Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a variety of leaders to raise a city.
There are the elected and appointed leaders – the usual suspects. Then there are the leaders who get things done below the radar.
Leadership Philadelphia, the training organization that I lead, has worked hard in the last few years to identify, celebrate and learn from the latter type of unsung leaders.
A main vehicle for this has been our Connector project. “Connector” was the term coined by author Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point to describe the kind of trusted, respected, other-directed person who serves as a node of community, a maker of civic glue.
Twice since 2006, Leadership Philadelphia has identified trusted Connectors in this region. The first group of civic leaders was filled with baby boomers, while the second (the Emerging Connectors) consisted of twenty- and thirty-somethings.
In each case, we identified these leaders through a survey of the public, with thousands of people telling us the names of the people in the community whom they trust, rely upon and admire.
This time, we are looking for Creative Connectors who use art, culture, and design to build community and economic vitality. We are asking citizens to nominate this type of leader in order to shine the spotlight on their work. You can take the survey here.
The value of the arts as an economic development engine has been documented by Leadership Philadelphia’s project partners: The Mayor’s Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy; the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance; and Philly 360° (which is part of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corporation).
WHYY’s NewsWorks, the media partner on this project, is committed to covering beacons of civic engagement like these Creative Connectors. Each of these organizations showcases the efforts that make Philadelphia shine.
Who is a Creative Connector? Someone who works in a creative field in a way that helps bind the community together. Someone who seems to know everyone and is always working for the common good.
Think: Jane Golden organizing a neighborhood to create a mural that unites groups who previously were separate.
Think: Hal Real and Roger LeMay at World Café Live and WXPN, bringing together diverse community groups who share a love of music.
Think: Nick Stuccio, whose Fringe Festival uses cutting-edge cultural experiences to convene artists and a diverse group of people who appreciate art and the community it creates.
The recent Knight Foundation Soul of the Community study indicates that highly-attached residents are more likely to contribute to growth.
Connectors, who are hyper-attached, model this behavior so are role models for this sort of civic engagement. They also demonstrate the kind of openness and welcoming that causes attachment. Showcasing their work and teaching their behaviors can lead to increased attachment by others. This same report lists social offerings as a key driver of engagement. Creative Connectors often drive social offerings which increase attachment, which contributes to economic growth. Creative Connectors, therefore, should be recognized and honored for their contribution to the region’s growth.
Last week The Knight Foundation announced the winners of its local Arts Challenge, which was designed to push arts activities into communities, serve previously overlooked audiences, and spread cultural awareness. The PNC Foundation’s Arts Alive program makes similar investments. The Creative Connector Project will identify more candidates to accomplish the goals of these foundations.
This project hopes to identify a broad range of people, including up-and-coming/emerging Creative Connectors. This city is overflowing with young talent that creates a buzz in a neighborhood or among friends and convenes the neighbors to share joy, excitement, and escape.
Assembling these people creates ties that bind the people in the future. This less obvious underground talent serves as an incubator for good will and good energy for Philadelphia’s future, as does the more established Creative Connectors.
Diversity is one of Philadelphia’s strong suits. Its leaders – the people who inspire us to be better, do more, and connect with one another for the common good – can be found in City Hall, corporate offices, classrooms, and concert halls. It takes all kinds of leaders to raise this City. Leadership Philadelphia and its partners are committed to recognizing Creative Connector leaders, and asks for your help in finding them.
Liz Dow is president of Leadership Philadelphia.