Powering innovation in Philadelphia

Communities / Article

Photo of Philadelphia, Pa. by Flickr user Ahd Photography.

I participated recently in Philly Innovates, the city of Philadelphia’s innovation summit in partnership with Salesforce. Mayor Michael Nutter, Chief Customer Service Officer Rosetta Lue and Deputy Mayor Rich Negrin unveiled “The Philly Innovates Blueprint” to become a more connected city. Salesforce, best known for its customer relationship management product, has created an enhanced Philly 311 platform that allows for a multichannel user experience.    RELATED LINKS

As I talked to Michelle Lee, co-founder of Textizen, in the exhibit area, I saw a demo of the newly unveiled Open Data Philly platform. During lunch I looked around the room a bit more, and it became clear that Knight Foundation has been a catalyst for much of the city’s innovation in recent years.

I could trace this support from our funding for Code for America, which led to Mjumbe Poe and Aaron Ogle staying in Philly with Open Plans (a Knight News Challenge winner) to Lee starting Textizen (another Knight News Challenge winner) and also staying in Philadelphia. But there is also Public Stuff, another Knight investment, which created the Philly 311 mobile app and actually incubated with Good Company Group, yet another Knight grantee.  And of course, OpenDataPhilly’s new look and enhanced functionality is also partially powered by Knight Foundation. 

During a lunch with a select group of Philly Innovators, Deputy Mayor Negrin invited us to consider how we might help the city continue to innovate around citizen engagement and experience. Just about a quarter of the room were people and projects representing Knight Foundation’s investments: Youngjin Yoo, creator of the Urban Apps + Maps Studios at Temple University; Jon Gosier, a two-time Knight News Challenge winner and one of 12 people Time Magazine recently named the new faces of black leadership; Garrett Melby, Good Company Ventures; Lily Liu, co-founder of Public Stuff; Chris Wink, co-founder of Technical.ly Media; and Youngmoo Kim, creator of the ExCITe Center at Drexel University, just to name a few.  With all of these great minds, the Salesforce partnership and Knight’s investments, the city of Philadelphia is better equipped to connect and serve its citizens, and I am proud we helped to power some of those innovations that are helping the city of Philadelphia to better connect with its citizens and its citizens to better connect with the city government. 

Donna Frisby-Greenwood is Philadelphia program director at Knight Foundation.