Wondering how to get involved in your community and be more civically engaged in 2022? 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 that you can do your part to make your city an even better, fairer and more welcoming place to live for everyone.
Whether you’re a seasoned activist or new to the ins-and-outs of our ever-changing political and social world, we hope these guides will aid your civic journey and keep you fired up to make positive change. Being a one-stop-shop for civic engagement is one of the founding tenants of The Citizen, so we help it aids you in your journey.
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 2022 primary election on May 17, 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 voter registration deadline on May 2.
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
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 the scourge of homelessness in our city.
Statistics tell us that around one in five people suffer from food insecurity in Philadelphia—a statistic that 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 right 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 citizens. 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.
Hopefully 2020 and the murder of George Floyd will be 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—focusing on recent 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. Let today be a day we think about how we 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 to one of the biggest clean-street advocates in Philadelphia, Ya Fav Trashman, for a practical guide on how to organize and run a street cleanup in your neighborhood and 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
There is a lot of work to do to help students recover from the physical, emotional and academic ravages of Covid-19—not least the achievement gap that has widened between well-off and less well-off students because of virtual learning. Every year, we encourage all Philadelphians, whether parents or not, to do their part to help our young people succeed. This year, they need it more than ever. Their future—our future—depends on it.
Philadelphia schools are struggling right now. The educational needs of our students, teachers and school system are greater than ever, and that’s truly unacceptable if we want a city that grows and thrives. It’s essential to dig in to support our schools, which are having an incredibly difficult time adjusting in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. We talked to those on the education frontlines to get tips on the most meaningful ways to help local schools now, and as we look ahead.
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 United States. 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 BUSINESSES 🛍
It may seem kind of silly, but the simple action of getting out and doing things can go a long way in helping your city to thrive. Just think about it—you’re helping to create an image of a town that’s alive and bustling. That’s great for morale. And perhaps more importantly you’re buying food and drinks and merchandise from local restaurant, bar and boutique owners—all of whom need the leg up. So, get out and find something fun to do in Philly this weekend, and even further down the road this spring. We all deserve it!
Philadelphia restaurants have pulled out all the stops to keep customers coming in during the pandemic—including building amazing outdoor dining setups for local foodies to enjoy. The concept has become one of the best things to do in Philadelphia right now, even as it gets colder outside. Check out our guide to the best outdoor dining in Philly for spots around town with heat lamps, fire pits, greenhouses and igloos, because supporting our restaurants is supporting our city.
These awesome breweries in Philly, which have found creative ways to pivot during the pandemic—they’ve managed to stay in business, provide 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. So go ahead and raise a glass to these breweries in Philadelphia that are raising the bar on doing good.
Another thing local restaurants have done to stay afloat during the pandemic? Beefed up their takeout services. But despite constant struggles to adapt to changing circumstances, many Philly restaurateurs are still finding ways to offer support to their communities, staff and customers. 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.
In Philly, women-run restaurants make our culinary scene rich, nutritious and diverse. And it’s not surprising that many of them stepped up to deliver meals to health care workers and distribute groceries to their communities during the pandemic. Here’s a list of some of our favorite women-run restaurants in Philly that we can support right now and ensure they make it to the other side of this ongoing crisis as strong as ever.
While 44 percent of the population in Philly is Black, only 2.5 percent of businesses with more than one employee are Black-owned. And many of those businesses have been harder hit during the pandemic than those owned by white entrepreneurs. Do your part to keep them afloat—and maybe even encourage other Black people to open businesses of their own—by eating, drinking and shopping at the spots on our list of local Black-owned businesses that do good.
Among the many reasons Americans volunteer to serve in the military is that most noble of callings: to serve their fellow citizens. And that calling doesn’t end when they hang up their uniforms. 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, discover 15-plus businesses in and around Philly run by vets. For more, browse Greater Philadelphia Veterans Network’s directory.Header photo by James Murphy / Flickr