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Last week Fairmount attended the 2014 World Class Summit. The Economy League of Greater Philadelphia has hosted the annual event since its inaugural year in 2009. Leaders across the social impact sector convene to leverage their skills and influence to create lasting regional impact in three primary areas: education and talent development, business growth, and infrastructure.

Philadelphia Skyline

Global Positioning Strategies & the World Class Index

Throughout the past five years, 1,700 cross-sector leaders have provided input to help create the World Class Global Positioning Strategies (GPSes). The GPSes detail goals to create higher quality education, increased business growth, and more effective infrastructure for Greater Philadelphia.

The World Class Index was also released this year. It’s a way to track progress around the World Class agenda. The goal is to create accountability and help provide clarity where progress is (or is not) being made. The World Class Index “establishes common indicators for local leaders, provides clear-eyed analysis of metro trends, highlights collaborations leading to impact, and points to where immediate action is needed.”

Nonprofit Implications

Of the three World Class focus areas, education and talent development offered the greatest implications for nonprofits. Within this cohort, the most significant goal is to ensure Greater Philadelphia has a talented workforce where every resident is equipped to compete in the global economy. To achieve that outcome, World Class focused on four areas:

World Class Summit - Education

Considering our role helping Public Citizens for Children and Youth and the Urban Affairs Coalition lead the region’s Grade Level Reading by Three Campaign, early learning and K-12 education were areas of significant interest as they offered most implications for the nonprofit community.

Early Learning

The Economy League has a partnership with Pre-K for PA, an issue campaign centered on the mission to ensure every three and four-year-old in Pennsylvania will have access to a high quality pre-kindergarten education. We learned in Greater Philadelphia only 34% of children in low-end and moderate income families are enrolled in publicly funded pre-kindergarten programs.

The need for high-quality early learning access is vital to create a strong foundation for children to achieve educational success. Studies show significant vocabulary and cognitive differences between poor and higher-income children. In Greater Philadelphia there aren’t enough early learning programs and the ones available are often too expensive for low and medium income families.

A solution for some parents is to enroll their children in public programs that provide access to Pre-K for children in low and moderate income families.The World Class is working to not only to increase the number of cost-friendly early learning centers but also to ensure the quality of those programs is strong.

K-12 Education

World Class leaders across the region are working together to increase the number of children reading at a proficient level grade. This benchmark is a key indicator of children likely to graduate on-time from high school. The proficiency level of children varies throughout the region.

Grade Level ReadingPhiladelphia County falls well below the Pennsylvania state average. World Class leaders are attempting to increase reading proficiency in several ways such as:

  • Increasing coordinated technical assistance to early learning centers
  • Increasing public funding for high-quality learning centers
  • Increasing parental awareness about the importance of early childhood education and what high-quality options look like
  • Attracting private funding through charitable capital or program-related investments (PRI) for expansion of successful early learning centers

More Findings

The two remaining World Class focus areas, business growth and infrastructure, also were topics that revealed great insights. The general takeaway is that while significant progress has been in made in the World Class focus areas, much work is left to do. The ability of the regions’ impact leaders to share ideas, insights, and a framework to identify areas needing help increases the likelihood of genuine positive change.

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