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The Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO) is the Community Action Agency for the City of Philadelphia.


National origins

The Economic Opportunity Act created the Community Action Network in 1964. Both President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “war on poverty” legislation and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s advocacy led to its formation.

The network includes national and locally-focused organizations that connect millions of children and families to greater opportunity.

Local beginnings

In February 1965, Philadelphia Mayor James Tate established Philadelphia’s Anti-Poverty Action Committee by executive order. Led by Charles “Charlie” Bowser, the committee’s mantra was “Philadelphians serving Philadelphia.”

Over the years, the committee developed and implemented many initiatives. Its goal was to improve access to jobs, food, housing, and education for people who had been denied equal opportunities. The committee was unique for the important role women and African Americans played as members and leaders.

In 1978, the committee was renamed the Philadelphia Allied Action Committee. Later, it became part of the Mayor’s Office of Community Services. The committee continued serving community needs through innovative programs, including:

  • Scholarship events.
  • Essay contests.
  • Food and clothing drives.

Recent history

In 2014, the agency was rebranded as the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity. The office launched Shared Prosperity, a strategic plan that encouraged collaboration across sectors and organizations.

A few years later, the agency became known as the Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO). In September 2019, CEO published its Strategic Framework, a five-year plan outlining its priorities and roles.

Though the responsibilities and names have changed over the years, the agency’s mission has remained the same: to build a brighter future that all Philadelphians can enjoy.

CEO is part of the Community Action Association of Pennsylvania and the National Community Action Partnership.