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When I first learned that I would be unable to interview the Executive Director of Women Against Abuse (WAA), I was admittedly disappointed. The thought of speaking with a member of the board instead, brought to mind a slew of misconceptions about board members that Bob Lichtenstein quickly proved were wrong. To Bob, serving on the Board of Women Against Abuse isn’t just a line on his resume or an opportunity for a tax write off. Bob’s connection with the organization is personal and spans nearly a decade. The dedication of the staff and the passion of the organization’s Executive Director, Jeannine L. Lisitski, is what inspires Bob and has kept him involved with WAA over the years. Today, Bob serves on three committees with WAA’s Board, acting as co-chair on one, and from time to time he can be seen in the court room, observing the hard work of the legal center team and putting a face on the clients who Women Against Abuse serves. 

Bob was introduced to Women Against Abuse in 2009 and he soon began providing pro bono consulting services to the Board’s Investment Committee. His involvement gradually increased and he joined the board after five years of volunteering with various committees. As an attorney for Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and an advocate for victims of violence, Bob’s deep connection with the organization was apparent from the beginning of our conversation. As our conversation progressed, I learned that Women Against Abuse is the leading domestic violence advocate and service provider in Philadelphia, offering a variety of support in the community as they work towards the goal of stamping out domestic violence. The organization was formed 42 years ago as a hotline for victims of abuse, but it has since evolved to provide a full continuum of care through two shelters, economic education and assistance, community outreach, a legal center, and emotional and psychological services. The original hotline still exists today and currently responds to approximately 15,000 calls each year. 

Bob’s perspective as a board member was not only fascinating, he also offered practical insight about how to get involved in board service as a young professional. Further, he gave guidance about how to ensure that the services provided will be both meaningful and valuable as a board member. When Bob reflected on his experiences, he noted that volunteering on a committee before joining the board made him a better board member. Serving on a committee allowed him to get to know the structure of the organization and provided him with an important perspective that he’s brought to the board for the past five years. He also advised that beginning with committee service is an excellent way for young people to get involved on a board. This way, he said, you can make yourself known to the organization. You can learn a lot about the staff and mission and see if you’re a good fit for them -- and if they’re a good fit for you. For those just starting out who may be wary of the prospect of high dues, Bob recommended researching smaller nonprofits looking for diverse skills and experiences. 

Bob admitted that the role of a board member, while extremely rewarding, comes with challenges. The biggest challenge, according to Bob, is balancing your career with serving the organization. He noted that everyone on the Board has a day job but the important work that the WAA Board is doing for the organization could be a full-time job if they let it. But ultimately his passion for Women Against Abuse’s mission and respect for Jeannine motivates him to find that balance and continue serving on the board in the most hands-on ways he can. “Women Against Abuse provides very sad but very necessary services,” Bob said. “They’re helping people in situations of abuse but also working towards prevention in the community. It’s an amazing organization and Jeannine is a great champion for the organization. The dedication of Jeannine and her staff continues to motivate me.”

Sometimes when you look back at a career, it might look more intentional than it actually was. That may be the case for Jeff Hornstein, Executive Director of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, who described to me the randomness that existed in the path of his career so far. While that may be true, looking back you can see consistency and behavior and a mentality that helped him to get to where he is today. He’s created success by following a sense of purpose, seizing opportunities, and building alliances.

As the executive director of the Economy League, one of the three organizations that Samuel Fels founded more than 100 years ago (along with the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania and the Committee of Seventy), Jeff is driving the nonprofit think tank towards a position where they are best situated to promote inclusive economic development in the region. "You can't have economic growth [across society] if the economic situations of those at the bottom aren't strong," said Jeff Hornstein It's an ambitious and progressive mentality for the executive director, who is little more than half way through his first year, but his sense of purpose is palpable. A graduate of MIT, Jeff recalled sitting in a lecture with Noam Chomsky, who noted that the vast majority of Americans would never have the opportunities experienced by those in the room. But what people of talent and means choose to do with those gifts and opportunities -- that's really what matters. 

Jeff went on to continue his studies, both at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Maryland. But as he worked to finish his PhD and find jobs in academia, an unconventional opportunity arose that would enable him to have a different kind of impact. During his time at the University of Maryland, Jeff had been involved in efforts to unionize graduate students. It became a point of passion for him and overindulging in a conversation on the topic during an interview he ended up tanking his chance at an academic position. He would later learn that he had been the top candidate. Instead of wallowing in the rejection, he seized the insight underneath the disappointment and found his way into the labor movement full-time, organizing, bargaining, leading, consulting, and making a very different kind of impact than he had originally envisioned. Some opportunities lasted longer than others, while some seemed like opportunities but never panned out. But with hindsight, recurring themes seem clear: Jeff followed his passions, his sense of purpose, and was willing to follow unexpected opportunities. 

Eventually Jeff came to see Philadelphia as home, and he made an ambitious run at City Council. Despite his lack of success, the campaign helped him to increase his profile and solidify a network of valued advisors. Having the right structure of alliances, Jeff reflects, is critical to success. Following the campaign, opportunities came and went, and he ultimately found himself leading policy efforts for the City Controller, being a leader within government in a different way than he had expected during his run for elected office. Equipped with his varied experience and a large network attained through studying, organizing, and politics, he successfully led the office through impactful initiatives for five years. But, inevitably, new opportunities presented themselves and his situations evolved. The changing leadership of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia presented a major opportunity for Jeff to take the helm of an organization and promote economic success for both the region generally and for those in society who need it most. Like Noam Chomsky taught -- for those who have been gifted with talent and opportunity, there is a responsibility to serve those who have not been afforded such good fortune.

Now Jeff is in the most autonomous position that he's been able to create for himself so far, with a staff -- recently moved into a new, more cost-effective space in Center City -- ready to do high-quality research and ensure that decision makers in the region are prepared with the evidence and data needed to make the best decisions for all people living in the Philadelphia region. Jeff embodies a kind of organic leadership that’s forged through experience. He’s fought in the trenches for workers’ rights; he’s worked within, and around the system; he's initiated change; and turned disappointment into opportunity. Union organizers are often known for being combative, and onlookers often wonder how Jeff’s roster of donors and allies is filled with former adversaries. The key, Jeff reflected, is to know both how to fight and how to settle. No matter what role others play, whether it’s ally or rival, you have to be able to prove aligned interests. That's all that matters. You have to make sure that all parties understand that they are better off involved than out of the loop. As Jeff leads the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia into the future, it will be exciting to see how his organization can prove the aligned interests of stakeholders and decision makers, and how he continues to take new opportunities and forge new alliances. 


Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources for Autism and Intellectual Disability (PAR) is a statewide, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that supports providers of person-centered services for thousands of individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism across the state. While PAR’s members range in size and scope, PAR unites them with a shared vision of creating a system that drives positive change and betters the lives of people in the intellectual disability/autism community through the influence of political, economic, and social policy. Advocacy for person-centeredness is not only seen as essential to those receiving services but also to those who are providing the services themselves. In recent years, PAR has committed to advocating for increased wages for Direct Support Professionals, which is seen as a critical component to recruitment, retention, and quality of service. 

PAR’s advocacy-focused mission is reinforced and strengthened by the leadership of its President and CEO, Shirley Walker. For Shirley, advocacy starts with and is strengthened by building a solid learning community that maintains a strong focus on mission and the people who benefit from it. She has carried this philosophy with her throughout her career, which has spanned several industries, both in the private and public sectors. Her skill set is deep and varied, ranging from education and juvenile advocacy to business and management consulting. She also has a great love of music and a strong faith. Over the last 20 years, Shirley has brought her many talents, passion, and perspective to “PAR Leadership Through Education.”

Shirley recognizes the complexities of the system within which PAR operates and does not shy away from the hard work it takes to achieve their mission. She sees advocacy as her biggest priority as well as her biggest challenge. By building PAR as a referral system, she hopes to educate providers, legislators, and the public to help make the intellectual disability/autism system more understandable, thereby clarifying what is needed and available for those seeking, providing, and funding services. Shirley’s strategies for doing so include:

  • Providing PAR members with weekly publications that provide education on system, service, and policy changes;
  • Creating workgroup opportunities that help build a community of collaboration and support around common issues and goals; and
  • Acting as a clearing house for state members to access information from national associations affiliated with the intellectual disability/autism system.
  • In so doing, Shirley provides the opportunity for consensus among the provider community that can help bring a unified message to legislators to effect change at the federal, state, and local levels. She brings a clear vision and passion for education from her many years as an educator and administrator to her role at PAR.

Leadership Through Focus

Shirley maintains that PAR’s strength is in its focus, which she feels is essential to effective advocacy. This focus permeates the organization, starting with the values and vision communicated during orientation. The staff is then given a clearly defined scope of work that supports PAR’s mission. To encourage continued innovation that helps them achieve that mission, Shirley strives to cultivate a team that includes a healthy mix of long-term knowledge and new perspective. By combining focus, innovation, and mission, PAR has helped intellectual disability/autism support services secure the sixth largest appropriation of more than 500 in Pennsylvania government, which constitutes a greater level of support than for all other service areas in the state.  

Person-Centered Leadership

Shirley’s leadership style embodies PAR’s person-centered mission. She wants the people being supported by intellectual disability/autism services to feel valued and not pitied. She wants for their voices to be heard and for their rights to be upheld. She also recognizes that the quality of the support they receive is dependent on consistent and reliable staffing. To that end, she has been a champion of addressing the Direct Support Professionals wage crisis facing the industry. Shirley sees that advocacy in this industry is multifaceted and deserves attention. Her leadership approach of using consensual processes of committees and workgroups ensures that the voices of PAR members and staff as well as those who receive intellectual disability/autism services and their families are heard when decisions need to be made and issues need to be brought to advocacy councils, lobbyists, and legislators. Shirley’s commitment to collaboration strengthens PAR’s mission and her vision for the future of PAR: 

To conclude in Shirley’s words, “…Growth toward even more highly effective advocacy toward a future where all individuals with intellectual disability or autism can get the services, they need… PAR’s worthy mission is my mission.”

To learn more about PAR and how you might be able to support their mission, visit

Introduction to Joseph Myers and Cooper’s Ferry Partnerships

Joe Myers, a graduate of The College of New Jersey’s Class of 1998 and a fellow Fels Institute of Government Graduate of the class of 2000, has been dedicated to the city of Camden, New Jersey for almost 20 years. He started as an intern for Cooper’s Ferry Partnership (primarily Cooper’s Ferry Development Association (CFDA)) while he was in graduate school and was hired as a project manager after he graduated. Within 10 years he became Vice President and COO of Cooper’s Ferry Partnership. As a dedicated member of the organization, he understands the intricacies of running a nonprofit through the standpoint of various positions. In February of 2011, Joe and others were involved in the merger between Cooper’s Ferry Development Association and the Greater Camden Partnership. Together, these organizations merged their missions and created the Cooper’s Ferry Partnership. 

Cooper’s Ferry Partnerships strives to make Camden, New Jersey into a better place to live, grow, visit, and invest. They have three main divisions: Development, Neighborhood Initiatives, and Downtown Security & Policy. Joe is involved in all three divisions but has been recognized for his work in the areas of Development and Neighborhood Initiatives. He focuses on the development of the Camden Waterfront and collaborates closely with the private sector. All three divisions typically intersect and collaborate based on a special needs assessment of the specific neighborhood that Cooper’s Ferry looks to work with. Joe also serves on the local board of the Salvation Army for the Camden Kroc Center. 

For an organization like Cooper’s Ferry Partnerships, measuring success cannot be categorized into one area but many areas. For instance, Cooper’s Ferry measures success through the financial standing of their organization. Receiving funds from grants and donations is a sure way for their organization to measure success since people want to give money towards causes that matter. The more grants and funding that comes through their doors also provides justification for the mission they are trying to achieve. Along those lines, it is equally important to prudently manage funds both effectively and efficiently as well as leveraging resources to attract additional and/or new funds. 

Another measure of success includes employment and ensuring that colleagues and individuals get challenged individually through their exposure within the organization. Additionally, the mission of the organization provides insight on the measurement of success within a nonprofit organization. Joe mentioned that success can be measured through the strength of the mission. Since the mission of Cooper’s Ferry involves improving quality of life and community, there are two ways that you can measure the success of the mission. A qualitative approach can be used to measure the success of improving the quality of life and community by asking the community members through a survey, for their thoughts on the changes that have happened and that will happen. Another method involves the programs and programmatic attendance that Cooper’s Ferry organizes. Additionally, by just comparing pictures of Camden, NJ 10 years ago as compared to Camden, NJ now, the differences are remarkable. It almost feels as if the newly constructed buildings were built over night (but the reality is that community and economic development takes years of planning, engagement, and leadership, among other things). With generous funds from public and private partners, neighborhood planned events are attracting residents into the various rehabbed and/or newly programmed parks while focusing on local arts, culture, and healthy initiatives. 

When asked what key event led him to want to lead in Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, Joe mentioned three motivating factors. First, the mission of Cooper’s Ferry Partnership drew him to want to be a part of the organization. 18 years ago, he saw Camden, New Jersey as a place with huge potential and became interested in being part of the revitalization of the city. He acknowledged the history of Camden and how it was a growing city until various setbacks began to challenge its growth. Another reason Joe decided to join Cooper’s Ferry was the culture of the organization. At the time, there were only six individuals working at Cooper’s Ferry and each one was 110 percent committed to the city and the community. Their dedication and team-oriented collaborative environment made their workforce seem a lot bigger than it was. Additionally, Joe mentioned being drawn in by the leadership and impact of Tom Corcoran, graduate from Wharton and former lecturer at Fels Center.

Joe was very clear and eloquent when he spoke. He was very open to talk about the different nonprofit development theories and leadership methods as well as the challenges that certain nonprofits/leaders tend to face. We talked about the importance of being involved in one’s community when striving for urban revitalization. How inserting yourself into a community can lead to negative impact especially if the intentions of your involvement remain unclear and also how it is always best to explain and continue to remind a community of your intentions to avoid misinterpretations.  

Currently with a staff of 14 individuals, Cooper’s Ferry strives to have a very team-oriented approach to their decision making. CFP practices clear and open communication within their organization. They are clear in what they expect from their team. CFP also recognizes that clear and open communication are dynamics that build over time. Joe mentioned that a portion of working at CFP involves making it out to staff excursions and attending professional development courses to ensure that knowledge in the field is up-to-date for all staff members. CFP takes the time to make sure that their staff is as interested and involved as they can be. With that said, Joe mentioned how a tight knit organization can come with some hardships as well. For instance, with such a focus on organizational dynamics, the onboarding of new staff members can lead to “growing pains” (as Joe called it) because CFP has such a big focus on staff dynamic, there is more pressure in making sure that newer staff members work well with the more established staff members. CFP looks to hire staff members with similar interests in commitment and camaraderie towards the cause. 

Considering Joe has been an integral part of Cooper’s Ferry for almost 20 years, it felt almost natural to ask him how he would do things differently if he were given a chance to start over in his leadership role today. He responded by noting the organizations firm belief in incremental progress and how important it is to have long term goals. Long term goals can be accomplished through outlining strategic planning and short-term goals with a monthly, quarterly, or yearly approach. Given the chance to start over, he would try to be clearer regarding the management of expectations for his staff as well as the funders of Cooper’s Ferry. This would allow visibility of expectations across the staff and lessen the chance for an element of surprise.

Additionally, he would focus more on a different approach to the world of fundraising. He would have Cooper’s Ferry cultivate funder relationships sooner by establishing regular communication through constant updates regarding the organization’s progress, volunteer opportunities within the city, or even invites to special events held by Cooper’s Ferry and Camden. He would also promote funders to communicate with Cooper’s Ferry on a more regular basis. 

There is no doubt that Cooper’s Ferry Partnership will continue to impact the city of Camden in a positive way. With strong leadership, passionate staff members, and a collaborative healthy dynamic within the organizations work style -- Cooper’s Ferry Partnership will continue to strive and grow in a progressive direction, both for the benefit of the city, and the community. The story of Camden and its revitalization is still in its early chapters, but Joe said it is very exciting to be a part of a collaborative environment with the public and private sectors working together with neighborhoods and community leaders.   

Speaking with the Committee of Seventy’s President and CEO David Thornburgh, I got a real sense of his passion for Philadelphia city government. Indeed, politics are deeply rooted in Mr. Thornburgh’s life and family. He is the son of former Pennsylvania Governor and U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh. After graduating from Haverford College with a B.A. in Political Science, he received a Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Mr. Thornburgh joined the Committee of Seventy (Seventy) as President and CEO in 2014. Prior to joining the Committee of Seventy, he held a variety of politically-focused positions in Philadelphia. Most recently, he served as Executive Director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government. At Fels, Mr. Thornburgh launched the Executive MPA program and quadrupled alumni giving.

When Mr. Thornburgh came to the Committee of Seventy, Philadelphia city government was relatively stable and committed to ethics and integrity. However, he believes that as politics change, you must adapt, and new responses and priorities are needed. The 2016 Presidential election lead to a restored interest in the Committee of Seventy's mission and a renewed purpose of fighting for democracy and civil rights.

Established in 1905, the Committee of Seventy has an extensive and influential history in Philadelphia, where it continues to be dedicated to fair elections and good governance. At the turn of the twentieth century, Philadelphia was arguably the worst-governed city in America. Elections were far from fair. After a 1904 town hall meeting that aimed to improve Philadelphia’s political climate, the Committee of Seventy was formed. That meeting brought together many prominent Philadelphia reformers, including Fels, Strawbridge, and Calvert, who were all members of Seventy’s first board.

In order to solidify a robust and efficient organization, the founders of the Committee of Seventy created a clear mission statement. According to Mr. Thornburgh, Seventy’s mission has fundamentally stayed the same for 115 years and he referred to it as, “in a way a rock.”

While its mission has remained relatively stable, Seventy’s goals and priorities have evolved with the changing political landscape. According to Mr. Thornburgh, Seventy has a history of stepping up when the city “loses its bearings.” He believes that it is crucial to read the changes in the world around you and to understand how those changes affect the nature of your organization.

“Strategy is a Crossroad of Opportunity and Capacity.” 

Accordingly, when Thornburgh took over Seventy, he modified the organization’s strategy. Seventy now fights to defend campaign finance laws, has made lobbying and campaign spending public information, and has established an independent City Board of Ethics. Seventy also provides unbiased, nonpartisan information to voters, a crucial task in today's political climate. Some of Seventy’s recent accomplishments include prohibiting cash gifts for elected officials and city employees, banning excessive pensions for elected officials, and leading a successful court case to limit campaign contributions, thereby reducing corruption in the City.

Mr. Thornburgh has received numerous awards for his leadership, including an Eisenhower Fellowship in 2000 and being named one of the “40 Business Leaders Under 40” by Philadelphia Business Journal in 1992. He has also been recognized as a highly trusted and respected civic “connector” by LEADERSHIP Philadelphia.

Mr. Thornburgh believes that Seventy has “recommitted his interest in innovation.” Moving forward, he hopes to extend Seventy’s impact to Harrisburg and the greater region. Seventy and David Thornburgh are well positioned to respond to the needs of the current political landscape and ensure fair elections and good governance in Philadelphia and beyond.

Philabundance: What Good Souls Can Do to Change the World 

Chris Bristow and I were tasked with setting up an interview with one of Philabundance’s top executives. Chris had the opportunity several years ago to meet Laura Schepps, Senior Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Philabundance and was able to schedule an interview with Laura at her office on Galloway Street, right in the heart of the organization. We were delighted to meet with her and interested to hear more in-depth details about operating a nonprofit from someone who has insight on one of the most successful and respected charitable organizations in the region.

The facility was impressive by its sheer size and the energy that emanated from it. Volunteers wore their warehouse safety vests while walking with purpose and identifiable satisfaction. Perhaps this is how it feels to work in an environment that is motivated by impacting stakeholders rather than the bottom-line for shareholders.

The receptionist was hospitable and professional. She was apparently expecting us and after a couple administrative tasks, she kindly offered us seating in the waiting area where Laura Schepps would greet us. A few minutes later Laura arrived, smiling and eager to give us a quick tour of their installation. 

Laura kindly reminded my project partner and I that her time was limited and recommended beginning the interview promptly. After a courteous exchange, we introduced ourselves and told Laura in detail what we both were trying to cover in the interview and how we would use that information. 

A quick word about Laura’s professional background; she serves as the strategic business partner for the organization’s Executive Director, Glenn Bergman. Laura also provides financial and economic managerial and operational leadership while overseeing all company financial practices, accounting policies, procedures, preparation, and monitoring of the budget. Prior to joining Philabundance in August 2017, Laura served in several high-profile positions at Philadelphia’s major research universities and large corporations. 

According to Laura, the Philabundance Board of Directors is ultimately responsible for the organization’s success and is accountable to the public. Having an independent governing body is clearly recommended by most experienced nonprofit professionals because it encourages deliberation and diversity of thinking on approaches to governance and various organizational matters.  

Laura emphasized the importance of the organization’s focus on fostering strong leadership. She discussed their need to identify and properly train, groom, and develop new leaders within their pool of volunteers, donors, and supporters. Consequently, they began to strategically  plan for an adequate resourcing program and performance management to pass their skills on to the next generation of leaders. 

Laura believes that social responsibility is also a pillar to the success of Philabundance. Stakeholders play a key role in the organization’s mission and strategic planning. The board sees the satisfaction of their key stakeholders as paramount and requires an elaborate planning process.

As the organization’s CFO, Laura relies on a strong financial model paired with skilled fiscal management that is perhaps one of the most significant elements in the success of a nonprofit organization. Laura explained that if a nonprofit is deprived of proper financial accounting processes and strict internal controls, it will face financial decays and as a result will not have access to necessary resources to carry out its mission. 

Philabundance appears to have recognized the risks involved in poor financial and fiscal management and inaptitude to generate a diversified and sustainable revenue. When it comes to the type of revenue Philabundance attracts, Laura Schepps told us that they are 98 percent funded by individual donors and private foundations. 

Our first reaction was to ask, if this was sustainable. According to Laura, “it has been for 34 years! So possibly, yes.” However, she added, “Is it a good way to grow? No.” To alleviate the pressure related to their great reliability on private donations, Philabundance brought in three grant writers to access more private and local government grants. Additionally, they increased their fixed asset acquisitions and more specifically commercial assets targeted in “food desert” areas in the Delaware Valley and its vicinities. Philabundance has a dedicated and knowledgeable leader in Laura Schepps, who keeps a strict financial and fiscal management structure by maintaining regular financial controls and safeguarding the organization against mistakes and/or inappropriate behavior.  

Chris and I were interested to learn more on how Philabundance develops and builds alliances with other organizations by sharing their vision of building a healthier community in our region. Laura told us that Philabundance has built strong alliances with many local businesses and local organizations over the last 34 years. A couple of these new alliances gave birth to their Sustainability Fund and Gateway Programs, which are both based on common goals and trustworthy collaboration. 

We wished we could have spent more time with Laura, however, she already made few sacrifices to meet with us on short notice. Chris and I were extremely appreciative of her time spent answering our questions and we walked away with a clearer idea of the challenges Philabundance and nonprofits in general are facing nowadays. Nevertheless, we trust Philabundance can build on clear name recognition and a respected brand which can help them endure the numerous challenges the organization encounters on a daily basis. Productive, fair, and ongoing alliances may give this organization the ability to strengthen compatible missions, enhance financial stability, and increase assistance to the people they serve.

Hillary Kane is the second director of the Philadelphia Higher Education Network for Neighborhood Development (PHENND). She began her tenure in this position in the fall of 1999 and has been in this role since. As someone who has been with the organization since its early beginning, she is proud of its continued existence and support to area colleges and universities over the last three decades. She looks forward to continuing to grow PHENND and to innovate in order to fulfill PHENND’s mission of bringing to bear the resources of universities to improve quality of life for all Philadelphia residents. 

Experience & Contributions

Kane earned her undergraduate degree in Urban Studies from the University of Pennsylvania. She credits the program with helping provide her with an interdisciplinary understanding of the interconnected social issues that affect Philadelphia. Kane joined the PHENND team immediately after graduation in the role of assistant director and assumed the role of director months later after the unexpected departure of the previous director.

Despite Kane’s top-notch education, she wasn’t fully prepared to lead the organization and honed many of the skills needed to lead a small nonprofit on the job. She says, “Running a nonprofit is like a small business, there’s a lot of spreadsheets and procurement. My degree didn’t prepare me for that.” Thanks to mentorship from her colleague Joann Weeks at the Netter Center, and her strong desire to make a difference and get things done, Kane has been able to learn those financial management skills and acquire the other knowledge it takes to lead PHENND.

Under her leadership, PHENND has grown from its initial group of five colleges and universities to a consortium of 24 colleges and universities in the greater Philadelphia area. In addition to the growth in member campuses, Kane is responsible for bringing several new grants to PHENND that allow for signature programming including PHENND K-16 VISTA Project, Next Steps AmeriCorps Program, and GEAR UP College Readiness among others. 

Kane sees the longevity and consistency of PHENND as her most important contribution: “keeping this thing alive through blood, sweat, and tears and hard years. We’ve survived and are growing and thriving.” She is also proud of the PHENND newsletter, which has been going out weekly for 18 years. The newsletter has become a go-to resource for events, news, research, and job postings related to higher education and neighborhood development in the Philadelphia region. The intersectional content of the newsletter attracts diverse stakeholders across sectors. There are almost 6,000 subscribers and the audience is still growing at a robust rate, with more than an 11 percent increase in 2017 from the previous year. 

Not only has Kane sustained and grown PHENND and the newsletter over the years, she has also maintained an admirable work-life balance. She is the proud mom of two young children who attend Philadelphia public schools and is also proud to spend time with her family and be an activist outside of work. Kane says she admires Jane Jacobs - another urbanist, mom and activist!

Vision for the Future

Kane continues to enjoy leading PHENND after all these years because of the breadth of PHENND’s mission. “Every year is different, but enough the same that I can knock out some things and then add new things and innovate,” she says. PHENND recently did a year-long strategic alignment with Compass, during which they recommitted to the breadth of their approach. Many of PHENND’s initiatives are in the K-16 education space, such as Next Steps AmeriCorps, a college completion strategy for low income sophomores and juniors in college, and GEAR UP, a tutoring and college readiness program for high school students. Therefore, PHENND considered narrowing their focus to that area. However, through the strategic alignment, PHENND determined that the motivation behind these education projects was ultimately neighborhood development. Although much of PHENND’s funding is for K-16 education projects, the goal is bigger than that, and Kane hopes to continue to pursue diverse, place-based initiatives to improve quality of life in underserved communities in Philadelphia. Kane also hopes to continue to increase staffing to support this broad mission and new projects. Last but not least, Kane aspires to get more involved in local government on a personal level to take her activism to the next level. 

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