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Turning Points for Children

4/5/2018 |

Kids in Philadelphia’s foster care system typically “age out” of foster care at 18-years-old. These kids’ lives can get scary fast, many losing jobs, facing unplanned pregnancies, struggling with addiction or finding themselves homeless or in prison. Of the roughly 850 kids who age out of foster care in Philadelphia each year, 250 have no resources to fall back on. This group is at greatest risk of falling through the cracks. Turning Points for Children (TPFC), a child welfare agency, believes that the frayed safety net for young people “aging out” must be redesigned to meet the social and developmental needs of this group of young people. TPFC partnered with Youth Villages to pilot their evidence-based YVLifeSet program in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Contemporary

12/21/2017 |

Philadelphia Contemporary is an emerging art museum founded on the conviction that contemporary art is multidisciplinary and multicultural, and should be made widely accessible. To broaden its disciplinary range beyond the boundaries of what is typically defined as contemporary art and make the museum relevant to a wider audience, Philadelphia Contemporary will establish the position of Curator of Spoken Word. They are creating the position to celebrate poetry as a contemporary art form, create a regional focal point for the spoken word, and make contemporary art more accessible to diverse communities.  Rather than presenting poetry intermittently, through exhibitions and temporary projects that briefly highlight the spoken word, this position will ensure that language itself is integrated into the conversation at Philadelphia Contemporary. Since this position is new in the museum field, Philadelphia Contemporary will hire an evaluator to work with them to help fine tune programming and to determine if the position is beginning to break down the barriers to contemporary art.

Philadelphia Chamber Music Society

12/21/2017 |

The national trend of the decline in the traditional subscription model not only affects earned revenue from ticket sales but also customer loyalty and longevity. PCMS seeks to re-invent its business model in a way that will build and maintain the type of strong relationships with audiences that the traditional subscription model yielded. Using new software and building on recent limited experiments with flexible passes offered to students and young professionals, PCMS will create a Concert Pass. For a set fee, Concert Pass holders will be able to attend any number of PCMS’ 55+ concerts, but unlike traditional subscribers, holders can book at the last minute, providing the flexibility consumers seek. In the past, allowing such flexibility in ticketing proved difficult as available software did not easily allow for last minute ticketing across venues. New ticketing and donor software upgrades will allow PCMS to manage seating in multiple venues, manage transactions from multiple sources, and track customer data.  The software required for the project is being developed using open source software, so other presenting organizations may use and adapt it.

Barnes Foundation

12/21/2017 |

The Barnes sees enormous opportunity in testing the idea of “museum as hub”—to have a traditional museum as the center, but to then have spokes that reach into and engage individuals directly in their communities. The Barnes will undertake a multi-faceted project that seeks to overcome barriers to visitation, in particular a lack of familiarity, by leveraging its new Art Team and using technology, outreach, strategic partnerships and community engagement.  The Art Team—a newly hired group of diverse art historians who activate the collection galleries through discussion with visitors—will hold meetups at neighborhood libraries. Following a virtual reality tour at the library that will build familiarity, individuals will have the opportunity to participate in an escorted visit to the Barnes. The group will be guided into the collection by the same Art Team leader who led their session at the library, providing consistency across both venues. This creative, low-resource approach attempts to address the universal challenge of expanding and diversifying audiences, from a different angle.  The Barnes aims to share its approach and learnings in order to further change in the field.

University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology

7/11/2017 |

Like many museums, a majority of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s (Museum) staff and volunteer docents are significantly less diverse than the communities whose cultural heritage they steward. Global Guides: Immigrant Stories Tour Program (Global Guides) will pilot a new model for recruiting and training immigrants and refugees to give guided interpretation of galleries that showcase collections from their country of origin. The Global Guides program requires the Museum to let go of some authority over how its objects are interpreted to make space for the guides to share their personal experiences, a significant paradigm shift in the field. This program has the potential to catalyze change in the arts and culture field by demonstrating success in introducing new interpretations as well as the roles immigrants and refugees can fill at museums. The Museum hopes that in addition to informing the national and international conversation about how to interpret holdings, that they are able to impact the lack of staff diversity at museums, especially in roles that interact with the public.

Recycled Artist In Residency

7/11/2017 |

Recycled Artist in Residency (RAIR) is a unique partnership that highlights the intersection of socially engaged art and recycling. Working with Revolution Recovery—a recycling center which aims to keep as much construction job site materials out of landfills as possible, RAIR is an on-site space for artists. This allows RAIR to achieve several goals: (i) increasing artists’ access to materials; (ii) diverting more resources from the waste stream; and (iii) growing the public’s knowledge of sustainable practices. They have seen increasing demand for sourcing materials from the waste stream for use in projects in both public and private spaces such as office buildings and parks, as well as an increasing demand for planning, design and fabrication services that utilize waste materials to create design elements such as lighting and flooring. To support this emerging practice, RAIR will undergo a market analysis process to identify a sustainable path forward. Undertaking this step would be particularly timely because Revolutionary Recovery recently acquired additional land and will be expanding its operations, providing RAIR even more fodder for its work. Such an endeavor would be the next iteration of this unique early stage organization, which has the potential to serve as a model in this field of art and sustainability practices.

Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy

7/11/2017 |

There are 36 million low-literate adults in the country, and literacy service providers serve only 2 million of them.  In Philadelphia alone, 550,000 adults lack the literacy skills needed to succeed in today’s economy. The Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE (ALXP) is an unprecedented project that will test, at an unparalleled scale, the effectiveness of mobile learning solutions among native and non-native speaking adults who lack basic English literacy skills.  During the field test in Philadelphia, Dallas and San Francisco, eight mobile apps using new approaches to adult literacy will harness technologies like smartphones and tablets that low-literate populations use every day to address the language skills gap. These solutions will address the main obstacles to achieving literacy: access, retention and potential for scale.  The most effective apps will be made available for use by literacy programs across the country allowing these tools to supplement and complement the limited resources currently available.  Barra’s grant will support the Philadelphia field test.

In order to leverage the opportunity presented by the field test, additional funding of $60,000 was awarded to the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Adult Education (OAE) in November 2017. XPRIZE worked in close collaboration with the OAE for over a year to design the operations and processes of the Philadelphia field test. This funding will allow the OAE to promote effective integration of the apps into adult basic education and English language instruction.

ExCITe Center

4/25/2017 |

As technology evolves, there are myriad potential uses in the arts. For example, drones—with their capability for movement—can push the boundaries of artistic expression and engage audiences interested in the intersection of arts and technology. The problem is that working with drones is expensive and technically challenging. In answer to this opportunity, the ExCITe Center (Center) has developed a system for fabricating and deploying drones through a collaboration with Parsons Dance, which culminated in the creation of The Machines. The Center will take the drone system created for The Machines, which integrates drones into a dance performance, and make it broadly accessible to the artistic community as a low-cost, open source platform. In addition to sharing lessons learned on the Center’s weblog, a two-day workshop will be held for artists and organizations interested in using the drone system for arts projects. It is hoped that other artist-technologist pairings will be inspired by the Center’s work with Parsons Dance. Learn more about the collaboration between the Center and Parsons here.


4/25/2017 |

Nearly one in six Americans turn to payday lenders when they need cash for everyday and unexpected expenses. This seemingly quick and easy money comes at a major price to families, who pay exorbitant interest rates and fees. FINANTA, a Community Development Financial Institution located in Kensington, believes that they are uniquely suited to create safe alternatives for their North Philadelphia community. With support from this grant, FINANTA will develop a plan to provide unbanked and underbanked individuals access to a full range of financial services. They will explore models including credit unions and shared branch partnerships, each representing a significant shift to FINANTA’s business model. What they learn along the way will inform the field of practitioners, researchers and policymakers working in this arena—in and beyond Philadelphia. If successful, FINANTA will provide a much-needed solution for Philadelphians, and hopefully slow the tide of families falling victim to predatory lenders.

GreenLight Fund Philadelphia

4/25/2017 |

Pay-for-Success (PFS) is an emerging financial tool for funding social services. GreenLight Fund Philadelphia and Social Finance will partner to support the launch of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s first PFS pilots: one focused on reducing adult recidivism with the Center for Employment Opportunities and the other on reducing juvenile recidivism with Youth Advocates Program. GreenLight and Social Finance will not only help ensure the success of CEO and YAP, but will aim to spur new ways of thinking about social service interventions both in and between government, providers, funders and investors in Philadelphia. The grant will support the costs of project development, development of financial structures, investor convenings, contract development and contract negotiation.

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