Dear AITF Members:

The first few weeks of 2021 have been eventful to say the least. So much of the world has been defined by a traumatic and deadly pandemic that continues to define our existence. The economic crisis shaped by COVID-19’s persistence has left devastation with longstanding impacts. Throughout recent months, highly visible racial injustices were followed by widespread activism forcing a necessary reckoning regarding deep historical oppression that pervades all dimensions of our society. An election in the U.S. suggested a path to change at the end of last year.

But 2021 began with an assault on the truth of the results of a free and fair election. The violent insurrection of January 6 on the U.S. Capitol was an assault on democracy in general as well as demonstration of the virulence and persistence of racism, white supremacy and antisemitism. The election organizing that tapped into the power of a diverse populous shaped the results of the election. Racist domestic terrorists, threatened by this reality, and aided and encouraged by dangerous untruths at the highest levels of government felt emboldened deny the voice of the majority. They felt entitled to overturn the results of a highly legitimate election by force. Even the ease with which insurrectionists breached the building reminded us of perilous racial injustices and inequities, as we know the massive force that would have met a Black Lives Matter protest.

Democratic values are fundamental to AITF. Furthermore, the collaborative pursuits of our members depend on a healthy democracy. This is certainly a time when AITF must continue to advance our values of social justice and equity, a commitment to place, collaboration, and democracy and democratic practice more than ever. Democracy and justice are never guaranteed, so we must continue to promote the principles that guide our work. We must also recognize that we have not nearly realized the promise of diverse, equitable, and inclusive democracy. This is a continuous project that never ends.

The hard work of forging effective, just, and inclusive democracies starts locally. When anchor institutions are engaged in their communities and participating in collaborative efforts to bring about solutions to pressing challenges in their localities, they are contributing to the pursuit of healthy, economically just, educated, and anti-racist democratic societies. AITF provides an action-oriented learning community designed to strengthen anchor institutions’ ability to play this important democratic role.

The inauguration of a new U.S. President (and historic Vice President) on January 20 signifies a new direction, and possibly a greater opportunity for the kinds of endeavors pursued by our membership. As you know, in recent months, AITF has been emphasizing policies that can incentivize and strengthen the democratic engagement of anchor institutions in their communities. As we launch our policy strategy, we will communicate with policymakers and officials at all levels of government.

We will also continue facilitating engagement among members in subgroups and other formations. Additionally, AITF will build on our continued effort to showcase anchors’ efforts to collaboratively solve problems in their communities during these extraordinary times. In the months to come, you can expect additional publications with examples of how anchors are responding to the pandemic and webinars. As we continue to operate virtually throughout 2021, we have a very full agenda designed to strengthen the contributions anchor institutions can bring to their communities through democratic partnerships during extraordinary times.

Finally, AITF has always stressed the need for intentional action to sustain anchor institutions’ commitment to AITF’s values. One very important aspect of this this endeavor is to build the next generation of leaders of anchors. A couple of years ago, we launched our Anchor Fellows Program. We suspended the program last year due to the pandemic to allow our first cohort to fulfill their activities this year. Therefore, we are now seeking our next cohort of Fellows for 2022. (Apply Here) Please feel free to spread the word. The deadline for applications is May 1.

Best Regards,



The Obama Foundation Scholars Program Application Information

The Obama Foundation Scholars Program at Columbia University has opened the application to identify the 2021-2022 cohort of Scholars. Each year, the program brings together rising leaders from around the world who have demonstrated a commitment to finding solutions to challenges in their communities, countries, and regions to participate in an academic year-long leadership development program. For the first time, the program is welcoming applications from emerging leaders in the United States. The application will close on February 5, 2021 at 5pm.

The FY 2021 Promise Neighborhoods Competition Application Information

According to the Office of Elementary & Secondary Education, Department of Education, the FY 2021 Promise Neighborhoods Competition for new awards is now open. Please refer to this link for Applicant Info and Eligibility . The purpose of Promise Neighborhoods is to significantly improve the educational and developmental outcomes of children and youth in our most distressed communities. The program provides funding to support eligible entities, including (1) nonprofit organizations, which may include faith-based nonprofit organizations, (2) institutions of higher education, and (3) Indian tribes in partnership with their local schools and local education agencies.


RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers School of Public Health Lead Pledge Declaring that Racism is a Public Health Crisis

January 17, 2021

In recognition of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and 402 years of racism in the country, RWJBarnabas Health and the Rutgers School of Public Health join others around the nation to declare that racism is a public health crisis and that Black Lives Matter. “As anchor institutions within our communities, we must lead the way in addressing racial and social inequities that impact the health and well-being of our diverse communities,” said DeAnna Minus-Vincent, Senior Vice President, Chief Social Integration & Health Equity Strategist for RWJBarnabas Health. Read More…

Groundbreaking Community Workforce Agreement for UCSF Parnassus Heights Project is Boon for Local Jobs, Economy

January 17, 2021

On January 16th, UC San Francisco, the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council (BCTC), and Herrero Boldt Webcor (HBW) announced a Community Workforce Agreement (CWA) that will promote collaboration between the University, labor unions and construction firms during the construction of the new hospital at UCSF Helen Diller Medical Center at Parnassus Heights. The pact, the first of its kind for the University of California system, is a formal agreement between BCTC and HBW, the general contractor hired by UCSF. It ensures that the $3 billion building project will employ a union workforce with strong representation of local labor. Read More…

Department of Education – Applications for New Awards; Full-Service Community Schools Program

January 16, 2021

The U.S. Department of Education just opened a new round of applications for its federal Full-Service Community School grants. You can find information about this program, including how to apply and priority areas, here.

Regional Skills High on Agenda with Nationally Leading Partnership

January 14, 2021

A new regional skills partnership in the Sheffield City Region is formed by , the University of Sheffield and other anchor institutions to tackle current and future skills shortages in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Regional Post-18 Education Partnership has been developed to identify positive and practical actions which can impact the most disadvantaged young people and adults in the region as they enter the post-18 system through education or work. Read More…

Privilege and Racism: Numbers Count, in Many Different Ways

January 14, 2021

Earl Lewis and Nancy Cantor argued that “as we complete our autopsies of what went wrong this past week, let’s make sure we center the role and place of numbers. Numbers can fuel lies and encourage destruction or they can be used to guide a healthy, inclusive, forward-looking democracy.” Read More…

Community-University Engagement in a Time of COVID-19

December 28, 2020

Community-university engagement is moving ahead at an accelerated pace, not as an academic fashion, but because bringing together all manners of knowledge from community wisdom to epidemiology is a matter of our very survival. COVID-19, it could be said, is advancing a new architecture of knowledge. COVID-19 has underlined the importance of community-university engagement and now is the time to build on what we have learned from the experience of the pandemic. Read More…

We Examined Emergency COVID-19 Giving in the Region. Here’s What We Learned

December 17, 2020

The Lenfest Foundation and William Penn Foundation funded Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia and the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania (CHIP) to gather and examine data about the relief grantmaking and develop a regional COVID-19 Response Dashboard that compiles the data in one place. The dashboard ultimately seeks to use data to support a more informed, coordinated, and equitable regional response to the COVID pandemic among funders. Click here to read about their findings.

We Must Not Return to ‘Normal’: Seizing Our Opportunity to Rethink Health and Health Care in New York

December 15, 2020

“We know that health and wellness depends not only on healthcare delivery, but also on those social determinants of health that interfere with that delivery. We must preserve the safety net by investing in community-based anchor institutions such as SBH, which has consistently exhibited a commitment to broad-based Bronx community partnerships aimed at improving the lives of the residents of the Bronx”, written by David Perlstein, MD MBA FAAP, President and CEO of SBH Health System. Read More…

Universities Should Be Drivers of Local Sustainability

December 12, 2020

Universities should reinvigorate the civic role of institutions to build ecologically and socially resilient communities as part of their efforts to help lead the United Kingdom’s strategy for tackling climate change, according to a new report. To do this, they should collaborate more locally, building alliances between scientists, artists, politics and society, particularly from marginalised communities, and become drivers of transition to sustainability in their local community. Read More…

Columbia Students Threaten to Withhold Tuition Fees amid Covid Protest

December 5, 2020

Almost 1,800 students at Columbia University in New York are threatening to withhold tuition fees in 2021, in the latest signal to US academia of widespread preparedness to act on demands to reduce costs and address social justice issues relating to labor, investments and surrounding communities. Read More…


The Intersection of Faith and Community Engagement at Urban Institutions, Vol. 31, No.3 (2020)

Summary: In a year that has featured a global health pandemic, a racial justice political-social movement, and a divisive political election that stretches democratic principles, the topic of faith and community engagement may seem more prescient than ever. The exploration of the intersection of faith and community engagement at anchor institutions, though, began prior to all of these events. Yet, the topics that emerge in this special issue of Metropolitan Universities journal are even more relevant in our current context, as scholars, practitioners, and community partner co-authors explore the relationship between faith traditions and engagement in the community.

Full Journal

The Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, Vol. 24, No. 3, December 2020 Issue.

The December 2020 Issue of the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement has covered a wide range of topics and studies such as the effect of national policy on community social capital, higher education extension works for community engagement, the effectiveness of an educational project on philanthropy, and the effectiveness of a precollege STEM outreach program. This issue also includes case studies related to civic engagement initiatives, partnerships, community-engaged scholarships, and a book review, Awakening Democracy Through Public Work: Pedagogies of Empowerment.

Full Journal

Anchoring the social economy at the metropolitan scale: Findings from the Liverpool City Region

This article revisits debates on the contribution of the social economy to urban economic development, specifically focusing on the scale of the city region. It presents a novel tripartite definition – empirical, essentialist, holistic – as a useful frame for future research into urban social economies. Findings from an in-depth case study of the scale, scope and value of the Liverpool City Region’s social economy are presented through this framing. This research suggests that the social economy has the potential to build a workable alternative to neoliberal economic development if given sufficient tailored institutional support and if seen as a holistic integrated city-regional system, with anchor institutions and community anchor organizations playing key roles.

Reference: Thompson, M., Southern, A., & Heap, H. (2020). Anchoring the social economy at the metropolitan scale: Findings from the Liverpool City Region. Urban Studies, 0042098020972654.

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Educational leadership in the time of a pandemic: Lessons from two institutions

Abstract: Over the course of a few weeks in March, COVID-19 upended the daily lives of Americans. Academic Medical Centers became a center-point for the response to the virus. In this article, we describe some key themes identified and lessons learned as educational leaders during this time. We provide examples of these lessons and themes and make recommendations for how to approach educational decision-making in the “new normal” of living with COVID-19 for the immediate future.

Reference: Aagaard, E. M., & Earnest, M. Educational leadership in the time of a pandemic: Lessons from two institutions. FASEB BioAdvances.

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