Immigrant Leadership Institute


The goal of the Immigrant Leadership Institute is to prepare foreign born residents of Greater Philadelphia with the skills, knowledge, and tools necessary to engage in the civic life of our city and region. While recognizing the important economic and cultural contributions immigrants make to our social fabric, the Institute represents a dynamic approach to creating opportunities where immigrants speak for themselves and participate in the cultural, political, and social life of the city. We believe that our city grows stronger when all residents are given the opportunity to engage. Thus, increasing the substantive participation of immigrant communities in the decision-making processes of our city is crucial.

What Participants Learn

  • Why and how civic participation is a success strategy for immigrants
  • New skills, knowledge, and tools immigrants can use to support their community
  • What citizenship means for new citizens and how to participate in public decision-making
  • How to use communication skills and innovative technology in the practice of true citizenship

Training at the Institute

Ten preliminary training sessions will be offered every other week for a period of five months. An important part of the curriculum is focused on learning about issues of interest to immigrants and developing skills for implementing of an action project to address community needs.

We use a three-prong teaching and learning strategy. Our training combines learning about inclusive immigrant integration strategies, building civic participation skills, and a model for community action to address barriers to success.

Action Projects

This training course requires participants to develop an Action Project on one of the barriers immigrants face, such as insufficient supply of ESL classes, developing social connectivity and social capital, acculturation, understanding constitutional rights and responsibilities, and information and trust around naturalization.

Action Projects offer an opportunity for participants to test newly acquired skills, build relationships, familiarize themselves with Philadelphia, and most importantly, do something to support immigrant communities in the city.

Each Action Project is implemented by a team of 5-6 participants and on average, the implementation of each project can take between 3-4 months to complete.

Featured Action Project

When: November 29, 2018 at the Free Library of Philadelphia

Study: The team met many immigrants while studying the English barrier. Whilst the immigrant population is highly diverse, from language to culture, the team found that their experience relating to the English barrier is similar. Lacking English proficiency, immigrants reported feeling isolated and helpless. Even though they have skills and expertise to contribute to the city, they couldn’t move beyond the limitations imposed by their limited English fluency. To deal with the challenge, they studied English from textbooks, dictionaries, YouTube, reading English books, taking ESL classes, and practicing with any English speakers they could meet. Finding ESL classes was not difficult. Studying English from a textbook in the classroom was good, but not enough. After class, they would go back home and speak their own language. They realized they need more from English programs. They want to use English they learned in the class in their daily life, build a social network, and use their talent for the community.

Proposal: The team proposed the following solution.

  1. Convert the Free Library of Philadelphia into a facilitator of immigrant integration and English learning.
  2. Each library could become a location for immigrants to come and share their stories, interests, make friends, and learn new things while they learn English. Learning and practicing English in a social context.
  3. For immigrants, the Free Library system could be a small network of communities.
  4. Hold periodic meetings between Library staff and immigrant leaders to assess the results of any English as a Second Language program at the Library, implement goals, and facilitate the evaluation of feedback.

To find out more about the Immigrant Leadership Institute, please fill out this form and we will be in touch!