This year, the Governmental Research Association will be profiling our leaders and the work of think tanks in the 21st century. This week, we are in Seattle with the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, led by Jeff Hornstein. Who is the Economy League, who is Jeff, and why are we all in Seattle?

“A force for change, a force for good”

According to the website, “Since its founding in 1909, the Economy League has believed that high-quality analysis and practical insight about the region’s most important challenges and opportunities, combined with collaborative, cross-sector leadership are crucial drivers of prosperity in Greater Philadelphia.”

Jeff Hornstein is the executive director of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia. Jeff is new to the job this year, and Chris Chepel, the chair of the board, says, “The Economy League is strategically positioned to leverage our research and convening strengths to effect positive change and promote prosperity for Greater Philadelphia. Jeff has a demonstrated ability to bring the right people together to drive collective action that is grounded in information and analysis.”

The Seattle trip is a good example. Known as GPLEX, the Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange is in its 13th year and now includes 1,000 diverse, cross-sector leaders. Year to year, GPLEX alternates deep dives into issue and place in Philly with other cities around the country. “We are learning how Seattle is trying to tackle the big problems,” says Jeff, encouraging us to think about which of Seattle’s tools we can take back with us to our own communities.

The Economy League put together a briefing book for the leadership exchange with detailed information about Seattle by the numbers. The population of the metro statistical area is 3,867,046, with 66.2 percent white, 5.4 percent black, 12.1 percent Asian, 9.5 percent Hispanic, and 6.8 percent other. The MSA includes 5,872 square miles of land and water covering the city of Seattle and three counties. The median household income is $78,612, and 9.6 percent of the MSA lives below the poverty line and 4.1 percent is unemployed.

This week we will learn how Seattle works, moves, lives, and thrives.

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When Jeff greets the leaders in Seattle, he says, “This is a force for change, a force for good.”

What to expect this week

On Monday, GPLEX opens with a keynote by Jonathan Sposato, the chair and co-founder of We will dig into how Seattle works and cultivates diversity and inclusion. Regional explorations include models for inclusive redevelopment, moving goods and people at Sea-Tac Airport, and the epicenter of all things tech in South Lake Union. The day ends with a leadership reception at the Museum of Pop Culture.

On Tuesday, we will study building support for transportation investments and driving inclusive growth and shared prosperity. Jeff will interview David Rolf, the International Vice President of SEIU, and Howard Wright, the chair and founder of the Seattle Hospitality Group, about how labor and business can work together. Regional explorations include arts and community preservation, the economic and social impacts of a global health sector, and food waste innovations.

On Wednesday, we will take on innovation, and how we collectively can tackle big challenges. David Boardman, the dean of the Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University — and the former editor of the Seattle Times — will interview the Mayor of Seattle Jenny Durkan about building future forward communities, cities, and regions.

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You can follow along here at and on Twitter with @Mebane_Rash, @jmhornstein, or #Tools4Philly.

Meet some of the GPLEXers

It’s possible these policy wonks are also going to have fun.

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Danya Henninger is the editor of Billy Penn, a local news site in Philly. Here is her article, “Why 150 Philly leaders are spending the weekend in Seattle: It’s a bit like summer camp for policy wonks.” She writes, “the gathering is designed encourage collaboration and jumpstart progress.”

Diana Lu is the community engagement editor for WHYY’s PlanPhilly. Here is her article, “The Sasquatch and the Phanatic.” You’ll have to read her article to understand her headline, but here is why she is in Seattle:

“At WHYY’s PlanPhilly, we believe that a well-designed city requires a well-informed public. We strive to keep Philadelphians informed about the decisions and processes that shape our city by providing in-depth, original reporting on Philadelphia’s neighborhoods with a focus on urban design and planning, transportation, and development. Often, we look to peer cities to help frame the context for what our city is facing, in real time.”

And, in case you missed it, Jeff and I wrote an article about the future of think-and-do-tanks, leadership, and the economic prosperity we all want for all of our people, neighborhoods, and cities now and in the future.

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We hope you will follow along in real time, and tell us what you think on Twitter.

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