Global Conversation with Deputy Mayor Nina Ahmad

By Peak Johnson, Global Philadelphia Association - EIJP Editor

A Bangladeshi-American, Ahmed had also been appointed by former Mayor Michael Nutter as the Chair of the Commission on Asian American Affairs in 2009, a Commission she now oversees as the Deputy Mayor for Public Engagement.

correction: The LGBT Affairs is not under the purview of the Office of Public Engagement as it was originally reported.  It is now within the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

What are some of the different initiatives, if any, that your office is involved in?

The Office of Public Engagement (OPE) is broadly engaged in creating an infrastructure of trust between the community and its Government. This newly created Office is actively engaged in designing strategic processes to allow the City to enhance community outreach and engagement efforts.


The key strategic initiative underway is the development and eventual launch of My Brother’s Keeper Philadelphia interactive data dashboard, a user interface that, somewhat resembling an automobile's dashboard, where visual display of the most important information will be consolidated and arranged on a single screen so the information can be monitored at a glance. This will allow integration of information from the six milestones that define our MBK-Philly plan into a unified display.


The OPE is actively engaged in designing strategic processes to be an integral part of making the two-way street with City Government and the community, a tangible part of the road to prosperity for all Philadelphians regardless of their zip code.


Are there any global initiatives that the Office of Public Engagement is involved with?

Given its historical significance in the birth of our nation, Philadelphia is and has been an international destination. With many large scale events with global implications, more people worldwide are visiting us. While the focus is ostensibly on Philadelphia, the Office of Public Engagement interacts with the global platform that underpins Philadelphia. Our office is always promoting Philadelphia as a welcoming city that our Mayor articulates so effectively.


Recently, the Office organized a seminar for the Visiting Delegation of Government Trainees from Cameroon to get a better understanding of different branches of Government in Philadelphia. We had a robust conversation via our Youth Commission with a visiting delegation from Bangladesh who were part of the International Leadership Program organized by the U.S. Department of State.


Their particular interest was reducing violence in society and the multifaceted approaches in engaging various stakeholders in communities. Our engagement with New Americans through our Commissions has resulted in our City being featured in various media in their countries of origin, further spreading the word that Philadelphia is a welcoming place for everyone.


Last year, Philadelphia was designated as a World Heritage City. What does it mean for you to be working in a city with such a title?

It is very exciting for our City to receive this designation of a World Heritage City. The hard work done by Global Philadelphia Association (GPA) and so many partners is commendable and has raised Philadelphia’s international profile. Now we must capitalize on this new status of World Heritage City, and engage local residents in these efforts to embrace the promise of such a designation.


We have great potential for valuable economic and cultural alliances which will depend on intersectional work within city government as well as in the business, educational and nonprofit sectors. This designation has enormous intangible benefits of broadening our horizons and encouraging cross pollination of ideas; being on the cutting edge of new discoveries in a myriad of fields.

What do you think it means to be a Global citizen in Philadelphia?

A Global citizen is someone who is flexible, creative and proactive. A citizen who is open to making new relationships without geographical or political boundaries being limiting factors; who uses information technology as a tool to connect and create a marketplace of ideas; who is open to is willing to listen to different points of views, able to find common intersections to have respectful interactions; who is curious about how the “world works”.


I believe that being of service to the global community is an important component of having a collective impact in creating a sustainable world, which underpins global citizenry.

Do you feel that Philadelphia is a Global enough city?

Being an immigrant friendly city, with a Mayor who is firmly committed to Philadelphia being a welcoming gateway city, and with the World Heritage City designation we are poised to have a sharp increase in the “Global City” barometer. Having hosted the Papal visit and being the host for the DNC convention is increasing our profile internationally and domestically. With some important milestones coming up-celebration of the women’s right to vote in 2020, the 250th Birthday of our nation in 2026 are going to further enhance our global status.

The Office of Public Engagement oversees several of the Mayor’s offices, including the Youth Commission, Office of Black Male Engagement (which will include President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative as well as the Mayor’s Commission on African American Males), the Commission for Women, and a new iteration of the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives.


In addition to these programs, the OPE will oversee various advisory commissions, including Asian American Affairs, the African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs, and the Millennial Advisory Committee. The Office of Black Male Engagement (OBME) furthers the vision of promoting positive engagement experiences that lead to empowerment for those boys and men of color who continue to experience opportunity gaps.