In March 2020, the City of Philadelphia released its Poverty Action Plan with a series of initiatives to collectively lift 100,000 Philadelphians above the poverty line over the next five years. One of the initiatives included in the plan focused on forming a public-private partnership to support income-based strategies to reduce the number of residents living below the poverty line. The Promise is this partnership.
The short answer: Collaboration and focus on growing income.
The long answer: The Promise is centered in partnerships. It is led, funded, and implemented through collaboration among the business community, private philanthropy, the nonprofit sector, and government. The Promise brings the strengths of each together to work toward the shared goal of a more equitable Philadelphia. This approach is designed to marshall new leadership and significant resources which have previously been on the sidelines in the fight against poverty.
The Promise uses the simple if imperfect, definition of the federal government to define poverty. It’s based on the total earnings and size of a household. For example, the threshold for a household of four is $26,200 annually. For a household of two, it’s just over $17,000.
Income is a foundational and immediate challenge for people experiencing poverty. Providing people with more access to income helps maintain stability and meet basic needs like paying rent, buying food, and accessing the healthcare system.
While poverty is more complex than income, past efforts around the country show that highly targeted efforts to increase income can have a long-term impact on poverty in Philadelphia. That is why The Promise is focused on removing barriers to secure, stabilize, and grow income.
That said, it is clear that poverty in Philadelphia is deeply tied to systemic racism. The efforts of The Promise are important and additive, bringing new, highly-targeted resources to increase the incomes of people experiencing poverty. But make no mistake, The Promise will be successful only if there is real progress toward dismantling systemic racism and criminal justice reform. We stand in support of this work, and are committed to equity in our approach.
The Promise is an independent coalition of diverse voices from Philadelphia’s public, private, community-based and philanthropic sectors.
Several times a year, The Promise will open a Call for Collaborations (RFPs) for specific poverty-fighting inventions. To stay informed, sign up to receive our newsletter, which will include announcements of future Community Challenges.
Several times a year, The Promise releases community challenges or requests for proposals, inviting organizations to partner together on income-focused projects that scale impact and improve outcomes. Visit our grantee application page for more details.
The Promise is led by a governing board that provides strategic guidance and planning, approves grant funding, and monitors program progress.
The governing board receives recommendations on projects from subject-specific advisory committees. All projects must be designed to raise income or remove barriers to earning income. They also must be community-led, inclusive, scalable, and equitable, with a proven track record and the ability to measure and share results.
Right now, Philadelphia is the poorest big city in the United States. To get out of that #1 spot, we need to see about 65,000 people rise above the poverty line. But that is not enough. It is our collective responsibility to create the conditions now for 100,000 people to rise above the crisis of poverty. We think it’s an ambitious goal—but it’s also within our reach.
Through this unprecedented coalition, it is our hope to inspire all sectors to recognize and reflect on our collective responsibility and work together to improve poverty rates in Philadelphia. 100K is a big goal and one that we’ll continue to strive to meet until it we can see real change.
As for our vision of five years, building and stabilizing income takes time. We expect that we’ll start seeing incremental change very quickly, but job training, education, financial counseling, and building wealth with high-value investments like education and homeownership take time. These are all investments that are proven to work and need time to grow.
Reducing poverty is complicated, but based on research and efforts across the country, we do have a good idea of what works.
First, we need to support investments that eliminate the daily crisis of poverty in people’s lives so they can focus on growing their income. These include accessing public benefits that help put more money into people’s pockets and breaking down barriers to employment so that people can secure work with growth potential and build stability over time.
The City of Philadelphia has committed to providing an initial $10 million investment in 2021. Our goal is to bolster that figure through investments from philanthropy, corporate donors, and individuals like you committed to building a better, more equitable Philadelphia.
A public-private partnership is a cooperative effort between public and private sectors. In the case of The Promise, the partnership includes business, private philanthropy, the City of Philadelphia, United Way, The Promise’s independent boards and staff, and our grantees—all working together to move the needle on Philadelphia’s poverty rate.