There seems to be something in our DNA that is closely tied with thinking differently; our diversity, our focus on our youth, and our willingness to reinvent ourselves.
The U.S. Army built the first general-purpose, electronic computer right here in Philadelphia, operating it through the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. But the ENIAC also represented an often-forgotten first: all six of ENIAC’s software programmers were women (see the documentary The Computers: The Remarkable Story of the ENIAC Programmers). But Philadelphia’s story of diversity and inclusion doesn’t stop there.
Our power comes from our diversity in thought and culture.
Philadelphia has a “Goldilocks” dynamic as a city; we’re big enough to offer a breadth and depth of professional relationships that is “not too big and not too small.” Our Chamber of Commerce is the third largest in the country, and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has recognized our Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber as Chamber of the Year twice in the past ten years. The Hispanic Chamber also runs a Professional Mentoring Network (PMN), partnering with Comcast to provide mid-level managers access to the same training that Comcast provides its leaders. Similarly, local chapters of Hispanic MBAs (Prospanica) and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) connect emerging professionals with leaders of today.
Because of these networks, and because of Philadelphia’s Sanctuary City policies, over 18,000 Hispanic-owned businesses thrive in the greater Philadelphia area. In fact, our Office of Immigrant Affairs has existed for nearly a decade, and UNESCO recently recognized Philadelphia as the nation’s first World Heritage City.
Philadelphia invents the future
Faith in the Future—a nonprofit that consolidated the management and governance of 21 privately owned high schools affiliated with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia—has changed the model for private education in urban communities. In my role on the Board of Directors with the Boy Scouts and separately as a Board Director for Faith in the Future, I see a good future for the 35,000 youth we serve. We are investing in our children and promoting the idea that diversity can make us better. For example, our Boy Scout Council coordinated closely with the national office for the policy changes that led to the inclusion of LGBT Scouts and leaders, as well as the inclusion of girls.
Similar innovations are happening at the Urban Affairs Coalition (UAC), where they have consolidated shared services in support of over 75 nonprofits using cutting edge cloud-based technologies.
Where do we go from here?
It takes courage to try new business models, to adapt, and to reinvent the future, and our relevance on the global stage depends on recruiting for diversity, investing in our children, and maintaining the courage to reinvent ourselves.
Paul Lima is a globally recognized leader on the topic of digital transformation and an investor in early-stage technology companies.