The Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU) recently convened the 2023 Anchor Learning Network (ALN) Action Summit in Philadelphia, PA. Bringing together leaders from over 30 CUMU member campuses, this two-day summit, hosted by the Anchor Economy Initiative at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, focused on the economic impact of campuses in their regions and featured engaging panels, workshops, and experiences designed to provide participants with actionable takeaways and deeper connections across the field.

“The work you do on behalf of your institutions in your communities has the power to change the lives of residents and to shape a more equitable future. Thank you for being here to learn from each other and advance that work,” said Theresa Singleton, senior vice president and community affairs officer, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

The imperative of anchor institutions

In his keynote address, Antonio D. Tillis, chancellor, Rutgers University-Camden, shared the vision for what is possible when a campus works with community partners to build equitable economic development. Colleges and universities work to provide diverse student populations with the experiences and the supports needed to succeed in college and throughout their lives. “Our role as an anchor institution provides those opportunities, which we deliver through our civic engagement programs,” said Tillis. He stressed that economic prosperity occurs only with a well-educated workforce. And that ability to educate our students aligns with our ability to elevate our community in ways never seen before in academe.

Antonio D. Tillis, chancellor, Rutgers University-Camden, delivering keynote address at CUMU 2023 Anchor Learning Network Action Summit

“Access and anchor are more than buzzwords—they are the characteristics by which universities will rise, or fall, in the 21st century,” said Tillis in his keynote address.

Understanding the economic impacts: The Anchor Economy Dashboard

Deborah Diamond, director, Anchor Economy, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, presented on the Anchor Economy Initiative , which was launched by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia in 2021. The Anchor Economy Initiative examines how hospitals and higher education institutions sustain jobs, drive economic growth, and support equitable regional development in 524 regions across the U.S. Diamond shared data that has just been added to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia Anchor Economy Dashboard and highlighted regions that have seen a change in their reliance on anchor institutions for regional economic activity. This data served as a jumping off point for a discussion about the role anchor institutions can and should play in broadening economic opportunity in their regions.

Cross-sector partnerships for regional resiliency

Effective economic development requires cross-sector partnerships. Sylvie Gallier Howard, Founder & CEO, Equitable Cities Consulting, moderated a panel on how higher education organizations and campuses are utilizing cross-sector partnerships to advance the anchor mission. The panel included Malik Brown, president and CEO, Graduate! Philadelphia; Andrew Flagel, president and CEO, Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area; and Kenyatta James, PAGE Director, Economy League. Each shared how their respective organizations partner across their regions to address workforce development, affordable housing, and local purchasing.

Workforce development in action

Attendees were treated to a visit to the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative (WPSI), one the nation’s most successful workforce development organizations. WSPI’s workforce recruitment and training program provides major Philadelphia employers with high-quality candidates, while working to address the issues of unemployment in high-poverty zip codes. WSPI leaders shared insights into their model and how it can be replicated in other communities.

Inclusive procurement

Drawing on practical experience from inclusive procurement initiatives in Buffalo, Memphis, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Newark and other cities, U3 Advisors led a workshop on how universities can move beyond baselining their spend data towards building analytic frameworks to interpret data and translate insights into concrete tactics. The workshop was led by Shea O’Neill, Vice President of Research, U3 Advisors; Antonina Simeti, Senior Associate U3 Advisors, Former Program Manager, Buffalo Purchasing Initiative; and Jennifer Barnes, Supplier Diversity and Sustainability Manager, University of Pittsburgh.

Representatives from U3 Advisors and University of Pittsburgh highlight inclusive procurement during the “Beyond the Baseline: Using Procurement Data to Define Concrete Tactics for Inclusive Procurement” panel.

The anchor mission on campus

Tim Hindes, principal and CEO, TrailBlaze Creative, facilitated large and small group activities designed to facilitate a rapid and effective advancement of the anchor mission through the development of promise statements to key stakeholders and the development of a headline of a media article five years from now that would demonstrate success. These conversations will be continued through ALN meetings held between now and the end of the year.

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