Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower & Rebuild (POWER) uses our belief in God’s goodness and compassion for the suffering to organize and empower the people of Philadelphia to live and work together so that God’s presence is known on every block, that people work together to transform the conditions of their neighborhood, and that life flourishes for all.
Shining a light on broken systems:
POWER has come together to lift up a new prophetic voice and bear witness to the fact that these systems no longer work for too many families in too many Philadelphia neighborhoods. Systems that allow for 30% unemployment in some of our communities, particularly our communities of color; wherein nearly 50% of our children can’t read or perform math, or graduate on time, and that appear to continually be in crisis; systems that allow one of our brothers or sisters to be murdered nearly every day; systems that allow more than 100,000 city residents to go without health insurance, and that allow a tenth of our properties to lie vacant or abandoned or foreclosed – these are broken systems.
And while this brokenness hurts all Philadelphians, POWER recognizes and seeks to address the fact that it is the poor, communities of color and working families of all kinds who suffer the brunt of declining opportunities and dysfunctional systems. POWER commits to call attention to this brokenness, to advance concrete policy changes to reform these systems and to work with public and private sector leaders to bring the necessary resources to bear to turn these systems, and our city, around.
POWER believes in the potential for transformation of Philadelphia – its people, its neighborhoods, its institutions, its politics. POWER congregations accept the responsibility that as people of faith, we must exercise our power to help lead this transformation. We believe that power is neutral, that it can be (and is) used for either bad or good purposes. POWER believes that people should have a say in the policy decisions that shape their lives and therefore should not shy away from the exercise of power to promote justice and advance the common good.
- POWER believes that one essential way to build and exercise power for the good of the community is to build a strong, broad-based, disciplined and democratic organization.
- POWER trusts in democracy, believes that ordinary people know best what their families and communities need, and will work to make sure their voices are at the center of political life.
- One of our basic principles is "never do for others what they can do for themselves." We believe that with training, support and organization, regular people can be leaders in the movement to transform systems in their communities and their city.
- POWER is explicitly non-partisan and seeks to hold accountable, and build strategic partnerships with, institutions and decision-makers regardless of their political persuasion or label, in order to promote justice for the marginalized and advance a common good agenda.
- POWER believes that government can play a vital role in improving society, but that civic leaders and organizations need to have the power to shape policy and hold public officials accountable.
- POWER believes that family is a value that motivates participation in public life and that across economic levels most American families share common concerns for good schools, affordable housing, safe neighborhoods, high quality health care, civil rights and civic participation.
- POWER values, and intentionally capitalizes on, the racial, ethnic and religious diversity that has shaped Philadelphia and American society at large.
- POWER believes that faith can bring us together more than it can divide us and that our varied faith traditions call on us to act to make our communities and our nation better places to live.
POWER has intentionally brought together Philadelphians across lines of race, income level, faith tradition, culture and neighborhood in order to build broad-based power for policy change. More than 40 congregations from every section of the city have actively participated in the building of POWER over the past year. 500 clergy and lay leaders have attended organizing trainings, planning and strategy sessions, engaged in research work, and conducted relational outreach within their congregations and communities since fall 2010.
POWER members have conducted more than 1,000 face to face conversations with fellow and sister congregants, peers and neighbors, in order to identify shared dreams and concerns, and common themes of both struggle and hope. The thousand stories we heard revolve around five key policy areas - Jobs, Schools, Safety, Housing & Health. Together, these stories weave into common narrative about pain, hope, frustration and diminishing opportunity in our neighborhoods and our city.
In the spring of 2011, more than 150 lay and clergy leaders from POWER congregations conducted forty research meetings with public and private sector leaders in these 5 areas. POWER leaders gained an understanding of how and why our key systems are failing to provide the pathways to opportunity our families need, and to learn about both the scope of the challenges we face as a city, as well as opportunities for collective action and possible transformation in our job training and employment systems, our K-12 and adult education systems, our housing and vacant land management systems, our healthcare systems and in our public safety and criminal justice systems.
During the summer of 2011, POWER leaders worked to create a vision for change in these 5 areas and prepared for their Founding Convention, which took place on September 25th, 2011 at Historic Tindley Temple United Methodic Church. POWER's Founding Convention brought together 2,000 congregational members, allies and city officials to affirm a change agenda in 5 priority areas. The Convention also cemented commitments from labor leaders, City Councilman Bill Green and Mayor Michael Nutter, to work with POWER to address unemployment in Philadelphia. Many long-time observers and leaders of community activism in Philadelphia independently agreed that POWER's Founding Convention was the largest grassroots civic gathering for change the city has seen in years, if not decades.
At the Convention POWER leaders:
1). Publicly announced and celebrated the formal launch of POWER – the coming together of dozens of congregations from across the city -- across lines of race, income level, neighborhood and faith tradition -- to build broad-based power for policy change.
2). Publicly presented our multi-year platform for change in our five priority policy areas.
3). Secured commitments from public and private sector leaders to work with POWER toward a vision of connecting 10,000 low-income Philadelphians with living wage jobs in the coming years.
4). Enlisted allies who share these aims.