Jan. 2, 2018 12:57 pm

7 stories we loved writing last year — and what they mean for 2018

Generocity published hundreds of articles in 2017. Here's what made us proudest.

From "Americans want fewer prisoners. What's art have to do it?"

(Illustration by Mike Jackson; see the full image at

Of the hundreds of stories Generocity published in 2017, these were the seven dearest to our hearts.

Here’s why they struck a chord and how they’re likely develop in the new year.

1. Americans want fewer prisoners. What’s art have to do it?

“A unique year-old pilot music program inside Pennsylvania’s largest prison needs funding to keep going. Its early success and relationship with the state offers a look inside our appetite for — and the limits of — a new kind of criminal justice reform.”

This deep dive into the state of arts programming in Pennsylvania prisons, and the funding that doesn’t exist that could keep them flourishing, took months of reporting and a visit to a Songs in the Key of Free music workshop at Montgomery County’s SCI Graterford.

Illustrator Mike Jackson came along and produced a truly beautiful work of art based on our conversations with the men inside. Check it out in full here.

What’s next: Graterford’s replacement, SCI Phoenix, is set to open this summer after years of construction. We’ll be watching to see whether the institution’s leadership maintains or boosts its relationships with arts and music programs — though according to Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel, advocates shouldn’t expect the state to offer financial support anytime soon.

2. Your board isn’t diverse enough

“Nationally, the diversity of nonprofit boards hasn’t increased in two decades. But some local foundations are heeding the call. Here’s how to make leadership reflect the people you’re serving.”

In 2017, conversations about diversity didn’t just demand the attention of Philly’s nonprofit sector — they hit tech and startups, city government, journalism.

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What’s next: The nonprofit sector has been begging for more diversity at the top for years. Will 2018 be the year leadership is representative of those served? It’ll take a huge amount of effort and rethinking of how things are done, and who deserves to call the shots.

3. 7over70: Meet 7 Philly impact leaders over the age of 70

“Generocity’s new series recognizing older impact leaders who have dedicated their lives to making Philadelphia a more just and equitable city.”

Media outlets are obsessed with lists (see: this article). They’re also, seemingly, obsessed with youth — the up-and-comers shaping the 21st century, the wunderkinds pushing new boundaries. But what about those who came before, who taught those prodigies what’s what?

Reporter Tony Abraham’s list features names not often heralded in contemporary innovation circles, including Philadelphia Anti-Violence Coalition chair Bilal Qayyum and Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Education Center founder Carole Williams-Green.

What’s next: Look out for an all-new 7over70 list in 2018.

4. 12 people of color leading the social impact charge in Philadelphia

“Get to know this list of impressive folks working in each of our editorial calendar themes.”

Also one of our best-read stories of 2017, this loaded list was compiled and reported by this editor and reporter Albert Hong.

What’s next: Everyone on this list is destined for greatness in the coming year. More specifically, we’ll be waiting to see more success stories for Jasmine Sessoms’ She Can Win (one example: Vikki Kristiansson, who was recently elected as a judge for Philadelphia’s Court of Common Pleas), and whether Pili X’s North Philly Peace Park can flourish in its new, permanent location, and how Carolina Torres’ Juntos will continue to respond to the federal government’s threats to Philadelphia’s immigrant communities.

5. Why representation matters

“Philly nonprofit hosted about 100 women and girls at a ‘Hidden Figures‘ screening recently. Here’s why that’s so important.”

Diversity is more than a buzzword: For many people of color, especially young girls, it’s about seeing new possibilities for themselves in the successes of others.

“Especially for women of color and women in STEM, I think [representation] is really about women seeing that they can do something, and seeing somebody else do it before them so they know that it’s possible,” said cofounder Deesha Dyer, who helped organized this “Hidden Figures” screening for Philadelphia girls.

What’s next: Ava Duvernay’s sure-to-be-blockbuster “A Wrinkle in Time” with its multi-ethnic cast is due out this March. Get the popcorn ready.

6. This Vermont program might reduce sex offender recidivism. Could it work in Philly?

“Generocity sent a reporter to Vermont to learn about a volunteer program that aims to break down the barriers between society and sex offenders. The tagline: ‘No more victims.'”

OK, so “loved writing” is strong phrasing for this one. Sex crimes are a tough topic, and not one we’d tackled before. But thanks for funding and support from the Reentry Project, we were able to send the phenomenal freelance reporter Malcolm Burnley to Vermont to investigate Circles of Support and Accountability, a peer-based reintegration program for sex offenders.

What’s next: Circles coming to Pennsylvania is long shot. But as Burnley notes, “If a statewide movement to rethink sex offender policies were to occur, it, too, would have to begin in Philly.”

7. When politics and nonprofits collide: Lessons from Congreso

“Here’s why leaders of Philly’s nonprofit sector should pay attention to the controversy of Congreso CEO Carolina Cabrera DiGiorgio attending a Trump rally.”

What do nonprofit leaders owe their organizations? Their professional commitment, of course, but what about their personal politics? The Congreso CEO’s critics say she’s not fit to head up a Latino-serving organization because of her ties to Pennsylvania’s Republican party; Cabrera DiGiorgio says her commitment to Congreso’s mission should trump any perceived political stances.

What’s next: Cabrera DiGiorgio remains in her position thanks to support from the Congreso board. But these questions will persist — for Congreso, and every nonprofit — as long as Donald Trump is president.

Bonus: Tech in the Commons: A Toolkit for Place-Based Nonprofits

Based on reporting from our spring bootcamp series, this 5,000-word ebook is a wealth of knowledge for nonprofit professionals looking to revamp their digital engagement strategy, including via social media, live video, data storytelling and augmented and virtual reality. Each section features how-tos as well as stories about impact leaders who have used them and succeeded.

The instructional event series was a first for Generocity, and we loved learning alongside attendees.

What’s next: Tech in the Commons will be back in 2018. Look out for news on that soon.


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