Building Community Wealth in Philadelphia

Many local economic development efforts work under the premise that community revitalization is a zero-sum game, where progress can only be achieved in one area through extracting resources from another. Too often this unproductive and dangerous competition positions marginalized individuals against each other. Every community has intrinsic and unique assets, whether they are individuals, groups and organizations, particular environment endowments, economic, financial, cultural, and more. Sustainable and inclusive development occurs when all of these assets are engaged. A community can only productively look outward for resources when it has utilized all of its internal values.  

The main component in creating community wealth is to utilize and improve existing economic development asset.  Communities must identify, survey, assess, map out, and mobilize these community-based resources. Only by recognizing these multifaceted assets can communities strengthen their existing capacities, skills, and resources and create sustainable community wealth building projects that revitalize low-income areas, involve local people in the process, establish decent wage jobs, prevent the dislocation of many residents and businesses, and form a vibrant community

This strengthens as opposed to deficit approach, allows communities to develop their best interest. This approach forces individuals and groups to mobilize, partner, and collaborate with others that have long-term stakes in the community. Having the long-term interest in a locality means that resources and outputs will stay in the community.

Mobilizing these assets requires strong partnerships and collaborations to meet a joint goal. Too often we, as organizations and individuals, fall to recognize the strength and innovation that occurs through relationships based on mutually sharing our unique resources, skills, and capacities.

We at the West Philadelphia Financial Services Institution believe that community wealth is built with local based collaboration and partnerships. These locally rooted relationships are essential to creating an ecosystem that aims to expand asset ownership, increase skills and knowledge, anchor jobs locally by broadening ownership over the capital, help achieve key environmental goals, and to create channels to bring marginalized individuals to the field of entrepreneurship.

WPFSI collaborates with other locally based partners to create a thriving community for all. In addition to providing a variety of financial products to underserved small business owners and start-ups, we partner with an array of groups to bring vital services to our community.  Through these partnerships we provide many events for our community including the Annual Festival at Parkwest Town Center for residents to learn about resources in their community; a monthly radio show, There’s Money Out There, in partnership with WURD, to spread business knowledge; $10,000 on the spot loan events; and our Wes Gold Fellows program, providing high school students with an education based internship to improve their financial and professional skills.

A new form of community development must take center stage in local economic growth in our city. This comprehensive approach focuses on community strengths rather than deficits.

Communities are reaching for the same goal, as such, it is paramount that we turn competition into partners to spread our assets, disseminate knowledge, and to scale impact. We are ALWAYS more powerful together.

Gabriella Nolan

Gabriella is passionate about the ability of entrepreneurship to spark community development. While receiving her Masters in Development Management from The London School of Economics and Political Science, she created a social business based in Morocco that reinvests its profits in entrepreneurial classes for migrant women. She is an experienced global consultant and is excited to bring her experience back to her native Philadelphia to help communities thrive.