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.

PhillyRising Launches a Youth Career Boot Camp in Frankford

phillyrising_final_logo-(1) (1)In the middle of the hot summer, while most kids were swimming in the pool or playing basketball, over 30 youths from Frankford learned about writing resumes, dressing for job interviews, and creating LinkedIn profiles.

Most young people are expected to get jobs during high school and college yet there are few resources that teach the hard-to-learn skills and behaviors it takes to get hired. With this in mind, PhillyRising revamped its Career Boot Camp to give young people a better chance at realizing their career goals.

PhillyRising partnered with the Frankford CDC to facilitate a Career Boot Camp that focused on youth employment education. PhillyRising’s Deputy Director Bennie Ruth and Northeast Coordinator Sanya Brown developed and taught the workshop, pulling from youth workers who obtained summer employment through the Philadelphia Youth Network. The workshop spanned for two-days, lasting from 9am-1pm.

Frankford CDC PYN Career Boot Camp 2014

PhillyRising’s Career Boot Camp began at the basics, starting with goal-setting, positive self-talk, and PhillyRising’s unique S.T.A.R.  planning tool The workshop moved on to more advanced professional skills such as resume writing, cover-letter-writing, and interview techniques. The course also provided a list of contact information for area employers.

While resume writing assignments and mock-interviews were challenging activities for Boot Camp participants, PhillyRising’s Sanya Brown was most impressed by the personal growth she saw over the two days. Most participants entered the Boot Camp as typical teenagers–loud, disinterested in professional development– but all of the 31 Boot Camp graduates left as fully-engaged young adults with polished resumes and cover letters and refined professional skills.

The Boot Camp gave them the skills and tools necessary to accomplish their life goals in conjunction with an unforgettable summer experience.

To learn more about PhillyRising’s Youth Career Boot Camp, contact Sanya Brown at To connect and engage with PhillyRising activities, visit

Philly wins PTI award for OEO innovation

Project team, from left to right: David Mauro, OIT; Angela Dowd-Burton, OEO; Joyce Strother, OEO; Scott Strickler, OIT; Shonique McCall, OIT; Lashawnda Tompkins, OEO. Original by Adrienne Strickler

Philadelphia has received national recognition from the Public Technology Institute (PTI) for its implementation of a Minority, Women and Disabled-Owned Business Enterprise (M/W/DSBE) Registry and Contract Compliance Reporting System (CCRS). PTI awarded the City with a Significant Achievement in the 2013-2014 Technology Solutions Awards Competition. Philadelphia was the only county in Pennsylvania recognized this year.

The Registry and CCRS, running on cloud software developed and hosted by Phoenix, Arizona-based B2Gnow and brokered to the City through the Office of Innovation and Technology (OIT), has enabled the City’s Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) to transform its business through data-driven performance management. The system provides a critical new capability, presenting the City’s purchasing and payment data to directly engage the vendor community in facilitating compliance with contract goals for M/W/DSBE participation.

The new system addresses a long-standing concern in the City. For decades Philadelphia has been working to improve participation by minority, women and disabled-owned businesses on its contracts. This stems from recognition among City leadership that enabling disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) to better compete for contracting opportunities benefits both the business community and the City. Most recently, OEO has driven this initiative, and in doing so has taken on the challenge of adopting more effective practices. Its legacy processes proved inefficient for its budget-constrained staff:

  • a paper-based, manual process for applying to the City’s OEO registry that was a burden to staff and contractors
  • a process for tracking contract participation and investigating contract disputes that involved logging into at least three disparate systems just to gather background information
  • a manual, spreadsheet-based process for generating required reports that could show contract awards to M/W/DSBE’s, but could not provide insight into actual dollars paid to them

The Registry and CCRS implementation introduced solutions that will dramatically improve each of these processes. The software includes web-based registry application submission and search, back-office workflow, and an integrated database containing:

  • data about contracts from the City’s three procurement and contract management systems
  • data about payments against City contracts from the City’s legacy accounting system

The project brought together City OIT, OEO, Procurement and Finance departments to develop the interfaces with City systems and coordinate the transition to new business processes. What they accomplished represents a landmark effort, and one that will support not just OEO but also future initiatives to improve the City’s Procurement and Finance operations and transparency. The Registry and CCRS is now at the center of OEO’s new operating model, providing information and tools to drive Philadelphia’s M/W/DSBE participation compliance improvement initiative. The system’s built-in metrics and dashboards have already proven their value, simplifying the reporting process and alerting managers with accurate information to facilitate decisions.

An example of the system dashboard, which can report the latest measures of OEO operations

A huge thanks goes out to all those who have contributed to the project’s success, and continue to help the effort move forward!

  • Angela Dowd-Burton, Executive Director, OEO, Commerce – Project Sponsor
  • Joyce Strother, OEO, Commerce – Project Manager
  • Alice Dungee-James, OEO, Commerce
  • LaShawnda Tompkins, OEO, Commerce
  • Scott Stricker, OIT – Project Manager
  • Shonique McCall, OIT – Project Manager
  • David Mauro, OIT – Lead Technical Architect and Developer
  • Hugh Ortman, Commissioner, Procurement
  • Trevor Day, Deputy Commissioner, Procurement
  • Stephanie Tipton, Deputy Chief Integrity Officer
  • Mary Stitt, Chief of Staff, Managing Director’s Office
  • T. David Williams, Deputy Director, Finance
  • Drew Menten, Contract Management Analyst, Finance
  • Dan McKenzie, Finance Developer, Information Services Partner, Inc.
  • David Wilson, 1st Deputy Managing Director – Project Executive

This is Philadelphia’s fourth year in a row winning a PTI award. Check out this post about last year’s wins, as well as these pages with PTI’s official results from 2013 and 2012.

The City of Philadelphia’s Innovation Lab Launches August 1st


Innovation is the fabric of Philadelphia. From its non-traditional Quaker founding up to the creativity and fearlessness of Benjamin Franklin, it is innovation that helped make Philadelphia the birthplace of our nation.

Philadelphia is also known as the “City of Firsts.” This same inventive fabric wove together many Philadelphia experiments that would later become anchor tenants in our society. Philadelphia is home to the nation’s first hospital, the first free library, the first fire department, the first public school. Philadelphia’s greatness has hinged on its ability to innovate and it is a crucial factor in its success in the future.

With this in mind, the City government has worked as a convener, facilitator, champion, and advocate for innovation throughout the city. The City has a Chief Innovation Officer, a Chief Data Officer, an Office of Innovation Management. This past year, the City launched the Academy of Municipal Innovation to teach City employees about the innovation process and create a network of innovators within Philadelphia government.

On August 1st, 2014 the City will expand its innovation efforts with another Philadelphia first. The city government will open the nation’s first true municipal innovation lab on the 16th floor of the Municipal Services Building. The lab will serve as a publicly-sponsored R&D function within city government for internal and external innovation. Specially, the lab will:

  • Open 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.
  • Provide a location for the Academy of Municipal Innovation to hold classes, meetings, and brainstorming sessions in conjunction with our academic partners.
  • House 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.
  • Facilitate 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).
  • Provide a location for senior executives and city leaders across departments to meet around innovation, strategic planning, and other project management efforts.
  • Sponsor 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.
  • Provide 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.
  • Highlight 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.

Just as important as the functions above, the physical existence of an innovation lab has the potential to transform culture.  Having a physical lab will pull-in employees and outside stakeholders to inject creativity and collaboration into municipal functions that have traditionally felt mundane. The lab will help ensure that “innovation” is not thought of as a buzzword, or a temporary initiative, but as a value and commitment in government to push the limits, raise expectations, and work tirelessly for a better city. The City’s Innovation lab will help weave innovation into municipal government and, further, ensure that innovation continues to be the fabric of Philadelphia.

*Mayor Nutter will be cutting the ribbon at the Innovation Lab’s public launch on the 16th Floor of the Municipal Services Building (1401 JFK Blvd) at 10:00 AM. 

Philly311 Hack: Excessive Heat Widget is Back

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The Philly311 Mobile App constantly adds widgets to improve the way Philadelphia residents, visitors, and businesses interact with city government. These widgets range in functionality, connecting customers with municipal services, seasonal information, and neighborhood beautification tools. This summer’s “Excessive Heat” widget meets all three of these categories.

Created as an on-the-go resource for when the city government issues an excessive heat warning, the widget is packed with phone numbers, links, and information to keep every Philadelphian safe through the hot summer. Here’s what the widget has to offer.

Cooling Center Information: Cooling Centers are air-conditioned environments where residents can take refuge during excessive heat. To locate a City of Philadelphia Cooling Center, click here.

Department of Public Health Tips to Keep Cool: Find the list here.

Elderly Assistance: Check on your friends and neighbors who are elderly or have medical conditions. Contact the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging’s Senior Hotline 215-765-9040.

Parks and Recreation’s Pool and Sprayground Schedule: Click here for 2014’s schedule.

Emergency Air Conditioning Complaints: If you or someone you know is a patient or resident of a hospital or nursing home (commercial only) without air conditioning, please contact 311 via phone, mobile app (Use category: OTHER); email ( or Twitter/Facebook (@Philly311) to enter a License and Inspections request for inspection. L&I will respond within one business day.

To have these resources (and any more) at the palm of your hand, download the Philly311 Mobile App. The app is free for all iPhone, Android, and Blackberry devices.


City Departments Release 15 Environmentally-Themed Datasets for Hackathon

MyPark, an app built at the EcoCampPhilly Hackathon

Stormfighter, an app built at the EcoCampPhilly Hackathon

What can we accomplish with a little collaboration? A lot. Last week five City departments released a total of 15 new data sets in support of Azavea’s EcoCamp event. Among those contributing were the Streets Department, the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, the Community Life Improvement Program (CLIP), Parks and Recreation, and the Water Department.

EcoCamp is a series of events “promoting sustainability and the environment through technology.” Held June 20-22, the events included workshops, an “unconference” (where sessions are led by conference attendees), and a hackathon, a contest for teams of civic hackers to develop software or other technology-driven solutions to the city’s challenges.

The departments’ new datasets were all environmentally-themed. City departments worked hard to release data for EcoCamp. Mining, scrubbing, and releasing data for public consumption are tedious tasks but these efforts are important. Not only does releasing data work to increase government transparency, it also provides an opportunity for passionate Philadelphians to build software that will improve the lives of other residents. This is why departmental efforts to release data should be celebrated; released data means more tools and apps for Philadelphians like PHL Crime Mapper,, and

“Data driven decision making is critical when spending precious dollars solving complex problems such as littering and low recycling rates. We are thrilled that  folks are using our data to help us better understand root causes and enable the Department to clearly focus its education and outreach efforts.”  Commissioner David Perri, City of Philadelphia Streets Department

The Streets Department released five datasets for EcoCamp Philly including:

  • Code Violation Notices
  • Big Belly Waste Receptacle Locations
  • Litter Index
  • RecycleBank Participation
  • Recycling Division Rates

Parks and Recreation released:

  • Street Tree Plantings
  • Street Tree Prunings
  • Street Tree Removals
  • TreePhilly Yard Tree Giveaways

The Community Life Improvement Program (CLIP) released:

  • Vacant Lot Cleanups
  • Exterior Property Cleanups

The Water Department released:

  • Rain Barrel Database
  • Green Stormwater Infrastructure

Other releases included:

  • The Mayor’s Office of Sustainability released Energy Benchmarking Compliance data
  • Big Belly released six months of usage data for their solar powered waste receptacles
  • The University Bike Coalition, working with the Mayor’s Office of Transportation & Utilities, released their Bike Rack Demand Survey

The datasets can be found here. Several representatives from these departments also attended EcoCamp Philly, leading workshops and helping at the hackathon.

EcoCamp Philly proved to be a success, yielding five projects from the hackathon. These included Stormfighter, a project by Chris Nies who used the Water Department’s rain barrell data, sewer system data, impermeable land data, and green infrastructure data to recommend ideal locations for rain barrels. A team named LitterDexPHL (a group of mostly Haverford College students) created a map of litter areas using RecyclingBank and litter data, pairing that data with demographic and language data. The project hopes to help the Streets Department better identify target areas for its litter reduction and recycling campaigns.

The Philly Urban Agriculture project intended to expand on Grounded in Philly, an app that filters properties by land permeability, shade cover, land slope, and other sustainable features to identify potential spaces for urban agriculture. The project used watershed, land permeability, building footprints, and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission’s land use data. A project called MyPark used park boundaries and trail data from Parks and Recreation to create an app for park users to report problems and take ownership of parks and trails. Finally, MilkCrate, a startup that’s building an app for local and sustainable living, used farmers markets and healthy corner stores data to to create a map to locate sustainable businesses.

Here are a few of the results from the weekend via Twitter:

 @TimWis team presents MyPark, an app using data to encourage neighborhood park stewardship

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@TimWis#phillyecocamp team presents analysis of litter index compared to languages spoken to help@PhilaStreets ad campaigns

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@Azevea: Should we use languages other than English in anti-littering campaigns? This#PhillyEcoCamp team thinks so

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@TimWis: Listening to@christophernies present his map of@PhillyH2O rain barrel location recommendations at#phillyecocamp

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Philly311 Hack: Illegal Dumping vs. Maintenance Residential

PhillyRising Video (2)

The classification for misplaced waste can get a little tricky. Here’s how to tell if you should file an Illegal Dumping or Maintenance Residential complaint:

Illegal Dumping refers to waste that is inappropriately placed in the public right-of-way. This includes streets, parks, and other public property. If someone places his/her trash along side of your trash in the street, the complaint will be filed as Illegal Dumping. This complaint is handled by the Streets Department.

Maintenance Residential refers to waste that is inappropriately placed on private property. This complaint is handled by the Department of Licenses and Inspections.

*If you are calling Philly311 about either of these two complaints, you are encouraged to share as much information as possible regarding the source of the misplace waste. This can include a license plate number, a car model, or a description of an individual. This information will be passed along to the Police Department. If such information is not included, the waste will be dealt with by the proper department but the perpetrator will not be identified.

**Another Philly311 Hack is to download the Philly311 Mobile App. While the actual contact center is open from 8:00am -8:00pm on Monday-Friday’s, the mobile app allows you to enter service requests 24 hours a day. Download the Philly311 Mobile App here, and follow @MOBI311 on Twitter for tips.

We hope this tip helps!

Streamlining Customer Information through Video

As we begin to release new episodes of Philly311 TV, I thought I’d write a post about the importance of these videos from a customer service standpoint.

Philly311 TV is the digital engagement effort of the Philadelphia city government’s non-emergency contact center. I serve as the host of the show and interview a diverse range of employees throughout city government. We created the show as part of our multi-channel engagement strategy to provide customers with more information and access to our organization.

After lessons learned from Season 1 (filming 30-minute, talk-show formatted episodes) we decided to move to a more flexible format that would provide more value to our customers. In Season 2, we still film casual conversations in a studio setting, however, we cut these conversations into vignettes in post-production to streamline information for our customers.

With these vignettes, we can provide quick, immediate answers to some of our customers most frequent questions. We can use these videos to populate our social media streams, meaning that customers can see answers to their questions on their newsfeeds before they even ask.

Here’s a great example:

Another benefit to using video to answer customer questions is that it humanizes your organization. If customers can see that real people, who care, are behind your organization, they will be more likely to engage. It’s always better to have an explanation come from a person (or a video of a person) than from a word document, FAQ list, or an instruction manual.

Providing quick, engaging video answers to our customers has been a relatively easy process, and could be for your organization too. What are your thoughts on the using video for customer engagement?

0a87dc88be2bd3c4377aed9a2380550eRosetta Carrington Lue is the Chief Customer Service Officer and Senior Advisor to the City of Philadelphia’s Managing Director. Follow Rosetta on Twitter @Rosettalue or visit her blog at



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