Polis Institute, Inc. is a research and education non-profit (501c3) that helps organizations improve well-being with their constituents - residents, employees, volunteers, members, clients. We create tools, training, and analyses that helps our clients make a lasting impact.
Physical address: 106 E. Church St, Orlando FL, 32801 .
Board of Directors: Dan Sherfield; Jody Stephenson; Phil Hissom; Jessica Jancek Petito.
Founder/President - Phil Hissom
Phil is a fourth generation urban missionary. He seeks to dignify the culture of service. He and his wife Jennie relocated to Orlando in 2005 where they both attended Reformed Theological Seminary. He received the Master of Divinity degree in 2008 and founded the Polis Institute in 2009 to improve the overall health, or shalom, of Greater Orlando and other global cities.
Atlanta Liaison/Trainer – Dan Crain
Dan Crain is married to Adrienne and they have four children. Dan has a Masters of Intercultural Ministries from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary and was the first to graduate from the Polis CityWise internship. He and his family now reside in South Atlanta. He is the Polis Liaison/Trainer to the city of Atlanta and a pastor at Community Life, a church supported by FCS Urban Ministries. Dan’s passion is to mobilize the church to work with people in distress in a dignifying way.
THE POLIS STORY...
The story began with a 40-day fast in 2005 by Vonette Bright, co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, during which she sought a vision for what should be done to bring hope and healing to Orlando, Florida. After the fast, Vonette hosted a series of dinner parties dubbed "Table Talk" and a research project into the culture of service in Greater Orlando called Seeking the Welfare of the Cityť was launched. The project received critical support and leadership from Jim Seneff and Angela Winn of CNL, and Dr. Frank James, then the President of Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) Orlando. Dr. James recruited seminary students to work on the project which he began to call polis, the Greek word for city.
In 2007, the world changed. For the first time in human history, more people lived in cities than did not. World history became urban history. As an Oxford trained historian, Dr. James was enthralled by such a fundamental shift and read widely on matters concerning the polis. He expressed his deep conviction that our response to urbanization, from either a civic or religious perspective, had to be one of compassion towards the poor and disenfranchised. He coached and encouraged the students through the project while Ms. Winn led the work. She was compelled to involve herself after a life-changing experience as a juror. After the trial, Angie decided to do what she could to help bring greater opportunity for those living in poverty. She brought passion and vast experience in organizational development to her leadership of the polis project. The project ended in 2009. Three main findings can be gleaned from the report: there were 100 distressed neighborhoods in Greater Orlando, Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) was the best supported modality to alleviate this distress, and there was no evidence of mature ABCD work in the area. Phil Hissom, who had been asked to lead the project during its latter stages, incorporated the Polis Institute in May of 2009 as a research and educational non-profit dedicated to improving well-being in Orlando and other cities. The Christian narrative of humanity's journey from the garden to the city imbued the Institute with purpose and an overarching question: How can this City be more like the New City in Isaiah 65 and Revelation 21? Mr. Hissom hails from a family that has been laboring with the poor as Christian mission for four generations since his great-grandfather founded the Hissom Mission in Charleston, WV. His family continues to run the mission to this day. While Phil conceded the necessity to do something to address poverty, he felt strongly that how we went about it meant all the difference. He had seen both his father and grandfather crushed by the weight of responsibility of caring for others and had seen his own life turned around through caring for others. He saw that needs were best met in dignified, interdependent relationships which became the core teaching of the Dignity Serves curriculum and the backbone of the Polis community building strategy.
Polis also extended its presence to a second city in 2011 with the relocation of Dan Crain and his family to South Atlanta. A most dedicated and compassionate man, Mr. Crain is learning from this important global city as he facilitates Dignity Serves groups and adds new stories to the next chapter of Polis.