Muddy Boots 2.0

Waer Muddy Boots 

Muddy Boots 2.0 Blog

Still Writing

Posted on March 4, 2023 at 3:50 PM Comments comments ()

I started writing Muddy Boots in 2013, shortly after I became executive director of Episcopal Community Services in Philadelphia. I wanted to write about the issues of poverty, my experience and lessons running the agency, and my thoughts on leadership, which I get to talk about occasionally. What started as a small following now has some 5000 readers and followers on social media. Ten years later, there have been some 190 articles. Some are published in magazines like Inc., some have become chapters in books like People Economics, and some have become Op-Eds in the Inquirer or Business Journal. All have received comments, some agreeing, some not, but all raised an issue or experience and asked people to think.

In October of this year, I will retire from ECS. It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve my church and the City of Philadelphia, addressing the challenges of poverty. I have worked with exceptional people on my staff, our partners, and our board. More important, I have met some of the most resilient people I know who are ECS participants and their families.

What I have learned and the essence of Muddy boots is that you go into the field and ask two questions. How are we doing? What can we do better? You then lead your team to respond to the answers. This is how you deliver impact and drive system change. We learned at ECS that the sustainable way out of poverty is a job at or above a living wage with benefits and assets in the bank. That is achieved when one has access to opportunity and the environment to act on that opportunity. That goal is the essence of our program work, partnerships, and advocacy. Our model is to ask, design, do, measure, and tune. Then repeat.

I write Muddy Boots not only as a call to action but as a call with a plan and focus. I have strong views on the value of talent and how that drives the best results and impacts. I have strong opinions on speaking truth to power as access to opportunity is not a given in our country, and the issues of poverty, race, and equality will consume us as a society if we do not deal with it as a society. In the same light, I look to our environment and see a like call to action, but on a world stage. Will we put Grandchildren over greed?

What I have learned in all of this is how hard change is to create and sustain. If circumstances allow it, it is too easy to kick the can down the road. Real change, real impact, starts with a look in the mirror. What can I do? What can you do? History will look back and answer that question for all of us. You can talk, or you can act. One individual at a time can grow to be a movement.

Answer for yourself the Muddy boots questions.

How are we doing?

What can we do better?

Answer and act. Find like-minded individuals and organizations.

I will keep writing. I may be laying down the day job but not the mission.


Dave Griffith is the Executive Director of Episcopal Community Services and the Chairperson of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University. 


Advent 2022 , Let us light a candle

Posted on November 29, 2022 at 12:05 AM Comments comments ()

We are in the season of Advent, a four-week time of waiting for the light of the Star of Bethlehem to announce the good news of the birth of Jesus. A light that continues to shine brightly, even in the face of so much darkness across the land.

In my tradition, we are asked to be Advent people. As I reflect on that challenge, I ask myself what it means to be a people of the light.

It would be easy to be overwhelmed by the darkness of poverty, of violence in all its forms, of environmental destruction, authoritarianism, racism, and unbridled greed. Depending on one’s background and resources, the darkness is often seen as someone else’s problem or ignored altogether as walls of privilege, circumstances, and greed give false security from the darkness.

In this season of Advent, we know there is a different option. To face the darkness and bring light into a world with courage, capacity, and will. To paraphrase Dr. King, darkness breeds when good men and women remain silent. It is time to first hold the line, to say enough, and them move with one voice to not only call for change, but to create change.

The movement comes when each of us owns the change and acts accordingly. Poverty ends with a living wage job and access to the opportunity of such work and the ability to build assets for all people. Help create such jobs. The environment heals when we change habits with how we use and produce energy, what products we buy, how we grow our food, and we bring such change across the globe, one individual and one community at a time. Authoritarianism falls in the face of free and fair elections and when elected officials and the judiciary put Grandchildren over greed. Racism and discrimination fade when people learn we are not different on what matters, and we are stronger together. Will we live our baptismal covenant or say the words without living them? It says every human being, not just some.

Darkness will consume us as a society if we do not deal with it as a society. In the face of no alternatives, people turn to violence in all its forms, both hard and soft. It is time to create alternatives. As we head into this season of Advent, waiting for the light, let us each consider the power of the light and not only wait for it on Christmas Eve but commit to creating it every day.

“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness” or accept it.

Peace in the season of Peace, Hope is this season of Hope, Joy in this season of Joy.


David Griffith is the Executive Director and Head Coach of Episcopal Community Services of Philadelphia.


There is a season

Posted on November 12, 2022 at 4:20 PM Comments comments ()

The following letter went to the ECS Community today.



Thank you for being a supporter of Episcopal Community Services. The work of ECS to challenge poverty, to advocate for a world where opportunity is available to all, and to do so on the bedrock values of justice, dignity, community, and impact is work I have been honored to do for the last ten years. The team at ECS, both staff and board, are some of the most professional and dedicated individuals I have worked with in my 47-year career.


Ecclesiastes tells us, "for everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven." I write to you today to let you know that October 31, 2023, will be my last official day with ECS. It is time for new leadership to take the agency and our work together to a new level. Working with the board, a search is underway for a new Executive Director, and by starting now, there is ample time to conduct a search that will bring an outstanding individual to the agency. Our plan is for me to work with our new Executive Director to make all of the introductions and have a smooth transition.


Poverty will consume us as a society if we don't challenge it with every resource to focus on transformational, data-driven solutions. The individuals we serve deserve our full measure. I am proud that our work at ECS is leading the sector. I will continue to support the agency with our faith’s traditional gifts of time, talent and treasure, and I hope you will continue to do so as well.


Partnering with the good people and supporters of ECS is a privilege. To answer the call to service and live our baptismal covenant with my brothers and sisters is and has been an extraordinary experience. I thank you, and please know that your support and generosity have inspired and moved me. So, while I may be leaving ECS day to day, I will not be retiring from its mission.



I will be forever grateful.


David E. Griffith

Executive Director and Head Coach

Episcopal Community Services


The Forum

Posted on October 10, 2021 at 6:55 PM Comments comments ()

“Forum: a place, meeting, or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged.”

On this October 18th ECS will gather for the 8th time its annual Forum for Justice and Opportunity. Once again, we focus on the issues that impact the individuals we serve and explore and recommend solutions that drive transformation.

ECS, in its 151 year, has always run to the fire. Four years ago, we looked back on our history and drew inspiration to make a bet based on a simple observation. As we looked at the poverty landscape in Philadelphia and beyond, we outlined several conclusions. First, most of the work done in the social services sector maintains individuals. All be it valuable and necessary work given the statistic  that 15% of Americans, 28% in Philadelphia, live at or below the poverty line, way more if you look at a living wage. Second, to break the cycle of intergenerational Poverty and move beyond maintenance, transformation to the work we did has to take place. We created a strategy in partnership with our board in several areas.

First, we searched for a better way to case manage and thus create transformational impacts for our participants. Working with Empath in Boston, we implemented a brain science-based methodology based on the notion that Poverty is a root cause of deep crises, which severely hampers cognitive function and an individual’s problem-solving capacity. By setting goals, coaching, and being in a relationship with our participants, and turning goal achievement into a reality, we can start the journey to economic mobility and, in time, break the cycle. The data shows that with each goal achieved, the level of crisis lowers, and in time, a participant can make long-lasting change reality on their own. We added a savings match to help build assets and set new goals so a participant can meet goals in housing, wellness, financial skills, education, and employment—each element with dedicated programs or specialists. Our work looks not to maintain the status quo but to support and create sustained transformation. The data suggests we are on the right path. Both the coaching methodology and our dedicated transformation programs MindSet and Rise are up and running. Our challenge post-pandemic will be the grow the numbers served and continue to respond to participants needs in new and place based ways.

Second, in our Out of School time programs, in addition to a strong STEAM core curriculum, we added a solid social and emotional focus for an age-appropriate coaching model, and again the impacts have been significant. We also grew the program to over 700 pre-pandemic students.

Third, we invested in a strong infrastructure to support our program teams. We created a learning and evaluation group to provide the data necessary to be a learning organization. We built capacity in our IT, HR, Advancement, Marketing, and Finance functions. In our current plan refresh, we are adding a recruiting process and creating a research and development capacity to monitor and rapidly improve our program offering as data and conditions change.

Fourth, we seek out partnerships with other agencies that share our values and complement our offerings to our participants. Some examples are behavioral health, Philabundance with our food pantry, Shift Capital, and wellness programs with several partners. These efforts will be significantly enhanced with the shift at St Barnabas from a shelter to a community resource center where we can partner with the local West Philadelphia community and be in an everyday relationship. We note that we can serve more individuals than we could as a shelter by adding significantly to our Rapid Rehousing units in partnership with OSH.

Fifth, we looked at our programs, our partnership and recognized that while significantly impacting our participants, we could drive a more significant impact by providing thought leadership through the Forum and through growing our advocacy efforts. Our goal is first to educate our stakeholders on the issues of Poverty and second to call for and invite our stakeholders to advocate for positive changes to public policy that directly impacts our Philadelphia participants. Issues like racial equity, a living wage, and cliff benefits are three examples.

We invite you to attend the Forum starting October 18th at noon and running at noon for the balance of the week. We begin with a keynote from Charles Blow of the New York Times, who will bring his unique perspective and start a critical discussion. Register at

Our mission is to challenge Poverty, and our vision is a world where opportunity is available to all. All that we do is shaped by our values of Justice, Dignity, Community, and most importantly, Impact.

If we are to thrive as a nation long-term, Poverty needs to be addressed and the cycle broken. It is one of the clarion calls of our times. Join the movement and answer the call to service. Imagine an America where 15% of the population currently living in Poverty is working at a living wage and off the social safety net? The work we do imagins such a time, such an impact, and such a transformation.

The work we do is a team sport.

We need you on our team.

So do the people we serve.

See you at the Forum.


Grandchildren over Greed

Posted on June 27, 2021 at 8:10 PM Comments comments ()


I spent a late afternoon in the pool with my grandson. It is June, and it is hot. However, the water is still cool, and the contrast to the humid and sticky air is delightful. He is learning to swim, and while he uses a noodle to float, it is way more fun to use it to redirect the return jets and shoot water at his Grandfather. So we take a break and, sitting on the pool steps, half in and half out, have a Popsicle. We debate which is better, ice cream or frozen Popsicle ice. He has strong opinions and suggests we ought to test both. Clearly, he has a future in sales.

I am blessed to be able to spend such time with him. It is not lost on me the contrast of his experience with that of other children around the world. And more specifically, with the children we serve in Philadelphia at ECS, where I now work.

If you follow Muddy Boots, you will know I often ask the question, actually more of a challenge, will we put grandchildren ahead of greed? This month an infrastructure bill will move forward in Washington. Already passed in multiple legislations are laws to address the Covid crisis and flowing funding to families. But much remains to answer the question will we put all our grandchildren ahead of greed.

What of climate change? What of education reform and funding? What of job training for the new economy? What of job creation at a living wage that ends the dependence of the social safety net with all its challenges and gaps? What support do we give to the pillars of economic mobility; Well-Being, Financial Management, Education and Training, and Employment and Career?

I suspect you could ask any parent in any country the question, and they would choose children and grandchildren. But, unfortunately, the clock is ticking, and time is not on our side. Climate, social unrest, inequity, greed gather momentum with consequence. Old problems now demand new answers and new approaches. The reality is the status quo is not an option. The result of doing nothing, and letting greed be the guide, is a generation or two from now, a fatal strategy.

We owe it to all our grandchildren to demand and drive different answers. Leadership matters, but it starts with our vision, our voice and our vote.

Grandchildren over greed?

It is time to not only make the call. it is time to answer it.


Posted on April 23, 2021 at 10:10 AM Comments comments ()

The following message went to the ECS community last night.

The longest day must have its close—the gloomiest night will wear on to a morning.

An eternal, inexorable lapse of moments is ever hurrying the day of the evil to an eternal night,

and the night of the just to an eternal day.

-Harriet Beecher Stowe

The verdict for Derek Chauvin reminds us how often the system has failed Black Americans, how many times the oppressor has gone Scot free. Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor. That seemingly endless list can never leave our minds, their names must not be forgotten.

As many voices have reminded us, this verdict delivers accountability for Derek Chauvin, but not justice for George Floyd. For real justice to prevail for Floyd and too many others, we must fashion a world in which the basic dignity of every human being is respected.

That justice is the long and hard work of naming the cancer of systemic racism and banding together to root it out so that all Americans can live without fear of violent oppression. ECS is committed to that demanding task. We know that we cannot truly serve people in poverty, we cannot hold out the hope of economic independence without acknowledging that for Black people the system right now is not fair, not just. Has not been for 400 years.

Nevertheless, we believe that right will prevail—not without our prayers and tears and courageous work, but it will prevail. That hope is what powered Harriet Beecher Stowe to trust that “the gloomiest night will wear on to a morning.”

In that spirit, ECS has just added Racial Equity to the top tier of its advocacy objectives. Now in addition to fighting for a Living Wage, and for an end to the Benefits Cliff, we will be naming that cancer of systemic racism and advocating at every level of society for real and lasting change. Further, ECS has begun implementing a plan for inclusion and equity within our agency, knowing that we cannot demand justice out there when we have not fully demanded it in here.

“Today, we are able to breathe again,” one of George Floyd’s younger brothers, Philonise, said during a news conference in Minneapolis after the verdict was released. “Justice for George means freedom for all.”

This moment affords us an opportunity to push for further change. At ECS we will do that both by coaching one promising person at a time, helping to light the path out of poverty for good, and by advocating for real and lasting change.

Yours in this good work,

Rev.David R. Anderson

Chief Communications Officer

Victoria Bennett

Chief Inclusion and Advocacy Officer

David E. Griffith

Executive Director & Head Coach


Events of 1/6/21

Posted on January 6, 2021 at 8:55 PM Comments comments ()

Tonight I hold in prayer the nation.

Tonight I hold in prayer the people of the nation.

Freedom, Equality, Justice, Democracy are not idle concepts.

They are bedrock fundamental values.

When we behave this way we put these values at risk and

in turn our families, our neighbors, and ourselves.

We also put at risk the stranger we do not know who could be family, neighbor, or us but for the grace of God.

The time for silence is over, the time for accountability is long overdue. It is time to put Grandchildren over greed.

Yesterday we saw the power of a free and fair election, just as we saw in November. A vote is a voice. It is priceless and unique.

Freedom, Equality, Justice, and Democracy demand discourse and the rule of law.

They also demand equal accountability and equal buy in in order to thrive from the people.

Pray for the nation, but not in silence.

Pray for a time when access to opportunity and justice is available to all, but not in silence.

"All that is needed for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing. All that is needed for the forces of evil to succeed is for enough good men to remain silent."

We are better than this. Speak Up.

A Time to Rise, Again

Posted on May 15, 2020 at 1:40 PM Comments comments ()

“You can’t solve a problem on the same level that it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level.” –Albert Einstein


Poverty is pervasive, persistent, and painful. It is complex and cruel in its scope. It impacts society on many levels. Both the individuals and families experiencing hardship directly, and the opportunity costs to all of us. In my tradition, the gospel calls us to acknowledge poverty and to meet it with intention and resources. For many our response to that call, while filled with good intent, does not fundamentally change the trajectory of those living in poverty. One could argue that much of our current public policies share the same attribute. The impact of our actions does not change; long term the lives of people in poverty. Does it bring comfort, perhaps, does it save lives, at times, but does it at its core attack the root cause of poverty and drive change. The stark, data-driven, answer is no.


The social service sector, along with government safety nets, has been the backstop to those in poverty. Poverty in American in the 1960s was 15% of the population. Today 60 years later, unadjusted for inflation, it remains essentially the same. If one looks at the living wage, the numbers are significantly higher. Some argue poverty is a human condition and that the poor have always been with us, an interesting perspective unless you are the one experiencing hardship. No reasonable person can make the case that poverty is good for America. The question is who and how to address the challenge it represents to all of us? Clearly, the approaches and attitudes of the last 60 years are not working.


Imagine an America where the 30-35 percent of Americans living below a living wage and likely drawing on the social safety net is no longer doing so. Imagine the impact on growth, individual and corporate taxes, crime, families, and our overall quality of life. Imagine an America where full employment comes at a living wage, and a skilled workforce drives investments in infrastructure, new technologies, and innovation across any number of critical needs. Imagine an America where opportunity is available to all and that the engine of change is a living wage job and a self-determined life, not by circumstances, but by choice and a real available opportunity and path to economic mobility.


There is a Movement in America of individuals and organizations that believe this dream is real and reachable. A Movement that draws on Einstein’s observation that big problem requires bigger ideas. Ideas that challenge the status quo while drafting off the opportunity and uniqueness of a diverse, innovative, and courageous America.


At its core, the Movement requires that government, corporations and individuals come together and make the ending of poverty in America a national priority. A Movement that believes the opportunity to advance one’s self is available to all and that opening that door is an obligation on all of us. The Movement is the belief that economic mobility is not a redistribution of wealth, but the creation of wealth through innovative public policy and incentives to create living-wage jobs while lowering the need for the social safety net. By matching investments in education and training to employment in the new economy that address infrastructure, technology investment, innovative new markets, and the environment. Jobs that provide a path out of poverty and creates a new generation of consumers and contributors.


The Movement will also require leadership that thinks big and bold and is willing to take on the old ways. It will need a consensus of voters, markets, and the private sector to take the long view. It will require us to view that maintaining individuals and families in poverty is no longer acceptable and that fundamental changes require investment, time, and a long-term generational commitment. A belief that the way out of poverty is a job at a living wage and that opportunity is indeed available to all.


I believe we are at the tipping point. As Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” One need not look far to see and feel the divide in our country, and long term intergenerational poverty is perhaps our worst/best example. We are not far from social unrest and with it all of the consequences.


We have a choice. We can continue as we are, and the problem will not change or we can look to our better nature and say enough. Let us hold leadership accountable at every level of government and the private sector. Vote at the ballot box and as consumers. Get educated on the issues and look for the long term, innovative programs and policies that can scale, drive real change, and support them. Support them with your vote, your Visa, and your voice. Be courageous and call for change. If you are in leadership, lead. If you can volunteer, volunteer. Put grandchildren ahead of greed.


Let us go to the next level and let us go now!


It is time to rise above.


Dave Griffith is the Head Coach at Episcopal Community Services, where they are part of the Movement using innovative brain-based science to coach individuals towards and to economic mobility and advocating for public policies that drive the same agenda. ECS employees some 175 professionals and works with some 2000 participants and 300 volunteers through its various programs.


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