Something’s building among young Philadelphians, and it’s good

    Judging by a recent forum organized by Young Involved Philadelphia, young professionals and organizers in the city are optmistic and engaged. Read about the forum and share your ideas about how young people can contribute to a better Philadelphia.

    What’s the state of young Philly?

    Optimistic and engaged.

    That’s one answer, and it’s true. The more prosaic answer is that State of Young Philly is an annual forum series sponsored by an organization of which I’m chair, Young Involved Philadelphia. We bring together young adults to talk about what they see going on in Philadelphia, and what they’d like to see happen in their city. We try to make the voice of young Philadelphia heard.

    Our most recent effort took place in October, with a breakfast, four evening forums and a rousing concluding event Oct. 14 at the Gershman Y on South Broad Street.

    Share your ideas in the commentsbelow about how young people cancontribute to a better Philadelphia.

    Over the course of the two weeks, we engaged close to 1,000 young professionals and representatives from over 50 organizations in the city.

    Beyond the sheer number of attendees, one of the main highlights was the forward-looking and productive nature of the conversations.

    When I first moved to Philadelphia just over a decade ago, I was initially struck by the negativity of the city. But the spirit in these discussions was very different. Rather than focusing solely on what was in need of improvement, each of the discussions was about how to build on existing innovation and assets the city has to offer.

    At our inaugural State of Young Philly last year, we asked participants at all of our events to imagine their vision for the future of Philadelphia and identify the key issues that need to be addressed to move the city towards that vision.

    This year we built our series around four key issues—community engagement, education, sustainability, and the creative economy—and asked people to identify concrete ideas for building a better future for the city in each of these core areas.

    Last year, the focus was on “imagining.” This year it is on “building.” In that spirit, YIP has already begun to build on the ideas generated during the two-week series to develop a specific set of next steps.

    We’ve partnered with the city to help develop Change by Us, a web portal where citizens can collaborate on specific projects in their neighborhoods and put ideas into action.
    We’ve partnered with the United Way to form a coalition of innovative education leaders devoted to making positive change in the school system in Philadelphia.
    We’ve entered—and won—the Open Data Philly challenge to encourage the city to open up data on vacant land.
    We’ve launched the #WhyILovePhilly and #PhillyArts hashtags to use social media to celebrate what we love about local arts.

    Over the next year, YIP will be moving forward on the key ideas identified throughout the series and putting them into action.

    Overall, we received very positive feedback from participants as well as partnering organizations. Here are a few of the responses:

    “I learned more about Philly tonight than I’ve learned since I moved here. I never knew the city had all this to offer. I feel prouder to be a Philadelphian after this event.”
    “I’m new to the city and wanted to get more involved in Philadelphia, but I didn’t really know how. Last night I met so many great organizations to get involved with that I left feeling inspired about the possibility of making change.”
    “Last night was a testament to the passion and energy of YIP. I can’t help but reflect on the difference in generations. When I was your age, it would have seemed impossible to assemble voluntarily so many ‘doers.’ It makes me so hopeful about the potential for real change, and I am grateful to have been a small part of that.”     

    Claire Robertson-Kraft is Board Chair of Young Involved Philadelphia. For more information on YIP, see www.yiphilly.org.

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