Highlights from the Philadelphia Center’s Participatory Visioning Retreat

A few weeks ago, the team at the Penn State Center Philadelphia hosted a dynamic two-day event full of connections, conversations, and community building during a Participatory Visioning Retreat. More than 45 individuals, including social movement leaders and organizers, community partners, government officials, and Penn State faculty and researchers gathered with the goal of sharing insights about their communities and ideas to help share the future of the Center’s collective vision. 

Kristen and CarlyThe conversation kicked off on May 15 at Love City Brewing with a bilingual Community-Building Happy Hour. Attendees mingled, enjoyed food and drinks, and discussed their work in the research and organizing communities. During the event, Kristen Goessling and Carly Pourzand, co-directors at the Center, posed two questions for attendees to answer:

  • With unlimited resources, what new things would you explore in your work? Con recursos ilimitados, ¿qué tipo de cosas nuevas explorarías en tu trabajo?
  • What burning questions or challenges do you have in your work right now? ¿Qué preguntas contundentes candentes o retos tienes en tu trabajo en este momento?

The energy from the happy hour carried over into the next day’s workshop, which included a more intimate gathering of community partners to talk further about this vision. Much like the Center’s signature model of Participatory Action Research (PAR), the day emphasized the importance of all voices and levels of expertise being heard. 

Kristen and Carly led discussions that aligned with their core values and emerging pillars:

  • centering relationships
  • somatics and art — based on their healing justice framework
  • praxis — cycles of action and reflection 
  • slowness and flexibility — core components of community-driven work.

The group talked about significant achievements and challenges in their work, research and organizing needs, and conceptual and practical tools for conducting PAR in their own communities. The day was full of inspiration and hearing about the incredible work these leaders and organizations are doing, bringing diverse expertise to address shared concerns, undo oppression, and drive social change.

As one attendee put it: “Hasta que la dignidad se convierta en un hábito” (Until dignity becomes a habit).