Anchor Institutions Task Force (AITF)

AITF 2017 Annual Conference: October 26-27, 2017, New York City 

Anchor Institutions Task Force Literature Review

AITF Economic Development Subgroup Metrics Template


The Anchor Institutions Task Force (AITF) is a growing network of over 700 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.

Anchor institutions are enduring organizations that are rooted in their localities.  It is difficult for them to leave their surroundings even in the midst of substantial capital flight.  The challenge to a growing movement is to encourage these stable local assets to harness their resources in order to address critical issues such as education, economic opportunity, and health.  It is difficult to imagine fragile local economies and widening social disparities changing without leveraging stable institutions, especially amidst a decline in government resources. These dynamics have given rise to the concept “anchors” as agents of community and economic development.

Since 2009, the AITF has hosted annual conferences, produced several publications, created professional development affinity groups, and established international partnerships.

AITF is an individual membership organization.   Individuals can join if they agree with the AITF’s principles and values. The general membership is free of charge.

Core values of the Anchor Institutions Task Force include:

  • Collaboration and Partnership
  • Equity and Social Justice
  • Democracy and Democratic Practice
  • Commitment to Place and Community


In winter 2008-2009, a national task force was convened to advise the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on how HUD could increase its impact and strategically leverage anchor institutions, particularly higher education and medical institutions (“eds and meds”), to improve communities and help solve significant urban problems.

The anchor task force’s report, “Anchor Institutions as Partners in Building Successful Communities and Local Economies,” was published, by the Penn Institute for Urban Research, along with nine other reports in a volume titled Retooling HUD for a Catalytic Federal Government: A Report to Secretary Shaun Donovan (2009). Soon after the report's publication, the ad hoc task force became a formal organization, the Anchor Institutions Task Force (AITF).  


More About the Task Force:

What We Do    Management and Administration    Evolution    Become a Member   Leadership


Relevant Documents:

Task Force Statement    Retooling HUD Executive Summary    Retooling HUD Chapter 8     AITF Member Affiliations    

Past AITF Conferences     2013 Literature Review

Thoughtful Pieces by Task Force Members:

Mega Sporting Events Can Bring Improvements by David Maurrasse

Journal of Higher Education, Outreach and Engagement, Volume 17(3) by a few AITF members in collaboration with others

Cooperating Across the Atlantic: Helping Realize Higher Education's Democratic Mission, by Sjur Bergan and Ira Harkavy

Anchor Institutions,  by U.S. Department of Housing and Development

Recent Speech by AITF Chair, Ira Harkavy

Democratic Devolution: How America's Colleges and Universities Can Strengthen Their Communities by Rita Axelroth Hodges and Ira Harkavy

The Road Half Traveled: University Engagement at a Crossroads, new book by Rita Axelroth Hodges and Steve Dubb

"What should Universities Do for Their Cities?" Zócalo Public Square, Responses by Nancy Cantor and Ira Harkavy among others

"It's Graduation Time-- So What Do We Want from Universities?" Huffington Post (May 26, 2011) by Nancy Cantor

The Promise and Prospects of Anchor Institutions: some thoughts on an emerging field" HUD  PD&R Edge (June 22, 2011) by Charles Rutheiser

Introductory Remarks at the  Reimagining Democratic Societies  Conference (June 27, 2011) by Ira Harkavy

Relevant Journal:

Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement

Task Force Members on the Air:

Ted Howard's interview with America's Tomorrow


Race & Equity in Philanthropy Group

The REPG brings together foundations committed to improving their ability to effectively promote racial equity in their operations and practices.