Dear AITF Members:

As you know, policy advocacy is a growing aspect of the Anchor Institutions Task Force’s work. This must be the case, given the magnitude of need. Never before in modern times has the need for anchor institutions to participate in democratic and mutually transformative partnerships in their communities been more starkly apparent. This expansion of AITF’s policy-oriented work is a direct outgrowth of the extraordinary times in which anchor institutions are situated in their localities. We have continued to showcase how anchor institutions have been engaging in their communities during the pandemic and in a context in which persistent racial inequities have been highly illuminated. Our policy work is a logical extension of how we have continued to improve our understanding of how anchor institutions are navigating crises in their communities.

Our policy efforts began with our inaugural policy brief, Pursuing Just and Equitable Communities, which we released at the end of last year. This brief has been circulating widely at all levels of government. We are generally receiving intriguing and sometimes enthusiastic responses. Many recognize that we must pursue creative and intentional action that harnesses existing local assets to solve pressing problems. Indeed, this is what has been taking place over the last several months. But we need a much greater level of support appropriate for the moment. Thanks very much to the AITF members who have been actively helping spread the word, circulate the brief, and stimulate ideas about how government can collaborate with anchor institutions in reimagining and rebuilding communities in the years to come.

Our first brief was just the beginning. We will continue to vet and develop relevant ideas and engage policymakers from numerous related angles. We remain open to ideas from members that we can incorporate into briefs. Our second policy brief, The Infrastructure Trust/Jobs Initiative, was developed based on an idea from AITF Advisory Council Member and President of the New World Foundation, Colin Greer. This brief complements our first one with its emphasis on the hard work that will be required to strengthen communities in the wake of the pandemic. This particular brief highlights the necessary infrastructure work that can build and restore schools, hospitals, bridges and roads and create jobs in the process. It is now circulating among various officials.


Our next webinar will bring together some of those we have engaged, who have been considering some of the important ways in which anchor institutions and policymakers can collaborate in equitable growth in localities and regions. Please Save the Date: April 19 at 1 pm Eastern for this informative webinar, Anchor Institutions and Public Policy Toward Just and Equitable Communities. During this discussion, we will hear from representatives from U.S. Federal agencies and local policymakers on creative community and economic development strategies in challenging times.



As we are focused on the United States in the core of our policy engagement, we remain aware that the dynamics we are addressing are global, as our continued collaboration with the Council of Europe and others reminds us. Notice the March 16 IAU webinar in our list of resources on Higher Education’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, which will explore international perspectives on similar circumstances. The webinar is based on a book by the same title, which is also indicated among the resources below. Thanks to all of you for your significant endeavors and participation in AITF on this journey to redouble our efforts to bring about sustainable community change through democratic anchor institution-community partnerships.

Best Regards,


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Here are some relevant resources and updates from our field:


Community Engagement Grants for Small and Rural Libraries

The American Library Association (ALA) is currently accepting applications for Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC): Focus on Small and Rural Libraries, a grant initiative that will distribute nearly $2 million to libraries to help them address issues of concern in their communities. All library types are eligible! The deadline is March 4.

edX Course – Introduction to University Social Responsibility

The course describes the theoretical underpinnings of University Social Responsibility (USR). It showcases some effective practices and activities carried out in institutions around the world. The course also promotes understanding of the USR concept, its implications, impacts, evaluation, possible implementation methods, and replicability.

Second Edition of the Global Survey: “Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education around the World”

Following the first edition of the Global Survey on The Impact of Covid-19 on Higher Education around the World, the International Association of Universities (IAU) and partners are pleased to launch a second edition of the Global Survey one year into the pandemic. By taking part in this IAU Global Survey, you will be able to share how your institution has been affected by the pandemic, how it has responded, and also what are the key challenges and opportunities for the future.

IAU Webinar Series on the Future of Higher Education – Higher Education’s Response to The Covid-19 Pandemic: Building A More Sustainable and Democratic Future

To better understand “Higher education’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic”, the Council of Europe has published a book, co-edited by representatives from the Council, the International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility and Democracy, and the International Association of Universities, describing the various ways in which higher education is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is designed to help universities, specifically their staff, students, and partners, contribute to a more sustainable and democratic future. Authors who contributed to the book will be webinar panelists. The webinar will be hosted on Tuesday, 16 March 2021 | 2:30 pm CET (Paris time, GMT +1). Please see the book announcement and this is the registration link.


Bergan, S., Gallagher, T., Harkavy, I., Munck, R. and Land, H.V. eds (2021 forthcoming). Higher Education’s Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic – Building a More Sustainable and Democratic Future. Strasbourg: Council of Europe Higher Education Series No. 25.


Change Agent – For Taneshia Nash Laird, the Arts Are an Opportunity to Uplift a Community

February 24, 2021

Since 2018, Taneshia Nash Laird has been the president and CEO of Newark Symphony Hall, one of the Garden State’s oldest and largest venues. Her role positions her well to accomplish her vision. Laird’s goal is threefold: restore the historic venue to its glory days with a major renovation; expose local artists, especially those of color, through dynamic programming; and create career opportunities for residents of the Newark area.

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5 Keys to a More Student-Equity-Centric Future in Higher Ed

February 17, 2021

A new white paper “Five Themes for Centering Student Equity” out of the University of Utah’s Sorenson Impact Center outlines five ways to move higher education toward a student-equity-centric future. The report pointed out that “The Covid-19 pandemic has underscored the role of institutions of higher education as anchor institutions that provide critical health, transportation and economic support, despite uncertainty around public investment in higher education.”

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Tough Choices: Falling Enrollment, COVID Pressure College Cities And Towns

February 16, 2021

It is the first in a series of articles by Forbes about how U.S. communities are coping with fallout from the closure of small colleges and learning institutions. Declining enrollments in private and four-year colleges owing to demographics, the COVID-19 pandemic and tougher restrictions on foreign enrollment, such as from China, are putting financial pressure on private and four-year colleges.

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Scarborough Anchor Institutions Launch New Awards Program to Recognise Local Heroes During Pandemic

February 16, 2021

Anchor institutions in Scarborough including Centennial College, Scarborough Health Network (SHN), Toronto Zoo and University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) are launching the Scarborough Hero Awards. This new awards initiative aims to recognize those who have gone above and beyond to serve the local community in very substantive and impactful ways.

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To Become ‘Anchor Institutions,’ Colleges Should Operate Like Social Enterprises

February 14, 2021

A large part of what colleges do, beyond simply “delivering qualifications”, has not been fully recognised over the years and disregards the positive impact that FE (Further Education) has socially and economically across entire regions in the UK. Encouragingly, the FE sector has started to reflect on this collectively over the past year, through the Independent Commission on the College of the Future and its recognition of colleges as “anchor Institutions”. One way for FE sector to maximise this potential could be operating more like social enterprises – the definition of which already sounds exactly like an FE college: “An organisation whose main goal is promoting social or environmental welfare rather than making or maximising profits.”

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Albion College Works to Revitalise Struggling Downtown

February 13, 2021

Albion Michigan downtown, about 100 miles west of Detroit in southern mid-Michigan, is no longer booming. The budget of Albion College, the town’s only anchor institution remaining, is under serious pressure particularly during this pandemic when students aren’t on campus. There are 90 or so small colleges in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan that are facing similar problems.

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Can Urban Universities Be Better Neighbors?

February 10, 2021

“Universities are among the most powerful institutions in advanced society,” said Ira Harkavy, an associate vice president and founding director of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania. As such, Harkavy and many colleagues see an ethical imperative for universities to do more to contribute to their local communities. The idea has caught on in academic administration; dubbed the anchor movement, this approach to managing the business of running a university also takes the community into account.

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A Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity for Universities to Shape a Just and Sustainable Future

February 4, 2021

The mixture of research, learning, and engagement activities — combined with asset and investment profiles, underpinned by a civicbenefit imperative — make universities uniquely placed to champion and facilitate regenerative approaches to (re)building local economies and communities. Griffith University Yunus Centre suggests use Anchor models as a framework for this work, and offer opportunities for universities to further their core business whilst intentionally prioritising societal wellbeing. With this provocation, they aim to stimulate dialogue and action around Anchor Institution approaches, missions and collaboratives.

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The Guide: What Cultural Institutions Need to Know about Investing for Values and Mission

The Guide: What Cultural Institutions Need to Know about Investing for Values and Mission from Upstart Co-Lab, produced in collaboration with Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, offers a primer for leaders of museums and other cultural institutions on how they can harness their endowment assets to maximize social and environmental impact.

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The Role of Public Libraries in the Development of Social Capital in Local Communities – a Theoretical Study

Social capital, understood as intangible community values available through a network of connections, is a factor in the development of societies and improving quality of life. It helps to remove economic inequalities and prevent poverty and social exclusion, stimulate social and regional development, civic attitudes and social engagement and build a civic society as well as local and regional identity. Many of these tasks may be implemented by libraries, which, apart from providing access to information, may also offer a number of services associated with social needs. The purpose of this paper is to present the roles and functions that libraries may serve in local communities in terms of assistance, integration and development based on classical social capital theories.

Reference: Wojciechowska, M. D. (2021). The role of public libraries in the development of social capital in local communities–a theoretical study. Library Management, 42(3).

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University-Rural Community Partnership for People-Centred Development : Experiences from Makhado Municipality, Limpopo Province

This article presents a step by step community engagement approach that the University of Venda’s Centre for Rural Development and Poverty Alleviation has followed since May 2006 to facilitate people-centred rural development processes in 47 villages of Makhado Municipality, Limpopo Province. About 60 students and nine academic staff members from various University departments are involved. Central to the work are more than 200 village-based ‘Foot Soldiers’. To date, vibrant village-level community engagement platforms have been established. Also, Ward development plans have been crafted with active involvement of grassroots communities.

Reference: Mokganyetji, T., Dube, B., Francis, J., & Chitapa, T. (2021). University-rural community partnership for people-centred development: experiences from Makhado Municipality, Limpopo Province. South African Journal of Higher Education , 24(3).

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