Sustainable Business_sm

On March 17th, Philly Girls Class of 2016 Tarsha Scovens, Leigh Goldenberg, and Anna Shipp all came together with Danielle DiLeo Kim and Sylvia Palms at the lovely Industrious PHL location for a conversation about Sustainable Business in Philadelphia. I, Sophia Lee, posed some discussion questions to get the conversation rolling, and some great thoughts and ideas got passed around. Read on for more!

First, let’s introduce ourselves and our sustainable business as a refresher to those present.

Tarsha Scovens, the founder of “Let’s Go Outdoors”, set up her business with a goal to engage more minorities in outdoor experiences, such as camping, fishing and hiking, which are activities that lack participation by people of color. By connecting the familiar (eg, trees in the immediate neighborhood) to the less familiar but related (eg John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge), Let’s Go Outdoors makes Nature accessible and approachable through experience and education. There is also a desire to bring families closer together by encouraging caregivers to attend classes and workshops with the children who are signed up, and they learn together. Let’s Go Outdoors is also part of an exciting initiative called “Nature Rx," spearheaded by Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, to promote youth-focused outdoor health activities as a means to combat health issues related to sedentary lifestyles such as diabetes and obesity.

Leigh Goldenberg is the Director of Marketing for Wash Cycle Laundry which not only aims to reduce carbon footprint and pollution through bike delivery and eco-friendly detergents, but also promotes social change by making a point to employ individuals with a history of incarceration, addiction, homelessness, or welfare dependence. These are people who deserve a second chance at a stable life, but suffer such stigma from society that it’s very hard for them to find employment and a way out. She is really excited that the new Kenney administration is prioritizing helping formerly incarcerated people find employment and to be a part of this social movement.

Anna Shipp is the Project Manager of the “Green Stormwater Infrastructure Partners” at the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia (SBN). SBN strives to support and celebrate local sustainable businesses by helping them organize together and advocating on their behalf for actual policy change. SBN is also associated with a broader network, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) which is comprised of over 80 community networks across America.

Jennifer Rezeli was not able to make it in person on Thursday, but she is the co-founder of Re:Vision Architecture, an architecture firm that makes sustainability a focus of their practice and also provides sustainability consulting. Re:Vision is a certified “B-Corporation” - a “for-benefit” corporation. She believes in the power of community engagement as a means to educate the public about sustainability.

Sustainable Businesses are not the norm (yet!), so do you find particular challenges related to being one?

Promoting healthy lifestyles, connecting with nature, reducing carbon footprint, promoting social change are all incredibly valuable goals, but Tarsha and Leigh both find that convincing clients and customers of their relevancy can be the biggest challenge. Another piece is that even when there are programs and credentials, such as the “B-Corp” certification, intended to help sustainable businesses, the certification process or requirements can be so cumbersome that they can be more of a burden and a hindrance rather than an advantage.

This is why it’s so crucial to have organizations like SBN to support and advocate for businesses like Let’s Go Outdoors! and Wash Cycle Laundry because they need time to grow and gain acceptance as viable businesses that can not only accomplish the bottom line, but also achieve other social and sustainable goals. For example, SBN could provide support for B-Corp certification for Wash Cycle or Let’s Go Outdoors.

Anna is really excited that BALLE continues to grow across America and that SBN is expanding its capacity to  advocate for policy that better supports small local and sustainable businesses start, grow, and thrive. Businesses can have a stronger voice when advocating for policy changes that could improve the local economic climate for small businesses.

Is there something special about Philadelphia that helps sustainable businesses? What can Philadelphia do more to help you grow?

Leigh explained that Philly is a big city but operates like a small town because there is a sense of pride and loyalty to its local people. We all went on to discuss how currently, Philly is a very hot market, and the challenge will be to keep the jobs local and continuing to foster more sustainable practices in a market increasingly contested not only by other US National companies, but also international ones such as Foster + Partners from London, England designing Comcast’s second tower in Center City, or Bjark Ingels Group from Copenhagen, Denmark constructing an office building in Philadelphia Naval Yard. We need to make sure that clients are aware of the depth and skill of knowledge locally available, that the city needs to convince businesses to headquarter here, and that these strategies will eventually help drive more investment into the local economy rather than losing it to other cities or abroad.

Especially with the speed of development occurring, we would all love to find a way to bring not just the City of Philadelphia, but also the private developers to the table to show them how relevant Philly’s sustainable businesses are to this city, and to gain their buy-in for positive social change and commitment to the environment. The greater the size of the project, the greater the impact upon the city, and depending on how that impact is designed, it can swing bad or good. Let’s work together to make the impact great!

Thank you to Tarsha, Leigh, Anna, Danielle, and Sylvia for a wonderful conversation!

—Sophia Lee


Panel Discussion Photo

On Thursday, February 25, 2016, the Executive Dean of Philadelphia University’s College of Architecture and the Built Environment, Barbara Klinkhammer, held a roundtable at the Specter Center for Public Service called, “Unconscious Bias: Women in Architecture”. The panel included Karen Blanchard, President of Women in Architecture Philadelphia; Cecilia Dengre, Senior Director of Architecture, Temple University; Marguerite J. Anglin, Project Architect/Manager, Temple University and the former President of NOMA Philadelphia and Susan I. Frostén, Associate Provost Philadelphia University, RA, LEED AP BD+C and Vice President of PA ACE Women's Network Planning. Philadelphia University students Breanna Sheeler, Ashley Cummins and alumna Belinda Daisey, also participated.

Barbara opened the talk with a fascinating remark. She explained that when graduating in 1991 from the RWTH Aachen University in Germany, her class was the first to complete with 51% women graduates. Apparently, at the conferring of degrees, the dean said something that really left her baffled. While acknowledging her class’ gender achievement, he “guaranteed” that half of the distinguished female graduates would leave the profession in less than 10 years.

Looking at the panel’s impressive mix of women, all of whom have multi-dimensional experience within the world of architecture, one would assume that Barbara’s old dean’s comment was outdated and flat out wrong. As the talk continued however, she shortly discovered that the dean’s obnoxious prediction was correct. While 43% of students enrolled in architecture are female, only 15% (far less than half) go on to practice as licensed architects. Barbra confirmed, that while she was initially offended by the callus remarks, years later, after looking at her own pool of female architect friends, more than half had indeed left the profession early.

As the panel continued, the panelists attempted to grapple with questions such as why are women leaving the profession in much higher numbers than men? What challenges do they face in a male-dominated office culture? What changes need to occur to increase the number of women and minorities in the profession?

As Barbara and the panelists tackled disparaging statistics that confirm underrepresentation of women in the field in almost every arena, they began to discuss their own experiences maneuvering in the professional architecture world after college. Throughout the discussion, each woman gave accounts of projected bias, their reaction, and reasons as to why the numbers are low. Cecelia, for example, recalled how her equally experienced architect husband, ascended much more quickly than her in hierarchical office environments. Many panelists agreed that when evaluated for advancement, management often chose men for promotions based on their “potential” for success. Women, they argued, often had to achieve more in a longer period of time, for their work to be deemed worthy of promotion. In Ceselia’s case, it took leaving her firm and being asked back to advance into a management position.

As challenging as it is for Caucasian women in architecture, minority women in the field often face significantly more challenges. Marguerite, who is an African American woman, recalls being overlooked in meetings with clients and constantly having to reaffirm herself as an Architect. She recalls, I had a meeting with a client and a developer, the client was praising the architects work and comprehension of the drawings. The developer then turned to the client and asked when does the architect get here. The client, then red in the face, tells the developer she's right here (pointing to me). If I was a man, or had a different ethnicity, he may have seen me as an architect.”

African American women make up only 0.2% of registered architects, which means that in the United States there are only 355 registered African American women architects. It was this stark reality that pushed Marguerite to success in her field. She knew that she would have to work harder, faster and smarter than her male and Caucasian counterparts to be counted among the few black architects in America. This lesson was reinforced in her second year of college when asking a professor she respected how to obtain an architecture internship, to her dismay her professor responded: “Don’t worry, you may not go through with architecture”.

This kind of bias within architecture educational settings is not uncommon, Breanna, a current Philadelphia University architecture student, says that she encounters micro-aggressions during her critiques to the consistently white male panel in her department. She explains that often, evaluations from the panel are uncharacteristically patronizing towards female student work. She believes that this type of behavior destroys the aspirations of young women who seek licensure. Susan agreed by adding, “When bias is constant and persistent it becomes oppressive”.

If bias in schools and work environments have this kind of negative impact, what then could be created by positive reinforcement and encouragement? Susan recounted her first day in a Columbia University architecture program. On the first day of class, the professor promptly turned to the male students and stated, “There is not a single woman here to fill a quota. You better watch out!” This set a positive tone for Susan and the other women in the class leading them to excel in their careers. Belinda, an alum of Philadelphia University’s architecture program, feels that positivity in school is important. She reflected on how equal treatment and recognition from her male counterparts was empowering to her and gave her the confidence to push through challenges within the male dominated classroom.

In the end, one is left to wonder, is the architecture world doing enough to retain women and minorities in the workforce? Are we doing enough to push back against the implicit and unabashed bias that these populations face? While one panel can’t solve these issues, it is clear that we, as women architects, must continue to create platforms where conversations like this can continue. We must also continue to guide and support each other, and if nothing else, make sure that at least we believe that we deserve to be here.

—Chanelle Hurst



The 2016 class of Philly Girls Do Good! is here! We continue our tradition of hosting conversations between small groups of the new PGDG members on specific topics throughout the year. For our first PGDG! conversation of 2016, we sat down with Sara Pevaroff Schuh, founding principal of SALT Design Studio, Soha St. Juste, a Design Principal at Jacobs, and Fon Wang, Director of Historic Preservation at Ballinger. These job titles reflect just one of many different hats they wear as design professionals making a difference in Philly. The focus of our discussion was the work they do outside of their day jobs, including extra personal and professional activities like volunteering, teaching, and serving on various committees or boards. We discussed the motivation behind getting involved and how they selected opportunities in which to get involved. We learned not only how their professional skills translated into their volunteer work, but also how those leadership roles positively impacted their design work in return.

All three women agreed that the main goals of their extra-curricular work are related to community. Sara recognized a need in her own neighborhood and founded the Bala Cynwyd Farmer’s Market in order to connect her community with local agriculture. As a landscape architect, Sara values a connection to place and wants to help others strengthen that bond by highlighting the link between the landscape and the local food and energy economies. Having a degree in Historic Preservation and feeling committed to calling Philly her home, Fon serves as a board member of the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia and is the liaison to their Young Friends group (YFPA).  She recently taught a historic preservation studio course at Penn that was focused on Sharswood, an architecturally rich north Philadelphia neighborhood where a large-scale public redevelopment plan has been proposed by the Philadelphia Housing Authority. In addition, Fon helped start a Mandarin playgroup while working towards establishing a Mandarin immersion program at a neighborhood school. Soha also graduated locally from Drexel University’s architecture program, and has stayed involved by previously teaching at Drexel’s summer program for high school students and evening program for architecture. She enjoys staying connected to the Philly design community by serving on the AIA Board of Directors and as Chair of the Host Committee for the AIA National Convention which will be held in Philadelphia, May 19-21.

When asked how they decided whether an opportunity was the right one to add to their plate, they discussed several factors they used to evaluate potential roles, including how strongly they felt about the work and whether it was a long vs. short-term commitment. As Fon explained, “some opportunities are important enough that you can stretch to do it.” Sara makes a conscious decision to only serve on two boards at a time and to consider what the tangible results will be after committing her time to a project. Soha pointed out that different phases of one’s career can call for different types of extracurricular activities. All of the women agreed that in addition to community, education is a major goal of their work outside of the office. However, educating peers, mentors, or community members may come in different forms than just teaching in a classroom.

The group also agreed that their work universally improved when they were involved in a variety of projects both in and outside of the office. Soha always makes it a point to be involved in an extra-curricular activity while working and continues to perform at her highest level when she fills multiple roles simultaneously. For the upcoming AIA Convention, there are many moving parts and teams that require communication and quick decision-making skills which she has honed over the years. Sara and Fon both agreed that adding extra work about which you are passionate makes you more focused and apt to use your time wisely.

Another advantage of taking on new and different tasks, Fon explained, is that one can try out new skill sets before applying them in a professional day job. For example, serving on a volunteer committee can make a person become more familiar with a leadership position and comfortable stepping into a new role elsewhere. Sara mentioned that outside activities feed her design work and result in new ideas that may not have otherwise arisen. She finds that she is more thoughtful after pursuing other creative explorations and returning to the work with a new perspective.


We appreciate Sara, Soha, and Fon for sharing their experiences with us and inspiring us to invest in our own communities outside of the office. We look forward to keeping up with what they do next! Stay tuned for more updates and conversations with the Philly Girls Do Good! Class of 2015-16 as they continue their exciting work around our city.

—Kate Rutledge


Philly Girls Do Good is seeking nominations for our PGDG class of 2015-16! We want to know who YOU would recommend. We know you know her! She's a leader in community development. She is making waves in the Philly design community. Tell us about her, we'd love to meet her and introduce her to our network of excellent women.Please download THIS FORM and save to your computer, fill it out, and return it to

We thank you for participating and supporting PGDG. Good for you!




Thank you Kathryn Ott Lovell for hosting a lovely happy at The Oval. It's our favorite Philly pop up beer garden!

Philly Girls Do Good

Last night a small gathering of PGDG members got together at The Oval over Yards Pynk Beer for socializing and enjoying an evening out under a pink setting sky.


Happy Hour 2015

A few notable tidbits and announcements that were shared last night:

Prema Gupta will be rejoining PIDC as Senior Vice President of Navy Yard Planning and Development in September 2015. Woohoo!

Jessica Baumert shared that The Woodlands Masterplan is complete. Check their website soon for the plan.

Donna Carney, CPI Director, has hired Ariel Diliberto as a Program Associate to manage grassroots community outreach and community development efforts for the Citizens Planning Institute. Stay tuned for the new Fall 2016 Course Application to be available on August 24th.

Sylvia and Danielle welcomed a new architectural designer to Locus Partners, Natalia Quinteros-Guevara. We were pleased to introduce her to the PGDG group on such a lovely evening. Special thanks to PGDGD blogger, Sophia Lee, for tweeting and posting as always!

As you can see, we had a great time!



Overcoming "Pinch Points" in the Architectural Profession


[PGDG Conversation on June 16, 2015]

The week before our PGDG conversation, I had the good fortune to attend TEDx Philadelphia 2015 with the theme: “And Justice for All.” As part of the speaker series, Rosa Sheng of the Equity by Design (EQxD, a Committee of AIA San Francisco) came to describe The Missing 32% Project which asks the question: if only 18% of the architecture profession are practicing women, where are the other 32% that graduate from accredited architectural programs?

Alesa Rubendall WRT Denise Thompson AIA Philly Danielle DiLeo Kim

Joining our PGDG conversation was Alesa Rubendall, the Co-Chair of the Philly chapter of Women in Architecture (WIA Philly - a committee of AIA Philly); Denise Thompson, the President Elect of the Philadelphia chapter of AIA (AIA Philly); and Danielle DiLeo Kim, Co-Founder of Locus Partners and Philly Girls Do Good!

Using Rosa Sheng’s TEDx Philadelphia talk as a springboard for our discussion, I began with presenting the “pinchpoints” that EQxD’s research identified in the architectural profession where women tended to leave:

  1.     Hiring and Retention
  2.     Paying Dues (Internship)
  3.     Licensure
  4.     Caregiving
  5.     Glass Ceiling

Assoc of Collegiate Schools Architecture Women

[Link to ACSA Article]

Infographics Social

   [Link to EQxD Research]

With Rosa Sheng’s ringing call to action echoing in my ears, I posed the question to our panelists: “Through your leadership positions, how have you addressed the pinch points women (and men) face in the architectural profession?”


Alesa with WIA Philly – “Pinch Point Zero: Entering College”

Alesa got involved with WIA with her co-chair, Karen Blanchard (PGDG class of 2013-14). Nicole Dress (PGDG class of 2013-14) who revived Philly’s branch of WIA a few years ago, saw their talent for leadership and passed them the baton. Alesa and Karen decided the mission of WIA should support the next generation of architects by cultivating female high school students entering college for degrees in architecture and design. This is pinch point zero because so much talent never even gets to go to college to pursue architecture. Alesa and Karen received support from the WIA steering committee, and it was full steam ahead!

Through only the last three years of WIA leadership, Alesa helped to establish a speaker series whose proceeds would go towards the WIA Scholarship for the Charter High School for Architecture + Design (CHAD). Looking forward, Alesa hopes to improve the effectiveness of targeting pinch point zero by beginning a Big Sister mentor program that pairs a woman architect with a female CHAD student. Alesa recognizes that mentoring in the formative years is key to helping shape a young designer’s career. I admire Alesa’s persistence in rebuilding the face of the profession, one student at a time.

Denise with AIA Philly - “Pinch Point 3: Licensure”

Leadership came naturally to Denise, who often served as captain of sports teams in high school. She has held a string of leadership positions in the PA and National architecture scenes, having represented PA on the National Associates Committee and the National Young Architects Forum. Denise also restarted the local Philly YAF group, served on the Board of Directors for AIA Philadelphia and the Center for Architecture, and she is currently the President-Elect for AIA Philadelphia.

While she was leading YAF Philly, Denise began the Architectural Registration Exam (ARE) Study Group because she observed that licensure was decreasing and increasingly difficult for women and men alike. After identifying the problem, she developed a solution by arranging a support group with the professional resources at her command. It is currently going strong into its fourth round of leadership. (Success story: I myself began studying for the ARE’s by attending a couple of these study sessions. They were very helpful!)

Opportunities Flourish in Philadelphia

Over the next year and a half, there are number of international and national events that will be held in Philadelphia, such as:

Denise is very excited to be leading AIA Philadelphia when AIA Convention 2016 is here next spring. She will have an opportunity to promote the design community’s accomplishments since the last AIA Convention was here in 2000 such as the amazing public and private developments that have brought Philadelphia national acclaim as a city with tremendous public spaces and a thriving Center City and surrounding neighborhoods.

I am thrilled to see that the architects of Philadelphia have elected Denise to this position based on her merits and her proven track record of leadership that she painstakingly built for herself. She also happens to be a woman, but it is not her defining feature as a practitioner, rather, an interesting detail.

Architecture and Architects – "Pinch Point #4: Caregiving"

While discussing the fourth Pinch Point, Caregiving, we all agreed that flexibility in a demanding, deadline-driven, architectural career is a systemic problem for both women and men. Alesa, Denise and Danielle are all navigating pinch point #4 with aplomb. Alesa manages childcare scheduling challenges with a flexible schedule supported by her employer, WRT, as well as a solid partnership in parenting with her husband. Denise opted to have children later in her career because of the benefit of flexibility that comes with seniority. Danielle was also able to successfully negotiate a part-time scenario while at a firm during the birth of her children, and now benefits from establishing her own schedule as a partner at Locus Partners. It should be noted that architects leaving the profession to seek a better lifestyle (and pay!) is not just an issue for women. Plenty of men leave as well for increased salary and more manageable work hours.

Alesa and Denise both agreed that pressures from clients seem to have increased since the recession, with demands for faster design and construction processes. Architects often jump to meet those unreasonable demands by accepting our “starving artists” role. In turn we do a disservice to our families and often have poor life-work balance. Denise suggests that part of the solution is educating our clients: showing clients the added value of architects, such as AIA National is doing with the “Look Up” Outreach Campaign. One method she finds effective is bringing the design process to the meeting–solving problems in the room with clients via animation and three dimensional technical software that illustrates the issues at hand.


As Rosa Sheng began her talk at TEDx Philadelphia, she acknowledged that the lack of women in leadership positions is not limited to architecture. Sheryl Sandberg is of course a trailblazer in encouraging women to “lean in” to take and create a leadership role. Recently, the science world was blazing against nineteenth century attitudes towards women scientists. Thousands of women scientists around the world unleashed a skeweringly witty #distractinglysexy Twitter campaign against Tim Hunt’s sexist remarks. The uproar was so loud that he eventually resigned his position as Honorary Professor at the University College London. The great thing now is that women have a voice.

I have a deep gratitude towards all the women architects before me who have worked so hard to prove that gender has no bearing on ability. I know that I walk on roads paved by their hard labor, and I do not take it for granted.

Thank you so much to Alesa, Denise, and Danielle for a wonderfully inspiring conversation!

—Sophia Lee

Neighborhood Transformations!

photo (1)

Last week Danielle DiLeo Kim of Locus Partners and I sat down for a conversation with two members of this year’s PGDG class, Karen Rohrer and Joyce Smith. We chose to speak to Karen and Joyce as a pair since these women are each leading positive changes within their own Philadelphia neighborhoods. Karen is a co-founder and co-pastor at Beacon, a faith community and shared neighborhood space in Kensington. Joyce is a co-founder and Community Development Coordinator for the Viola Street Resident Association (VSRA) of in East Parkside. We heard about their goals and what drives them to champion priorities for the communities in which they live. Karen and Joyce also shared their challenges and strategies for adjusting their sails when necessary to keep the positive momentum going.

Karen and Joyce share a “calling” to represent the unheard voices within their communities who share the goal of making their neighborhoods great places to live. Beacon and the Viola Street Residents Association were each formed because neighbors identified the value of a place that already existed. Karen explained that Beacon formed as a “start-up” in 2011 to revitalize the existing, dwindling congregation and to provide creative secular programing as well as worship to the transitioning neighborhood. Joyce’s East Parkside neighborhood struggles with vacancies and absent property owners. Long-term residents hold strong to positive aspects of each neighborhood that are worth protecting and strengthening. These two PGDG members work in creative ways to amplify that message and convince others to recognize the value as well.

At Beacon, Karen offers a place for community members to tell their own stories, and to hear the stories of their neighbors who may have a totally different experience. In particular, Beacon strives to engage the children of the neighborhood and provide a positive community and safe space in their lives.  Beacon offers art and writing studios with drop-in hours to encourage young people to share their stories. As the children grow up, the learned skills of supporting one another will be repeated on a larger scale.

The Viola Street Residents Association works to preserve and improve the neighborhood for both the long-time residents and future generations. Joyce acknowledged that changes may be imminent, so residents are working to solidify their vision for the neighborhood so they can be active participants in that change. Joyce and the VSRA worked with the Community Design Collaborative to create a resident-driven neighborhood improvement plan, “Project Reclaim,” that was approved by the City of Philadelphia Planning Commission. Joyce spearheads the effort to seek partnerships that will make the plan a reality.

Both PGDG women spoke about the challenges of communication and perceptions. East Parkside has been considered a less than desirable place to live; for Joyce, this is a negative identity that must be overcome. With many vacant properties, the first impression of Viola Street may be one of neglect. She answers the question of “why move to East Parkside?” by improving her own block to affect a ripple of change into the surrounding blocks. "I am committed to helping to create a sustainable, equitable development plan in East Parkside so we can preserve housing for indigenous residents while supporting an economically diverse neighborhood. So, long term affordability is the end goal and not just a transitional phase in an appreciating neighborhood. "

In Karen’s neighborhood, the communication challenge is inviting people to connect with each other and build a broader community. Her mission at Beacon is to create a safe space for people to share their stories, listen to others, and empathize. The changing demographic of residents brings with it the unknown, and a natural hesitation to trust. Given this, sometimes it is harder to perceive the commonalities among spiritual and human needs and aspirations. To forge connections and mutual understanding, Karen makes it a practice to be present with children and adults, to help navigate the latest challenges, and to participate in the trust and empathy she seeks to share with the broader community.

Karen and Joyce are both relative newcomers to the neighborhoods for which they advocate, each having lived there for less than ten years. To credit their own strengths in communication, they have each been entrusted in this short time to advocate and represent their neighborhoods’ interests. Joyce’s natural curiosity is one of her secrets for getting things done. She asks questions and seeks information until she finds the right people who have the answers. Karen listens to others and moves conversations beyond where they started. Her strategy is to allow people to be vulnerable and then provide an avenue for them to support one another.

Karen summed up what she and Joyce do best: invite the people in, communicate there, and then move outwards. We are inspired by their efforts to improve Philadelphia, one neighborhood at a time. Philly Girls Do Good!

—Kate Rutledge

WHAT’S UP, PGDG? Let’s Get the Word Out!

Today's post is your one-stop-shop for all current events in the work of Philly Girls Do Good! We took a quick survey of the latest ventures of PGDG women, and came up with some tidbits, links, news-worthies, and updates. If something catches your eye, please click the URL provided to connect and get more information!In no particular order:

Donna Carney of Citizens Planning Institute has posted an RFQ to hire a program assistant. The CPI program increases the capacity of citizens and civic organizations to participate in planning their communities and the city of Philadelphia. CPI has become a national model for civic involvement in an engaged planning process. Apply TODAY(!) Applications will be accepted through May 5th (Cinco de Mayo!)

Lois Brink, Chief Strategist of The Big Sandbox, won the coveted Knight Cities Challenge Grant on behalf of the Philly newbie (2014) non-profit. The Big Sandbox “strives to mobilize urban communities around green infrastructure and produce meaningful community spaces: schoolyards, urban parks and other places.” This will give them some cash to implement the green dream!

Pamela Zimmerman, civic volunteer extraordinaire, would like to shout out an official “Save the Date!” for Park(ing) Day 2015 as the the summer light wanes. Start your 10X20-foot public realm planning to build it (and take it down, and have a party) on Friday, September 18, 2015.

Did I say “extraordinaire”??? Of course there is way more news that Pam wants to SHARE: Have you been to“Leverage”, the Community Design Collaborative (CDC) event? It is a great way to see how the CDC (E.D. Beth Miller, PGDG 2013-14) supports worthy design efforts throughout Philadelphia and learn how YOU might get involved. There will be another CDC event about transformational schoolyard design on May 4: Pam also wants you to know about an amazing group called Mercy Neighborhood Ministries. They have been providing social services in the Tioga neighborhood for over 25 years and now celebrating the opening of a Head Start classroom, which will expand their offerings in the community: We may have a PGDG nominee coming out of MNM for class of 2015-16.

 Nancy Goldenberg became a PGDGer as Chief of Staff at the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society (GREAT Flower Show this year!!), but she’s JUMPED! She is now making a big difference every day in Center City Philadelphia as the Vice President of Planning, Development & Research AND ALSO the Executive Director of the Center City District Foundation. It is great to see her profile at the top of the CCD org chart!

This year’s class member of PGDG, Joyce Smith of Viola Street Residents Association was celebrated last night (!) at the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations (PACDC) 23rd Annual Gala and Awards Ceremony at the WHYY Dorrance H. Hamilton Public Media Commons. She was the STAR of the evening, winning PACDC's 2015 Community Leader award.

The Fairmount Park Conservancy, with PDGDer Kathryn Ott Lovell at the helm, just celebrated their HUGE NEWS: The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and William Penn Foundation are investing $11 million in an initiative led by Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park Conservancy to test the idea that green and civic open space can be reimagined to make cities more successful. “The initiative will explore whether reinventing and connecting these public places as a network of civic assets will help cities attract and keep talented workers, advance economic opportunity, encourage residents to become more engaged in shaping their communities, and begin to level the playing field between more affluent communities and those in need.” The institutions and projects selected to benefit from this initiate are The Discovery Center in East Fairmount Park, the Reading Viaduct Rail Park (Board President, Leah Murphy, PGDG 2013-14), Bartram’s Mile trail project along the lower Schuylkill River, Lovett Memorial Library and Park in Mt. Airy, and Fairmount Park Conservancy’s Centennial Commons in West Fairmount Park for the Parkside community. Kathryn Ott Lovell rocks the public realm!

But that’s not all! We park geeks think it’s pretty great that the Fairmount Park Conservancy and Fairmount Park Historic Preservation Trust are now ONE—as the Conservancy since January 1 this year. They will “jointly steward and enhance the park’s rich and related natural and cultural resources”. Please read more about it on PlanPhilly:

Now if we could only get these (and other!) amazing PGDG women together for a conversation, we could look at their paths to inspire our own.

Oh, wait! That’s what we do through this BLOG!

Stay tuned for next month’s conversation curated by blogger Kate Rutlege about Making Change—on the ground and in the neighborhood.

And please learn more about each of the wondrous women of PGDG and how they SERVE Philadelphia with the great work they DO through the organizations they LEAD! CLICK HERE: PHILLY GIRLS DO GOOD!

Sustainable Design in Philly: How Education Builds Our Community

Last week we continued our Philly Girls Do Good conversation series, and for the very first time, we welcomed a live audience to join the experience. The women of PGDG have so much good information to share, and we want to make their insight as accessible as possible. My fellow blogger, Sophia Lee, hatched the idea, organized the event, and led the moderated discussion. The panel included three dynamic members of the this year's PGDG class:

Morgan Berman

Morgan Berman, Co-founder and CEO of MilkCrate

Lois Brink

Lois Brink, Co-founder of The Big Sandbox

Fern Gookin

Fern Gookin, Director of Sustainability at Revolution Recovery and Founder of Recycled Artist in Residency (RAIR)

We brought together these three women at a location that has been instrumental to their design careers, Philadelphia University. All three panelists are connected to the school’s Master of Science in Sustainable Design program, with Morgan as a recent graduate and Lois as an adjunct professor. Fern is a graduate of the M.S. program and has returned to teach at her alma mater.

All three women now teach in some capacity, with Lois and Fern in a university setting and Morgan mentoring middle school students who are exploring how to make their own apps. They agreed that one of the joys of teaching is learning from and staying informed by the students. Morgan also noted that the process of setting a goal and figuring it out along the way is a universal experience that is helpful to see others repeat. Because the field of sustainability is so fast-moving, being connected to the next generation of people interested in it only strengthens everyones understanding.


One thread throughout the discussion was how an education in sustainability can be applied in the “real world” and lead to unanticipated career paths in design. The panelists reflected on what it was like to be a student figuring out how to link their varied interests in design, sustainability, community building, art, and technology. A main takeaway for the audience was that each of the women took it upon herself to craft her own path and seek out individuals who would support her interests, even if she was not yet sure where it all was heading. By continuing to take risks and enthusiastically accept unfamiliar opportunities, they have each enjoyed unique success in their careers in ways that could not have been predicted.


As the panel moderator, Sophia posed the question of “Why Philly?” We are thrilled to have these women be a part of Philly Girls Do Good and doing good work that supports our local communities, but had to ask what draws them to the city of Philadelphia. Morgan was born and raised in the area, and is happy to stick around and be a part of the tangible shift of a city getting its act together. Lois returned to her hometown of Philly after many years and is excited not only to see the improvements that have already occurred, but also be a part of a city realizing its potential. Her current work with the Philadelphia Green School Alliance aims to revitalize schoolyards across the city which would affect all current and future students and local residents.  Fern is the most recent transplant to Philly, but described its appeal as a city of do-ers. All agreed that it is a great place for people who have an idea and the drive to make them a reality.

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Everyone benefitted from the public format of the conversation, and the conversation concluded with thoughtful questions from an inspired audience, many of whom were PhilaU students and faculty. We hope to continue the momentum from this conversation and hold more events in the future which shine a light on the women leaders that make up PGDG, their paths and achievements that do good throughout Philadelphia.

Many thanks to Professor Rob Fleming, the Director of the Sustainable Design program, Professor Carol Hermann, Professor Jim Doerfler, Executive Dean Barbara Klinkhammer, Associate Dean David Breiner, and Terry Ryan at Philadelphia University for welcoming Philly Girls Do Good and making our first public conversation a great success!

Please connect to more about each of these women and other members of Philly Girls Do Good through Locus Partners' PGDG page on their website:

—Kate Rutledge

The Power of the Plan for All


On Tuesday January 20th, “The Power of the Plan for All” event celebrated planning progress made not only by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC), but also by individuals in their own neighborhoods. With the comprehensive Philadelphia2035 plan, PCPC has adopted eight district plans to date, with two more underway this year. The Citizen’s Planning Institute (CPI) is the education and outreach arm of PCPC  and has continued to empower passionate individuals with knowledge and tools of good planning.


Donna Carney, a member of last year’s Philly Girls Do Good class, is the director of CPI and proudly welcomed past graduates to share their success stories as Citizen Planners. Joyce Smith, a member of this year’s PGDG class and Citizen Planner in East Parkside, presented about the progress that the Viola Street Residence Association has made by partnering with the Community Design Collaborative and Habitat for Humanity. She emphasized the need for further support and collaboration to make the full neighborhood plan a reality.


The evening concluded with the presentation of the most recent CPI graduates, including Philly Girls Do Good founder Sylvia Palms, representing the Spruce Hill neighborhood. Fifty-seven new Citizen Planners completed the CPI curriculum in 2014 and will continue to execute planning initiatives in their own communities.



Ms. Carney wrapped up the evening by thanking all of the Citizen Planners, past, present and future. She compared them to pilot lights scattered throughout the city, for although they may be small flames, they are in it for the long haul. “Anything worth doing, is worth doing as long as it takes,” was her final summary, which is an attitude shared by many in the room and will no doubt contribute to future planning success throughout Philadelphia.

All photos by Mark Gavin Photo via the Philadelphia City Planning Commission

Kate Rutledge

Philly Girls Do Good! Welcome Party


Last Tuesday evening, a group of women leaders in design and community development gathered in celebration of the new Philly Girls Do Good Class of 2014-15. New PGDG members mingled with returning members and guests. Benjamin’s Desk, a great co-working space in Center City, generously offered the use of their event space, and the room was quickly filled with the sounds of both catching up and new introductions.


Sylvia Palms and Danielle DiLeo Kim of Locus Partners officially kicked off the welcome party by sharing reflections on PGDG’s inaugural year and plans for the upcoming one. Sylvia noted that the group has expanded not only in numbers, but also in diversity of professional tenure and backgrounds. Similarly to last year, pairs or small groups of the new PGDG class will come together for conversations—with upcoming blog posts revealing their discussions and new ideas sparked. Danielle spoke about increasing the opportunities for the PGDG women to gather and share what their current projects and initiatives are. Happy hours were added to the calendar, as well as more frequent blogposts of PGDGers making a difference throughout the city.


The main event of the evening was a networking program led by Erin Owen, a personal performance coach who connects Eastern wisdom to the Western idea of performance. She spoke about reciprocity, and challenged the women present to explore giving and receiving in their personal and professional lives. An informal survey invited lots of raised hands and nodding heads indicating there were many givers in the room.


In smaller break-out groups, the women took turns making a specific ask for something they currently need. The ask was then countered with an offer from the each group member—ranging from a resource, a brainstorming idea, or even a promise to support the endeavor further down the line. While the giving side of the equation seemed to come easily, Erin then asked for reflections on making the ask. The main take-away themes were:

—Make your ask as clear and specific as possible.

—Even if it seems big and scary, ask it out loud anyway.

—The person who can help you may be someone you’d never suspect.


The reciprocity exercise flowed to a natural buzz into the evening, with the women excitedly exchanging ideas and business cards. As the event came to a close, small groups lingered and made plans to connect again soon.


Overall the night was a promising start to a new year of sharing, supporting, and celebrating the work of all of the members of Philly Girls Do Good! Stay tuned for future blog posts where the conversations will continue!


—Kate Rutledge

Welcome the PGDG Class of 2014-15

Please welcome the Philly Girls Do Good Class of 2014-15! It's true, we were just getting rolling with 2013-14, but there are so many more great women to celebrate, we thought we would usher in a new class.Last year, our inaugural class included so many Philadelphia leaders and seasoned professionals in design and community development—truly our role models. They came together through the year in groups of three to five for conversation on topics they had in common including West Philadelphia Transformations, Social and Environmental Justice, and Design Advocacy. We launched PGDG (and this blog) by hearing great stories, broadcasting successes, and forging connections.

This coming year, we'd like to crank it up! Nominations for the PGDG Class of 2014-15 included more high achievers, and also several up-and-coming leaders. We will let this broader array stimulate a wide range of topics and mix up the personalities and organizations to inspire... In addition to conversations, this BLOG will spotlight Philadelphia initiatives sure to make a great impact. We will also gather the women of PGDG at more informal events to keep up with the talk of the town.

We can't wait, and we invite you to FOLLOW PGDG(!) throughout the coming year. Please spread the word. CLICK HERE to go to the PGDG page of Locus Partners' website. From there you can click on each name to learn more about each member of this year's class to learn more about her, her organization, and her good work.

Thanks for reading. And please be a Do-Gooder in your own right!

Introducing the PGDG Class of 2014-15

Marguerite Anglin, AIA, LEED AP    President of PhilaNOMA

Morgan Berman    Founder of MilkCrate

 Lois Brink    Founder of The Big Sandbox

Carmen Febo San Miguel, MD    Executive Director of Taller Puertorriqueno

Danielle Gray   Director of Marketing and Development at SRDC

Jane Golden    Executive Director of the Mural Arts Program

Fern Gookin, LEED AP    Director of Sustainability at Revolution Recovery

Yael Lehman    Executive Director of The Food Trust

Kathryn Ott Lovell    Executive Director of Fairmount Park Conservancy

Karen Rohrer   Co-Founder and Pastor at Beacon

Alesa Rubendall, AIA, LEED AP BD+C    Co-Chair of WIA

Joyce Smith    Community Development at Viola Street Residents Association, CDC

Denise Thompson, AIA, LEED AP BD+C    Treasurer of Philadelphia AIA

Pam Zimmerman, AIA, LEED-AP    Professional Volunteer at CDC and Parking Day

Why blog for PGDG! - From Kate Rutledge


During graduate school, I assisted with the International Archive of Women in Architecture (IAWA) which is housed in Virginia Tech’s library. It was a unique experience to review the letters and drawings created by women who were pioneers in my profession. However, it was the time spent with the women who gathered for the annual IAWA board meeting and the resulting conversations which left the greatest impression on me. They were excited to talk about why they pursued architecture, what their most memorable projects involved, and how they persevered in an era that did not always welcome or recognize their ideas. The women ranged in age and background from a former apprentice under Frank Lloyd Wright to a current sole proprietor with her own successful firm in NYC. Although their paths differed, many shared overlapping passions for community building, social justice, and good design. I was happy to listen and capture their historical experiences in hopes of inspiring future generations to continue working towards their common goals.

I am excited to contribute to the PGDG! blog while viewing it as a more modern record of stories that are unfolding here in Philadelphia, in real-time. The careers, projects and ideas of the professionals celebrated by PGDG! are constantly evolving. My goal is to shine a spotlight on these women so that others are aware of their great work and can keep an eye on them as a role model, creative leader, or future collaborator. As a reader of the blog last year, I enjoyed the conversations shared between the inaugural PGDG! class, especially when they recognized mutual interests from varying perspectives. After getting a sneak peek at the list of women in next year’s PGDG! class, I have no doubt they will be a catalyst for even more inspiration and collaboration. I can't wait to get started hearing and sharing their stories too.

—Kate Rutledge

West Philadelphia Transformations

Jessica Baumert, Prema Gupta, Kira Strong, Nancy Rogo Trainer

A Philly Girls Do Good conversation with:

  • Jessica Baumert, Executive Director of The Woodlands
  • Prema Gupta, Director of Planning and Economic Development at University City District
  • Kira Strong, Vice President of `Community and Economic Development at the People’s Emergency Center
  • Nancy Rogo Trainer, Associate Vice President, Planning and Design at Drexel University

On a crisp Friday in September, Danielle and Sylvia gathered four mover and shakers of West Philadelphia around small plates at Zavino in the recently redeveloped block of Chestnut Square (we recommend the “Stache” pizza, by the way). The setting was the perfect backdrop for a conversation about how West Philadelphia has transformed over the last few years and where it’s headed from here.

Chestnut Square

Principal drivers in that transformation are the University City District (UCD), Penn, and Drexel. Nancy Rogo Trainer commented that part of her newly established position at Drexel is to work collaboratively with other local organizations and accomplish change together. She’s particularly looking forward to working more closely with Prema Gupta to reinvigorate University City’s public realm.

Just recently, UCD embarked on a pedestrian study of eastern University City with Jan Gehl Studio New York. Prema also led the initiative to introduce pedestrian plazas on Woodland Avenue and Baltimore Avenue. The ongoing and popular success story for UCD is The Porch at 30th Street Station. Prema is continuing to learn lessons from activity at The Porch, such as gathering information about how it is used, and then using the findings to inform its development as well as their other projects. Now UCD is checking out ways to perk up the SEPTA stations and 37th Street Pedestrian Mall.

The Woodlands

Prema is also partnering with Jessica Baumert of The Woodlands. Enter into the pastoral edge of University City at The Woodlands Cemetery on Woodland Avenue, only to discover the historic estate of William Hamilton! Jessica is excited about the 40th Street Trolley Portal, where a major renovation is currently being designed by Andropogon Associates—right at The Woodlands front door. The project includes new programming, such as a café, improved pedestrian crosswalks, and wayfinding signage to The Woodlands. This important UCD project will create a proper front entrance to The Woodlands, inviting the public in for historic tours and cultural events throughout the year.

Proposed 40th Street Trolley Portal

Moving further west, the People’s Emergency Center (PEC) has been expanding beyond its social services mission to revitalize neighborhoods just west of UCD. In fact, the two organizations’ boundaries generally meet at 38th Street, an important north-south corridor in West Philly. PEC’s mission and impact is not in University City District, but Kira Strong sees signs of UCD’s transformative energy moving west. Lancaster Avenue is the major commercial corridor in PEC’s area, and it is also the physical connection to Drexel’s campus where it terminates at 34th Street. Kira is hopeful that more neighborhood destinations will slowly populate west Lancaster Avenue as the buzz of development along the corridor continues to grow. Nancy pointed out the historical significance of Lancaster Avenue and regards Drexel as an important stakeholder in the success of that corridor.

Hawthorne Hall

Kira shared excitement about being a stakeholder with the representatives of local registered community organizations, Drexel, the Science Center, and UCD, in the collaborative re-visioning of the University City High School site between 38th and 36th at Lancaster Avenue and Market Street. All are confident that the redevelopment of the super-block site will be a significant bridge between the activity of University City and the communities to its west and north. The development brings together innovative, economic, and educational goals. According to Nancy, this process aims to illustrate that “innovation and social change should not be mutually exclusive.”

With regards to social change and innovation, Kira and Jessica, meeting for the first time here, connected on a literacy program called Mighty Writers. PEC helped the Mighty Writers find leasable space and Jessica is interested in getting them to help tell the stories of The Woodlands. Business cards were traded and a new friendship was formed around shared values.

When asked what is the greatest challenge facing West Philadelphia today, nearly everyone said “available funds.” In addition to that, Kira said she wants the positive transformations to “lift all boats” and avoid creating a further divided city. She elaborated that without good public schools, the local work force is unskilled and cannot substantially contribute to the improvement of the neighborhoods.

We asked what project or effort each woman is most proud of after having been on the job for less than 4 years apiece (except for Kira who has an impressive 10 years at PEC). Nancy—only ten months into her appointment—was lauded by Prema for creating an outdoor student lounge along the food truck depot at 33rd and Arch Streets. Nancy said it is an inexpensive but effective campus public space that is well used by the students. For Prema, she is thrilled with the success of The Porch. Jessica, despite leading a master plan effort for The Woodlands right now, said she was most proud of the fact that when she mentions The Woodlands people don’t say “what’s that?” anymore. She attributes this new recognition to a strong promotional and programming strategy enacted by her and The Woodlands Board of Trustees. Kira, who has had the longest stint, said that she was most proud of diversifying the activities of the development corporation and promoting development through fun and engaging activities—such as getting PEC to participate in Parking DayNight Market (17,000 people attended on August 14!) and other corridor events.

Night Market

That was a fine way to sum up the conversation: a passionate group of women leaders are transforming West Philadelphia through innovative and creative ways that bring people together and get them engaged in the public realm like never before.

—Danielle DiLeo Kim

Thanks for reading our PGDG Blog! This is our final entry in a series of monthly conversations from the Philly Girls Do Good inaugural class of 2013-14. Thank you to all the inspiring women who participated and shared their good work in Philadelphia. Upcoming blog posts will feature the class of 2014-15. Stay tuned!

Philly Girls Do Good! Logos Locus Partners

Accepting Nominations for PGDG Class of 2014-15

PGDG.NominationForm2014We want to know who YOU think would be a great addition to our PGDG list of Philly Do-Gooders! We look forward to meeting more great women leaders in design and community development who make a difference in Philadelphia through their great work. We look forward to celebrating their work and the organizations they serve through our blog posts here.

Thank you for supporting this effort! Please nominate a Do-Gooder for the PGDG Class of 2014-15 by September 26, 2014.

(Please download the PDF form by clicking the above link. You will have to save it onto your computer in order to complete and submit it electronically. When you push submit it will be emailed to the PGDG account.)