phc_heart-soul_logo-comboPHILADELPHIA, January 12, 2015 — Germantown United Community Development Corporation (GUCDC) has received a one-year, $25,000 civic engagement grant from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC) centered on pre-work for a comprehensive neighborhood plan.

Understanding the need for a resident-driven approach to community planning and development, Germantown United CDC has joined forces with the theater-based nonprofit Just Act to connect organized groups of residents operating at the micro level – from block associations to neighborhood civics with limited boundaries – and map both the formal and informal networks currently contributing to community improvement efforts in Germantown. This community network analysis will identify shared values and visions for Germantown, aid in healing historic and invisible divisions, and insure that all parties are well-represented and prepared for their role as stakeholder in the larger effort to revitalize greater Germantown and the neighborhood’s shopping district and commercial sector.

“The information gathered during this civic engagement project will shape Germantown United CDC’s priorities and plans for successful, community-responsive business corridor revitalization,” said Emaleigh Doley, Germantown United CDC’s Commercial Corridor Manager.

Participants in a Story Circle exercise led by the Just Act ensemble.

Participants in a Story Circle exercise led by the Just Act ensemble.

“So much of the work that Just Act undertakes is rooted in creating space for community members to engage in new ways with one another around pressing topics that impact everyone’s lives,” said Lisa Jo Epstein, Executive Director of Just Act. “Our story and theatre-based techniques will mobilize an array of residents to dialogue openly about the needs of Germantown’s business corridor, providing vital information that Germantown United – and city government – can use to insure inclusive community growth.”

PHC’s civic engagement grants support humanities-focused approaches to community development throughout the commonwealth. Germantown joins three other Pennsylvania communities that will receive civic engagement grants from PHC this year: Carlisle, Meadville, and Williamsport.

visit our project page at

explore other grant communities and see the Pennsylvania Humanities Council announcement

To achieve the greatest impact and broadest reach through the civic engagement grants it awards, PHC has partnered with the Orton Family Foundation to bring its Community Heart & Soul™ method to PHC’s grant communities. Community Heart & Soul is a proven process that empowers people to shape the future of their communities by creating a shared sense of belonging that improves local decision-making and ultimately strengthens social, cultural, and economic vibrancy.

Key to the process is learning what matters most to the community through gathering stories from and engaging as many residents as possible, including those who don’t typically participate in public processes.

“We believe the humanities can inspire people to come together and make a difference in their communities,” said Laurie Zierer, PHC’s executive director. “With storytelling at the heart of planning and development, local values and voices become the foundation for building communities that are connected, innovative, competitive, and strong.”

GUCDC_Corridor_0057_Monique_Brand copy

Central Germantown Business Corridor. Photo by Monique Brand.

About Germantown United Community Development Corporation
The mission of Germantown United Community Development Corporation (GUCDC) is to promote and facilitate the revitalization of the business corridors in the Germantown neighborhood of Northwest Philadelphia through a sustainable, creative, and community-driven approach to economic development. Learn more at

FINAL justACT LOGOAbout Just Act
Just Act ignites public dialogue and action planning using theatre-based tools with collaborating partners invested in making meaningful social and civic change. As a multi-dimensional resource across sectors, Just Act is a distinctive, innovative hybrid of artistic & community engagement. Collaboration and relationship-building are central to Just Act. Through a spectrum of aesthetic, activist and educational tools, Just Act activates creative strategies for groups to collectively imagine, rehearse and plan just actions for making change. Our process advances interpersonal and citizenship skills by bringing out participants’ innate creativity, catalyzing positive relationships among people in places, and between people and places, as well as strengthening personal and community capacity for civic engagement. In all that Just Act undertakes, we strive to enliven empathy and increase understanding and awareness about human interaction, the roles we play within larger systems, and the impact of choices on combating injustice. Learn more at

About the Pennsylvania Humanities Council
The Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC) connects Pennsylvanians to each other through stories, ideas, and experiences that can change lives and transform communities. PHC champions and redefines the role the humanities play in educating citizens and strengthening communities through programs that create pathways for learning and creativity, spark dialogue and civic engagement, and encourage diversity of expression. An independent partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, PHC is part of a network of 56 state humanities councils that spans the nation and U.S. jurisdictions. Learn more at

About the Orton Family Foundation and Community Heart & Soul
With its Community Heart & Soul™ method, the Orton Family Foundation empowers people to shape the future of their communities by improving local decision-making, creating a shared sense of belonging and ultimately strengthening the social, cultural and economic vibrancy of communities. The Foundation assists the residents of small cities and towns in the use of the Community Heart & Soul™ method, a barn-raising approach to community planning and development that invites residents to shape the future of their communities in ways that uphold the unique character of each place. For more information visit


Emaleigh Doley
Commercial Corridor Manager
Germantown United CDC

Mary Ellen Burd
Director of Communications
Pennsylvania Humanities Council
215.925.1005 ext. 121