Who We Are Community Driven Development

Harnessing the power of community

On March 19, 2021, after no consultation with Kensington residents, SEPTA announced an “indefinite” closure of the Somerset El station due to unsafe working conditions and deterioration of the station from human waste and needles.

That El stop is a critical source of transportation for Kensington and Port Richmond. Residents, civic groups, faith communities, nonprofits, and city councilmembers organized in solidarity with SEPTA workers to demand “Safety and Solutions.” They asked for solutions that addressed the station’s underlying challenges so that the station could remain open and its problems would not simply be pushed into the surrounding neighborhoods or other SEPTA stations.

kensington organizations protest at Somerset Station

On March 23, over 200 people marched from the closed Somerset Station to Allegheny Station to call attention to the issues of homelessness, substance use disorder, and poverty that caused the station to close. The march was followed by Al Día News, Generocity, Metro Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Plan Philly, and The Star, as well as CBS 3, NBC 10, NYW News Radio, and Univision 65.

Within two weeks the station was open again as repairs continued.

“This was a significant win for the community,” said NKCDC Executive Director Dr. Bill McKinney. “Residents, civic groups, and nonprofits stood up together and won this battle. It went from ‘indefinite’ closure, to four or five weeks, to two weeks. The biggest variable was the amount of noise people made.”

After being expected to serve as sanitation workers, law enforcement, paramedics, and mental health experts, Kensington residents often aren’t included in decisions about their own neighborhood.

—Dr. Bill McKinney

Hearing Kensington’s voice

Over decades, decisions made for Kensington have been politically, economically, and professionally successful for the people who made them, but they have not made lasting improvements in the lives of Kensington residents. 

NKCDC Executive Director Dr. Bill McKinney is a passionate advocate for community driven development—not just as an ideal to aspire to, but as a practical approach to finding sustainable solutions where other approaches have failed.

“When answers to complex problems are created in collaboration and implemented by the people with the most at stake, the solutions are sustainable for the long term,” McKinney wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2022.

When answers to complex problems are created in collaboration and implemented by the people with the most at stake, the solutions are sustainable for the long term.

—Dr. Bill McKinney

Visualizing community driven development

If community participation is a ladder, Kensington residents are often left on the lowest rungs. While many government programs, national foundations, and even local nonprofits say they are working on behalf of the community, Kensington is often not consulted in planning, implementing, or evaluating programs in their neighborhood. Community members may be expected to volunteer time, information, and connections, yet not get a voice in strategic decisions or receive funding or other resources that are available.

“If leaders could value and share power with residents in a meaningful way, they could harness not just an intimate knowledge of the community, but the expertise the community has accumulated through years of direct experience,” McKinney says.

steps to community driven development