Starting in November, the 10k Independents Project closely tracked the Philadelphia Mayoral Primary. Our goal was to educate all candidates about, while also informing voters about the many types of careers and businesses that are more possible now than ever before. The 10k Independents Project is working to build a more resilient economy for and by Philadelphians by supporting new paths to a good career, moving more independent operators from surviving to thriving, and prioritizing hiring to benefit our neighborhoods and communities in need.
We learned a lot about the candidates and scored each of them in three areas: small business policy, collaboration, and balanced economic development policy. We evaluated written small business policy plans and looked at how track records aligned with promises. We awarded points for anything focused on supporting people who are self-employed, entrepreneurs or any other form of independent workers.
For collaboration, we examined the history of coalition-building to accomplish goals and evaluated collaborations with the 10k Independents Project during the race, including but not limited to participation in the 10k Reacts video series.
The candidate who scored highest on our issues also won the primary.
For the video series, we asked campaigns to introduce the candidate to our community of Independent businesses in a 2-minute video and speak to 10k issues. Some campaigns taught us new things; others repeated canned stump speeches. Some needed multiple reminders, and others responded right away. We learned which campaigns wanted to collaborate with us on the common goal of educating voters.
Finally, we examined economic development policies. How would the city attract and retain both large and small businesses, even independents? We listened to public statements and read campaign websites.
The good news is that most of the candidates were very responsive. Most focused on small business policy, collaborated well and presented balanced economic development ideas. Even better news, the candidate who scored highest on our issues also won the primary.
Cherelle Parker’s future-ready vision
Team Parker were among the most enthusiastic collaborators during the campaign. 10k believes that leadership is collaboration. Lasting change is the result of ongoing, persistent collaboration. It is hard, unglamorous and rarely press-worthy. Collaboration is a top future-ready skill and very few practice it as authentically as Cherelle Parker. Aside from process, Team Parker has campaigned on many other future-ready policies.
As written here before, future-ready regions have proactive policies in at least three areas: fostering an innovation environment; modernizing education systems; and strengthening the labor force. Here are two policy examples emphasized by the Parker campaign.
First, entrepreneurship policy is a key component to a more resilient and innovative region. As the world adjusts to the age of artificial intelligence and automation, there will be disruptions and opportunities. Philadelphia is well-positioned and has many assets to thrive, but the next mayor can remove barriers to avoid widening existing gaps. The lack of wealth, healthcare, and social capital should not stop a person from creating a sustainable job for themselves. So many people need support to make their side hustle a good career, and then a thriving business.
Is the desire for change blinding us to the value of existing relationships and expertise?
In 2017, Parker launched a free entrepreneurship program called Power Up Your Business at Community College of Philadelphia, which provides small companies with training and workshops to help them thrive and grow. According to the directors of the program, it has helped 400 small businesses increase revenue and jobs; provided resources to another 1,000; and become the top feeder to the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Businesses program. Other entrepreneur support programs like Comcast RISE and Goldman Sachs are open only to three-year old businesses. However, for those without wealth, the first three years are critical. Parker says in our 10K Reacts video that she wants to put Power Up Your Business “on steroids.” This is critical because it is available to people in the first three years of operating.
Another Parker policy that is future-ready is deeper integration between the schools and apprenticeship programs leading to good careers. There are real challenges in the current Career and Technical Education (CTE). It will take years to realign K-12 programs so they can seamlessly prepare more young people for immediate entry into high-demand apprenticeship programs. Good jobs are in our region, and for years ahead. Leaders can build intentional and clear talent escalators from secondary schools to opportunity.
When schools’ curricula are more relevant and focused on skills, our region is more future-ready. Parker also envisions year-round learning opportunities so children can keep skills sharp and continue growing. This is especially important after the pandemic wreaked havoc on basic skills in disparate ways.
Okay, but will anything actually change?
Some critics say, “Isn’t Parker a continuation of business as usual?” I do not believe so.
Parker needed the village of mentors to open doors and, yes, some were elected Democratic leaders. So what? When a person dedicates themselves to public service, is it wise to automatically dismiss them as “status quo?” Is the desire for change blinding us to the value of existing relationships and expertise? The alternative is an outsider and a disruptor. That can be a good thing, sometimes. However, a disruptor needs to take more risks and is therefore, generally, a more privileged person with a cushion who can afford to burn some bridges.
Additionally, when a mayor takes office, they can begin to learn more things about every City department, things inaccessible during City Council budget hearings. A mayor has the authority to get more answers about the mission and outcomes of all offices and departments. With this deeper knowledge, intergovernmental priorities can be set, and the City can move in a clear strategic direction. Unlike her predecessor who pledged bold new initiatives like PHLpreK and ReBuild, Cherelle Parker ran to make Philadelphia “safer, cleaner, greener with more opportunity for all.” This requires adjustments in how City departments deliver basic services. I feel Parker has the will, skills, relationships and courage to make the necessary operational changes and get better results.
I feel Parker has the will, skills, relationships and courage to make the necessary operational changes and get better results.
With voters splitting along racial lines, it is worth mentioning what research indicates. Parker, as a Black woman, most likely climbed a steeper hill to get where she is today. There is no reason to believe she would stop exceeding expectations once she becomes the first woman Mayor of Philadelphia.
Cities need leaders who are trusted, smart and wickedly curious. Leaders need relationships from a wide and diverse network, from PhDs to block captains. They also need masterful communication skills to embody optimism and assure people who are fearful about our rapidly changing world.
Cherelle Parker has all of this and gained my support through the months of observation and the 10k scorecard process. She has the skills, policy vision, and strong future-ready track record. City public servants, City Council members, her constituents, Penn Fels professors and peer Eisnehower Fellows all told me the same thing: Cherelle does the work, practices curiosity, learns, builds the best solutions from the ground up, and listens to all perspectives, irregardless of wealth or credentials.
Parker’s challenge going forward will not be much different than most other mayors before her. She will need to seek and balance the input of many types of experts. She will need to consider the establishment entities that propelled her rise. She will need to make tough decisions for the good of the whole city.
Given Parker’s skills and accomplishments to date, this voter is feeling optimistic.
Anne Gemmell Directs Policy and Advocacy for the 10K Independents Project, an organization of independent businesses collaborating together now to ask all candidates to collaborate, collaborate, collaborate now and when in office so Philadelphia can be a great place for more independent businesses to start and thrive. On April 5, the team at the 10K Independents Project hosts a webinar with three opportunities for Q&A to discuss the latest factors affecting the current mayor’s race, such as viability and values.
MORE ON THE FUTURE OF PHILADELPHIA