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Philadelphia: Making it Cool to Care

3 minute read
by Alex Hillman

Indy Hall and Young Involved Philadelphia are partnering to help capture the reasons that people love Philly as our own Valentine’s Day celebration, including a party this Thursday. I’d encourage you to share reasons you love Philly on Twitter and include the hashtag “#whyilovephilly” so we can find them, and hope you’ll join us for drinks at National Mechanics (a place which happens to be another reason I love Philly). You can RSVP and find more details on Facebook or Anyvite if you’re avoiding Facebook.

Geoff pointed to the fact that Ignite Philly is his love letter to Philly. Here’s mine.

I remember hearing someone from one of the local media outlets who I insisted come to IgnitePhilly 5 remark something to the effect of “I’ve been to a lot of events around this city, and the ones you guys are involved with just feel different. I can’t quite put my finger on it.”

I don’t think it was the first time I’d said it myself, but my response of  “dude, we’re making it cool to care” seems to ring truest when the halo of IgnitePhilly energy is hanging around in the weeks after the event.

IgnitePhilly is the perfect example of taking the authenticity of a punk rock show vibe and wrapping it in genuine interest for our own backyards. It’s not about showing off, but at the same time, it is. You can feel it in the casual and sometimes awkward between-set banter that the organizers show on stage.

More than once, including the TechnicallyPhilly wrapup, people have noted a dwindling percentage of “tech” at Ignite Philly. I’m quite pleased about that, while my feelings might not be shared by everyone. I think that it marks an important shift in “tech people caring about Philly tech” to a simpler and more elegant “caring about Philly”.

I think that IgnitePhilly initiated this remarkably well with the now hallmark “oversized check” presentation of the event’s ticket sales to a previous IgnitePhilly presenter’s project. I’m pretty sure not one of those recipients was tech related, at least not directly. The gesture is a way to show the world that the Philly tech scene cares about more than just themselves.

It also seems that the donation was just practice for the Microsoft-funded Ignite-powered distribution of donations to local schools through the radness of DonorsChoose. Microsoft gave O’Reilly a big whack of cash to distribute to Ignites in $10 vouchers during Global Ignite Week. Then, Ignites turned around to their audiences and asked them to make the choice about where the money goes using DonorsChoose, which is a website that lets you fund classroom projects in schools that really, really need the help. Teachers are scrapping by for their students, and DonorsChoose lets people micro-fund these teachers projects.

So far, Philly’s Ignite audience has donated a combination of the $10 vouchers plus their own money to reach 155 students with an impact of over $1200. For perspective, that’s over 1/3rd of the total amount that’s been donated during the Global Ignite Week.

Since this past Thursday, we closed out 3 classroom projects’ funds and are close to the goals of completing 2 more. We’re leading against the other cities participating, including New York and San Francisco, the most well known “tech scenes” on the planet. The only city giving us a run for our money (well, Microsoft’s money) is Seattle, and we know they’re already a bunch of hippies so that’s not surprising 🙂

The point of this is not to say that Philadelphia is better than New York or San Francisco, or even Seattle. The point is that there are places where organizing people in tech is remarkably easy, as shown by the fact that most tech organizations grow quickly and large. Philly is getting better at that as we become more self-aware, but we’re still behind cities like NY and SF.

But where we are leading is in our tech scene’s demonstrating of our ability to mobilize, and with discreet purpose and intent. That purpose and intent is not self-serving, and by being a cornerstone of our development as a community, promises us long term impact.s

Dude, we’re making it cool to care.

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Alex Hillman I am always thinking about the intersection of people, relationships, trust and business. I founded Indy Hall in 2006, making us one of oldest fully independent coworking communities in the world. This site is packed with the lessons and examples I’ve learned along the way. You can find me on Twitter, too! 🐦 Say hi.