Wondering how to get involved in Philadelphia life and be more civically engaged? This is the place for you.
Below, our comprehensive good citizenship toolkit offers a host of ways to get involved in your community and city this year, so you can do your part to make your city a better, fairer and more welcoming place for everyone.
Whether you’re a seasoned activist or new to the ins-and-outs of our ever-changing political and social world, you can follow these guides in your civic journey — and stay fired up to make positive change. Being a one-stop-shop for civic engagement is one of the founding tenets of The Citizen.
Find our guides below, and feel free to reach out anytime if you have questions, comments or would like to see other resource guides on this page.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
VOTING AND STRENGTHENING DEMOCRACY
A thriving city is one that’s full of voters. Find out everything you need to know about voting in Philadelphia before (or during) the NEXT election, including how to register and check your voter registration, how to apply for an absentee and mail-in ballot, how to find your polling place and more.
Your vote is of the utmost importance, but you might want to help some other people get registered, too. Local election experts dole out tips on how to start a safe, legal and effective voter registration drive in Philadelphia before the next voter registration deadline.
Want to take your impact further? You can have a small but meaningful influence in the upcoming elections by holding a committee person seat in your voting district. Our guide tells you exactly how to do that (don’t worry; it’s easier than you think), and answers more questions about the ward elections.
Voting is one of the simplest things we can do to make the change we want to see in Philadelphia, but in fraught times like the ones we’re living in today, we sometimes need to step up to keep our democracy strong. Are you on board? Our guide offers a few ways to do that, even today when it feels weaker than ever.
Who are these people representing us for the next four years? We reached out to every member of City Council to see what they plan to do for Philadelphians. We also take a look at the good and not-so-good in incumbents’ track records. We also include direct contact links, because it’s up to us to hold them accountable to their promises. This isn’t supposed to be a cushy job, folks!
A great way to do something about an issue you care about is to simply contact your representatives. That means your state and federal reps, members of Philly City Council, your ward leader, your committee person — anyone elected to make your life better. Remember, each and every one of these representatives are working for you and want to hear what you think. And if they don’t — too bad!
STANDING UP FOR MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES
Philadelphia organizations here are making major efforts and strides to serve people experiencing mental health situations and crises. Here, 15 free or low-cost accessible services.
There’s quite a bit that we as citizens can do right now to help Philadelphians experiencing homelessness — from shopping curated Amazon top-needs lists to downloading an app that makes donating goods a breeze to literally helping build homes for people. Here, we share more than 15 ideas for how to get involved in the work of ending homelessness in our city.
Statistics tell us that around one in five people suffer from food insecurity in Philadelphia — which amounts to some 300,000 of us who lack regular, reliable access to daily meals. So what does helping ease hunger in our city look like on an individual level? Check out our guide for all kinds of ways you play a role in helping make sure that Philadelphians who need food can get it now.
One way to help alleviate hunger in Philadelphia? Start a community fridge! Sometimes known as “freedges,” community fridges are a type of mutual aid project that offer fresh fruit and vegetables, prepared meals and non-perishable items that are free for all and can be accessed through an outdoor refrigerator at any time. Here, a step-by-step guide to launching one in your neighborhood.
Thanks to expansive city-mandated protections for its LGBTQ+ citizens, Philadelphia has positioned itself as one of the rainbow-friendliest cities on the planet. But that doesn’t mean all the work is done to ensure protections for all of our LGBTQ friends. Want to do your part to further the movement? Start by supporting the local organizations that are uplifting our LGBTQ+ citizens and working to move the needle on civil rights and social justice.
So far, 2020 and the murder of George Floyd is being remembered as a year that propelled a reckoning on race and on policing in America. For now, the work for real, lasting change continues — and it takes all of us. Here we lay out some ways to keep the momentum of change going — from advocating for smarter policing to supporting the nonprofits doing the hard to make Philly a more equitable city for all.
As they arrive here in Philly, refugees and immigrants need our support — now more than ever. They need housing (and all that makes a house a home); winter clothes; English classes; cultural orientation; driver’s licenses; jobs; healing and hope. Here we offer some meaningful ways you can help. This post focuses on Afghan refugees, but the ideas and ways to help apply to all people coming to Philadelphia from outside the U.S.
Philly is home to about 59,000 vets, among the 840,000 throughout the state. You can honor their service by giving back to them, especially those who have had trouble adjusting to life outside the military. It seems the least we can do. Here, how to get started on your mission to help veterans in Philly and the U.S.
MAKING A CLEANER, GREENER PHILADELPHIA 🌳
Taking action to protect our planet is the work of our lifetime. (No pressure.) Unfortunately the biggest contributors to climate change are out of our control. (Ahem, elected leaders.) So, what can individual Philadelphians do? Start a movement. Composting, eating less meat, bringing reusable bags everywhere you go and swapping in LED light bulbs are not enough on their own. The trick is to make your actions contagious, inspire the folks in your circle to do those things, too — and to use those simple actions as the starting point for advocating for big-picture, systemic changes. Ready to to dive in? Here, more than 50 ways to start.
We consulted Philly’s best-loved clean-street advocate, Ya Fav Trashman, for a practical guide on how to organize and run a street cleanup in your community. He doled out five tips — and a dollop of good ol’ inspiration — for how to rally your neighbors to beautify your block.
Having a garden at home is simply life-giving. Taking care of plants relieves stress — and you get to enjoy tasty, fresh produce. Growing even a small amount of the food you eat — and inspiring your friends and neighbors to do the same — can also help mitigate climate change. Want to give it a go? Here, gardening experts share practical advice on how to start a garden when you live in a city — whether you have a small patio, rooftop deck or just a sunny windowsill.
In Philly, with our robust urban biking community it can feel intimidating for newbies to know where, or how, to begin their foray into the world of pedaling around town on two wheels. But with these recommendations from local biking experts, you should be covered from helmet to tire tread.
Participating in your neighborhood Buy Nothing group on Facebook is a fast way to give second life to anything that has become clutter in your house — and an incredible way to save money and stop participating in our wasteful throw-away culture. Plus, you get to make connections with the people who live around you, which can be more fulfilling than loading up bags and dropping them off at a thrift store. Here’s everything you need to know about using — or starting your own — Buy Nothing Facebook group.
Being active in your local civic association is one of the best ways to stay informed and to have input on proposed changes in your community. There are hundreds of them located in neighborhoods across the city, and these days many of them are more active than ever. Check out this map to see every Registered Community Organization (RCO) in the city of Philadelphia.
HELPING OUR LOCAL YOUTH SUCCEED
Philly schools in every corner of the city are dedicated to giving their students the academic, social-emotional, and physical support they need to grow up to be citizens. No matter if you don’t have a student at home: Philly’s kids, Philly’s educators are ours, and we Philadelphians should do our part to help our young people succeed.
Literacy, tech skills, writing, civics, music, art, social-emotional wellness: There are so many education-centric causes to support, and some excellent organizations doing the support work. No need to reinvent the wheel: Join up with one of these 20+ groups, and watch your impact go further than you ever thought it could.
Little free libraries are small, often wooden boxes that look similar to bird houses — but instead of eggs, they’re packed with books. These adorable libraries operate with a “take a book, leave a book” model, and have been popping up in neighborhoods throughout Philly and across the U.S. As their name implies, the libraries are tiny and free for public use. And with just a few tools and tips, anyone can make one. Here are some steps to get started.
SUPPORT LOCAL ARTS, BUSINESSES, MORE 🛍
It may seem kind of silly, but the simple action of getting out and doing things can go a long way in helping our city thrive. Just think about it — you’re helping create a place that’s alive and bustling. That’s great for morale — and even greater for the local restaurants, bars, boutiques, arts venues, and public spaces whom need a leg up. So, get out and find something fun to do in Philly this weekend, and further down the road this fall. We all deserve it!
Philly’s amazing pet shelters, from ACCT to PAWS to Street Tails, can use all the help they can get to keep their (hopefully temporary) animal residents safe. Doing your part could mean adopting (not shopping!), fostering, volunteering — or just taking a new friend for a walk.
These awesome breweries in Philly, aren’t just a great place to indulge in samples or sip a pint of pilsner. They’re businesses that provide good jobs and give back to their communities and nonprofit organizations across the nation. These spots have helped raise funds for local flood and tornado victims, people experiencing homelessness, families impacted by mental illness and much more. Raise a glass to these breweries in Philadelphia that raise the bar on doing good.
Next time you want to order takeout in Philly, check out one of these 11 spots giving generously, all while keeping their business alive and staff compensated.
Philadelphia’s women-run restaurants make our culinary scene rich, nutritious and diverse. Here’s a list of some of our favorite women-run restaurants in Philly.
While 46 percent of the population in Philly is Black, only 2.5 percent of businesses with more than one employee are Black-owned. Do your part to keep them afloat by eating, drinking and shopping at the places (and websites) on our lists of local Black-owned businesses that do good.
Veterans are among the most civically engaged citizens in the country. Many of them are also entrepreneurs: Some 2.4 million businesses nationwide are majority-owned by veterans, about 9 percent of all small businesses in the country. Here, find 15-plus businesses in and around Philly run by vets. For more, browse Greater Philadelphia Veterans Network’s directory.
Your morning Joe tastes so much better when you know where it comes from — a place that treats its workers well and gives back to the community and the world. Here are a handful of coffee shops around the city that are doing more than just giving you a daily pick-me-up.
Locally-owned shops and service providers are thinking about the future, and you can, too, by choosing to purchase from businesses that are working to preserve the environment and fight climate change.
Independently owned local bookstores not only still exist but are thriving in Philly neighborhoods. Come for the selection, and stay for the events and socializing opportunities.
Friends of the Wissahickon celebrate Earth Day by cleaning up on Harvey St.