What to expect at the Philadelphia Summit

We are less than two weeks away from The Arena Summit in Philadelphia on September 7-8. Here’s what to expect.


You are traveling from over thirty states. Almost a third of you want to run for office. And over half of you are women.

You will be alongside current and former mayors and governors, teachers, authors, nurses, students, business owners, hip-hop artists, the unemployed, and more.

The tie that binds you together is a desire to take part in a community that will support you to take more meaningful action. That could mean starting or scaling a new organization, running -- or helping someone else run -- for office, or getting involved in civic life in other ways.


There are lots of hotels within easy walking distance of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Some are staying at the Hilton Garden Inn and the Marriott.

Here are a few more recommendations.



4:00pm - 7:00pm: Opening Plenary
The afternoon will begin with a performance by Play On, Philly! under the direction of Andrés González. Play On, Philly! is an organization that provides personal development opportunities to children through the study of music.

Then, you will be introduced to the theme of the Summit, meet members of your cohort (your smaller group that you will reflect alongside throughout the weekend), and hear from a mixture of individual speakers and panel discussants:

  • Mitch Landrieu, Former Mayor of New Orleans, LA
  • John King, Former US Secretary of Education
  • Keir Bradford-Grey, Chief Defender of the Defender Association of Philadelphia
  • Larry Krasner, District Attorney for Philadelphia
  • Jamera Bradley, Anti Gun-Violence Activist
  • DeJuana Thompson, Partner at Think Rubix and Founder of Woke Vote
  • Malcolm Kenyatta, Democratic nominee for the Pennsylvania State House, 181st District
  • Scott Paul, President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing
  • Cristóbal Alex, President of the Latino Victory Project
  • Sharyn Tejani, Director of the Time’s Up Legal Defence Fund
  • Waikinya Clanton, Director of African American and Women's Outreach at the Democratic National Committee

7:00pm - 8:30pm: Dinner
During dinner, you will reflect on and share stories about defining experiences that shape your values and leadership with your cohort.

9:00pm - 11:00pm: Welcome Party
We will leave the main venue for an evening of desert, music, and dancing in one of Philadelphia’s most beautiful spaces: The Franklin Institute. The Franklin Institute was founded in 1824, is one of the most visited museums in Philadelphia, and is a short walk from the Convention Center.


9:00am - 11:30am: Morning Plenary
We will begin by reflecting on the night before and setting goals for the day. We will then continue to hear from a range of national and local speakers who will reinforce the theme through their stories of pushing for change within the civic and political arena. We will feature:

  • Mayor Michael Tubbs, Mayor of Stockton, CA
  • Chrissy Houlihan, candidate for Congress in Pennsylvania
  • Danica Roem, Delegate, Virginia House of Delegates
  • Anand Giridharadas, Writer and Author of “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World”
  • Martin O’Malley, Former Governor of Maryland
  • Rebecca Rhynhart, City Controller of Philadelphia
  • Kameen Thompson, President, United Steelworkers local union
  • Summer Lee, Nominee for the Pennsylvania State House, 34th District
  • Grace Rutha, HIV/AIDS healthcare worker
  • Anton Moore, Criminal Justice Activist, 48th Ward Leader for the City of Philadelphia
  • Amber Goodwin, Founder and Executive Director, Community Justice Reform Coalition
  • Movita Johnson-Harrell, Founder of The CHARLES Foundation

11:30am - 12:30pm: Lunch with Office Hours / Action Fair
You will grab lunch and have the opportunity to either (a) attend office hours with campaign experts, activists, successful candidates, and policy experts, (b) attend an Action Fair with opportunities to get involved in the 2018 elections in the weeks ahead or on other civic projects, or (c) build relationships outside of the structured program.

12:30pm - 2:30pm: Breakout Sessions
We will split into smaller groups for workshops that provide space for skill-building and action planning around civic engagement and activism. The following trainings will be offered:

When we meet in Philadelphia, we’ll be only 61 days out from the critical 2018 midterm elections. The Arena is partnering with SwingLeft in support of their new campaign, The Last Weekend. This campaign is focused on recruiting volunteers for the last weekend before the election with the goal of increasing voter turnout. In this session, you'll learn about volunteer opportunities, recruit your friends to volunteer, and leave realizing that volunteering is easier and more fun than you might think.

KATE CATHERALL, Co-Founder & Senior Partner, The Arena
LUIS AVILA, Founder & President, Iconico
SARAH HORVITZ, Political Director, Run for Something
Thinking about running for office, but don't know where to start? Join Arena Partner and Arena Fellowship lead Kate Catherall in a session that outlines the first steps you should take when planning a run for office. We will review important questions to answer, timeline considerations, and early campaign planning. You will also learn where to find useful resources to guide your campaign from an idea to a reality. Come ready to ask questions and be inspired.

A'SHANTI GHOLAR, Political Director, Emerge America
QUENTIN JAMES, Founder & Executive Director, The Collective Pac
ERIC LUNDY, Program Director, Inclusiv
2020 is primed to be an historic election cycle, and an important time to immerse yourself in electoral politics. Whether you've worked on campaign before, or are just starting out, we will help you create a plan for joining a campaign — from presidential to local and everything in between. We will review what kinds of jobs campaigns hire for, when these jobs come available, and the best way to present your skill set.

In this workshop, you’ll participate in a cypher aimed at building creativity, confidence, and self-expression. Led by hip-hop artist and educator Toni Blackman, you’ll connect the ideas of history and hip-hop, and participate in performative activities. You should only participate in this session if you are willing to open up, perform, and be vulnerable in front of others. No prior experience in hip-hop is assumed.

Unconscious bias is a rigid belief, positive or negative, about a group of people that is based on limited evidence. It is something that everyone has yet few know how to keep in check. Bias often comes from our experiences, or lack thereof, and its effects are pervasive, like smog in the air. What type of messages you receive about whom, or what groups are omitted from these narratives is largely based on your personal social identities. Led by Dr. Kira Banks, this session will explore on how our personal and social identities influence our unconscious biases. You will increase your knowledge of the psychology of bias and learn the steps necessary to de-bias.

Entrepreneurship is a key factor in local economic development. In this training, we'll examine innovation and private businesses that solve public problems, learn how local businesses get off the ground and work in small groups to design business models that have measurable social impact goals. You’ll leave with a new framework for sustainable and impactful business building and an inspiration to support, invest in, or start a business in your city.

This interactive, multimedia session focuses on how leaders in politics and advocacy use story to persuade and motivate their audiences. 'Origin Story' draws from many fields -- including cognitive neuroscience, narrative analysis, and live performance training -- to help you understand the critical difference between narrative and information, structure your stories for maximum effect, and use your unique physical and vocal tools to build a resilient and powerful connection with your audience.

2:30pm - 4:00pm: Community Time
You will meet in a group of concentric circles for an immersive experience led by Priya Parker, author of “The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters.” Priya will facilitate reflections about your life and belief systems, opportunities to consider opposing views, and time to lean into your deeper sense of purpose. The experience will end with a focus on commitments to your values and actions through the 2020 elections.

4:00pm - 6:00pm: Closing Plenary
We will hear from speakers -- including our closing keynote, who will focus on our theme of Love + Action, with a special focus on how you can apply that theme in the months ahead. We will also feature a conversation on poverty featuring Michael Nutter, Former Mayor of Philadelphia and Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend, President & CEO of Philadelphia Youth Network, moderated by Errin Whack, Journalist and Associated Press' National Writer on Race and Ethnicity.

We will conclude with an opportunity for you to make final reflections and commitments -- both to yourself and to the larger Arena community.

8:00pm - 11:00pm: Closing Party
Stay tuned. More details to come.


Absolutely. Tickets are still available. Spread the word.

Lee Pedinoff