Introducing GREATPHL: An alternative ideas fest for Philadelphia

The inaugural event goes down Nov. 15 on Venice Island in Manayunk.

greatphl
Courtesy GREATPHL
monicazorrilla

Updated Oct. 19

An ideas fest with provoking sessions led by local thought leaders is coming to Philadelphia in November. No, we’re not talking about Philly Mag’s ThinkFest. We’re talking about an alternative.

GREATPHL is a daylong event that bills its self as a “21st century ideas festival for real Philadelphians.”

Set for Nov. 15 at the brand new Venice Island Performing Arts Center, the new gathering — pronounced grateful — is the brainchild of Christopher Plant, a local entrepreneur whose current business is Kismet Cowork.

The idea to create an alternate ideas fest was birthed from frustration. For his capstone at Jefferson University, Plant researched and attended numerous TED Talks and conferences — and got tired of seminars where head honchos of behemoth corporations repeated their tips for success.

“I’m sick of these top-notch business and real estate development people drifting into an auditorium in their expensive magic carpets,” Plant said, “and telling us what they perceive to be going on in our city.”

So for GREATPHL, he enlisted speakers that represent “the people that are out there every day, living the ‘street level’ kind of Philadelphia experience” we should be learning from. He also made an effort to ensure that the day of presentations was anything but boring — there will be music, dance, art and other performances that will enliven the senses in addition to making people think.

Billy Penn is proud to be the official media partner for this new, interactive ideas festival.

(Yes, it’s the same day as the Philly Mag event. No, that wasn’t on purpose, insists Plant, who said, “I booked the venue —  a few days later they announced their date.”)

The stories of Philadelphia

Who is lined up to help us get to know our city better, celebrate its charms and think through solutions to problems?

There are 18 speakers on tap for GREATPHL18. All are of varying ages and races, and represent different neighborhoods and industries in Philadelphia . They include Brian Sanders, artistic director of Junk dance company; Thaddeus Squire, chief commons officer of CultureWorks; Dwayne Wharton, director of external affairs at The Food Trust; and Andrea Murillo, performer at 3AM Theatre.

“I was looking into people who live compelling lives and have interesting stories who are authentic personalities,” Plant explained.

Natalie Nixon, a design strategist at Figure 8 Thinking whose known Plant for several years because they’re neighbors in Mt. Airy, will be talking about the future of work and the cultivation of “intuitive leadership and thought diversity.”

Kristin Dudley, new chief product officer at Technical.ly Philly, will be leading a discussion on tapping into emotional intelligence in the workplace and how it can lead to greater, more fulfilling careers.

Her case study? The Eagles. “Doug Peterson has a distinctive leading style,” Dudley said. “I’m digging into how being able to join a team and operate as the Eagles have, and how truly loving the people that you work with, is essential to any job you have.”

Asked why she joined GREATPHL’s inaugural speaker’s cohort, Dudley explained that she loved how the conference is about speaking from the heart.

Making sure it’s not boring

For Plant, the best way to tap into the heart of Philadelphians is to change the way that information is typically delivered and absorbed at festivals like these .

Each of the four 90-minute sessions at GREATPHL will combine art, music and theater with information. There are a couple of surprises Plant doesn’t want to divulge yet, but he did reveal that he’s been working on a 15-minute song about Philadelphia with Jackson Craig, a 17-year-old musician.

“If there’s any one part of GREATPHL that has the potential of going viral, it’s that song. It is so fabulous,” Plant effused.

Early bird tickets are available for $99, which includes all-day access and food for the day. The venue, on the recently refurbished Venice Island in Manayunk, was specifically chosen to get participants out of the Center City comfort zone.

A portion of proceeds from GREATPHL benefits the Philadelphia Breakfast Club, a nonprofit partnership between Kismet Cowork and Philadelphia’s Culinary Literary Center dedicated to helping teach and train Philadelphia children in the foundations of making a healthy breakfast