the early 1980’s a spirit of ecumenism and a commitment to practical
engagement in the affairs of the city of Philadelphia had already taken
root deep in the hearts of a core of Christian
men and women from all strains of the Philadelphia Christian community.
Initially, a small group of like-minded Christians joined together to
pray for the needs of their city. It was this commitment to each other
and to the increasing needs of their urban area that pressed these
leaders together. In time, the participants started seeking some formal
venue for their efforts, some more organized means through which to
impact their city.
that the biggest impediment to effective work is a cramped vision these
Christian leaders chose to commit themselves to invest in the leaders
who are engaged in effective, Christ-centered solutions and to initiate
change in under-served areas such as church division, neighborhood
blight and educational short-comings. Therefore, in 1983 the
Philadelphia Leadership Foundation (PLF) was born to serve as a vehicle
through which the answers to these issue could be addressed.
recognized that opportunities for service abound and were limited only
by the boundaries of their own vision. As the years passed there was a
new openness in the city to public/private partnerships and particularly
for faith-based organizations. In time not only had the federal
government been pursuing a new approach to solving old social ills, but
local and state agencies were seeking the active collaboration of
congregations and exploring ways to work together. PLF’s vision of
empowering spiritual leaders for the transformation of the city has
never been more timely.
PLF is committed to a set of values, which guide its work and are rooted in Jesus’ Kingdom mandate to serve and renew:
We value our city. We
are committed to both people and place. We seek the physical, social
and spiritual renewal of both. Philadelphia is committed to be a place
of relationship, opportunity, and grace for all.
We value the poor and vulnerable. We
see God’s unrelenting concern for the poor, widowed, migrant, sick,
prison, homeless, and oppressed. We work in partnership to build
opportunities and a better life for those who live at the margins.
We value leadership. Philadelphia’s
diverse leadership needs to be engaged. We value a Biblical view of
leadership that seeks the welfare of others, uses everyone’s gifts,
heals divisions, and accomplished the task.
We value the church. The
whole church in a city has tremendous resources to bring. We seek to
unite the church and to connect its resources with those of other
sectors to renew our city.
We value empowerment. Our work should not patronize, but free and empower.
We value reconciliation. This work requires listening, respect, the tearing down of barriers, and united work for the welfare of the city.
We value risk. Creativity, innovation, and courage are always required.
has always had as its purpose to “Connect leaders, Change lives.
Transform cities”. It is the purpose of PLF to connect leaders, from all
walks of life to tackle a city’s most pressing problems affecting the
poor and vulnerable. PLF seeks to unite people, resources, and know-how
from faith groups, business, government and neighborhoods to change
lives and transform cities. The words of Peter Drucker ring clear:
“The only institution capable of re-civilizing our broken cities is the church.
Our task is to build the capacity of the church to function as one
seamless partner alongside other sectors in the task of civil renewal.”
PLF has followed through on its commitment to impact Philadelphia through its various projects:
PHILADELPHIA URBAN COALITION
Vision: The Philadelphia Urban Coalition is a spirit-led community:
- To encounter God …
- To build & strengthen relationships
- To bring healing & cross-cultural reconciliation
- To empower leaders to impact the city & beyond.
Philadelphia Urban Coalition is a dynamic monthly dialogue and prayer
gathering convened by PLF for pastors and organization leaders in the
Greater Philadelphia region. It is a diverse group of men and women from
a variety of denominational backgrounds and differing communities, but
who all share a love for the city and a desire to serve God in a way
that transforms, both their own lives and the urban context around them.
PRISON TRANSFORMATION PROJECT
the years PLF has served as an incubator, a catalyst to develop
programs where needed and then to spin them off on their own. Such a
program was the Prison Transformation Program in 2002.
To enable the personal empowerment and transformation of those in
prison in order to break the cycle of crime and violence and enable
successful reintegration upon release.
the leadership of Joanna Flanders Thomas, PLF’s Vice President, the
program “Change Begins with Me” was chronicled in the BBC’s
award-winning documentary, “Killers Don’t Cry”.
PHILADELPHIA LEADERSHIP PRAYER BREAKFAST
Vision: To gather in the true spirit of Jesus Christ.
- To discover how we can be more effective as leaders.
- To know God and apply his principles in business and professional life.
- To pray for God’s blessings on the people of Philadelphia.
- To respond to opportunities for service.
This year, 2009, PLF held the 25th
anniversary of the Philadelphia Leadership Prayer Breakfast. Over the
years as many as 1,500 business, government, and community leaders, have
attended this annual event. Speakers have included Joe Gibbs, Astronaut
James Irwin, Rosey Grier, Irv Cross, Fred Fetterolf, Jack Eckerd, Billy
Graham, Andrew Young, Hon. William Gray, Foster Friess, Sen. Elizabeth
Dole, George Gallup, Jr., and many other outstanding Christians. Truly
the goal of this Prayer Breakfast has stood by its focus i.e.
Transforming the Soul of the City: Leaders Who Make A Difference.
INNER CITY IMPACT FUND (ICIF)
the late 1980’s two PLF Board members initiated a project to bridge the
gap between their two worlds (church and private sector philanthropy)
in accomplishing their mutual goal of revitalizing urban communities.
The Black church has historically been a social service as well as
religious institution out of necessity, offering a myriad of community
services with little or no support beyond the resources of the church.
Private sector grantmakers, often restricted from funding religious
entities, had for years invested dollars in urban programs with little
information about the significant role African American churches play in
bringing about community change.
ICIF was initially formed as an intermediary funding vehicle into which
private sector philanthropists could place funds for redistribution to
church-based programs. However, while the latter were successful at
running programs it became clear that they often lacked the
organizational capacity to manage grants and all the corresponding
requirements. Thus the Inner City Impact Institute was created to train
church leaders and pastors as a capacity building training program. This
program was recognized by the Chronicle of Philanthropy as one of the
most impactful training programs ever created for non-profits.
in its role as an incubator this most impactful program was as well
spun off as the Center for Urban Resources (CUR) in 1993. An independent
research evaluation conducted by Branch Associates in 1995 documented
the success of the organization. Churches were able to obtain more
funding to expand and improve their programs and serve more people
better. Over 700 predominantly African-American church or faith-based
leaders trained through this program.
NATIONAL MENTOR PROJECT
of the skills and broad experience of PLF in working with the youth
over the many years of its existence PLF was awarded a $300,000 grant
from the U.S. Department of Justice in 2008 to identify and coordinate
over 100 mentors to work with these young people.
RELIGIOUS LEADERS COUNCIL OF PHILADELPHIA
This group meets regularly to discuss issues regarding the city and to develop strategies for cooperation.
WOMEN IN PARTNERSHIP WITH GOD
This monthly gathering of Christian women meets to honor female Christian leaders and provide scholarships for needy students and support for families in need.