Our year in review: Looking back on 2018

Simply put, 2018 was a great year for Philadelphia. From the Eagles’ stunning Super Bowl triumph, to the unveiling of a new hockey mascot who quickly endeared himself to the world through countless GIFs and memes, to being named GQ’s City of the Year, the past 12 months put our city in the national and global spotlight like never before.

For Global Philadelphia Association (GPA) and our members, 2018 was one of our biggest and busiest years yet. In the spring, we restructured our flagship project – the World Heritage City Project – around four distinct missions. This new framework will help us work more effectively to preserve and celebrate our region’s historic and cultural assets; build awareness and ownership of Philadelphia’s World Heritage City status in our communities; educate young people with global mindsets and strong roots; and extending Philadelphia’s global reach in commerce, education and travel.

Summer and fall 2018 were packed with events as we set about putting our new plan into action. In May, we celebrated the third annual Philadelphia World Heritage Day, hosted by the Philadelphia Zoo. With its global impact in research, conservation and public education, the Philadelphia Zoo was a perfect setting to teach young people about our city’s special World Heritage City status. GPA hosted a private event for pupils from Independence Charter School in the Zoo’s Treehouse, where students learned about World Heritage and got to meet animals from World Heritage Cities around the world. Over 3,500 students visited the Zoo to experience World Heritage Day.

In June and July, we promoted the World Heritage City Project at events across the city, as part of the WaWa Welcome America festival. From distributing free World Heritage City Coloring Books at the First Bank of the United States to celebrating the repurposing and renovation of The Bourse at the Historic District Block Party, WaWa Welcome America was a great opportunity to celebrate Philadelphia.

As the summer drew to a close, we held our Third Annual World Heritage Celebration Dinner at the Wanamaker Building's Crystal Tea Room. This flagship event raises funds to support our work year-round. Our keynote speaker was media personality and CNN and Sirius XM host Michael Smerconish. The dinner was co-chaired by John Fry, President of Drexel University, and Diane Semingson, President and CEO of DLS International. We were also joined by Mayor Jim Kenney, Senator for Pennsylvania Robert P. Casey, and Denis Ricard, Secretary of the Organization of World Heritage Cities.

The night was filled with many performances representing different parts of the world, by artists based in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Argentine Tango School gave a dance performance to welcome guests, alongside Text Rich and Lava who brought percussion, drum and digeridoo sounds from Australia. The VIP reception featured Raices Borius, performing Caribbean and Latin American music. The final performance was by the Philadelphia Suns Lion Dance Troupe, who led the crowd into the Crystal Tea Room before the beginning of the dinner. We’re already looking forward to our next World Heritage Celebration Dinner on September 5, 2019.

In November, we launched our new World Heritage education website, LearnPhillyHeritage.org, as part of On The Table Philly.

Through research conducted with Philadelphia area teachers earlier in the year, we discovered a need for a central pool of free and low-cost heritage education resources – the absence of such resources was a barrier to heritage education for 85% of teachers surveyed.

In response, we worked to develop a new website that fills this crucial gap. LearnPhillyHeritage.org is now up and running, with new resources added almost every week. 

2018 also saw us continue our work to position the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Philadelphia. This list of global goals provides a framework for a more prosperous, peaceful and more equal world. In the fall, we held a Pitch Night event with young professionals and students, encouraging them to come up with exciting new ideas to further those goals.

We ended the year on a high with our fourth annual Globy Awards. Recognizing global excellence in a range of fields, this awards ceremony is always a great occasion to bring our members together and celebrate the outstanding achievements of five extraordinary Philadelphians.

This year, we partnered with Broad Street Ministry to hold a book drive at the event, with our members generously donating books to homeless and vulnerable adults in our communities.

The Globy Awards also saw a major leadership change at GPA, as our outgoing Board Chair John F Smith III stepped down after nine years of stellar service to the organization. John will continue to play a key role at GPA as Chair Emeritus, advising our new Chair Robert J McNeill and the Board.

We are now an entire month into 2019, and we have already made some really exciting progress.

Our World Heritage Education Program is growing, with a successful workshop on teaching World Heritage held at Houston Elementary School, and a training session for Mighty Writers volunteers on incorporating World Heritage elements into their classes, this January alone.

Our community outreach work also continues apace. On January 21, we took part in Global Citizen’s annual MLK Day of Service at historic Girard College. We welcomed kids and adults from all over Philadelphia to color in World Heritage postcards, write poems about their city, and take pictures in our virtual photobooth.

We are always working to position Philadelphia on the global stage - in the summer, we will take a delegation to the Organization of World Heritage Cities’ World Congress in Krakow, Poland. 

This is just a taster of the new projects and events we are looking ahead to this year. We wish all of our members a happy, healthy and productive 2019. 


Article written by Alice Krainock on behalf of Global Philadelphia Association