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Jeremy Nowak, President

Jeremy Nowak

Jeremy Nowak is one of America’s leading practitioners and thought leaders in urban development and civil society. He is the President of J Nowak and Associates, LLC, a consulting firm that provides strategic counsel to business, social sector institutions, and innovative governments committed to a disciplined approach to managing change in American cities.

Mr. Nowak was most recently the President of the William Penn Foundation (2011-2012), a $2 billion philanthropy. During his tenure, he designed and led a strategic planning process that will serve as the blueprint for the foundation’s grant making during the next decade through investments that close the achievement gap for low-income children; protect local watersheds; and extend creativity throughout Philadelphia’s diverse communities.

Prior to his position at William Penn, Mr. Nowak was the founding CEO of The Reinvestment Fund (TRF), one of the nation’s leading community development financial institutions (CDFI).  Under his leadership TRF provided more than $1 billion in support of affordable housing, small businesses, and community facilities. He led TRF from 1986 until 2011.

Breakthrough innovations at TRF during his tenure include the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative, which provides high quality food markets to urban and rural areas;, the most comprehensive source of spatially accessible data on the web; an energy investment program that catalyzed the wind energy industry in Pennsylvania; a proprietary Market Value Analysis (MVA) that guides investments for urban and regional policymakers; and a focus on creative place-making as a development strategy summarized in a monograph he authored entitled: Creativity and Neighborhood Development (TRF:2010).

In 2012 and again in 2013 Mr. Nowak was appointed to chair the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia by the Board of Governors in Washington D.C. He has served on that board since 2008. A decade earlier he served on the consumer advisory board of the Fed.  He has also served on the board of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, the State’s leading provider of affordable housing finance.

Mr. Nowak is active in Philadelphia’s civic life, where he supports start-up social ventures. He was the founding board chair of Mastery Charter Schools (2001-2008), a network of eleven inner city schools that has garnered national attention for raising student achievement. He was the founding board chair of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (2005-2011) a national charity that has raised $60 million for pediatric cancer research.

In 1995, Mr. Nowak received the Philadelphia Award, the city’s highest civic honor. Villanova University (2000) and La Salle University (2008) have given him honorary doctorates in recognition of his civic and business achievements. The Opportunity Finance Network, the trade association of CDFIs, presented him with the Ned Gramlich award (2011) in recognition of his national leadership role in promoting responsible lending. Currently he serves as the honorary co-chair of the National Arts Policy Roundtable at the Sundance Institute.

He has authored numerous articles and chapters in books on issues as diverse as development finance, creative place making, the role of religious institutions in community building, and housing policy. He has also testified in Congress in support of the Treasury Department’s CDFI Fund; in support of increased funding for the National Endowment of the Arts; and in support of healthy food and anti-obesity efforts.

Mr. Nowak has provided a wide range of consulting assistance to businesses and nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and in the developing world. His domestic clients have ranged from large real estate development firms to small civic institutions. At TRF he led a five year Ford Foundation initiative on development finance that brought together global leaders to exchange information and provide peer review of community banking projects in South Africa, India, Mexico, Indonesia, Kenya, and the United States. He was principal author of the monograph that emerged from the project: Capital Plus (Development Finance Forum, 2004).

He holds a B.A. degree in Philosophy from The Pennsylvania State University (1973) and a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the New School for Social Research (1986), where his dissertation won the Alfred Schutz award for excellence.  He also was a fellow at the Aspen Institute/New School Ventures inaugural program for entrepreneurial leaders in education (2007). He lectured at the Urban Studies program at the University of Pennsylvania between 1995 and 2005.


Ken Gross, Associate

Kennen Gross

Ken Gross specializes in turning data into information that can be used to strategically guide investments, policies and programs. Ken provides data-driven answers to organizations’ strategic questions through a combination of expert statistical and methodological knowledge and clear, concise presentation of results. He has applied his techniques to the fields of education, public health, health services research, housing policy and economic development.

Ken recently served as Director of Research and Evaluation for the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers. In this role he led the development of innovative analytic strategies and products aimed at improving healthcare quality and reducing healthcare costs at the hospital and community level.  He advised communities from around the country and was invited to speak at national conferences about his innovative approach to analyzing hospital claims data to quantify the healthcare cost/quality issues at the local level.

Prior to the Coalition, Ken served as Senior Associate with The Reinvestment Fund’s Policy Solutions group. In this role he was responsible for establishing research protocols; devising evaluation methods and plans; and ensuring the accuracy and quality of research results. Ken’s research contributions included the completion of residential Market Value Analysis for multiple urban areas as well as a study of the impact of school quality on residential sales price. He developed TRF’s Neighborhood Income Distribution Index and TRF’s methodology for identifying areas across the United States with low access to fresh foods.

Ken earned his PhD in Policy, Research, Evaluation and Measurement from the University of Pennsylvania. He holds an MPH is epidemiology from Drexel University and a BA in Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis.  While earning his PhD, he was awarded a US Department of Education, Institute of Educational Sciences Predoctoral Fellowship.

He serves as a Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.


Phoenix Wang, Associate

phoenix_wangPhoenix Wang develops strategies that help clients thrive in an innovation economy. She embraces new capabilities and market opportunities created by disruptive technologies. She has led successful national initiatives from concept through implementation in diverse fields including education, philanthropy, financial services, urban public services, and social entrepreneurship.

Recognized by Fast Company as one of the 100 Most Creative People in 2010, Phoenix most recently was Director of Strategic Investments at the William Penn Foundation, where she created the portfolio vision behind the Innovation and Transformation Funds. Prior to joining William Penn, Phoenix co-founded Startl, a consortium of national philanthropic funders, with the goal of cultivating and supporting entrepreneurs building digital media and technologies for learning.

While at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Phoenix led investments in Open Educational Resources (OER), widely viewed as the precursor to Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and a disruptive force that is changing education and lifelong learning.

Phoenix also brings private sector experience as a Vice President at NBC-iVillage and a strategy consultant at Accenture Consulting where she played a leadership role in managing large-scale organizational change and business strategy shifts.

Phoenix received her B.A. from William College and Ed.M. from Harvard Graduate School of Education.



Laura Hutton, Communications Associate


Laura Hutton is a communications associate. She specializes in graphic design of identity, print, and electronic media for nonprofit organizations in the Philadelphia area. Over the years she has partnered with various communications teams to lend a thoughtful ear and creative voice to the message-making process. A long-time resident of Philadelphia, Laura is a regular user of public schools, pools, parks, and museums. She’s dedicated to urban living, urban renewal, and the intersection of design and the urban environment. Samples of her design work can be found at: