Phind out Phriday: Forever Young, Kate Clark of GenPhilly
Recently State of Young Philly hosted a two week conference for young professionals in Philadelphia and how they can continue to work to make this city even greater. Events focused on everything from the state of education to the state of the economy to the arts to volunteering and getting involved with various agencies within the city as young professionals. During one of the events I attended, I got to meet two members of GenPhilly, a network of young professionals dedicated to encouraging Philadelphians to connect with older adults through their work and personal lives, working to change stereotypes and create an age friendly Philadelphia. Completely intrigued by both their passion and mission I got in contact with their chair, Kate Clark, to phind out a little bit more about what it really means to be a part of a volunteer network dedicated to inspiring an age friendly Philadelphia. When I talked with Kate, I talked with a woman who was just as passionate as the two members I initially met. I talked with a woman who loves Philadelphia and as a new young mom has no intent to leave the city when she is no longer a new young mom.
Phreedum: Who is GenPhilly in 5 words?
KC: network, inspiring, age-friendly, innovative, Philadelphia
Phreedum: How did GenPhilly get started?
KC: GenPhilly started in February 2009 with a group of 7 young professionals who were all working with the senior population, but in different fields. As we would gather and process our work and look to each other for support we thought it would be great if there was a larger network for young professionals working with this population to receive support. We decided to start with a list-serv where we could send information to people who were a part of the network. We would send everything from conference information about working with seniors, to job announcements, to articles about policies that would potentially affect seniors. Then we incorporated bimonthly events. Events range from community gardening, to guest speakers such as the mayor’s office director of civic engagement talk about the city’s efforts to bridge generation gaps through various programs, to film screenings and discussions.
Phreedum: What has been your biggest success so far?
KC: We have grown from a network of 7 people to 250 people in the course of two and a half years. This means we have been getting more people and their agencies/organizations and networks to think about aging and creating an age friendly company and city.
Phreedum: Okay, now on the end of the spectrum, what has been the biggest lesson learned so far?
KC: Definitely how we define ourselves. We started off as a membership type of network. We had requirements in order to be and maintain membership. But that was not yielding the results we wanted. We realized that young professionals are really busy people, but part of that business is they are genuinely interested in doing a lot of different things. So if we were going to get young professionals involved with our network we were going to have to offer a membership that was more conducive to their lifestyle, but would still accomplish our goals. We decided we were less of a traditional member organization and more of a movement. We wanted people to join our movement, and thus by joining the movement (i.e. joining our listserv, attending events and meetings that are bi monthly and offer socializing and professional development, etc.) they are members.
Phreedum: Who has been the most influential in allowing you to phreely pursue GenPhilly?
KC: Well, prior to starting GenPhilly I worked at (and still work at) the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging (PCA). When I shared the work I and the team were doing through GenPhilly, PCA took GenPhilly under its wing. PCA saw GenPhilly as a network that would further enhance their own mission. They allow me to use office time to further develop and promote GePhilly. They readily believed in GenPhilly’s potential to inspire an age friendly Philadelphia.
Phreedum: Where do you hope to see GenPhilly in 5 years?
KC: I really hope we keep the momentum that we have right now. I don’t want to see it fizzle. I’d also like to see members create even more projects independently and incorporate the senior population. I want to see the social entrepreneurs in our network expand their strategic plans to incorporate seniors in whatever capacity makes sense to them. Our members are already doing some great work and I just want to see more of it.
Phreedum: To grow from 7 members to 250 members in two and a half years and to have a large, well respected non profit such as PCA supporting you, you guys are clearly identifying and using your assets well. With that being said what do you see as GenPhilly’s biggest asset?
KC: Our diversity. We have a lot of diversity amongst our members. We have members who are lawyers, artists, social workers, doctors who love animals, gardening , cooking, etc. For the most part, you name it, we’ve got it. And I think the diversity adds to the richness of support and skills we can offer members and the community.
Phreedum: How does the work you do through GenPhilly change the lives of others?
KC: At a minimum I hope it raises people’s consciousness about being an inclusive society and valuing people at every age and stage of life. At best, I think we have seen it inspire people to really invest their resources- time, skills, talents, in building relationships with seniors and tearing down negative stereotypes of the senior population.
Phreedum: Okay, before we wrap up. You have talked genuinely and passionately about GenPhilly. It’s evident that you love what you have been able to do as an entrepreneur through GenPhilly. What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are just as passionate about their dreams and goals?
KC: Collaboration is more important than competition. You can never have too many partners, so be willing to bring as many people in as are willing.
For more information about GenPhilly and how you can get involved visit www.genphilly.org