Unique ‘MillenniaLab’ event draws mayoral-candidate quartet to Center City co-working space [updated]

 Jim Kenney (left) and Lynne Abraham (right) teamed up with millenials 'to develop unique ideas for Philadelphia's economic growth' on Friday night. (Brian Hickey/WHYY)

Jim Kenney (left) and Lynne Abraham (right) teamed up with millenials 'to develop unique ideas for Philadelphia's economic growth' on Friday night. (Brian Hickey/WHYY)

As mayoral-campaign events go, Friday night’s “Mayoral MillenniaLab” gathering inside the Benjamin’s Desk co-working space at 17th and Walnut sts. stood out to the point that organizers said they were shocked when it came together as pie-in-the-sky planned.

Even the “ask” for the event sponsored by Committee of Seventy, The Philadelphia Citizen and Young Involved Philly was unprecedented. But in a campaign during which the word “millennial” gets mentioned every five minutes, it was one that some candidates couldn’t pass up.

On a night featuring a Northeast Philadelphia debate just over two hours later, mayoral aspirants stopped by for an hour or so.

There, they brainstormed with small group of millennials about “an aspirational and innovative ‘what if’ idea for the city in the area of economic growth.” Then, each presented their team’s ideas to the entire room before attendees texted in votes to declare a winner on the spot.

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Of the six declared Democratic candidates, Lynne Abraham, Jim Kenney, (late-arriving) Doug Oliver and Tony Williams accepted this challenge to collaborate with what organizer Nicole White termed “really engaged contributors” who were invited.

After gathering at separate tables for about 20 minutes, each went to the front of the room and — at the request of moderators Larry Platt (of the Citizen) and David Thornburgh (of Seventy) — shared the fruits of their discussions.

They were:

— Abraham: Form an advisory council to create innovative ideas/solutions pursuant to executive order. (“We have some great minds here,” she said.)

— Kenney: Local banks subsidize student debt for students who stay in Philadelphia for 10 years and become customers. (“This was a very interesting conversation. It’s great for us to get to see how you think.”)

— Oliver: School curriculum that focuses on entrepreneurial spirit with creative arts. Training and development for current workforce focusing on the city’s needs. (“I don’t look at this room and see staffers and interns. I see CEOs and leaders.”)

— Williams: Every firm that received money/contracts from the city [will be] required to contribute to an internship program for Philadelphia high schoolers. Use/leverage current programs. Align skills with [existing] industries. (“If you succeed, Philadelphia flies.”)

After hearing all four pitches, 41 percent of the attendees picked Kenney’s as the best among them before the candidates headed up to the Northeast Times’ Fox Chase Homeowners Association mayoral forum.

Jim Saksa, a Young Involved Philadelphia board member (and reporter within WHYY/NewsWorks’ PlanPhilly project), couldn’t have been more pleased.

“We’re amazed and really happy that the candidates turned out for this,” he said, noting that events like this will continue to get more millennials engaged in Philadelphia’s political process.

Update: The event was also co-sponsored by Pattison Leader Group.

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