospects for the co-op’s future are good, she adds: a large crop of sophomores are just now stepping into leadership roles, replacing graduating founders.

"My favorite part about the project is how we’ve incorporated so many fields of study and so many people with different majors," insists Troops. "There are people from our business school, arts school, communications, engineering, and people who just love food."

Rad Dish is now open from 10 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday in Ritter Hall, on the corner of Montgomery Avenue and 13th Street.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source, Lauren Troop, Rad Dish
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