Aligning Institution to Community

July 1, 2016

Initial curator: Steve Dubb, Democracy Collaborative


Universities are anchor institutions because, once established, it is hard to move location, both because of sunk capital and because of ownership status (the overwhelming majority of universities being either publicly owned or nonprofit). Adopting an anchor mission, however, implies more than merely being an anchor institution. Rather, it implies adopting a strategy to leverage institutional assets.  As Rita Hodges and Steve Dubb write in The Road Half Traveled, an institution that adopts an anchor mission decides to “consciously and strategically apply the institution’s long-term, place-based economic power, in combination with its human and intellectual resources, to better the welfare of the community in which it resides.”
Ways to leverage economic assets and revenues to promote local private sector development:

    – Directing a greater percentage of their purchasing power toward local and minority vendors based in the community.
    – Hiring a greater percentage of their workforce locally.
    – Providing workforce training for people needing assistance in the community.
    – Incubating the development of new businesses, including social enterprise among nonprofits.
    – Leveraging real estate development to promote local retail, employer-assisted housing, and community land trusts.
    – Using pension and endowment funds to invest in local job creation strategies and to provide community venture capital for nonprofits, entrepreneurs, and employee-owned firms.
    – Partner with community groups to ensure that development benefits existing residents, rather than displacing them.

Ways to leverage intellectual resources:

    – Serving as a convener, advisor or network builder
    – Engaging in partnerships with local K-12 schools
    – Supporting community health partnerships
    – Providing research support to assist communities in identifying and addressing environmental health challenges
    – Mentoring local nonprofits and connecting nonprofits with student and researcher supports
    – Helping residents build assets through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and related efforts
    – Use student practicums and capstone course placements to add to local community capacity while helping students have more meaningful educational experiences

If there is anything you would like to contribute to this page, please contact Maggie Grove at


Key resources

A) Resource Sites

  • Anchor Dashboard Learning Cohort
With the support of the Annie E. Casey FoundationThe Democracy Collaborative has, since fall 2014, convened a group of anchor institution leaders from six universities—Cleveland State, Drexel University (Philadelphia), Rutgers University-Newark, SUNY Buffalo State, University of Missouri-St. Louis and Virginia Commonwealth University, working to achieve their anchor mission. Building off the recommendations in The Anchor Dashboard report, the Learning Cohort is developing shared best practices for measuring the impact of anchor institutions on their communities. 

  • Anchor Institutions Toolkit
Developed by the University of Pennsylvania’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships, this toolkit provides an overview of Penn’s trajectory in recognizing and acting upon its role as an anchor institution; prior to and including the launching of a major effort in 1996 through 2007.

  • Anchor Institution resource site
This site, curated by The Democracy Collaborative, is a compendium of resources on anchor institution strategies, with a focus on strategies leveraging economic resources. This site takes a broad view of anchors—highlighting hospitals and cultural institutions, as well as universities— and includes detailed sections that provide links to support organizations, best practices in the field, research resources, articles and publications, and toolkits for how to undertake the work. 

  • University Partnership resource site:
This site, curated by The Democracy Collaborative, is a compendium of resources on university partnerships, with a focus on strategies that involves partnering with community groups for common objectives. This site includes detailed sections that provide links to support organizations, best practices in the field, research resources, articles and publications, and toolkits for how to undertake the work. 

  • Democracy Collaborative anchor institution sector site
This site provides links and background information regarding a host of Democracy Collaborative publications on anchor institutions, including reports on universities and hospitals, as well as examples of the direct employment of anchor mission principles in place-based work. 

  • Journal of Higher Education, 2013 special issue on anchor institutions
This special issue of the Journal of Higher Education, Outreach and Engagement highlights a number of best practice cases in the field, including case studies of the approaches employed by Widener University, Syracuse University and Miami Dade College.

  • Linking Anchor Institutions to Outcomes for Families, Children, and Communities
This site highlights The Democracy Collaborative’s anchor dashboard research project, with links to the original 2013 reports, videos, press articles, and more. Among the materials on this site are a video of a conference hosted by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development in 2013. The site also includes two-page policy briefs that highlight best practices that anchor institutions can adopt in local hiring, community investing, school partnerships, local business development, local purchasing, capacity building and environmental sustainability.

B) Organizational Sites

  • Anchor District Council
Founded by Cleveland, Ohio-based University Circle Inc., the Anchor District Council is a coalition of sixteen nonprofit community service corporations working in partnership with education, medical, and arts/cultural anchor institutions to transform city anchor districts and their adjacent neighborhoods. The consortium formed in 2012 when the group first convened in Cleveland to share ideas and best practices for collaborative community development. The group meets annually at the Anchor District Forum, located in a different city each year.

  • Anchor Institutions Task Force
Founded in 2009, the Anchor Institutions Task Force (AITF) is a growing network of over 600 leaders promoting the engagement of anchor institutions—including colleges, universities, hospitals, community foundations, libraries, arts institutions, and other anchors—in community and economic development.  The AITF is designed to develop and disseminate knowledge and function as an advocacy and movement building organization to create and advance democratic, mutually beneficial anchor institution-community partnerships.

  • Institute for a Competitive Inner City
ICIC’s Anchor Institution Strategic Framework defines seven strategies anchors use to accelerate urban economic revitalization. This site links to many ICIC publications dating back to 2002. 

  • Living Cities
From 2010 through 2013, Living Cities supported several cities experimenting with the potential of Anchor Institutions—local universities and hospitals to transform economic systems.  This site captures much of the projects that they engaged in to support this work.

  • U3 Advisors
U3 Advisors is a consultancy that has worked with more than a dozen universities across the country on anchor strategies.  This site covers some of the highlights of that work.

  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of University Partnerships
For decades, HUD has supported work with anchors institutions, writing a number of articles on anchor institutions in recent years in its Partners and Progress e-newsletter.


Models & Exemplars

  • Community-Campus Partnership (Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colorado)
The Community-Campus Partnership’s (CCP) works with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. An assessment conducted in early 2012 determined the need for an equitable partnership with the community. Findings from the assessment – conducted with both campus members and community members – fully supported creating a forum for improving the health and quality of lives of the campus’ neighbors. Since then, CCP has been developing into a dynamic, resilient foundation for community-campus collaborations, and has worked to develop a jobs pipeline connecting Aurora residents to training that can lead to health sector employment.  

  • Drexel University: Office of University and Community Partnerships
Under the leadership of President John Fry, Drexel has declared its goal to be the most civically engaged university in the country. Drexel’s approach is based on combining student and employee volunteerism, academic integration and institutionally supported neighborhood investment—centered on using targeted hiring and procurement and related initiatives to improve economic opportunity in the surrounding neighborhoods. 

  • Rutgers University-Newark
Rutgers-University-Newark’s strategic plan, developed under Chancellor Nancy Cantor, outlines an anchor institution agenda focused on five areas: building educational pathways pathways for increased postsecondary attainment; strong, health and safe neighborhoods; promoting and leveraging the arts and culture; science and the urban environment; and economic development.

  • Southside Institutional Neighborhood Alliance (SINA)
Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance (SINA) is a partnership between Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Hartford Hospital and Trinity College that works cooperatively with the community to develop leadership and improve the economic, physical and social characteristics of Hartford’s Frog Hollow, Barry Square and South Green neighborhoods. The partnership has promoted homeownership, jobs for neighborhood residents, and community commercial development.

  • University of Pennsylvania, Netter Center for Community Partnerships
The Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships of the University of Pennsylvania fosters community-oriented real-world problem solving. The Center has been a national leader in the development of academically based community service and community school partnerships. By linking theory with application, the Center works to create a mutually beneficial relationship between the University and the West Philadelphia community.

  • Wagner University, Port Richmond Partnership
In Staten Island, Port Richmond has experienced a large growth in its immigrant population, especially from Mexico. This rapid influx has deeply influenced the social and economic fabric of Port Richmond and has created complex needs in the areas of health care, education, arts and culture, housing, and employment. Since the partnership program was launched in 2008, partners have worked to build significant, sustainable, and increasingly ambitious partnerships. To date, 40 percent of Wagner College undergraduate students have at least one community experience in which they work with and learn from the residents of Port Richmond.





  • update-img-new

    Get updates on what's new in the Campus Compact Network