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Showing up is half the battle when it comes to change. Here’s what comes next | Opinion by Pedro Ramos

Tuesday, November 20, 2018



We showed up.

In the rain, in unusually big numbers, to vote for the women and men we believed would help make our communities and our country better.

In homes, offices, and public places around the region, nearly 5,000 strong came for On the Table Philly, to talk about issues and opportunities that matter to our families and our neighbors.

If the saying is correct that 80 percent of success is showing up, then we have made a strong start toward creating a better future.  Now, our focus needs to be on sustaining interest and taking actions that get us the rest of the way.  In short, we must move from showing up to stepping up for the long run.

Showing up makes a statement: Whether we're curious, angry, or hopeful (or all three), we care.  Showing up forges a connection to a cause, an idea, and especially to other people.  As Philadelphia Foundation's team crisscrossed the region visiting tables last week, we saw and heard these emotions play out.  At a time when it's common to despair over divisions and rancor in our society, we were heartened to witness people from so many walks of life talking to each other with respect, optimism, and shared purpose — and enjoying the experience of exploring pathways to change.

You can get an overview of the spirit and breadth of On the Table Philly conversations by following @onthetablePHL on Twitter and Instagram using the search term #LetsTalkPhilly, or looking at the On the Table Philly's Facebook page.  Standout highlights for me included:  a table at the Philadelphia Free Library at 6th and Lehigh, where each participant was a testament to challenges, triumphs, and tenacity that regularly go unnoticed in the Fairhill neighborhood; a post-election breakfast briefing by Ed Rendell for municipal finance wonks hosted by PFM that was a workshop on civic engagement; and a gathering hosted by the AFL-CIO that identified the pressing need to increase career awareness and math skills in middle schools.  In Chester, a table at the Boys and Girls Club discussed affordable housing and home ownership.  At ACLAMO Family Center in Norristown, the focus was on strengths and needs of area youth.  At Rutgers Camden, a group talked about bistate regional opportunities.  Entrepreneurship, arts and culture, public transit, fellowship and loneliness, opioids, safety … we discussed them all and more. In the coming weeks, we will be publishing survey findings and analyses to give us all a complete picture of the day.

So, after sparking new opportunities for impact at our tables, how can we direct our energies forward?  Take the next step and apply for a grant. The Philadelphia Foundation and our partner, Philadelphia LISC, have extended until 5 p.m. Monday 26 the deadline for On the Table Philly participants to seek up to $1,000 to turn talk to action.  A short video and application, which can be found at, are all that are required. We are excited to see what develops.

More broadly, we all need to encourage, expand, and support greater Philadelphia's pool of givers and doers.  The extensive organizing that occurred for this year's elections, the high voter turnout, and the doubling of On the Table Philly hosts and participants tell me that we have tremendous energy and urgency to engage even more area residents in volunteerism, activism, and philanthropy. There is no shortage of work to be done to realize the opportunities and meet the challenges in our region.

It's never too late to get engaged.  Libraries, Y's, schools, and community and civic organizations provide opportunities to get directly involved.  Community foundations, civic, fraternal, and other organizations provide an array of options for collective impact.  Decide what issues and ideas stir you and the kinds of activities and roles that suit your talents and time. Keep informed through a variety of media.  Talk to your neighbors, friends, and colleagues about causes they support.  Then contact one of these organizations for advice and introductions to help you connect.  We all benefit when everyone pitches in.

The Philadelphia Foundation is proud to be completing a century of service to greater Philadelphia.  We're even more excited to launch our second century of action early next year.  This milestone comes at a time when a lot of our region is booming while too many people and places are still being left behind.  We will mark the occasion with a series of initiatives designed to inspire and nurture civic action and leadership, giving and doing.

Thank you for showing up.  Now let's step up into our future.