City Employees Learn HTML and CSS in Innovation Lab


Since its launch in August, the City of Philadelphia’s Innovation Lab has hosted brainstorming sessions, youth programing, and meetings of all sizes. Last month, the Lab also provided City employees with professional development opportunities.

Karissa Demi, a City web developer, used the Lab to offer an HTML and CSS class for City employees. The course began with basic HTML techniques such as proper use of tags and worked its way up to CSS and how to make a website “look awesome” (in Karissa’s words). The course spanned two sessions, lasting two hours each.

“Everyone, in every job, can benefit from learning these skills,” Karissa said.

Karissa Demi (center) assist City employees during the HTML course.

Karissa Demi (center) assists City employees during the HTML course.

Created as a test run for future internal programming, the program was offered to 12 employees in the Office of Innovation and Technology. However, based on its unique format, and feedback from participants, this course opens the door for a wide-range of professional development opportunities. Since taking the course, participants have collaborated on a project using the skills they learned.

If you haven’t heard the buzz about the Innovation Lab, the room is located on the 16th floor of the Municipal Services Building and primary functions include:

  • Opening a creative technology-enabled space that energizes participants around innovative thinking and problem solving in an atmosphere never before seen in municipal government. Put simply, the space will be bright, colorful and just cool.
  • Providing a location for the Academy of Municipal Innovation to hold classes, meetings, and brainstorming sessions in conjunction with our academic partners.
  • Housing a formal process of ideation (facilitated by the Center of Excellence or AMI graduates) through which teams of City employees can solve old problems in new ways and then enable the implementation of those solutions.
  • Facilitating projects/initiatives/events sponsored through the City of Philadelphia’s Innovation Fund (in addition to other efforts related to the Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia and the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics).
  • Providing a location for senior executives and city leaders across departments to meet around innovation, strategic planning, and other project management efforts.
  • Sponsoring hackathons (collaborative tech events focused on software projects), specifically internal hackathons, and other tech-related programming for City employees with the City acting as host.
  • Providing programming for the city’s youth, including but not limited to, hackathons, and other tech-related activities where neighborhood youth can be exposed to technology, work side by side and be mentored by City employees.
  • Highlighting partnerships and provide a space to collaborate with the local tech community around emerging technology, mutual challenges and potential joint programming opportunities for the greater benefit of our citizens.
Photo by Olivia Gillison

The City of Philadelphia’s Innovation Lab. (Photo by Olivia Gillison)

Follow the Innovation Lab on Twitter @PHLInnovation.


Philly311 TV: Community Life Improvement Program

The City of Philadelphia is proud to present Season 2 of Philly311 TV. The show’s goal is to engage, educate, and empower citizens with information about city services. Through interviews with employees from across the municipality, citizens can learn about new initiatives, available resources, and get to know the personal side of city government. In this episode of Philly311 TV, host Rosetta Carrington Lue, speaks with Deputy Managing Director Tom Conway about the City’s Community Life Improvement Program (CLIP). CLIP encompasses several programs, focusing on neighborhood beautification efforts throughout Philadelphia. These programs include: CLIP’s Graffiti Abatement Team (GAT), Vacant Lot Program, and Surveillance Camera Program. In this interview, Rosetta and Tom discuss the various programs and how citizens can assist in making their city a better and more beautiful place.

Tune-in to Philly311 TV on the Philly311 Youtube channel as well as Philadelphia’s Channel 64 at 7:00pm on Monday/Wednesday/Sunday and 7:00am on Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday. You can also catch up with Philly311 TV on Sunday’s at 7:00am on PhillyCAM (Comcast Cable channel 66/966 or Verizon FIOS 29/30).

Below are some of the topics covered in this episode:

What is the City of Philadelphia’s Vacant Lot Program?

In the City of Philadelphia there are over 40,000 vacant lots. Interested in finding out how you can assist in keeping them clean and safe? Watch this clip from Philly311 TV and hear Deputy Managing Director, Tom Conway, explain how the City’s Vacant Lot Program can help.

How Can You Help Beautify Philadelphia?

Interested in organizing a block clean up, having graffiti painted over, or getting a vacant lot tidied up? Check out this clip from Philly311 TV to find out how you can help beautify your community through programs like the Graffiti Abatement Team (GAT), Vacant Lot Program, and Surveillance Camera Program. Learn about City services that can benefit your life and your community.

Learn about the City’s Free Graffiti Removal Service!

Is there unwanted graffiti on your street? Tom Lynch from the City of Philadelphia’s Graffiti Abatement Team, shows Philly311 TV host, Rosetta Carrington Lue, how citizens can report graffiti and the process behind its removal. Check out hot the GAT team is cleaning up your city and how you can be a part of their efforts.

PhillyRising’s Penrose Neighborhood is Well-Served

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Last month,  PhillyRising’s Penrose neighborhood received a lot of help from its friends.

The Goldenberg Group sponsored a vibrant day of service in the community, pulling efforts from a wide-range of organizations. While the Goldenberg Group is a successful development corporation, it has a robust community-development and service arm, People Helping People. PhillyRising helped connect the People Helping People Foundation with over 100 City Year volunteers for the event.

City Year is an AmeriCorps organization that pairs college graduates with a year of service in a major city.

Some of the day’s service activities were facilitated by the Philly Urban Creators, a youth and community driven organization that inspires inner-city neighborhoods to transform neglected landscapes into food hubs, social enterprises, and models of urban sustainability.

City Year’s volunteers helped the Philly Urban Creators’ co-founder Alex Epstein with maintenance work in the organization’s urban garden and a clean-up in the surrounding neighborhood. PhillyRising’s Amanda Finch facilitated a second volunteer effort at the nearby Dunbar Promise Academy, helping the school with repainting and other refurbishing efforts.

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The day of service was a shining example of how a diverse range of organizations can positively impact a community through the power of collaboration. PhillyRising would like to thank the Goldenberg Group’s People Helping People, City Year, and the Philly Urban Creators for their valuable service.

For more information about PhillyRising and its volunteer opportunities, visit

Philly311 TV: Open Data

The City of Philadelphia is proud to present season 2 of Philly311 TV. Hosted by Chief Customer Service Officer Rosetta Carrington Lue, the show’s goal is to engage, educate, and empower citizens with information about city services. Through interviews with employees from across the municipality, citizens can learn about new initiatives, available resources, and get to know the personal side of city government. In this episode of Philly311 TV host, Rosetta Carrington Lue, sits down with City’s Chief Data Officer, Tim Wisniewski, to discuss City’s open data program and civic technology efforts. Wisniewski has played an integral role in bridging the City government and Philadelphia’s burgeoning tech community, as well as, implementing and working for a open government. Tune-in to find out how City government is using technology to connect with citizens.

Tune-in to Philly311 TV on the Philly311 Youtube channel as well as Philadelphia’s Channel 64 at 7:00pm on Monday/Wednesday/Sunday and 7:00am on Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday. You can also catch up with Philly311 TV on Sunday’s at 7:00am on PhillyCAM (Comcast Cable channel 66/966 or Verizon FIOS 29/30).

Citizen’s Engagement Academy Draws Largest Crowd to Date


PhillyRising Deputy Director Jim Sanders led the Citizen’s Engagement Academy session

This month, PhillyRising hosted a Citizen’s Engagement Academy (C.E.A.) session in its North Central neighborhood. While the academy has always been popular, this past session was more popular than ever.

71 community members came out to the Hiteman Learning Center on Judson Street for the first session of this C.E.A. The session’s topic focused on Philly311 and how community members can use the contact center’s long list of channels to engage with city government.

PhillyRising Deputy Director Jim Sanders led the CEA session. Guest speakers included Chief Customer Service Officer Rosetta Carrington Lue and Administrative Operations Manager Graham Quinn. Both Lue and Quinn discussed the various ways to use Philly311, highlighting the free Philly311 Mobile App through which citizens can enter service requests from anywhere, 24/7. The Philly311 team also plugged its Neighborhood Liaison Program which trains community members to directly enter and track service requests in the 311 system.

Chief Customer Service Officer Rosetta Carrington Lue speaking at the Citizen's Engagement Academy

Chief Customer Service Officer Rosetta Carrington Lue speaking at the Citizen’s Engagement Academy

The Citizen’s Engagement Academy educates community members on municipal services through eight weeks of presentations from city officials. In addition to 311, community members will hear from the Community Life Improvement Program, Town Watch, and other City programs and resources. Part of what made this past Citizen Engagement Academy so popular was that it was open to the entire city, rather than one targeted neighborhood. PhillyRising is looking to expand its efforts to thoughtfully engage and empower as many Philadelphians as possible. To learn more about how to get involved with PhillyRising, visit

Managing Director Rich Negrin Takes ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Last week, Managing Director Rich Negrin was challenged by former college football teammates Terry Harcleroad and Travis Muckle to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  Over the weekend, he went to the University of Pennsylvania’s campus with his family and asked a special friend to take the challenge with him. After taking the challenge, the Managing Director challenged Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer, ABC anchor Walter Perez and the Phillie Phanatic. Check out the video above.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year. The incidence of ALS is two per 100,000 people, and it is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans may have the disease at any given time. Visit learn more about this serious disease.

PhillyRising Goes Digital


The PhillyRising Collaborative is about human connections. The program builds relationships between Division Coordinators and community stakeholders to address  neighborhood concerns. Through these relationships, community members are empowered by access to education and the resources necessary to improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods. In essence, the program has built a far-reaching network of engaged and empowered citizens across the city. Now, PhillyRising is leveraging technology to expand this network and improve its effectiveness.

Most recently, PhillyRising has implemented a performance management strategy to measure the effectiveness of its specific service delivery and community engagement efforts. The PhillyRising team now utilizes an output tracker which digitally tracks activities facilitated by PhillyRising Coordinators. The output tracker measures the performance of activities such as:

  • Community meeting attendance
  • Service requests entered by PhillyRising Coordinators on behalf of community members
  • Events coordinated by PhillyRising
  • Volunteer hours facilitated by PhillyRising
  • Citizen Engagement Academy sign-ups and graduates

Data from these activities shows the qualitative outcomes of PhillyRising’s presence in a neighborhood. The data also shows where and how a community’s level of engagement could improve.

PhillyRising also has an app:

Inspired by apps such as AroundMe and Yelp, the myPhillyRising app is a central platform where community members can look-up meetings, events, clean-ups and resources around their PhillyRising neighborhoods. Centered on collaboration, the app allows users to generate content for their neighborhood’s page. Community members can create events, share success stories and photos or post questions and comments on their neighborhood’s discussion board. The app also gamifies community building. Users can gain points by: signing up for an account; sharing events, resources, and stories; or RSVPing/checking-in to an event. User points are added to the neighborhood’s points listed at the top of its page. An increase in points creates a public notification that the specific neighborhood “is rising.”

Through these digital efforts, PhillyRising can leverage technology to strategically engage and empower residents in every neighborhood across the city. But the program has not given up on the power of human connections. PhillyRising Coordinators are still active members in their divisional neighborhoods. The annual PhillyRising Conference is also scheduled to take place on October 18th at Temple University (1775 N. 15th Street). The interactive conference will connect attendees with actionable service requests and helpful municipal information. We’ll write more about the conference as the date gets closer.

Building Great Neighborhoods

My office recently worked with local video producers Charles Morabito, Greg Heller, and Adam Maruszan to release an animated short titled “Philadelphia: A City of Neighborhoods.” The video tells the story of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods and the city government’s neighborhood-centric programs. Below is  the text to the video’s narrative. I hope you share this video with community heroes, community organizations, or anyone else looking to make a difference in our city’s great neighborhoods. Please let me know what you think in the comments.

Brotherly love.

A sense of community.

A city of neighborhoods.

But what makes a neighborhood, great?

In the 19th century, Philadelphia’s neighborhoods flourished.  Philadelphia was amongst the great manufacturing cities with a world class shipping port and factories full of workers. These workers lived and raised families, making up neighborhoods with a high quality of life.

But over time, the manufacturing industry changed, the economy shifted and many Philadelphians lost their jobs.  And because so many individuals suffered, so did their neighborhoods.

Now many years later, Philadelphia is growing.  Crime is at it’s lowest point in 40 years and the economy is adapting.  Major building projects are creating jobs and changing our skyline once again.

And now is the time to help our neighborhoods rise.

Today, the Nutter administration and City government is dedicated to a new era of citizen empowerment. If our city is going to change, our neighborhood heroes will lead the way.

Philly 311’s neighborhood Liaison Program helps community members record and track neighborhood concerns.  In Point Breeze, Barbara used Philly 311 to become the centralized voice of her community.  After entering a service request, graffiti has now been removed from her street.

PhillyRising partners with community leaders to connect citizens with city services, resources, and sustainable solutions.  In North Philadelphia, PhillyRising partnered with Devin and his Organization, Philly Urban Creators.  Together, they transformed nearby abandoned lots into thriving urban farms.

Philly Keyspots provides free computer use, web access, and technology training to communities around the city.  With nearly 50% of residents lacking internet access, Keyspots centers connect Philadelphians online.  In Strawberry Mansion, Paul used his local Keyspot to apply for a job, and was hired.

Citizens determine the success of their communities…. And those communities determine the success of our city.

By working together, citizens and government,  we can make sure Philadelphia is not just a city of neighborhoods…. but a city of great neighborhoods for all of us.


PhillyRising Collaborates for Hartranft Spring Festival and Handball Tournament 

PhillyRising Hartranft

In late June, APM and the Rainbow de Colores Park Group collaborated with PhillyRising for the annual Spring Festival and Handball Tournament in Hartranft. PhillyRising’s Joandelis Marquez helped connect the friends group with public safety, special event permits, and other municipal support for the event.

The Spring Festival took place in the Rainbow de Colores Park on 5th and York Streets. Filled with food, games, and resource tables, the festival gave neighbors a chance to enjoy the late spring/early summer weather, while learning about how to improve their community.

Hosting this family-friendly event in the community, the Rainbow de Colores Park Group is a unique asset to the Hartranft neighborhood. Made up of nearly 50 young men, the group maintains the revamped Rainbow de Colores Park themselves. But the group doesn’t stop there. Most members are trained Philly311 Neighborhood Liaisons, with the Philly311 Mobile App downloaded on their phones. Group members are active 311 users, frequently entering requests to help beautify and improve the quality of life throughout the neighborhood.


Among all of the festivities, and collaboration with city government, the real triumph in Hartranft is in the young Rainbow de Colores Park Group. A large group of young adults taking charge of their neighborhoods to make positive improvement is the kind of culture that can save a neighborhood, a city. Congratulations to APM, the Rainbow de Colores Park Group, and the Hartranft community for a great summer. We’re all looking forward to seeing what you can accomplish next.


After School Activities Widget Now Available on Philly311 Mobile App

Last week, the Mayor’s Office of Communications announced the release of the Philly311 After School Activities widget. Born out of Philly311’s public widget contest, the idea for a youth programming widget came from Code for Philly Brigade Captain Chris Alfano. Chris Alfano won the widget contest, which led to a partnership between Philly311, Code for Philly, and the After School Activities Partnership (ASAP).

By partnering with ASAP, the new widget gained access to a vast, regularly-maintained database of youth programming. ASAP facilitates Chess, Drama, Debate, and Scrabble programming throughout the city and publishes these activities in its popular directory. Both the partnership with Code for Philly and ASAP led to a comprehensive, interactive, and highly-valuable end product for Philadelphia parents and guardians.

“Philadelphia has an abundance of high-quality after school activities that offer safe and engaging opportunities for youth of all ages and interests.  To help families find the right program for their child, ASAP’s directory looks to share information on all of these activities – from Arts & crafts to Zumba – in a format that is comprehensive yet easy-to-use,” said Justin Ennis, Executive Director, After School Activities Partnership in the City’s official press release.

Here’s how the widget works. It’s located on the second page of the Philly311 Mobile App.

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Search for programming by location, age, time of day, and clubs offered.

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photo 3The launch of this widget is important for two reasons: (1) it shows illustrates the power of collaboration between government and external partners and (2) it provides comprehensive, important support our city’s parents and children.

“Partnering with the local tech community helped the Philly311 Mobile App to better serve parents and become an even more impressive customer engagement tool.” Sheryl Johnson, Philly311 Operations Manager

The Managing Director’s Office would like to extend its gratitude  ASAP, Code for Philly, and Chris Alfano for a great idea that created this important result.

“In the face of so many daunting challenges around education, it’s great that technology can help spread the word about vital after school programs to help our children make progress and further their education,” Managing Director Richard Negrin.

The Philly311 Mobile App is available for free on any iPhone, Android, and Blackberry device. Download here.


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