Super Power Moves: The 10 biggest social impact leadership shakeups of 2018 - Generocity Philly

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Dec. 14, 2018 9:30 am

Super Power Moves: The 10 biggest social impact leadership shakeups of 2018

These CEOs, executive directors and other leaders are some of Philadelphia's most important change makers who made big changes of their own within the past year.

Bill Golderer.

(Courtesy photo)

Power Moves is a semi-regular column chronicling leadership movements within Philly’s social impact community. Send announcements to philly@generocity.org.


This is not your average edition of Power Moves.

Every December, Generocity — and every other news outlet in the world — publishes a series of lookbacks at trends and reporting from the past year. For instance, in 2016 and 2017, we published lists of our best-read stories, lists of our best-loved or most impactful stories, and lists of nonprofit/social enterprise/local gov leaders whose stories we were excited to keep following.

We’ll do some of those again later this month, but new this year is Super Power Moves, aka a list of Philadelphia’s most important change makers who made big changes of their own in 2018.

Here are this year’s 10 biggest leadership changes in Philly social impact.

10. The Office of LGBT Affairs built a leadership pipeline program and got statewide (and national) recognition.

The first class of Philly's Community Leadership Pipeline Initiative.

The first class of Philly’s Community Leadership Pipeline Initiative. (Photo via twitter.com/AmberHikes)

With a handful of organizational partners, Director Amber Hikes built the Community Leadership Pipeline Initiativeannounced in September, which will train LGBTQ people of color, youth, trans people and seniors about the ins and outs of board service and match them with leadership positions at local nonprofits — all to counter a lack of diversity on many existing boards in the community.

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And several Philadelphians made the country’s first statewide LGBTQ Affairs Commission, including Hikes, William Way Community Center ED Chris Bartlett and Chair Anne Wakabayashi (who made her own Power Move from leading Emerge Pennsylvania to supporting alumnae at Emerge America).

Plus, Hikes has gotten her own shoutouts in OUT magazine and on comedian Cameron Esposito’s podcast.

9. Kiera Smalls took over Philly Startup Leaders.

Kiera Smalls.

Kiera Smalls. (Courtesy photo)

This one’s for the technologist: Smalls joined the startup network, which aims to be an entry point for the local tech community, in March.

She worked previously as marketing manager for Bicycle Transit Systems, the Indego bike system’s management company, where she led diversity and inclusion efforts, and is also the cofounder of the popular fitness group City Fit Girls.

PSL lost its first executive director last fall after she was a part of an explosive exchange about diversity in Philly’s tech community during a filmed panel. Since then, the org has put inclusivity efforts at the forefront, including by co-launching a DEI survey for tech startups and nonprofits (results TBD).

8. The City of Philadelphia’s chief data officer is heading to London, and a new chief information officer was named.

Chief Data Officer Tim Wisniewski announcing the new phila.gov site.

Chief Data Officer Tim Wisniewski announcing the new phila.gov site. (Photo by Roberto Torres)

At the end of November, the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation announced some big news: It’s undergoing a restructuring, and its beloved chief data officer, Tim Wisniewski, will be leaving at the end of the year to spend some time across the pond. The civic tech realLIST honoree took on the role in 2016 and led the team to release more than 200 open data sets, while also playing an integral part in the revamp of phila.gov.

Before that, though, in SeptemberMark Wheeler was named permanent CIO of the Office of Innovation and Technology. He’d been named interim CIO in January following the very public ousting of Charlie Brennan from the top role and previously worked as the city’s chief geographic information officer.

7. Gayle Isa stepped down from Asian Arts Initiative after 25 years.

Gayle Isa.

Gayle Isa. (Courtesy photo)

Spending a quarter-century doing anything is impressive, but leading a grassroots arts and culture nonprofit from its infancy to being named “a force in the future of the city” deserves an extra round of applause.

Isa left the organization in June just after it celebrated its birthday. She wrote at the time: “After 25 years, now is a good time for me to move on to a new endeavor.” The former ED’s LinkedIn profile says she’s now working as an independent consultant.

AAI found its next head in writer and producer Anne Ishii, who started on Aug. 1.

6. Kevin Dow is Friends of the Rail Park’s first conductor.

Kevin Dow. (Courtesy photo)

The former SVP of impact and innovation at United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey took over in April at the nonprofit in charge of transforming the former Reading Railroad lines into an inclusive community space. Previously, he worked as the City of Philadelphia’s COO and senior deputy commerce director under Mayor Michael Nutter.

The park’s Phase 1, a quarter mile from Broad and Noble streets to 11th and Callowhill streets, finally opened this past summer after years of planning. The full proposed site is three miles long, starting at 9th Street and Fairmount Avenue heading south to 11th and Vine streets, then turning northwest just above Callowhill Street and ending at 31st Street and Girard Avenue.

5. Marco Giordano was named Resources for Human Development’s (permanent) CEO.

Marco Giordano.

Marco Giordano. (Courtesy photo)

The giant human services nonprofit’s leadership made its intention to keep Giordano in the top spot was made clear as soon as Dyann Roth vacated the post in June 2017. He became the permanent head at the top of the new year.

Giordano, formerly RHD’s chief financial officer, told us later that summer that he would strive to scale the organization’s programming, which reaches at least 15 states, and diversify its revenue sources.

The exec also spoke to Generocity about his own salary in January: At RHD, the compensation of the CEO cannot be greater than 14 times the lowest-paid employee.

“We believe that’s reflective of our mission and our corporate values,” he said.

4. Maori Karmael Holmes left the city to work for Ava DuVernay.

Maori Karmael Holmes.

Maori Karmael Holmes. (Courtesy photo)

In February, the film and communications pro was plucked from her full-time role as director of public engagement of the Institute of Contemporary Art and a basically-full-time role as artistic director of the BlackStar Film Festival, which she founded in 2012, to lead the nonprofit arm of the famed director’s film collective, ARRAY.

“It just felt like one of those opportunities that you don’t say no to,” she said at the time. “I would really pinch myself if I didn’t explore what’s possible with this new position.”

So the native Angeleno moved back to her hometown. The Philly-based festival lives on, though, and Holmes was still involved for at least the seventh annual this past August. And she’s still working in film — check out the recent India.Arie music video she helmed.

(Full disclosure, this editor once interned under Holmes at the Leeway Foundation.)

3. Lydia Gonzalez Sciarrino joined — and is now leaving — the embattled Mazzoni Center.

Lydia Gonzalez Sciarrino.

Lydia Gonzalez Sciarrino. (Courtesy photo)

The LGBTQ-focused healthcare provider has grabbed plenty of headlines in the past two years, though for the most part, not for good reasons as it grapples with charges of institutional racism and ineffective leadership.

Sciarrino moved to Philly from Florida in March to become the nonprofit’s CEO. Then, in November, she announced she was stepping down by the end of the year, alongside longtime COO Ron Powers. Mazzoni is using a “collaborative leadership model” as it plans for a new permanent leader.

The challenge now: restore public trust while paving the way to a more equitable future for its clients and staffers.

2. Philly got a new Board of Education.

The headquarters of the School District of Philadelphia.

The headquarters of the School District of Philadelphia. (Photo by Dan Marcel via Technical.ly Philly)

Following the self-dissolution of the School Reform Commission (SRC) in November 2017, Philly’s public school system took a good, hard look at itself and wondered what’s next. After many months of speculation and rounds of narrowing down finalists, the city-appointed nominating panel selected the nine members of its inaugural post-SRC school board in May.

Members include Joyce Wilkerson, former Community Legal Services attorney and former chief of staff for Mayor John StreetLee Huang, SVP and principal at Econsult Solutions; and Julia Danzy, former deputy commissioner for children services in the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.

1. Bill Golderer became the head of United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey.

Bill Golderer. (Photo courtesy of The Barra Foundation)

Broad Street Ministry’s founder joined the funder of poverty alleviation initiatives in March. His entrance was marked with a willingness to address a lack of racial diversity in the organization’s executive ranks and a promise to tackle the city’s stubborn poverty rate with gusto.

And then in October, United Way let go of a third of its staff — 37 people in all.

The reason, Golderer told Generocity at the time, was not to cut costs, but to focus organizational efforts more squarely on its newly narrowed mission. It’ll be another few months before a revamped structure is publicly revealed, but the change is the beginning of a new era for the local branch of one of the most widely known names in philanthropy, and Golderer is at its forefront.

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