Established 12 years ago in the City of Brotherly Love, the Philadelphia chapter of ACM SIGCHI—known as PhillyCHI—strives to personify a welcoming atmosphere that matches the city's nickname. We aim to create a fun, engaging, and safe environment for UXers of varying backgrounds and experience levels to make connections and learn as a community.
Throughout the years, we've seen ups and downs in the growth of the community, tied specifically to how we entice people to attend events as well as how they're financed. Within the past three years, we've seen a 28 percent surge in attendance and a boost in sponsorship backing, but how did we do it?
We attribute this growth to efforts in diversifying our events offerings: promoting inclusion and building community partnerships. We focused on increasing diversity in the event types, their geographic locations, and their content.
In 2017 alone, we hosted 20 events—educational events such as speaker talks, workshops, and our Design Slam, as well as social gatherings such as happy hours and dinners. To make these events more accessible, we held them in neighborhoods throughout the region. As a result, we attracted a wider range of attendees, from recent graduates to senior practitioners with families.
By listening to our community, we were able to find unique topics that interested participants. Event topics included the relationship between neuroscience and aesthetics, heuristics, voice usability design, and service design. By involving practitioners, UXers at any level of expertise learn about real-life scenarios. In return, we saw an increase in diversity across attendee expertise, background, gender, and age.
Partnering with other local groups and companies was critical in expanding both our event range and attendee reach. Two standouts included Arts & Crafts Holdings (https://www.artsandcrafts.holdings), a real estate developer revitalizing the Callowhill neighborhood, and NextFab (https://nextfab.com), a membership-based makerspace supporting local innovators. Through these partnerships we were able to introduce UX topics that practitioners might not get exposure to through typical learning or work environments.
In 2017, more than a dozen sponsors provided financial support, helped us promote events, and encouraged their employees to attend. Sponsors like Think Company (https://www.thinkcompany.com/), Hero Digital (http://www.delphicdigital.com/), and Bresslergroup (http://www.bresslergroup.com/) have also lent out their offices at no cost for their respective events. These partnerships make our events more accessible by allowing us to host, for the most part, without charging admission to attendees.
These sponsorships are mutually beneficial. Think Company provides a suburban location, food, and drinks for our annual UX Show and Tell. "We've met prospective and current team members through PhillyCHI," says director of marketing and communications Suzanne Cotter. "And our team has learned a great deal about our work through PhillyCHI's educational programming."
PhillyCHI will stay busy in 2018. As we reflect on our successes and challenges over the past few years, we continue to learn how to better serve our community. We hope to expand our events and find new ways to collaborate with higher-education institutions, introducing students to the community earlier.
We would love to hear from you! Whether you're starting a new chapter or managing an existing one, please reach out to share how you've dealt with challenges and what you're looking forward to in the upcoming years.
PhillyCHI is the Philadelphia region's chapter of the ACM SIGCHI. It holds monthly educational and social events covering multiple facets of UX for all levels of practitioner. PhillyCHI's yearly programming is made up by the board, which in 2017 included Kelsey Leljedal, Megan Moser, Stephanie Lin, and Brian Crumley. [email protected]
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