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Putting Philadelphians First

November 29, 2023 Category: FeatureFeaturedSolutions

During PHLanthropy Week 2023, an important conversation took place where a panel of experts took a close look at the city’s most pressing issues – housing, education, and workforce development. The event was organized by Civic Capital, the organizers and founders of PHLanthropy Week and publishers of Generocity, and served as a springboard for deeper discussions and actionable solutions.

Monique Curry-Mims, Principal and Publisher at Civic Capital, emphasized the importance of recognizing the intersection between these issues. “It’s not about individual things,” she emphasized, “it’s about systems”

Dio Roberson of Resolve Philadelphia pointed to the pervasive societal attitudes that perpetuate homelessness. “There’s this principle of ‘not in my backyard’ ism,” she explained, “that’s a pretty inappropriate term that I just learned.” This attitude, she states, contributes to homelessness not being met with true compassion and humanism.

Maurice Baynard of the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel College shifted the focus to education, emphasizing the need to recognize the unique potential of each child. “We need to build mutually beneficial networks,” he urged, suggesting that education should go beyond the traditional school setting and give students the opportunity to network with businesses, community groups, and extracurricular organizations.

Malik Brown of Graduate Philadelphia emphasized the importance of workforce development, especially for adults who have lost out. “We need to continue to invest in some of the workforce programs that are working,” he urged but also acknowledged the need for innovation. He emphasized the importance of collaboration between the economic development, education, and workforce development sectors to ensure that degrees lead to living wage employment.

The panelists’ insights underscored the interconnectedness of these issues and the need for holistic solutions. “It’s one thing to get a degree,” Brown said, “it’s quite another to translate that degree into living wage employment”

At the end of the panel discussion, Curry-Mims posed a question before participants dispersed into breakout groups: “What haven’t we considered?” This question encouraged participants to think about the gaps in current solutions and the potential solutions that may have been overlooked.

From our Partners

Elevate and Include Voices to remove barriers and promote success

From government and institutions to nonprofits and foundations, we need to center the voices of the public and all members of the ecosystem front and center. Let students (youth and adults) have a say in what they want and need to learn, and let all members of the community share what is needed from the education system for success in life and in the workforce.

Maurice, as the “reporter” for the mixed education/workforce working group, asked, “Are we getting their voices heard as part of the solution?”

He explained, “… Storytelling is important, we need to ask people how they want to be described and what stories they tell. And we need to use that language to talk about and with people to address all those ancillary problems that can arise. There are problems that hinder education, such as hunger. We had an interesting conversation about hunger in college and how many people are college-poor because they can afford tuition but don’t have enough to eat. And how can we support them so that this doesn’t become a barrier to their success?”

Develop Holistic Policies

People who are unhoused are living in a shelter where there are no childcare resources available,” Dio explained as she began to share her group’s findings. ”People who want to get an education or work can’t do that. So at a certain point, those efforts stop. It’s funny that there are examples all over the place of like systems support systems of support that still include obstacles and punitive policies because you definitely get in legal trouble if you leave your child with someone who isn’t authorized to care for them. And in a structure like that, you just don’t know where to go.

She continued, “…if they can’t pursue work because they don’t have childcare, or they can’t go to school because they don’t have childcare, or they can’t go to this place or that place because they don’t have money, then that’s another development because all these things are interdependent. You can solve one problem, but it’s going to create a barrier in the middle. And there is so much evidence of this that it boggles the mind. But why are there still people trying to tackle all these problems in this one-dimensional way? Because we’ve seen them fail. We’ve seen how we as a city have poured money into short-sighted, one-dimensional solutions and watched them fall short. That’s why I believe that intersectionality and some kind of holistic approach are the answer or at least the beginning of the answer.

Looking Beyond One-Dimensional Solutions – a Philadelphia First Model

Overall, many different solutions were proposed at the event, but one theme that seemed to apply to all was that solutions need to take into account the intersection of all these issues and not be one-dimensional.

At the end of the conversation, Curry-Mims summarized the solutions of the event into one key idea,

“From what I hear and see there are always other resources that are needed for success. We need to create policies and programs that are holistic, and that take into account all the different dimensions of a person’s situation, not just one dimension. When designing these policies, we need to make sure that we don’t put in small barriers that end up punishing or creating hardships that land people back to the beginning of where they started, thereby defeating the purpose of the opportunity they were given.

We need to look at programs and policies like the Housing First model, which includes comprehensive support for whatever you need. Somebody needs housing, okay, we’ll get you into a house, but you also need a job, you need health, you need this, you need that – how about a Philadelphia-First model where there are all the resources you need to be a productive, healthy, active citizen. What do you have? What don’t you have? What does it just have to be for someone to achieve life, liberty, and their pursuit of happiness? If you need 100 things to be successful, we need to make sure you have the first 50 things and we have to support you in getting the other 50 things. Everyone involved has to come together to ensure all-round supports that work at the intersection of these problems and the different dimensions of the lives of Philadelphians.”

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What can a “Philadelphia-First” Model look like?

What solutions do you have at the intersection of education and housing?

What are you issues are you facing within the different dimensions of your life?

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