For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

Urban Innovation Fellowship

Lindy's Inaugural Cohort of Local Urban Innovators

Lindy Institute Urban Innovation Summit workshop view of Innovation Fellow Michael O'Bryan

The Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation at Drexel University welcomed its inaugural class of Lindy Urban Innovation Fellows in October 2017. The Lindy Urban Innovation Fellowship was created to recognize the extraordinary work that Philadelphians are doing to solve critical urban challenges.  By pairing emerging leaders with the intellectual resources from Drexel’s 15 schools and colleges, the fellowship demonstrates the institute’s commitment to forging solutions to equitably advance our cities. From over 100 applications for this new fellowship program, three fellows were selected:

  • Priya Mammen is an Emergency Physician and public health advocate. Priya will address how urban emergency departments can better position themselves to be a true community center, acting not only as part of a community  health system, but as a tool for social justice and strengthening community fabric. Developing a model for community engagement, and initially focusing on the opioid crisis, this project will identify ways to decrease health disparities and redress inequities through the fulcrum of the emergency department. 
  • Michael O’Bryan currently serves as Director of Youth and Young Adult Programs at The Village of Arts and Humanities. Michael’s project will reimagine workforce development practices and tools for marginalized youth, using a co-design process informed by leaders in the clinical and business sectors, as well as the lived expertise of these young people. His work focuses on the psycho-social or ‘soft’ skills increasingly valued in the labor market (e.g. creativity, adaptive thinking, and emotional intelligence). Understanding that early traumatic experiences can dramatically distort one’s skill development and long-term life trajectory, the project looks at how workforce development can internalize this, and create a new model that better serves populations dealing with trauma.
  • Christopher Spahr is the Executive Director of the Centennial Parkside CDC. Chris will continue his work on the development of an energy investment district in the East Parkside neighborhood of Philadelphia, which will ultimately generate solar energy for cultural institutions such as the Please Touch Museum and the Philadelphia Zoo, as well as create a sustainable revenue stream for the community. Both institutions are supportive of the project, as it aids them in meeting their strategic goals around energy sustainability, and the community supports the project, aware that such an innovative approach to energy will also create job opportunities in the long run. While initially focused in Parkside, the intention is to create a model that is scalable and replicable nation-wide. 

You can learn more about their work through the short documentary, Changing the Narrative, through their reflections on the mentorship of Jeremy Nowak, and on their project pages linked in the left navigation.


The fellows kicked-off their work with first Urban Innovation Summit in 2017. These first two days of the Summit were comprised of internal work sessions at Drexel with teams of international experts, community members, Drexel faculty, local experts, and Drexel students supporting the Fellows as they develop a research agenda and a strategic project plan. The Summit culminated in the Drexel Dialogues: Urban Innovation in the Age of Trump, a public event featuring Bruce Katz (then of the Brookings Institution, now Director of the Nowak Metro Finance Lab), Lindy Institute Distinguished Fellows Jeremy Nowak and Alan Greenberger, and Shannon Marquez, Vice Provost for International Development at Drexel and Clinical Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at Drexel, sharing innovations in Philadelphia, nationally and abroad as we place Philadelphia in the context of urban innovation worldwide. 

The Lindy Urban Innovation Summit, the Lindy Urban Innovation Fellowship program and the Drexel Dialogues are generously underwritten with grants from the William Penn Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation and the and John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.