The 3rd Annual Uniting to Fight Poverty Summit

On November 10th, the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO) convened its 3rd annual Uniting to Fight Poverty Summit at the Arch Street Meeting House. Nearly 200 people attended for this full-day event, bringing together practitioners and service providers, community members, policy-makers and advocates. The conference opened with a warm welcome from Mitch Little, Executive Director of CEO. Councilwoman Helen Gym provided introductory remarks, conveying unity in the fight against poverty, and urging all of us to reaffirm our commitment to this work. Following introductions, Dr. Kathryn Edin, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University, gave a highly engaging plenary session on the work in her book, $2 a Day. Attendees then broke out into smaller groups to learn more about:

  • revitalization and gentrification of commercial and public spaces,
  • the impact of the toxic stress of poverty on one’s early life,
  • the role of housing policy in anti-poverty work,
  • how immigrants specifically navigate safety net programs, and
  • the importance of living and family-sustaining wages.

Each break-out session opened with video of a personal story relating to the topic, recorded by First Person Arts. At several break-out sessions and throughout the day we also had Illustrating Progress and Breakthrough Visuals (Terry LaBan) illustrating the major themes emerging in real-time. These images can be found in the materials below.

During lunch, members of the City of Philadelphia Health and Human Services Cabinet spoke about how thoughtful collaboration across departments can create opportunities to share data and align strategies to more effectively address poverty. The lunch plenary featured Eva Gladstein (Health and Human Services), David Holloman (Office of Homeless Services), Arthur Evans, Jr. (Dept. of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services), Thomas Farley (Department of Public Health).

Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. brought us all into the second half of the day reminding us about how inequality is a story of geography – that one’s zip code shouldn’t determine your life chances. Jer Thorp of the Brooklyn-based Office for Creative Research opened the afternoon plenary with a dynamic presentation, calling on us as data collectors and consumers to ask deeper questions about representation, bias and the stories we tell with our data. A panel of esteemed community leaders then reflected on how data can be used to craft authentic stories for men of color. The panel was moderated by the Rev. Luis Cortes, Jr. (Esperanza), and included Thoai Nguyen (SEAMAAC), Reuben Jones (Frontline Dads), as well as Jer Thorp and A’yen Tran (Office for Creative Research).

To conclude the day, Mayor James Kenney provided some powerful words on the extent of poverty in our city, what progress has been made and what is still to be done. Mayor Kenney commended the work of CEO, highlighting the partnerships forged under Shared Prosperity and support for landmark programs such as the Pre-K initiative. CEO Executive Director Mitch Little delivered the release of the Shared Prosperity Progress Report and called audience members to action, to deepen our collective efforts to reducing the near-term and long-term consequences of poverty.

We want to thank our Oversight Board members who managed transitions and introductions seemingly effortlessly and all CEO staff and partners involved to make this day a tremendous success.

Selected Summit Materials


First Person Arts Videos:


Graphic Recording Images:


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