Erica Hawthorne, a spoken-word artist, has thrived in Philadelphia.

"I've grown creatively here," said Hawthorne (a.k.a. "RhapsoE"), a city resident of nine years and a member of the Spoken Soul 215 Collective.

"I released my first CD here, built a creative support system, and supported other meaningful creative and socially conscious endeavors."

But retaining such talent has been a challenge that Claire Robertson-Kraft, board chair of Young Involved Philadelphia (YIP), hopes to overcome.

"If you can get people more engaged with the community and connected with organizations, they can feel represented, and have a voice," Robertson-Kraft said.

Her mantra is one of the central missions of State of Young Philly, an annual two-week event that brings together young professionals and "young at hearts" to discuss ways they can promote a better future for Philadelphia.

The event wrapped up its second year Friday with the support of more than 40 organizations and 1,000 people, mainly in their 20s and 30s.

The event was hosted by YIP, which fosters civic engagement among young Philadelphians and connects them with employment and networking opportunities in the region.

"A lot of these events are focused on having interactive discussions and understanding what young people want and get them engaged in the community," said Michelle Freeman, vice chair of YIP's board.

She said last year's inaugural series helped identify key areas, including education and sustainable planning, so this year's edition, titled "Building the Future," would be "all about creating . . . building blocks" to continue the dialogue.

This year's series targeted education, the environment, and community engagement.

One event focused on the creative economy, seeking to increase the awareness of artistic opportunities in Philadelphia. It also addressed brain drain - local talent looking for work in New York and Los Angeles rather than staying in Philadelphia.

"The creative economy in Philly is robust," said Ashlie Thornbury, director of Retention Initiatives at CampusPhilly, a nonprofit and YIP partner organization whose mission is to "attract, engage, and retain" college students.

"We have so much that students are unaware [of] . . . a thriving advertisement and media industry and lots of organization and clubs that students and recent graduates can join. It's not a sacrifice to stay in Philadelphia," Thornbury said, adding that the cost of living in Philadelphia was substantially lower than in other cities.

Mayor Nutter encouraged the young professionals to continue their hard work.

"You are the future of this city," he said. "We want people to recognize that young people can do big things in this city."

Already, young people are participating in the Occupy Philadelphia protest, which is taking up issues discussed at the State of Young Philly.

Andrew Blum, a member of the environmental nonprofit Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, said that although the protesters may use different tactics, some of their goals lined up with those discussed at State of Young Philly.

Unlike the protest movement, Blum says, YIP and State of Young Philly will be able to build sustainable models from all the attendees' ideas that will translate into tangible solutions.