Report From The 2014 Global Philadelphia Idea Summit

Peter Chawaga, for GPA -- GPA’s second “Global Idea Summit” was a chance for members to connect with one another, to hear from distinguished leaders of the international community and to offer their own unique perspectives on the most critical global initiatives seizing Philadelphia at the moment.

While enjoying lunch in the atrium of Drexel University’s Bossone Center, attendees heard updates from the GPA staff on how the association continues to promote Philadelphia’s international community. Afterwards, keynote speaker Joseph Torsella, former U.S. Representative to the United Nations for Management and Reform, shared inside information about the triumphs and shortcomings of the international body.

Then it was time for GPA members and special guests to offer their own insights into some of the most critical challenges and opportunities faced by the city’s global community. Attendees broke into small groups for lively roundtable discussion, facilitated by GPA volunteers. Among these topics discussed were cooperation between global businesses and non-profits, the challenges faced by global citizens, how the city’s next mayor can meet the needs of the international community, global kids and the initiative to achieve World Heritage City status.

Global Business and Non-Profit Cooperation

Attended by members from the Economy League, Eurasia Business Council, Arcadia University, Select Greater Philadelphia and more, the discussion on how to harness global business through non-profit collaboration yielded several valuable ideas. With Philadelphia as the home to hundreds of non-profits, it is crucial to utilize these as intermediaries for business stakeholders. The opportunities presented by large business entities can create opportunities for connecting and networking, but can also bridge the gap to smaller, less profitable entities. Collaboration also motivates people to break cultural and language barriers through education and innovation.

There was also discussion about creating a questionnaire to gather data about which businesses are doing work on an international scale, what work they are doing and what groups they would be interested in collaborating with. This would give the international community an opportunity to foster work between its businesses and non-profits.

Global Citizens

During this roundtable, members from the Free Library, Villanova School of Business and Reed Smith, among others, discussed the identity of a global citizen. It was agreed that global citizens have passports, take advantage of programs like study abroad and have sensitivity towards different cultures. Ideas for mentorships and dialogues between global citizens were also discussed.

Perhaps most crucial to the conversation were ideas on how to draw expertise from the city’s rich collection of global citizens. During this part of the talk, attendees emphasized the need for recognizing the immigrant communities’ unique occupations, the expansion of vocational schools and internships that cater to immigrants and encouragement for newcomers to celebrate their cultural heritages.

A Global Mayor

A roundtable about what Philadelphia’s next mayor should know and do to promote the city as a global center was attended by several key members, including representatives from Al Dia, the City of Philadelphia and CDI.

To ensure their ability to promote the city, it was agreed that the next mayor should have a knowledge of what world history is being taught in city schools, whether or not children are being encouraged to learn foreign languages, the city’s demographic characteristics and the importance of international business to our economy.

Action steps for this next mayor to take should include extensive travel abroad, meetings with international delegations, the promotion of sister cities programs and the active retention of international students. It was also mentioned that the next mayor must promote a globally minded media that would publish editorials submitted by GPA members.

Global Kids

During a discussion about Philadelphia’s youngest international members, attendees from the city’s numerous educational programs agreed upon the importance of globally oriented programs for kids and opportunities to travel abroad. Also discussed were the need to increase young people’s global awareness, their interest in making an international impact and the importance in communication between children across borders.

“If you have the opportunity to learn a language very young, it becomes part of your identity,” said Carol Wong, Director of the Chinatown Learning Center, as the group stressed that learning foreign languages is crucial for our youth.

Project World Heritage

As one of GPA’s signature topics, achieving World Heritage City status was the center of much discussion in a pair of roundtables. Among attendees were representatives from the Geographical Society of Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson University and the Penn Museum.

The group discussed the various criteria for achieving World Heritage status, the obvious merits of Philadelphia’s history and the city’s national position between New York City and Washington, D.C. It was mentioned that more residents and visitors from around the world should be made aware of the importance of World Heritage and the value the designation would bring to local businesses. The need for a concise timeline and easily accessible material on World Heritage and its importance was also mentioned.

All told, GPA’s second “Global Idea Summit” stoked the flames under several hotly debated topics. Members had the chance to connect with one another and with a world of global issues they may have expertise in or may have never considered before. If one thing was proven, it was the merits of collaboration and debate between Philadelphia’s globally minded citizens.

Reports were contributed by Zabeth Teelucksingh, Bianca Robinson, Layla El Tannir, Maria Johansson and Benedicte Clouet.