Drexel University’s Dana and David Dornsife School of Public Health is partnering with the Community Research Review Board (CRRB) in the West Philadelphia Promise Zone Community to transform how traditional Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) review and approve their studies. This community-engaged approach to research will better ensure that researchers recruit residents and collect data to address the social determinants of health in the Promise Zone in the most trustful, community-engaged, ethical, culturally salient and scientifically rigorous way, while at the same time increasing the ability to generate data that leads to benefits for the community.
If successful, this practice has the potential for a strong community-led system of ethical oversight, research review and collaboration to solve the most pressing community crises. Such a methodology would be uniquely positioned to spread far beyond our region, promoting broader, systemic transformation of community research in promise zones and other under-resourced, highly researched communities.
The Philly Joy Bank is a bold pilot program that provides monthly guaranteed income and voluntary support services to pregnant Philadelphians throughout pregnancy and through their baby’s first year of life, with the goal of reducing racial disparities in infant prematurity.
Among the ten largest cities in the United States, Philadelphia has the unfortunate distinction of having both the highest poverty rate and the highest infant mortality rate—both of which feature profound racial disparities. Black Philadelphians disproportionately live in poverty, and disproportionately experience poor birth outcomes. The Philly Joy Bank will improve financial stability during pregnancy, enabling participants to better address basic needs, improve their ability to access healthcare, and reduce prenatal stress. Based on evidence of clear links between cash transfers, improved parental and infant health, and birth outcomes, this pilot is positioned to demonstrate a path to decreasing the risks of prematurity in Philadelphia. The Philly Joy Bank has the potential to reveal maternal and child health impacts that would allow federal funding already earmarked for this population to be used as guaranteed income for families.
To address a rising demand for junk hauling services in the community, Pathways to Housing PA created Good Haul, the region’s only nonprofit junk hauling service. It serves as a complementary program to the organization’s Philadelphia Furniture Bank (PFB), which provides no-cost furnishing to 1,400 homes for individuals and families exiting homelessness each year. Additionally, Pathways staffs its Good Haul operations with part-time, wage-paid employees from its Work First transitional employment program that supports individuals who are entering or re-entering the workforce after a significant break. Pathways takes a more coordinated approach than other peer resale or thrift shop nonprofits by matching donated items with nonprofit partners who can redistribute or reuse items to keep them out of landfills and put them in the hands of community members who most need them. Its innovative model simultaneously addresses sustainable waste stream management, gaps in employment opportunities for transitional workers, and a rising need for coordinated and community-based junk hauling services. Barra’s funding will help support the establishment of this novel social enterprise, position Good Haul to generate revenue, and outline a replicable model for other cities around the country interested in developing nonprofit junk hauling services.
Philly Rise is a five-year real estate accelerator program for emerging black and brown real estate developers designed to provide them with the training, affordable capital, technical assistance and networks they need to grow their companies. A cohort of 10-12 black and brown real estate developers will be recruited into Philly Rise each year with each developer receiving 14 weeks of high-level training, a committed pool of capital that they can promptly access for their projects, mentorship and coaching through the predevelopment and construction phases of their projects, and access to an ecosystem of developers, architects, contractors, and other residential development professionals in Philadelphia. The Philly Rise accelerator brings together a range of partner organizations (Black Squirrel, Urban Land Institute, Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation and AR Spruce) to provide developer cohorts with these resources.
Food Connect is challenging the conventional wisdom underlying the traditional hunger relief model using effective data-driven designed technology. Funds will support the design and testing of a Partner Portal, that aims to address three critical problems plaguing the hunger relief network: lack of predictability, communication barriers and seamless collaboration. The Portal will enable large frontline hunger organizations, food donors and food donation recipients to easily communicate needs and availability to take advantage of the abundance of existing resources that are being massively underutilized. The Portal will act as a one-stop-shop for hunger relief organizations whose singular goal is to feed the hungry. This integrated approach to connecting food donors’ resources, recipient needs, and real-time transport has not been addressed in the field of hunger-relief.
The neighborhoods adjacent to the Drexel University campus – Mantua and Powelton Village – are rapidly changing. Part of a federally designated Promise Zone program created by President Obama that identifies them as high-poverty but also high opportunity, they are experiencing growth. This often means that existing residents have a difficult time remaining in their homes, due to rapid gentrification. Students also look to this area for more affordable housing options than in University City. In an attempt to ensure that the residents who live in these communities that surround this anchor institution can benefit from its growth, Drexel University’s Writers Room will develop and pilot an intergenerational co-living housing model. They will leverage their relationships with other neighborhood partners to include the voices of residents and students alike in shaping the pilot. Begun in 2014 at the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, Writers Room is a university-community literary arts program that uses creative programming and art for social justice. Their mission is to develop inclusive, intergenerational, co-creative places that foster connection and community. Click here to learn more about the Second Story Collective or watch this recently produced video.
The ongoing commitment of residents and community-based organizations to the Kensington section of Philadelphia has recently been bolstered by significant investments in the neighborhood. At the same time, economic forces associated with city-wide development threaten to change the neighborhood and make it unaffordable and culturally unwelcoming for current residents. Through a partnership with Shift Capital—a nationally-recognized impact developer—Impact Services Corporation will work with neighborhood stakeholders to create an emerging model for supporting the business corridor based on existing community land trusts. The Kensington Corridor Trust (Trust) will support sustainable and equitable community development through thoughtful real estate acquisition, community engagement, broad local ownership, small business lending and technical assistance. There are a few things that make this initiative different from other economic development efforts. The Trust will be controlled by a board of majority community stakeholders who represent the cultural and socioeconomic diversity of the current neighborhood and will hold and manage the properties. This community trust also aims to incorporate the commercial corridor, whereas other trusts have typically focused on residential community ownership. Neighborhoods around Philadelphia as well as other cities are watching the development of the Trust model as they consider how to avoid the economic inequality and displacement that often result from rapid gentrification.
Community Legal Services and Regional Housing Legal Services will test a proactive approach to mass evictions in Philadelphia while advancing creative strategies to preserve affordable housing. The approach will leverage a unique moment related to the housing affordability crisis, making Philadelphia among the first cities to employ a preventative approach to mass evictions that engages both tenants and landlords in solutions that work for all and pave the way for sustainable investment.
Day wage programs are being tested in cities around the country as a means to reduce street homelessness, increase connections to services and housing, and encourage re-entry into the workforce. Unlike traditional workforce development programs that seek to move participants into structured work environments, day wage programs recognize that participants first need to build a connection to basic services—in time, they will hopefully move towards readiness for employment. Together with Mental Health Partnerships (MHP), Mural Arts will introduce a day wage program in Philadelphia which will tap into Mural Arts’ experience providing training to marginalized populations. Prior to launching the program, a research and design phase will result in a white paper outlining policy, practice and evaluation recommendations. The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services, Commerce Department and Office of Workforce Development as well as representatives of civic, behavioral health, workforce development and college/university partners will be consulted throughout the project. Following the design process, there will be two pilots of the program to allow for testing and learning.
There are 14,000 people with autism or intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) waiting for services in Pennsylvania due to lack of funding or staff. In AVAIL technology, a start-up based in Ireland, KenCrest sees a new way of providing services, empowering their clients, measuring outcomes and reducing costs. Through AVAIL’s simple-by-design mobile application, KenCrest’s staff will help clients set up goals, record personalized tutorials and then monitor the client’s independent progress. From setting the table for dinner to assembling a product at a work site, AVAIL helps clients accomplish activities that they might otherwise depend on others to help them complete. KenCrest will partner with another human services, JEVS, to pilot this new technology, which they believe has the potential to provide a more person-centered and person-driven approach to client care—and one that could be adopted by others in the field.