There’s a lot we could say about the last couple of months—a lot about wrongheaded predictions, and low voter turnout, and shock, and (in many quarters) dismay, fear and worry. But there’s something else that has emerged since the election of Donald Trump: Hope.
It’s not hope in the Obama circa 2008 sense, or even in the sense of America’s short-term prospects. But how else to explain the surge in civic engagement that has resulted since November 8th, if not as a hope borne of desperation? Thousands of riled up citizens across the country have woken up to a reality that has never been more true than now: The only way to make the right kind of change happen is to get involved, take a stand, and see it through.
And nowhere is that more important than in your own community. That’s why The Citizen put out a call to local Philadelphians asking for their civic engagement New Year’s resolutions—what they pledge to do to make their city better in the coming year. Interestingly, none of the answers we got were political. But all were inspirational, like one of the resolutions from Archna Sahay, director of Entrepreneurial Investment for the city: “What I am planning to do to make Philly better this year is to stay. Stay connected. Stay rooted. Stay vigilant. Stay active. I plan to continue to do the work here in this magical city that I call home.”
If that’s not a sign of hope, then what is?
For my resolution, I’m going to be a better, more engaged neighbor, to those I know already and to those I’ve barely met, on the theory that civic engagement, like charity, begins at (or near) home. Even thinking about it gives me hope for the coming months.
So as you celebrate the new year, take a moment. Think about the city, your city. And then decide what you’re going to do to make it better in 2017. What’s your civic engagement New Years resolution?
If you want to share it—because going public holds you to it, like announcing a diet on Facebook—tweet us your ideas at #CitizenGoals.
For inspiration, here are what some local citizens vowed to do for Philadelphia in 2017:
Archna Sahay, Director of Entrepreneurial Investment for the City of Philadelphia
I am going to start by relaunching the Female Founders Network. A few years ago I started organizing events for female founders. The idea was simple: Get a group of women together to connect, share resources and find ways to help one another. It wasn’t specific to any industry either. The events attracted a diverse range of women from all over the city: writers, health care practitioners, tech CEOs. By all measures, the idea was a success from the very beginning. Everyone had some piece of knowledge to share with the larger room. I believe strongly in the thesis that empowering women leads to greater economic success for communities large and small. So, in 2017 I vow to do more to empower women in Philadelphia, starting with the Female Founders Network.
Morgan Berman, Founder/CEO MilkCrate
I’m going to expand my pilot project at Starr Garden Recreation Center. Last year on Martin Luther King Day, the MilkCrate team volunteered there, and I noticed a kiln in the corner. Fast forward to this fall and I built them a website, www.starrgarden.org, and use this site to recruit arts and crafts teachers and adult students who want to have an affordable maker space. This pilot started with a ceramics class that attracted 25 young Philadelphians who had never been in a rec center before and now have a creative outlet, new social network, and know where their local rec center is and are invested in it. This MLK Day, my ceramics class students will be helping transform the classroom and provide some much needed cleaning, organization and decorating. Next steps are to find more teachers, preferably folks in the community with skills to share and a need for extra income. Art school graduates, retired teachers—anyone who has a skill to share. We want this program to eventually grow to all rec centers, providing additional income to teachers, bringing in much needed revenue to the centers, and of course providing an essential service to adults throughout the city—the chance to unplug, connect, and create.
Jennifer, West Philadelphia
I’m a single mom, and I want be more involved in my son’s school by going to parent meetings and helping out in various capacities in the school. I’m also going to encourage other parents to be more engaged in their children’s education.
Sharif El-Mekki, Mastery Shoemaker principal (and Citizen contributor)
I plan to continue to participate in Philly’s Rain Check and TreePhilly programs, and I would love to start beekeeping. I intend to continue to help our Black, Latino, Muslim, and immigrant communities resist bigotry in all forms. I plan to continue to support Philadelphians in having more seats in more good public schools for our children and communities. I am committed to working towards doubling our number of highly effective Black male educators here in Philadelphia, so that we will lead the country in the percentage of Black male educators affecting change within our city’s classrooms. This is within our city’s grasp and will support the education of all our students.
Danielle Mancinelli, Early Literacy Specialist with the Children's Literacy Initiative
My New Year’s resolution is to apply for fiscal sponsorship for my organization BRIDGE, a yoga and narrative writing program for students, grade 1 to 12, and the communities that surround them, to make it 501(c)(3) official, and launch programming in at least four Philly schools this year.
Meryl Levitz, President/CEO Visit Philadelphia
Something that I am doing that I have done before is to buy two tickets to a few local performances and bring a guest who has never been before. This year I have bought tickets to three chamber music concerts and will take friends who perhaps didn’t think chamber music was for them. I think this increases engagement.
Tom Wyatt, attorney, former City Council candidate
Broadly, I am going to be pathologically positive and focused on the future, while not taking any guff off of people who don’t appreciate environmental sustainability, the imperative of diversity and those that would look to scapegoat or ignore folks among us who are most in need. Personally, 2017 is the year my daughter walks up the stairs of her neighborhood school (Andrew Jackson Elementary) as a Philadelphia public school kindergartner carrying every ounce of hope my wife and I can muster. While that is deeply personal, we know it makes us no different than every other parent and caretaker in this great city. So, I am going to redouble my efforts to support Jackson (its parents, students, teachers, staff and principal)!
Conrad Benner, founder/editor, StreetsDept
This January 14th I’ll be working with a number of fellow Philly artists and creatives to host a silent art auction to raise money for 10 national and local organizations—like Juntos (local) and Planned Parenthood (national)—that will be on the front lines during Trump’s Presidency. The event’s called ‘Collective Action,’ and we’ll have more information on it in the coming weeks.
Sara, from South Philadelphia
I plan to help the elderly by volunteering at a senior care center.
Chris Alfano, cofounder of Jarvus Innovations and Code for Philly
I resolve to establish civic hacking and citizen IT infrastructure as a self-sustaining institution in Philly.
Audrey Taichman, restaurateur
Hosting FEASTIVAL for the past 8 years (benefiting the Fringe Arts Festival) has been the greatest honor. I will continue that commitment. I can’t stress enough the importance for our city to have great arts and culture. The greater the arts, the greater the city. I’d also love to convince the streets dept to put a traffic light at the corner of Falls Bridge and West River Drive.
Theresa Thomas, of Feltonville
I’d really like to help out with all of the animals that run loose on the streets. It’s a real problem and I’m going to try to help with it.
David Thornburgh, CEO Committee of Seventy
It’s the first law of history that reform begins with higher expectations. Next year, at the Committee to Seventy I’ll do everything I can—in thought, word, and deed, as it were—to drown out the Negadelphians, ban the Philly shrug, and encourage all of us to expect more from ourselves and our political leaders.
David Silver, co-founder RECPhilly
Our plans for making Philly a little better in 2017 are to build more resources for our creative community to utilize in order to build their careers here in Philadelphia—things such as our Amplify Philly initiative that brings Philadelphia to South By Southwest, or opening up a new music venue in West Philadelphia. By creating more opportunities for our community, it gives our most talented local citizens another reason to stay in this city & love this city.
Sam Katz, founder/producer History Making Productions, former Mayoral candidate
I plan on producing the final three episodes of Philadelphia: The Great Experiment, the documentary that presents Philadelphia’s history over four centuries; a documentary, The Daring Women of Philadelphia, that will tell the story of those women who in the early 19th century spoke out for abolition of slavery, for rights for women, temperance and public education, and stepped out of the more limited roles then prescribed for women; and a documentary, Speed of Light: Philadelphia and the Birth of the Movies, that details the innovation and inventiveness of Philadelphians who helped to create the movies. The value of an informed citizenry that has been educated about the history of our city is, I truly believe, a great contribution to the civic fabric of Philadelphia.