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You can also up to volunteer at a Thursday gathering.

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They need greeters, photographers, speakers and all kinds of talent. What do you get when you mix one contractor, one massage therapist, an emergency medic—plus other Philadelphians in wide-ranging professions—as well as food, alcohol, and expert speakers together in one West Philly venue? You get Thursday night at Venture Cafe Philadelphia.

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Venture Cafe Philly is one in a network of nearly a dozen worldwide Venture Cafes —from Tokyo to Warsaw—whose mission is to educate, connect and nurture innovators of all kinds. Every single Thursday, from its super-mod headquarters at the Science Center, the local branch opens its doors at 3pm to anyonefor freefor five hours of A-list programming, networking, drinks and fun a game room—which technically belongs to another occupant of Market, the co-working space CIC—is open during Cafes and features foosball, Jenga, and video games.

In the year since it debuted, Venture Cafe has welcomed to people every single week, about 40 percent of whom are repeat guests, and about 40 percent of whom are people of color.

In every way—age, race, income, professional level—the crowd was diverse; 45 percent of attendees were people of color. This was his sixth time attending a session.

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The nonprofit Science Center was created over 55 years ago by Penn, Drexel, the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science now known as USciencesPresbyterian Hospital, and Temple University, as a neutral place for researchers and entrepreneurs to collaborate and make advances in science and technology. It has since branched out to focus on commercializing innovation, nurturing the STEM talent pipeline, and convening people. Inthe Center opened its first incubator, the Port, followed in by DreamIt Venturesa competitive startup program that brought entrepreneurs in from around the country to help them grow their businesses—and, hopefully, set up shop here.

The success of the Thursday meetup, Brala says, is largely because of strategic partnerships and volunteers.

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Another recent Thursday focused on using innovation to solve the opioid epidemic, and was held in partnership with Penn. And for all events, countless volunteer greeters circulate to make sure that everyone feels included.

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Still, classic networking events can be awkward. Or dead-ends. But, perhaps helped by the free drinks there is a three-drink maximumthe vibe on a recent Thursday night is decidedly collegial; groups who are chatting so comfortably they could be mistaken for long-term colleagues reveal that they have only met this evening.

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Nearly everyone talks about positive, tangible outcomes from the meetups. Ryan Jamison, a former contractor looking to pivot to tech, says that his first visit to Venture Cafe was to hear urban studies guru Richard Florida—with whom he ended up talking one-on-one later that night.

You can come and just be yourself, and people will be so welcoming. I love the sense of community. Want more about productive community engagement? Check out these related articles:. Stay updated on all our coverage.

The philadelphia citizen

The Philadelphia Citizen will only publish thoughtful, civil comments. If your post is offensive, not only will we not publish it, we'll laugh at you while hitting delete. By Jessica Blatt Press.

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By Josh Middleton. By Jon Geeting. By Anne Gemmell. Visit Venture Cafe. About innovation in Philly.

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Is the fix for our trash woes Will Philly be as bold as other cities? The Citizen Recommends: B. PHL Innovation Fest.

Do Something: Celebrate Civic Innovators. Why you should check out Venture Cafe.

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Everyone is welcome. BY Jessica Blatt Press. Be a Citizen Editor Suggest a Story. Future-Ready: Got Tech Training?

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