New investment puts Southwest Philadelphia residents at the center of community development

LISC Philadelphia will use nearly $1.2M from Knight Foundation to support Southwest Philadelphia residents in advancing equitable development of public spaces and community development opportunities. 

PHILADELPHIA (Nov. 11, 2021) — Residents and community organizations of Philadelphia’s Southwest community will collaborate with the Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC) to spearhead the Southwest Collaborative, an initiative supporting  community members to lead and benefit from neighborhood planning and development in the area. The initiative is made possible through a $1.2 million investment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Philadelphia chapter of LISC, a national organization that supports neighborhood revitalization, housing and economic stability through community partnerships, will serve as a community organizer in the development of the Southwest Collaborative neighborhood initiative. LISC will partner with local organizations to help them better serve their community and ensure Southwest residents take part in local burgeoning public and private development opportunities. With Knight Foundation’s support, the organization will also strengthen networks between stakeholders focused on the equitable development of Southwest and activate community spaces for education, recreation, creativity and greening.

“We’re thrilled to partner with LISC in bringing together a diverse group of community partners and collaborating directly with residents to build a more inclusive and engaged neighborhood,”said Ellen Hwang, Knight’s Philadelphia program director.

“Far too often we’re planned for instead of planned with,” said Kyle Morris, a Southwest resident and executive director of the ECO Foundation, a local organization that helps residents with education and employment opportunities. “It is a blessing to see an organization like Knight Foundation putting its money where its mission is. With the support of our community, we will use this investment to bring positive change.”

For 40 years, LISC Philadelphia has worked with community partners to ensure community participation in important neighborhood development processes and to prevent inequities across systems that impact well-being. Recent initiatives include the Strawberry Mansion Historic Home Repair Program, which supports long-time homeowners with needed repairs, and the Kensington Lending Partnership, which provides loans and grants to neighborhood businesses and property owners. 

”Our goal is to help Philadelphia’s neighborhoods by empowering the people who live there and the community organizations who serve them,” said Andrew Frishkoff, executive director for LISC Philadelphia. “They set their own priorities and address them through community development initiatives, while we provide resources to build their capacity and tools to get the job done. We’re looking forward to collaborating with Southwest community partners in 2022 as we start this important work.”  

Despite the lack of public and private investment in community development, Southwest residents work to improve their neighborhood. Recent and anticipated investments in Southwest inspire residents and organizations to lead their community’s future. With support from Knight and other partners, LISC will enhance resident leadership and strengthen the capacity of community-based organizations, catalyzing their efforts to revitalize Southwest. 

“For many years, Southwest residents have felt invisible, unheard and forgotten in a community we love, live and work in,” said Southwest resident Sophia Poe, community partnerships manager at Bartram’s Garden. “This opportunity will help match the community pride with the much needed resources to proudly highlight the love of Southwest.” 

Since 2015, Knight has supported initiatives in Philadelphia to build engaging public spaces. Most recently, Knight invested $2.2 million in programs that promote equitable development and digital innovation in neighborhoods, placing residents at the forefront of positive change. 

Image (above) by Kromah Studios.