On Thursday, more than 20 concerned community members attended the second installment of PhillyRising’s Citizen Engagement Academy at the Widener Branch Library in Allegheny West.
The engagement academy is a free eight-week course designed to improve citizens’ understanding of various city department and agencies. It aims to facilitate discussions led by city officials about the functions, success and challenges of the city departments.
At the second of eight meetings, Daniel O’Brien, assistant managing director of the PhillyRising Collaborative, said he hopes to increase communication within the communities.
“You may have one organization on one block and one on another trying to do the same thing and reach the same goal, but not only are they not talking to each other, they are competing against one another,” said O’Brien. “People are hoarding information and the neighborhood can only grow if we are sharing information.”
While the weekly discussions are a great start, O’Brien said the key is when the residents go back to their community organizations with more information than they previously had.
“We are getting direct contact here to who we want to talk to rather than getting on the phone and wait here and wait there until they call you,” said Donald Williams, a member of the Community Action Group.
Williams attended the meeting with his wife Sewell; they live near 30th Street and Allegheny Avenue. Both said they would like to see more programs addressing crime watch, drugs and violence in the community.
“It is a good way to identify what is going on in your neighborhood because sometimes we see things, but we don’t always know what the nuisances are,” said Sewell. “We need to know about those things and what we can do so that we can bring those things back to the community.”
Program expansion possible
The academy currently includes leaders from the Swampoodle and Strawberry Mansion sections of Philadelphia, but O’Brien would like to have academies in each neighborhood, possibly three times a year, before long.
The academy members will meet every Thursday through March 29.