11/16/2013 12:08 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

It's Not About Me, It's About Philly. Ignition Philly.

Syllabification: (ig·ni·tion)

early 17th century (denoting the heating of a substance to the point of combustion or chemical change): from medieval Latin ignitio(n-), from the verb ignire 'set on fire'

Ref: Oxford Dictionary

On November 8, 2013, I woke up in the morning at 6.15 am looking at Google maps to see where exactly is the Impact Hub Philly located. North 4th Street? I had second thoughts of going to this event that I randomly signed up for, based on an email I got from some list-serve, I don't even remember. Fall is here, leaves are dry and faded on the ground, and more importantly it is getting colder and that means it gets difficult to get off from the bed.

I really don't know what drove me that morning to take this leap of faith, but I woke up and hop on a SEPTA train from 34th Street to go to Girard Station.

After walking for few blocks, I see this building from outside with red bricks, what looked to me like an abandoned space. I take elevators to the second floor; enter a small room with wooden furniture, looking like pieces from a craftsmen carpenter and not some modular furniture big box store and a bunch of unknown faces.

At 9.00 am sharp, Todd and Chelsea, the co-directors of Ignite Good, introduce the 10 participants who were completely unknown to each other about ignite-good and the power of story telling. They notched it up to next level by saying, its not just about story telling, but its about public narrative learning for your organizations so you can tell your stories better not only to the world but also within your organizations. Ycenter - my startup organization was one of them and I was representing it.

We were then introduced to Mark Diaz Truman - a Harvard Kennedy Public Policy graduate, who was going to be our coach for the rest of the weekend for "Public Narrative". Bravo! A coach to coach you for a term that you just learnt about.


We started our morning with talking about what it means to be a part of a community, be a community organizer and be a leader who can create interdependent networks and not a dot leader where one person is responsible for everything and has too much power, almost as much as it can be dangerous (sounds familiar?). It was getting interesting, just when our coach Mark told us that we would be involved in learning to create "Story of Self", "Story of Us" and "Story of Now". 10 of us would be coached enough on public narrative, so we can coach 50 other people that are going to show up on the weekend. All of us jumped in with Todd and Mark into this first day of coaching to share/create our stories, while Chelsea was making sure that the participants are fueled with great food and every other logistical matter for that space and for the next day.

We were split into 3 teams with coaches who came down from New York to help us get started. I was lucky to be in company with an entrepreneur who lost two corporate sales jobs and turned down a third in exchange for starting an online news organization with no journalistic training or steady Internet access.

But this was just the beginning, a spark, which was set out for an ignition.

On Saturday, November 9, 2013. The doors were open for 50 individuals who are working for organizations or creating one that not only drives social change but also has an impact. Philly URBAN creators, Repair the world, Philadelphia History truck, German Town Hunger Network, just to name a few of the many.

The whole format of the workshop itself was very interesting, in every sense.
Starting with "Story of Self" which is about every individual, then moving to a community level with "Story of Us" and finally leading up to "Story of Now" which calls for an action to communities at large.

People started exploring their own values. It was very interesting to see how, we all, always know who we are, until we are asked to talk about it to someone else. And that's exactly what all the participants experienced. To dig deep within oneself and share a value with the entire community that stands above and beyond every other differences. What started with skepticism about where this is heading was now all about hugs and discussion with fellow participants about how they can connect after this workshop to do some amazing things in Philadelphia.

On Monday, 6 people were selected to present the stories in 7 minutes or less, at - The Race Street Room, which is a beautiful, spacious room, largely unchanged in appearance since 1856. The venue seemed to be so appropriately chosen by the organizers Ignite-Good and The Huffington Post. It reflected Philadelphia's personality as a historical city and values that the city believes in, since the foundation of this country's constitution.

The audience witnessed 6 live speakers and I feel humbled and grateful to be nominated as one of the speakers to share the story with the city that I now call home. At the end, of all this, when asked by someone from the audience, how was your weekend experience?

And I replied with a satisfaction and a re-ignited hope of living in a city, which is facing a trial, right now "This was clearly an experience comparable to the one that I had in Africa. Enriching, Self-Fulfilling and Enlightening. More importantly, I feel very strongly connected to the values that I share with the people in this city".

I am from India and it took me 2 years and 8000 miles away from Philadelphia, in Mozambique to realize this is my home now. And then it took, just one weekend, 50 Philadelphia strangers in a room, to realize that we share same values and we are the ones to contribute in developing the new face of this city. Thank you Ignite-Good and The Huffington Post for making it happen, not just for me, but also for Philly.