St. Phil of Polis

If the Protestant church had saints I’d nominate Phil Hissom, founder and president of the Polis Institute, for canonization. Today Phil wrote a My Word editorial entitled, “Relationships count in poverty fight,” conveying to the community that relationships are the core of sustainable people-development. Did you catch that? Relationships, not more money, not efficient methods, not captivating marketing, but relationships done right are the solution to human flourishing.

Polis is more than just a think tank or a research firm. It is both, as well as a team of passionate community developers who more than talk the talk, but walk the walk. What began as a research project at Reformed Theological Seminary is now a forward leaning advocacy/research/implementation work that is causing a needed stir among the Christian and non-profit/social-service community of Orlando. From their on-site work at the Palms Trailer Park, to their range of training programs, to their statistically convicting research on distressed communities in Orlando, Polis is the substance and humble authority that can prophetically speak both to the church and the social service community.

At First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, we have gratefully received Polis’ consultation to transform our work among the poor. Granted, our church has a great deal of history and track record, but with that comes myopia and stubbornness about what works. Polis is helping us ask the hard questions about our realistic abilities as a body that cares for the plight of others. Polis is helping us discover for ourselves, rather than dictate, the subtle and profound changes.

Some ways Polis describes itself at

We believe that well-being will improve only when then talents of the poor are properly engaged. To that end, we work on two fronts: directly with the most distressed populations of the city and alongside the leadership of non-profit organizations dedicated to addressing poverty. The goal on both fronts is the same: to engage the talents of the poor in initiatives that strengthen the community in measurable ways. We are currently active in the Orlando metropolitan area and in South Atlanta.

Polis Institute promotes the principle of ‘dignified interdependence’ – an approach to helping others that leads to genuine relationships and transformed communities.

If you don’t know of Polis, you need to. In the same way St. Walt of Magic Kingdom brought the world’s attention to Orlando, I predict Polis will put Orlando on the map for innovative community solutions that develop the poor in a sustainable, measurable, and dignifying way.

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