The Power of Revolutionary Ideas; Stories from Philly
Some words or phrases when heard for the first time can affect you deeply. They are like thunderclaps in a steady rain. They punctuate and give deep meaning and can surprise us with their force. The recent study mission trip to Philly was this way.
A local leader who declares with a confidence born by her own life experience that “place making used to be defined by skyline. Now it’s defined by experience and story. Young professionals are the first generation to be looking for experience first, job second.” Thunderclap no. 1. A sense of place isn’t just a thing, it may be the most important thing. Economic success hinges on it.
A businessman who builds homes and refurbishes whole blocks knows that the market may not snap these properties up because the location previously had a sketchy reputation. Simple marketing techniques weren’t enough. So he recruited what he called “scene leaders.” Think youthful, with a following. Locals who were bandleaders, restaurant owners, tech pioneers, fashion designers, artists, and otherwise pioneers. Interesting people who spoke out, and people listened. A handful of scene leaders came, enticed by sharply discounted rents, the use of unique spaces, and other draws. And with them came a following of others who wanted to be near the scene. The place is now full of people, rich with experiences, and a community was created. Thunderclap no. 2.
A whole metro area of 3 million being rallied around a date 13 years away: 2026. Who plans for something that far out, knowing it takes your eye off this quarter’s financial returns and outlasts the best of political careers? Philly. The “City of Firsts” plans to be the world stage upon the 250-year anniversary of the American Revolution of 1776. So business, government, education, and civic leaders came together again a few years ago and have launched “World Class Greater Philadelphia.” It is a global positioning strategy to prepare the metro area to receive the world in 2026, and to impress. Using a historic anniversary to mobilize an entire region of people and institutions to commit to infrastructure, business, and educational improvements to better their community. Thunderclap no. 3.
In Philly, the revolution has never stopped. The study mission showed us. Now it’s our turn.