Updated Nov. 13

Asked to describe his new ideas fest in a single sentence, GreatPHL founder Christopher Plant didn’t hesitate. The event, he said, is about “engaged Philadelphians talking about Philadelphia to other engaged Philadelphians.”

Smart. Of all the things Philly people love to discuss, the city itself is high on the list.

So the all-day happening, which takes over the Venice Island Performance Center on Thursday, Nov. 15, is starting from a good place. But key to its success is a cast that really brings it to life.

More good news on that front: Plant and his team have assembled a diverse group of interesting speakers, performers, artists, thinkers and leaders to take the stage. They’ve been split up into four sections bookended by breakfast and happy hour, with breaks for conversation in between.

Learn more about each of the presenters below, and check out the agenda for the day (minus some secret additions). If you want to join the party, a limited number of $99 tickets are still available here.

GreatPHL 2018 lineup

Kristin Dudley

Think you’ve heard every possible dissection of the Eagles Super Bowl by now? Think again. Kristin Dudley has another take. The native Philadelphian, who recently started as product director at Technical.ly, will pull on on her Penn master’s degree to discuss the “organizational dynamics” that made up the glorious Lombardi Trophy-winning run by Doug Pederson and co.

Archna Sahay

Local entrepreneurs will want to listen when Archna Sahay takes the stage. In addition to two years as director of entrepreneurial investment for the City of Philadelphia, she also worked at DreamIt and Morgan Stanley, and was a senior consultant with the late investor and philanthropist Jeremy Nowak. Her talk will cover the legacy of public service and the next generation of Philadelphia leadership and mentorship.

Dwayne Wharton

As director of external affairs for The Food Trust, a position he’s held for the past seven years, Dwayne Wharton knows a lot about how the food economy works in Philadelphia. Combine that with his experience working with the Red Cross and Project HOME, and the lessons learned from having a daughter at Central and another at CAPA, and it’s apparent he’s qualified to give a talk about the intersection of food, policy, politics, institutional racism and advocacy.

Antoinette Marie Johnson

Sick of the city’s identity being tied to Rocky, soft pretzels and cheesesteaks? Antoinette Marie Johnson is. As founder of Cohere branding agency, which also has offices in Baltimore, Johnson works with business all over the country. On stage, she’ll “showcase our collective gratitude for Philadelphia’s past” while also stressing the need to move on from those tired collective cultural icons.

Natalie Nixon

If you’re skeptical that dance can inform business strategy, don’t let Natalie Nixon know. Now principal at Figure 8 Thinking, Nixon created the Strategic Design MBA at Philadelphia University, has a PhD in design management from the University of Westminster, London, and recently published a book called Strategic Design. She’ll talk about how her company’s new game, WonderRigor, which uses dancer-inspired problem solving to encourage creativity.

Thaddeus Squire

Thaddeus Squire has been at the nexus of productivity and creativity for more than 15 years. As the founder of Hidden City Philadelphia, he helped curate and produce two major festivals that changed the perception of preservation advocacy in Philly. He went on to found creative clearinghouse CultureWorks, which puts him in perfect position to discuss the powerful value proposition of combining resources for a shared future.

Joey Sweeney

If you associate snark with this city, good chance a lot of that vibe stems from the work of Joey Sweeney. Back in 2004, Sweeney co-founded Philebrity, a blog that went on to provide more than a decade of publicly-aired introspection regarding all things Philadelphia. He is now running with his new side band, The Neon Grease. What’ll he do at GreatPHL? No hints have been given, but you know it won’t be boring.

Jackson Craig

No questions about the kind of presentation Jackson Craig will be giving. The 17-year-old musician is composing an original song about the history of Philadelphia and his life growing up here, so you can expect his time on stage to be less talk and more epic jam session. Said Christopher Plant of the young phenom: “Jackson will one day have fawning fans pinched against the stage trying to get a peek over the rail.”

Hilary Beard

After starting out in the corporate world, Hilary Beard took a leap of faith and left to do her own thing. Over the past two decades, she’s found as niche as the voice of reason in an unpleasant world, helping people of all kinds clarify their missions and live up to their potential. Can she do the same for the city as a whole? On stage, Hilary will explore what “New Philadelphia” means — gentrification and all — and how we can all be part of making it better.

William Butler

A nationally-renowned artist who often paints live in front of thousand-member audiences, William Butler moved his family from Iowa to Camden in order to lend his voice to improving that city’s beleaguered fortunes. His works are displayed all over Philadelphia, including at the airport. His time on stage will be spent discussing his life in art, philanthropy and civic engagement.

Shana Kennedy

There aren’t many people who take the circus as seriously as Shana Kennedy. After founding the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts with her husband Greg a decade ago, she grew the program into a sustainable business — and then purchased a 46,000-square-foot church in Mt. Airy to turn it into a permanent home. It’s now operating as the first curriculum-based circus school in the country, after a triumphant journey Kennedy will relate on stage.

3AM Theater

Together as 3AM Theater, Andrea Murillo and Kyle Driggs create highly stylized and beautiful work. Andrea danced with the Martha Graham Company for many years and Kyle toured with Cirque du Soleil. He is considered one of the best jugglers in the world, and they make a gorgeous pair. They’ll be performing short pieces in all four of the program sections throughout the day.

Peter Maxwell Ochester

Owner of one of Philly’s most iconic record shops, Brewerytown Beats, Peter Maxwell Ochester is a walking definition of cool. He’ll be providing interim music between each presentation and during the breaks to keep conversation lively. Listen up for his intro music, which he’s customizing for each of the performers, Fallon-style.

GreatPHL 2018 Agenda

8 to 9 a.m. Breakfast and Networking
9 to 10:30 a.m. Session 1
10:30 to 11 a.m. Break
11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Session 2
12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Lunch
1:30 to 3 p.m. Session 3
3 to 3:30 p.m. Break
3:30 to 5 p.m. Session 4
5 to 7 p.m. Networking, cocktails and music

Lunch will be provided by Winnie’s Cafe, coffee will be flowing from High Point, and easy recharging comes courtesy of snacks by Lenka Bar, Insomnia Cookies and Smear Bagels. Pick up tickets here.

Danya Henninger is director and editor of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation, including the membership program. She is a former food and...