Each year, we bring together renowned thought leaders, experts in the field of human services, and ECS participants to discuss the systemic issues prohibiting upward economic mobility for Philadelphians affected by intergenerational poverty.

This year we focused on the three major obstacles our participants face while navigating the harrowing cycle of poverty:

  • The crucial battle for racial equity
  • Pushing for a living wage
  • Ending the “Benefits Cliff”

Led by esteemed panelists, participants engaged in five sessions targeting these challenges, with actionable insights to help them work for systemic change. A bonus session devoted to faith-based advocacy for those wanting to pursue social justice and use the power of individuals and congregations to effect real change in our communities also took place.

To Address Poverty is to Name Race

Monday, October 18   |   Virtual (12:00-1:30pm)

New York Times columnist and author Charles Blow set the stage for our six-part conversation by revealing the deep connection between poverty and race in a conversation moderated by WHYY’s Cherri Gregg. ECS’ visionary Chief Inclusion & Advocacy Officer, Victoria Bennett helped frame the critical issues, and ECS participants who know poverty from the inside shared their stories. This session helped participants see the issues clearly so they can begin to make positive changes in their life—and work for fairness and equity in their community.


Victoria R. Bennett, MHS, Episcopal Community Services; Charles Blow, The New York Times; Cherri Gregg, WHYY; ECS Participants

About the Speakers

A Clear Path to Racial Equity
Tuesday, October 19   |  Virtual (12:00-1:00pm)

This conversation, moderated by Keva White, entrepreneur and lecturer at Rutgers University’s School of Social Work, included three enlightening participants: Sharmain Matlock-Turner,  Ala Stanford, MD, FACS, FAAP, and Dr. Mark Tyler. Urban Affairs Coalition President & CEO Sharmain Matlock-Turner leads a coalition of organizations and committed individuals who are disrupting and dismantling systems plagued by racial inequity in Philadelphia. Ala Stanford, MD, FACS, FAAP, a pediatric surgeon and the founder of Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium (BDCC) is working to bring testing and vaccines to more than 75,000 residents of Philadelphia’s minority neighborhoods. Dr. Mark Tyler, Pastor, Mother Bethel AME Church, serves as the co-director of the POWER Live Free campaign, focusing on criminal justice reform/renewal. View this recorded session.


Sharmain Matlock-Turner, The Urban Affairs Coalition; Cynthia R. Muse, Board Member, Episcopal Community Services; Ala Stanford, MD, FACS, FAAP, Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium (BDCC); Mark Tyler, PhD, Pastor, Mother Bethel AME Church; Keva White, LCADC, LSW, VIP Community Services, Inc.

About the Speakers

Smoothing Out the “Benefits Cliff”

Wednesday, October 20   |  Virtual (12:00-1:00pm)

For people working hard to move out of poverty, the “Benefits Cliff” is a big problem. It’s when a slight increase in a worker’s income results in a sudden loss of public benefits, like childcare or supplemental food, which is worth far more than the income increase itself. You fall off the cliff. It’s a huge disincentive to accept a promotion, get to the next level. National experts David Altig, Executive Vice President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, and Karen Schoellkopf, Founder of Leap Fund, shared research and solutions that everyone could understand and implement. View this recorded session.


David Altig, PhD, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta; Bill Farran, Advocacy Committee Member, Episcopal Community Services; Karen Schoellkopf, Leap Fund

About the Speakers

We Need a Living Wage. Here’s How to Get It.

Thursday, October 21   |   Virtual (12:00-1:00pm)

The federal minimum wage has not increased since 2009. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the 1965 wage ratio of CEO-to-typical workers was 21-to-1. In 2019 the ratio was 320-to-1. In this session, we spent an engaging hour with William Spriggs, Professor and former Chair of the Department of Economics at Howard University, and Chief Economist to the AFL-CIO. The conversation was moderated by Ashley Putnam, Director of the Economic Growth & Mobility Project at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. Participants learned about the real issues and how they can help press for a decent wage for working families. View this recorded session.


Ashley Putnam, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia; William Spriggs, Department of Economics at Howard University and AFL-CIO; Betty Stagg, Advocacy Committee Member, Episcopal Community Services

About the Speakers

“Follow Justice and Justice Alone”*: Faith-Based Advocacy and Organizing

Thursday, October 21   |   Virtual (4:00-5:30pm)

Many congregations have tired of only setting up soup kitchens and food pantries. They are ready to ask, why? During this enlightening hour, we brought together national and local faith leaders: Bishop Dwayne Royster, Executive Director of POWER; Martin Trimble, Co-Director of the Industrial Areas Foundation; Frances Upshaw, a member of Calvary St. Augustine; and The Rev. Jarrett Kerbel, rector of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. Together we discussed the power of individuals and congregations to raise awareness on key issues, generate scale and momentum, and effect real change in our communities. View this recorded session.

*Deut. 16:20


The Rev. Jarrett Kerbel, Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields; Bishop Dwayne Royster, POWER; Martin Trimble, Industrial Areas Foundation; Frances Upshaw, Calvary St. Augustine

About the Speakers

Our Marching Orders.

Friday, October 22   |   Virtual (12:00-1:00pm)

This rousing wrap-up session brought together Philadelphia influencers ready to take action: Art Haywood, PA State Senator; Della Clark, President of the Enterprise Center; Anne Nevins, President of the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC); and our own David Griffith, Executive Director of ECS. They detailed their commitments in the next 12 months to help reduce barriers to economic mobility and offered Forum participants a range of opportunities for courageous involvement. View this recorded session.


Senator Art Haywood; Della Clark, The Enterprise Center; Anne Bovaird Nevins, PIDC; David E. Griffith, Episcopal Community Services

About the Speakers

We are grateful for the generous support from this year's sponsors of the Forum on Justice & Opportunity.