The Lenfest Institute

How the Every Voice, Every Vote coalition connects with Philadelphians

Woman giving a presentation to people seated around a table

Here is a look back at what the Every Voice coalition learned and accomplished in 2023 and its plans for accountability reporting and civic education in 2024 and 2025.  


In April 2023, nonpartisan civic education group PA Youth Vote gathered the candidates running for mayor of Philadelphia for an event that flipped the traditional approach to forums on its head. Instead of candidates for elected offices presenting their campaign promises to a room of silent students, the roles were reversed. 


The candidates listened to concerns on the minds of a diverse set of Philadelphia students. This was an opportunity for young people to influence the priorities of the people who wanted to represent them — part of PA Youth Vote’s goal to start a conversation about “redistributing power between underrepresented youth and elected officials.” The student voices were heard and able to enlighten the candidates. 


PA Youth Vote’s forum was just one of dozens of engagements that took place across Philadelphia leading up to the 2023 municipal elections as part of The Lenfest Institute for Journalism’s Every Voice, Every Vote initiative. The Institute sought to help Philadelphians harness their civic power, hold government officials accountable, and build a future that works for everyone in the city. From December 2022 through November 2023, 130 Philly-based media outlets, community nonprofits, and social media creators launched more than 365 civic news and information projects to energize voters and bring candidates and communities into conversation with each other about the future of the city.  


Lead support for Every Voice, Every Vote is provided by the William Penn Foundation with additional funding from The Lenfest Institute, Comcast NBCUniversal, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Knight Foundation Donor-Advised Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation, Henry L. Kimelman Family Foundation, Judy and Peter Leone, Arctos Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, Harriet and Larry Weiss, and others.   


With funding along with project support from The Lenfest Institute, Every Voice, Every Vote partners created projects that ranged from an innovative virtual reality voter guide, to grassroots community engagement opportunities, and broadcast mayoral debates on local television. Every Voice, Every Vote reached communities in 16 languages in person and through various forms of print, broadcast, digital, and social media coverage. In total, partners hosted more than 100 events and listening sessions and produced nearly 600 pieces of content which included candidate interviews, voters guides, debate recordings, and election coverage.   


“We were able to provide in-depth profiles of the major campaigns, timely coverage and do a deeper dive into the issues," a Philadelphia Tribune staff member said of the support from Every Voice, Every Vote. 


Prioritizing people over politics 


Over 12 months, coalition partners expanded access to critical election information; leveled the playing field for candidates through forums and in-depth coverage; created a public record of accountability; encouraged voting through a city-wide, unified messaging campaign; and catalyzed conversations about the issues city residents cared about most. 


The coalition successfully prioritized people over politics, amplifying the voices of community members and eschewing horserace politics. Listening sessions, community-centered media, public forums, public service announcements, and a large-scale, scientific public opinion survey brought community members and their information needs to the center of election conversations. Here are a few examples of projects centering community voices: 


  • The “What Philly Wants” public opinion survey inspired wide-spread coverage of issues most important to Philadelphians and solutions they wanted implemented. Candidates referred publicly and specifically to the results of the EVEV survey; The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote 12, page-one feature stories about the views of Philadelphians that emerged from the survey research; and the Philadelphia Citizen and each of the major television stations referred overtly to the survey data during public debates. 

  • WHYY gathered questions from communities affected by gun violence and posed those questions to mayoral candidates during a televised debate, “The 100th Mayor: Restoring Safety Forum.” 

  • PhillyCAM provided media skills training to Philly youth who interviewed mayoral candidates one-on-one for its “Turn Up! Turn Out!” youth voter engagement project. 

  • The Philadelphia Citizen crowdsourced a job description for mayor for its Ultimate Job Interview series.  

  • The Urban Affairs Coalition amplified community concerns and drove civic engagement in communities that have been marginalized through intensive community listening, public forums and public sentiment polling  


‘A significant change in Philadelphia politics’ 


The 2023 elections saw a record number of candidates run for mayor and other municipal offices. Every Voice, Every Vote coalition member provided opportunities for voters to get to know the candidates beyond campaign slogans and advertisements. These efforts also created a record of accountability that community members and media outlets are now using to measure the new administration’s effectiveness.  


“Bringing the mayoral candidates to the heart of Latino North Philadelphia to answer questions on issues of special importance to the Latino community marked a significant change in Philadelphia politics,” said a staffer from Spanish-language newspaper Impacto, an Every Voice, Every Vote coalition member. 


Additional impactful community forums included:  


  • The Elevation Project, a nonprofit that serves at-risk and formerly incarcerated individuals, hosted, “Judge the Judges,” a community forum where voters could meet with judicial candidates for Municipal and Common Pleas courts.  

  • The Alliance for a Just Philadelphia, a coalition of community groups, hosted “The People’s Forum: A City Council At-Large Forum” to help voters understand the stances of dozens of candidates. 

  • Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church hosted “Black Media Matters: A Mayoral Candidate Forum,” which focused on issues important to the Black community and was broadcast by multiple media partners, including WURD, Pennsylvania’s only Black-owned radio station.  


Organizations who joined the Every Voice, Every Vote coalition were not required to collaborate with one another, and yet an unprecedented amount of collaboration took place. Coalition members unified around a common goal and created pathways for regular communication that naturally catalyzed partnerships and led to valuable audience expansion for partners and increased information access for residents. For example, community-based partners helped the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance distribute its PHL Arts Voter Guide widely to voters who cared deeply about candidate stances on local arts and culture issues. The promotional efforts of the coalition also contributed to the success of the GPCA's mayoral forum.  A staff member said, “We were overwhelmed by the success of our PHL Mayoral Arts Forum, which drew hundreds from various backgrounds and connections to the cultural community.” 


The coalition’s partnership with the social media marketing organization Xomad leveraged Philly’s passionate and talented pool of diverse social media creators. Fifty-seven creators joined the coalition and engaged their followers in conversations about top issues and promoted resources created by other coalition members. These partnerships were invaluable for reaching younger voters and voters of color.   The creators collectively reached 741,000 people, 70% of whom were ages 18-34 and 72% were people of color. 


What’s next 


All lessons we have learned from the initial period of Every Voice, Every Vote above will inform and strengthen the next phase of Every Voice, Every Vote, which will launch this June. With Mayor Cherelle Parker and her new administration sworn into office, the Every Voice, Every Vote coalition is readying for another super-charged round of civic news and community engagement projects that inspire residents and boost government accountability and civic action well beyond election season. 


The initial vision for the coalition always extended beyond the 2023 municipal election campaigns. The core of our work has been to build a sustained, coordinated, citywide initiative to improve and broaden civic information and journalism regarding city government activities and their impact on people's lives.   


Every Voice, Every Vote will focus on inspiring community members to: 


  • Be Heard: Let public officials and fellow community members know our priorities, at the polls and in our neighborhoods. 

  • Be Engaged: Participate in town halls and civic engagement events to dive deep into the issues that matter most to us. 

  • Be Accountable: Transcend apathy and ensure public officials and communities are doing their part. 

  • Take Action: Make change in small and big ways: sign petitions, show up to public meetings, unite our neighborhoods around important issues. 


We will be releasing information about the exciting, upcoming projects from our coalition partners soon. In the meantime, review the 2023 Every Voice, Every Vote Impact Report for more details about the coalition’s impact.  You will see our holistic approach to serving Philly communities with the news and information they need for successful civic participation. That approach is informing the next phase, which will continue to strengthen connections among communities, media, and public officials so that all Philadelphia residents can thrive.