In early June, Anchor Learning Network (ALN) members immersed themselves in a three-day virtual convening with the primary purpose of exploring the various implications that the COVID-19 pandemic has on institutions, communities and collective efforts. ALN is a CUMU member-only community created and managed in partnership with The Democracy Collaborative (TDC) and with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Participants of the convening devoted significant energy to critically examine the role of place-based power in addressing community needs. This required all of us, individually and collectively, to delve deeply into the relationship between the anchor mission and racial equity.

The convening kicked off with a webinar, Perspectives from Main Street: Constructing a Resilient Future Post COVID-19, in partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The network then explored collective hopes. Ted Howard, TDC president and co-founder, expressed the importance of anchor work and its connection to constructing more inclusive futures:

“Community engagement, reparative justice, racial inclusion, and anchor-community-co-led economic development are only luxuries if our institutions do not embrace the anchor mission and understand that such programs and policies are as central to higher education in the 21st century as teaching, learning and service have been in the 20th century.”

This statement provided a helpful reminder to all participants, who are currently navigating what many express as the most challenging period they can recall, both professionally and personally.

Day two of the convening began with plenary, which you can view online, and breakout groups by leaders within the network, Jennifer Britton from Drexel University and Bill Cook from Weber State University. The session featured examples of how Drexel,Weber, and their home communities have addressed certain inequities that have been magnified during the pandemic.

The final day of the convening focused explicitly on racial equity. The network had the privilege of taking part in a moderated discussion led by Angela Carlberg, project manager at TDC’s Racial Equity and Democratic Economy division. Network members articulated the importance of power dynamics with communities and noted that ‘soft solidarity’ is not enough; there must be meaningful shift and anti-racist action.

The conversation and dialogue is still going, and the following resources were shared after the convening. We think these may be helpful for all.