Patrick Morgan is leaving the Knight Foundation - Generocity Philly

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Dec. 18, 2018 1:24 pm

Patrick Morgan is leaving the Knight Foundation

The program director for Philadelphia initiatives will join Parks and Rec's senior leadership team in a newly created position. Here are the projects that make him proudest from his three-year tenure.

Patrick Morgan.

(Photo courtesy of the Knight Foundation)

Full disclosure: Knight Foundation is a funder of Generocity's Tech in the Commons series.
Update: Additional details about Patrick Morgan's immediate plans have been added. (12/21, 10:51 a.m.)
Patrick Morgan, program director of Philadelphia initiatives at John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, will leave his post on Jan. 1 to rejoin city government.

The University of Pennsylvania grad will become the Parks & Recreation department’s first deputy commissioner for strategy and engagement, a newly created post under Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell. He previously worked as chief of staff in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Environmental and Community Resources in Michael Nutter’s mayoral administration.

Since joining Knight in January 2016, Morgan has overseen the dispersal of over $26 million in 113 community-focused grants, including projects such as Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture’s Immigrant Alphabet, Little Giant Creative’s A Dream Deferred, University City District’s Just SpacesKatrina Johnston-Zimmerman’s Women Led Cities Initiative and the recently opened civic and arts space Cherry Street Pier.

He’s also overseen the deployment of the Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative, an $11 million investment made by Knight and frequent funding collaborator William Penn Foundation in five civic assets: the Reading Viaduct (opened this past summer), Bartram’s Mile Trail (opened in April 2017), Centennial Commons (phase one completed in June)Lovett Memorial Library and Park (opened last December) and The Discovery Center (opened in September).

Two notable recent grants are $3.28 million to the Fairmount Park Conservancy toward the development of a citywide civic engagement strategy, and support for a public engagement portion of the park being built over I-95, which is being funded by William Penn Foundation, the city, and state and federal sources.

Whew. With all that going on, why leave now?

“This was not an easy decision for me or my family, but I think you see what this administration and Parks & Rec are trying to do around public spaces, and it’s really appealing to me,” Morgan told Generocity. “I think it’s the right team at the right place doing a lot of really ambitious work.”

He’s partly talking about Rebuild, the half-billion-dollar redevelopment project for Philly’s ailing rec centers and other public assets that officially began its work this past summer. It is ambitious. But he’s also interested in doing more of the on-the-ground work than is afforded to him at Miami-based Knight.

“You’re in a different chair when you’re a funder than when you’re at the place where programs, policy and a deep connection to citizens are being made day in and day out,” said the East Falls resident.

Morgan and his soon-to-be boss have known each other for about eight years total, thanks to previously overlapping work when he worked for the city before and she headed Fairmount Park Conservancy.

“I’m tremendously excited. He’s been sort of a trusted colleague of mine since I started in this position three years ago” because of the overlap of public space and civic engagement work, Ott Lovell said.

Morgan’s new position, she said, is “a blend of a few different positions” held by Parks & Rec staffers who retired in the past few months.

“We have a great leadership team and have made strides to modernize the department, [which] aligns the department with the administration’s goals around civic engagement and equity and inclusion and trying to create a government that’s effective and efficient,” Ott Lovell said. Still, “there’s so much more I want to accomplish, so bringing the right people on … is really critical.”

Morgan plans to continue to support local Knight grantees through January. His favorite projects from the past thee years?

“That’s like asking me which of my kids I like best,” said the dad of three. Still, he’s especially proud of a few, such as the Immigrant Alphabet (on display now at Cherry Street Pier), Reading Terminal Market’s Breaking Bread, Breaking Barriers, Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians’ Immigrant Leadership Institute and other projects helping Philly be a more inclusive place.

More broadly, though, he said Philadelphia is now on the world’s radar for its commitment to public space, and Knight has a lot to do it with it — not only from funding large-scale projects, but convening public space advocates from all over to learn from local best practices.

“That’s really been impressive, that people are paying attention to Philadelphia,” he said. “People across the globe see Philadelphia as a center of public space and public life.”

Psst, if you’re interested in filling Morgan’s shoes, check back on Knight’s job listings here.

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