We Asked Local Leaders: "What Do You Hope to See in Social Impact This Year?" - Generocity Philly

Feb. 20, 2014 12:50 pm

We Asked Local Leaders: “What Do You Hope to See in Social Impact This Year?”

If we could peer into the future of Philadelphia, what would you hope to see? A bike network that spans the city, thriving public schools, fewer vacant lots and abandoned homes? Now what do you think will actually happen in the next year? We asked various leaders in the Philadelphia community these very questions to provide […]

post-it2If we could peer into the future of Philadelphia, what would you hope to see? A bike network that spans the city, thriving public schools, fewer vacant lots and abandoned homes?

Now what do you think will actually happen in the next year? We asked various leaders in the Philadelphia community these very questions to provide us with an insight into their work and projects over the course of the next year.

Many of the responses are interrelated and overlapping: collaboration, collective impact, social entrepreneurship, and partnerships are themes that come up again and again.


John A. Fry | President of Drexel University 

John-FryI’m hopeful that the White House and HUD [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] will quickly lay out their agenda for supporting the inaugural Promise Zones. Drexel helped build the base of action that qualified Mantua and the surrounding area for inclusion and this should be a transformational moment for those neighborhoods.

We’re ready to help community leaders develop a revitalization strategy, in close partnership with the federal government and the private sector.

I think we’ll see the city’s anchor institutions partnering with the leading social entrepreneurs in our neighborhoods, like we do with business entrepreneurs in our economic development role. Universities, medical centers and cultural institutions have the opportunity and responsibility to catalyze innovation in meeting social challenges — that’s the goal behind, for example, Drexel’s Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships.

John A. Fry has served as Drexel University’s president since 2010 and has set out to transform Drexel into what he calls a “modern urban university of the future.” In his time at Drexel he has helped bring major neighborhood initiatives to the area such as the PECO-Drexel Education Collaborative, the Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation and the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships.

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Dan-Fitzpatrick-Daniel K. Fitzpatrick |
Chairman of the The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce

Philadelphia has always been a community filled with partnerships and innovation, and recently the city has built a burgeoning tech hub. The beauty of this opportunity is that it is complementary and additive to our core regional strengths in higher education and life sciences, our “Eds and Meds” economy. If we leverage that expertise and continue to graduate and retain more engineers and research scientists, this will be additive to our core strength as well as our emerging opportunities in energy, chemicals and advanced manufacturing. Living in the city of Philadelphia is conducive to the environment that these young creative scientists prefer. Case in point, suburban based engineering firms are now opening offices in the city of Philadelphia in order to attract more quality engineers to their firms.

Social innovation involves improving the welfare of individuals and communities through human services, employment, inclusion and solutions for community problems. Growing Communities, a Citizens Bank-Drexel University partnership, is an example of place-based, focused support which provides financial education and workforce development solutions to the residents of Mantua at the Dornsife Community Center. This initiative provides a significant foundation for President Obama’s Promise Zone which will bring even deeper support for the Mantua community in 2014.

Daniel K. Fitzpatrick has been Chairman of Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce since October 2012 and is the president and CEO of Citizens Bank and RBS Citizens for PA, NJ and DE. Known for his involvement in the Greater Philadephia region, Fitzpatrick also serves chairman of the CEO Ambassadors for 21st Century Skills and serves on the board of directors at the Urban Affairs Coalition.


Pamela Bridgeforth | Director of Programs, Philadelphia Association of CDCs

In the community development sector, there is a growing and vibrant proliferation of comprehensive approaches to addressing on-the-ground neighborhood needs as evidenced by community development entities being engaged in a range of innovative programs ranging from cultural tourism, greening, fresh food access, education and health and wellness. Entrepreneurs with a commitment to social benefit are linking up with these groups and doing some extraordinary things as evidenced by the influx of new businesses that are both earning real money and building strong communities throughout the city. We know this will continue to grow as more new small businesses emerge and flourish.

The challenge this year and beyond is how we harness this exciting new level of investment and neighborhood-based capital building so that long-time residents and business owners as well as newcomers get to share in the collective rising of our economic boat.

Growing community need for services and an escalation in the sheer numbers of innovative social business folk will see more small businesses emerge — but capitalization for startup and day-to-day operations will be increasingly difficult to access.

I think we will see a number of neighborhood based second economies emerge because of this: bartered, shared services, a graphic designer swapping services with the local internet café, the local baker swapping with the jewelry maker, and a local family swapping with all of these in exchange for volunteer sidewalk clean ups, etc.

Community development corporations are uniquely poised to help facilitate a lot of this work through their deep connections to both local residents and small businesses. As such, CDCs will be more looked to than ever as crucial points of contact in social impact business building. This is an exciting time to be in the city.

Pamela Bridgeforth joined the PACDC in 2007 and is currently the director of programs, where she develops and oversees a range of services and learning opportunities for small and large neighborhood revitalization agencies. Bridgeforth has 20 years of leadership experience in nonprofit cultural arts management.

notepad Notepad

The Five Conditions of Collective Success, as defined by the Foundation Strategy Group:

  1. Common Agenda: All participants have a shared vision for change including a common understanding of the problem and a joint approach to solving it through agreed upon actions
  2. Shared Measurement: Collecting data and measuring results consistently across all participants ensures efforts remain aligned and participants hold each other accountable
  3. Mutually Reinforcing Activities: Participant activities must be differentiated while still being coordinated through a mutually reinforcing plan of action
  4. Continuous Communication: Consistent and open communication is needed across the many players to build trust, assure mutual objectives, and appreciate common motivation
  5. Backbone Organization: Creating and managing collective impact requires a separate organization(s) with staff and a specific set of skills to serve as the backbone for the entire initiative and coordinate participating organizations and agencies

Diane-Cornman-LevyDiane Cornman-Levy | Executive Director, Federation of Neighborhood Centers

I expect that the nonprofit sector will continue to use an isolated impact approach that is oriented toward finding and funding a solution embodied within a single organization, combined with the hope that the most effective organizations will grow or replicate to extend their impact more widely. Unfortunately, this approach has not and will not lead to large-scale social change because no single organization, however innovative or powerful, is responsible for any major social problem, nor can any single organization cure it.

I hope to see organizations from different sectors begin to use “collective impact,” a disciplined and higher performing cross-sector collaborative approach to achieving large-scale social change. Many social problems are adaptive and reaching effective solutions requires learning from the stakeholders involved in the problem, who must change their own behavior in order to create a sustainable, large scale solution.

Diane Corman-Levy has been the Executive Director for the Federation of Neighborhood Centers since May of 2007, which promotes and strengthens neighborhood-based, multi-service agencies that principally serve low income people in the Greater Philadelphia region. Corman-Levy has an experience and expertise in community health, program/curriculum development, grant writing, nonprofit management, and coalition-building.


Nilda-RuizNilda Ruiz | President & CEO Asociación de Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM) for Everyone

APM has pioneered many social innovations, from green affordable housing to complex community-investment and holistic child services, but until recently we have not been recognized for those achievements. After forty-three years, we are still a “new discovery” to many. I would wish to see more private public investments that allow nonprofits like APM to act as social entrepreneurs in neighborhoods where we have the expertise.

I predict that there will be much more recognition of the role that nonprofits play in keeping the city functioning, and a recognition of the need to have public and private institutions responsive to the racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity of our residents. In addition, where there is consensus around good public policy — for example, the Land Bank — I predict that more people will see it in their best interest to cross party lines, geographic and cultural islands, and come together as respected allies and partners.

Nilda Ruiz is the president and CEO of Asociacion Puertorriquenos en Marcha, which has provided social services to North Philadelphia for over 40 years. Ruiz has lead the organization since 2005. Her tenure has marked the nonprofit’s expansion and growing visibility in Philadelphia and on the national stage.


Jill-MichalJill Michal | CEO United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey

What I hope to see is a lot more collaboration and a shift towards collective impact, and not just “collective impact,” the buzzword, but real collective action. The reality has set in over the last couple of years that everyone in this sector is going to have to do more with less. It’s just the world that we live in. The reality is setting in that while there was a recession, it was really in many ways an economic reset. In the last year or so people are starting to fully recognize the implications of that reset and recognizing that they have to look at their business models.

I do expect there to be some larger-scale collaboratives launching to do collective bodies of work. We are one of the founding partners of this Pre-K in PA campaign and that is just one collaboration where different organizations with different agendas are collaborating. I think you are going to see more of that type of work in the next year.

Jill Michal is the President & CEO of the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, one of the region’s largest charities. Michal came on board in 2001 and quickly moved up the ranks to the top position.


Mayor-Nutter-Michael A. Nutter | Mayor of Philadelphia

The City of Philadelphia, and our residents, businesses & institutions, have long demonstrated a deep commitment to civic engagement and collaborative problem-solving.  In recent years, efforts to increase private sector social impact work in partnership with municipal governments have brought this important topic to the forefront, and I am pleased that Philadelphia is leading the way with projects like FastFWD, the City’s recently-launched social impact initiative.

I am particularly eager to see the development of FastFWD in 2014. Selected as a winner of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayor’s Challenge last yearFastFWD leverages entrepreneurial talent and resources to create solutions that cities may not be able to do on their own.

In its first phase, FastFWD will focus on public safety solutions because I believe that a person’s most basic right is the right to feel safe.  As we continue to experiment with how the private sector (including startups) can help solve some of the most pressing challenges facing our city, we look forward to engaging the entire social impact community in Philadelphia and around the country to re-invent the public-private partnership.

Michael Nutter has been the mayor of Philadelphia since 2008. Among his accomplishments are pushing to reform the Philadelphia Zoning Code and implementing a comprehensive plan to make the city more environmentally sustainable.

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