April 25, 2019

A New Direction for International House Philadelphia

It is with mixed emotions that we share news of significant upcoming changes for International House Philadelphia, including the decision to sell IHP’s building and property at 3701 Chestnut Street and set a new course for the organization. While we will be sad to leave the place that we’ve called home for the past several decades, we are excited about the path ahead and want to share what has led us to this inflection point for IHP.

International House Philadelphia has a proud legacy as a pioneering nonprofit that has made a difference in the lives of tens of thousands of international students and scholars who have come to Philadelphia to advance their studies. It has expanded the perspectives of an even greater number of local residents via programming celebrating a range of global cultures and artforms. But in recent years, IHP has been forced to reexamine its role as a hub for international students and cultural programming in a changing Philadelphia.

When IHP was founded over a century ago, housing market discrimination against foreign-born students was the norm in Philadelphia, along with concerns about safety and social isolation. Thankfully – and due in no small part to the cumulative impact of this institution – that is not the environment in which we live today. Area universities are now providing supports and community-building services to welcome international students like never before.

And when we began providing international cultural programming decades ago for the broader Philadelphia community through events such as our Lunar New Year celebrations and global galas, we were in many ways the only game in town. Philadelphia simply didn’t have as many windows onto the world compared to today’s more global city.

The good news is that these broader trends – becoming a more welcoming community for international students and for cultural exchange – are exactly the kinds of changes that IHP set out to make from its founding. However, it has become increasingly difficult for IHP to continue to provide student housing and cultural programs in a Philadelphia where both are now in ample supply. This has contributed to several years of operating deficits that, along with substantial deferred maintenance on the building, have put the organization at financial risk.

These challenging conditions set the stage for the decision to sell the property and pointed to the need to revisit IHP’s mission in a changing environment. Toward this end, we have reexamined how IHP could best address the needs of today’s Philadelphia while staying true to our core values of promoting internationalism, mutual understanding, and fostering a diverse global community in and via shared space – and we see the opportunity to go in a new direction.

Our vision for IHP’s next phase is to play a different kind of international hub role in which we provide shared space, services, and support for organizations and individuals working to make Philadelphia more welcoming and globally connected. This will mark the start of a new and different chapter for IHP, and we will have more to share about this new direction in the coming months.

Moving forward with these repositioning efforts and the sale of 3701 Chestnut, we are committed to maintaining IHP’s current housing and cultural programs, including Lightbox Film Center, through the end of 2019 and to ensuring a smooth transition and supports for residents, staff, and other members of the IHP community as the organization’s focus shifts.

Change is never easy, but too many organizations and nonprofits fail to recognize when it is necessary to adapt. IHP is taking a proactive approach – one that will allow us to build on IHP’s legacy and deepen our impact in a changing Philadelphia for years to come.

In the coming months, we will celebrate the many accomplishments achieved in IHP’s first chapter and thank the many people – residents, staff, supporters, past and current leadership – who have contributed to its success. And we will look forward to working with that community and new partners to write an exciting next chapter for IHP.


Sincerely,

Josh Sevin                                                                                                                              

President & CEO
International House Philadelphia 


Ludo Scheffer, PhD     
Chair
IHP Board of Trustees