Philadelphia is addressing poverty and racial inequities, taking on initiatives that ensure the city's low-income residents, especially seniors and young people, are set-up to achieve economic success.

Philadelphia has one of the highest urban poverty rates in the nation, with over 26% of residents living in poverty. In response to this reality, the city has developed multiple assistance programs, resources and systems to alleviate the cost of basic needs. However, use of the assistance programs is not what the city aimed to see in order to dramatically improve the lives of its poorest residents. To address utilization rates, Philadelphia tested ways to encourage greater participation in its benefit and assistance programs, Through the city’s involvement in the City Accelerator, Philadelphia put more money back into the pockets of low-income seniors. Staff ran two controlled behavioral science experiments that prove that no-cost tweaks in government messages can have a valuable impact. A change in color, size of fonts and envelopes put $126,108 – an increase of 80% in annual savings – in the pockets of eligible seniors.

Furthermore, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has long been a proponent of diversity and inclusion. Through Philadelphia’s involvement in Racial Equity Here (REH), the mayor has been able to advance his commitment to tackling racial inequities that disproportionately inhibit people of color, particularly young people, from achieving economic success. REH follows the mayor’s establishment on the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which advances equity through strategic government policies and programs.

Former Philadelphia Mayor, Michael Nutter, was honored by Living Cities in 2016 as one of the top 25 Disruptive Leaders in America.

City Accelerator 

The City Accelerator, an initiative of Living Cities and the Citi Foundation, works within and across cities to advance and promote the spread of promising innovations that will have a significant impact in the lives of residents.

The Project on Municipal Innovation 

We work with the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center to convene and support a network of mayoral chiefs of staff and policy leaders who advance transformative change through innovation in city government to improve the lives of residents.

Blog Post Marlon Williams & Alyssa Smaldino on Jun 5, 2019

What Does Racial Equity & Inclusion Look Like for the Public Sector? 

Blog Post Nadia Owusu & Ben Hecht on Mar 22, 2019

Beyond Counting Policies: Measuring Progress in Racial Equity 

Resource on May 13, 2019

Racial Equity Here Learning Report: Lessons from 5 Cities Operationalizing Racial Equity 

This learning report highlights lessons learned from the work of five cities operationalizing racial equity, including Albuquerque, Austin, Grand Rapids, Louisville, and Philadelphia.

Person City of Philadelphia

Michael Nutter 

Nutter served as the 98th mayor of Philadelphia, the nation’s fifth largest city, from 2008-2016, and as President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors from 2012-2013.


Community Development 


Resource on Mar 5, 2019

Getting Ready for Racial Equity Work: The Racial Equity Here Evaluation 

This evaluation of our Racial Equity Here initiative offers recommendations for other cities interested in applying a racial equity lens to their policies and operations.


Economic Development 

Reimagining what should be done with underinvested neighborhoods and finding new ways to connect low-income people to economic opportunities wherever they exist in a region.

Resource on Jul 14, 2017

Voicing Race: Racial Equity Here [PODCAST] 

In the second episode of our Voicing Race podcast, Living Cities speaks with mayors and city staff participating in the Racial Equity Here initiative, on their efforts to combat structural and institutional racism.




Blog Post Kien Lee on Mar 12, 2019

Getting Ready for Racial Equity Work: Community Engagement  

Community engagement is central to cities’ racial equity strategies. It's also where cities need a lot of support.



Disrupting disparate outcomes in income, wealth, and access to opportunity.


Municipal Innovation 

Supporting a movement towards local government that is nimble, collaborative and data driven.

Blog Post Lethy Liriano on Jan 10, 2019

Applying Healing Justice to Our Internal Journey in Racial Equity 

We're learning that if we want to do transformational work in the world, we must build interpersonal, restorative relationships.


Open Government 


Blog Post on Jun 19, 2018

Government, Civic And Business Leaders Launch "Racial Equity Here" Commitment T… 




Blog Post Nora Liu on May 11, 2017

Accelerating Racial Equity in Cities: Emerging Insights  

The five cities that make up Racial Equity Here are doing game-changing work to advance racial equity. At this midway point, we look at some emerging insights from their work.


Systems Change 

Shifting decision-making processes, policies, and resources to produce dramatically better outcomes for citizens at scale.

Blog Post Ben Hecht & Brandee McHale on May 8, 2017

Leveraging the Buying Power of Cities 

Eight cities created pitches for a new City Accelerator on procurement and economic opportunity. View them before final cities are selected!

Blog Post Anne Price & Kien Lee on Mar 21, 2017

Racial Equity Here - Lessons from the Field  

Four lessons from our Racial Equity Here cohort on how to embed a racial equity lens in local government.

Blog Post Ben Hecht on May 25, 2016

Announcing Racial Equity Here 

Living Cities is launching Racial Equity Here, a new initiative that will support five U.S. cities committed to improving racial equity and advancing opportunity for all.

Blog Post Ben Hecht on Jan 7, 2016

#BensTake: Can Local Government Innovation Stick?  

A municipal innovation movement is gaining steam across the U.S. From the work of our City Accelerator's first cohort, Living Cities CEO, Ben Hecht, outlines three trends that he sees as critical to …

Blog Post Ron Littlefield on Aug 31, 2015

Mayors Come and Go, But Good Ideas Should Stick 

Upcoming elections will test the sustainability of mayors’ innovation initiatives.

Blog Post Steve Goldsmith on May 12, 2015

Why Benchmarking Matters for Open Data 

Cities who are serious about the move toward open data are learning how to benchmark themselves against others.

Blog Post Arthur Burris & Brandee McHale on Sep 9, 2014

Introducing the City Accelerator's First Cohort 

The Accelerator cities will each adopt cutting-edge approaches to the practice of innovation and tackle a specific challenge facing low-income residents in their communities.

Blog Post Ron Littlefield on Jul 16, 2014

A Tale of Denver and Philadelphia's Anti-Poverty Plans 

To the casual observer, Philadelphia and Denver might appear to have little in common. But despite their differences, these two cities have similarities regarding how they are approaching their bigge…

Blog Post on Jul 3, 2014

Innovation Needed to Finally Win War on Poverty 

The City Accelerator offers an opportunity for new thinking that could not come at a better time. Six cities – Albuquerque, Denver, Louisville, Nashville, Philadelphia and San Jose – have stepped up…



Preparing Americans, especially low-income Americans, for quality 21st century jobs.

Blog Post Jessica Casey & Rohan Mascarenhas on Mar 28, 2014

Structuring Innovation