POWER has intentionally brought together Philadelphians across lines of race, income level, faith tradition, culture and neighborhood in order to build broad-based power for policy change. More than 40 congregations from every section of the city have actively participated in the building of POWER over the past year. 500 clergy and lay leaders have attended organizing trainings, planning and strategy sessions, engaged in research work, and conducted relational outreach within their congregations and communities since fall 2010.
POWER members have conducted more than 1,000 face to face conversations with fellow and sister congregants, peers and neighbors, in order to identify shared dreams and concerns, and common themes of both struggle and hope. The thousand stories we heard revolve around five key policy areas – Jobs, Schools, Safety, Housing & Health. Together, these stories weave into common narrative about pain, hope, frustration and diminishing opportunity in our neighborhoods and our city.
In the spring of 2011, more than 150 lay and clergy leaders from POWER congregations conducted forty research meetings with public and private sector leaders in these 5 areas. POWER leaders gained an understanding of how and why our key systems are failing to provide the pathways to opportunity our families need, and to learn about both the scope of the challenges we face as a city, as well as opportunities for collective action and possible transformation in our job training and employment systems, our K-12 and adult education systems, our housing and vacant land management systems, our healthcare systems and in our public safety and criminal justice systems.
During the summer of 2011, POWER leaders worked to create a vision for change in these 5 areas and prepared for their Founding Convention, which took place on September 25th, 2011 at Historic Tindley Temple United Methodic Church. POWER’s Founding Convention brought together 2,000 congregational members, allies and city officials to affirm a change agenda in 5 priority areas. The Convention also cemented commitments from labor leaders, City Councilman Bill Green and Mayor Michael Nutter, to work with POWER to address unemployment in Philadelphia. Many long-time observers and leaders of community activism in Philadelphia independently agreed that POWER’s Founding Convention was the largest grassroots civic gathering for change the city has seen in years, if not decades.
At the Convention POWER leaders:
1). Publicly announced and celebrated the formal launch of POWER – the coming together of dozens of congregations from across the city — across lines of race, income level, neighborhood and faith tradition — to build broad-based power for policy change.
2). Publicly presented our multi-year platform for change in our five priority policy areas.
3). Secured commitments from public and private sector leaders to work with POWER toward a vision of connecting 10,000 low-income Philadelphians with living wage jobs in the coming years.
4). Enlisted allies who share these aims.
To launch this new organization, POWER congregations have already contributed over $40,000 of their own funds and have secured over $150,000 in support from local foundations and national faith-based funders.
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