Take 70 or so leaders who mix creativity with a passion for the civic good.

Invite them to expand their circles of connection and their aspirations.

Throw in a hilarious five-minute video.

Then season the mix with craft beer and hot hors d'oeuvres.

What would you get?

You'd get the scene at World Café Live last week when Leadership Philadelphia brought together most of its roster of the region's Creative Connectors, under-the-radar leaders selected via a public survey earlier this year.

The survey was hosted by WHYY's NewsWorks, which is Leadership Philadelphia's media partner on this project.

'Patsy' explains it all

"What the hell is a Creative Connector?"

That was the question bluntly posed by Jennifer Childs of 1812 Productions, in her signature guise as "Patsy from South Philly," as she interviewed herself ("Patsy" grilling Jen) in a comic video shown at the event.  The hilariously muddled confab beween the parochial Patsy and the cosmopolitan Childs had the audience grinning and chuckling.

Elizabeth Dow, president of Leadership Phialdelphia, gave a more serious and complete explanation to Patsy's query.

As Dow told the group assembled at the University City music venue, a connector is someone who "leads with a contagious passion, who grabs a cause and runs with it, who makes others want to step up and help, who get a lot done for the common good with few resources."

Previous Leadership projects identified the region's civic connectors and young connectors; this one focused on Philadelphia's rising and vital creative sector.

The folks in the room at World Café Live represented diverse disciplines – from dance to sculpture to Web design to spoken word performance to jazz singing to consulting to music promotion.

Working from outside

A surprising number of the Creative Connectors – more than two out of three – moved to this region from somewhere else, but they've put down roots. Most have been here more than 15 years. The gender split was 50/50, and ages raised from the 20s to the 60s.

"You are curious, open outsiders who inject yourselves into the system and work across boundaries to get things done," she said.

The group then set to work talking in small groups about ways they could help each other. The main points that emerged: connecting to possible donors and sources of funding (the hunt for money to do good work was a ruling obsession); finding performing and meeting spaces; links to groups working with children and teens; advice on marketing and finances.

NewsWorks has set up a minisite to present the stories and the work of the 76 Creative Connectors throughout the year.

A digital watering hole

And, as I told the group during the event last week, we'd like to offer NewsWorks as a kind of "digital watering hole," where the diverse sectors of the region's creative community can come to together to talk about the challenges, threats and opportunities they are encountering.

Spend some time looking at the faces and accomplishments of this varied group; browse through the gallery of multimedia profiles of the Creative Connectors that we've begun to build.

You'll be impressed and inspired by what people in our community are up to; you may just feel a little more hopeful about our region's future.


Video and photos by Kim Paynter