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Super Power Moves: Philly’s biggest social impact leadership changes of 2019

December 19, 2019 Category: FeaturedLongPeople

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

April is the cruelest month, said poet T.S. Eliot.

We don’t know about cruel, but it’s definitely a month for social impact leadership changes in Philadelphia. Or at least it was in 2019.

Our “Super Power Moves” looks back at some of this year’s most notable leadership moves. And, yeah, the first three entries out of the nine we’ve highlighted took place (at least in part) in April.

1. Ellen Hwang became the Philly program director of the Knight Foundation.

Ellen Hwang. (Courtesy photo)

Ellen Hwang, the city planner who for the past four years had been a staffer of the City of Philadelphia and overseen the creation of SmartCityPHL, was named the Philadelphia program director of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in April.

“This is my dream job,” she told Generocity. “Two things I think I’m bringing to the organization are the fact that I was a Knight grantee, so I know the process and can share my perspective of what Knight brings to the table. The other is that much of my work with smart cities has been exploring collaborations, partnership opportunities, and the type of work that Knight invests in.”

2. Markita Morris-Louis left the Arts + Business Council and Diana Lind took the helm.

Left: Markita Morris-Louis; right: Diana Lind. (Courtesy photos)

In April Markita Morris-Louis announced she was stepping down as the executive director of the Arts + Business Council of Greater Philadelphia to become the chief strategy officer for Compass Working Capital. In June, the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia announced it had hired author and noted urbanist Diana Lind to lead ABC.

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“My vision for the ABC is that it will be a more robust, influential player in the arts, culture and business scenes. I’d also love to see us broaden what we think of as the ‘arts,'” Lind told Generocity. “There is so much potential, and the programs that currently exist at the ABC are just the beginning.”

3. Ginger Zielinkski stepped down and Trooper Sanders became Benefits Data Trust’s CEO.

Left: Ginger Zielinskie; right: Trooper Sanders. (Courtesy photos)

After a decade as Benefits Data Trust’s CEO, Ginger Zielinkskie announced in April that she was stepping down. “I love this organization, what it stands for, what we have accomplished together, and what is still to come,” Zielinskie told Generocity.

In September, BDT announced it had hired Rockefeller Foundation Fellow, Trooper Sanders to lead the organization. Sanders, who served as policy advisor to Michelle Obama and Al and Tipper Gore during the Obama and Clinton administrations, told Generocity “What excites me about BDT is it’s grounded in the two things I care about the most. Taking very concrete steps to help people today, and going forward, looking at how to improve systems.”

“Issues around technology and data present enormous potential to serve people better and more efficiently,” he said. “And enormous potential to improve systems.”

4. Michael Norris became the executive director of the Carpenters’ Company.

Michael Norris. (Courtesy photo)

The former chief strategy officer at the Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, Michael Norris was named to lead the Carpenters’ Company in May. Founded in 1724 as a guild., the historically significant nonprofit preserves and interprets Carpenters’ Hall — which hosted the First Continental Congress in 1774 and housed Benjamin Franklin’s Library Company, the American Philosophical Society, and the First and Second Banks of the United States.

“The prospect of leading one of Philadelphia’s most venerable cultural institutions into a new era of relevance is very exciting to me,” Norris said when he was appointed. “Carpenters’ Hall is not only the cradle of American democracy. It’s also the original incubator of Philadelphia’s cultural community.”

5. Kelly Herrenkohl left Vetri Community Partnership for Natural Lands.

Kelly Herrenkohl. (Courtesy photo)

Kelly Herrenkohl left her position as chief operating officer of Vetri Community Partnership in June, to become become vice president of communications and engagement at Natural Lands. At Vetri, Herrenkohl built relationships, created partnerships and worked with a team to bring innovative culinary and nutrition education programs to the community — which in our judgment seemed as different as humanly possible from working for Natural Lands, a nonprofit that saves open space and connects people to the outdoors. But Herrenkohl disagreed.

“While learning to cook and connecting to nature don’t seem closely related at first glance, they are actually flip sides of the same public health coin,” she told Generocity. “Moving your body and experiencing the outdoors is just as important to your physical, mental and emotional health as eating fruits and vegetables.”

6. Amber Hikes departed the Office of LGBT Affairs in July.

Amber Hikes. (Courtesy photo)

Amber Hikes left the Office of LGBT Affairs of the City of Philadelphia to become the chief diversity officer of the ACLU at its national headquarters in New York City. Appointed to lead the Office amid controversy about the City’s response to racism in the Gayborhood, Hikes was responsible for a number of high profile initiatives that that reshaped both the perception of the Office and its practices.

Hikes said she was proudest of the work she did “with the Philadelphia Police Department and members of the transgender and non-binary communities to institute one of the most progressive police policies in the country—guiding more respectful, dignified treatment of transgender and non-binary people during interactions with police.”

7. Nan Feyler was tapped to head the PA Innocence Project.

Nan Feyler. (Courtesy photo)

The PA Innocence Project appointed Stoneleigh Foundation Fellow, Nan Feyler. as its executive director in August. Feyler came to the position with extensive leadership experience at the City’s Public Health Department, Nationalities Service Center and at the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania.

“Every day an innocent person is behind bars is a travesty,”Feyler told Generocity. “But the counterweight to any despair is the inspiring, unwavering commitment of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project Board members, staff, supporters and volunteers who fight hard to exonerate those who are wrongly convicted and the courage of incarcerated individuals and their families in their steadfast belief that justice is possible.”

8. Miriam Enríquez left the Office of Immigrant Affairs and Amy Eusebio took the reins.

Left: Miriam Enríquez; right: Amy Eusebio. (Courtesy photos)

Miriam Enríquez, under whose directorship the Office of Immigrant Affairs gained increased visibility, announced in September that she would be leaving the office to practice law in the private sector. Amy Eusebio, who launched the PHL City ID program, became the director immediately after Enríquez’s departure.

“As a first-generation American, Afro-Latina, and daughter of Dominican immigrants, this role is deeply personal to me,” Eusebio said. “Through my work in social services, and with the PHL City ID program in particular, I have learned a great deal about the current challenges facing Philadelphia’s immigrant communities, and am excited to work with our partners to forge solutions.”

9. Yael Lehman abruptly left the Food Trust in September. Founder Duane Perry was tasked with handling the transition.

Yael Lehman; right: Duane Perry. (Courtesy photo)

Yael Lehman, the 18-year president and CEO of the Food Trust, left abruptly in September. The organization’s board asked its founder, Duane Perry, to step in to handle the transition, without officially naming him interim CEO.

A week after Lehman left, 12 people had been laid off, several members of the leadership team had resigned, and senior management voluntarily took a 10% pay cut — all to offset a structural deficit under which the organization had been operating for the past two years. Perry told Generocity that he did not envision the deficit affecting the mission or further affecting programs. “The Food Trust of the future will look like the Food Trust of the past,” he said, “only with conservative checkbook management.”


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