Between 1996 and 2001, SIAP worked with the William Penn Foundation on its Culture Builds Community initiative. During this period, we developed and refined a set of empirical methods for studying the relationship between cultural resources and urban communities and produced a series of working papers. In addition, we completed an evaluation for the Foundation of the initiative.
The focus of the Culture Builds Community research was on the potential of the arts and culture to build both neighborhood communities as well as broader social and institutional networks. During this phase SIAP also began to explore the relationship of the arts to social movements. In one working paper, SIAP research associate Mary Petty outlines her multi-year ethnographic study of the role of the arts in AIDS/HIV activism in Philadelphia. Another paper, prepared for the Planners Network conference on "Insurgent Planning, Globalization, and Local Democracy" held in Toronto in June 2000, proposed that we re-conceptualize community-based organizations using a social movements model instead of that of a classic nonprofit institution.