The Philadelphia Higher Education Network for Neighborhood Development (PHENND) began in 1987 with representatives from five colleges and universities. In the spring of 1991, interest in PHENND began to increase, witnessed by an organizational meeting that drew over twenty participants from higher educational institutions throughout the area. In 1992, PHENND co-sponsored and was the lead organization of Philadelphia’s Summer of Service Project, part of an initial effort in President Clinton’s National Service Program. The program, Immunize Children At-Risk Early (ICARE), involved the coordination of 12 higher educational institutions through PHENND , the City’s Health Department, the Greater Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition, and the School District of Philadelphia, as well as other organizations. In 1993, PHENND began to hold regular meetings and policy workshops with local, state, and federal officials.
Metropolitan-area higher ed collaboration was strengthened in 1994 when several Philadelphia-area institutions received grants through Pennsylvania Campus Compact to develop a corps of part-time service scholars. Managing the only part-time corps in the nation, the Philadelphia program coordinators met regularly, helping solidify a regional approach to national service. The program was so successful it became a model for the current “Ed-only” AmeriCorps award, administered by the Corporation for National Service.
In 1997, PHENND received a major grant from the Corporation for National Service as part of the first round of higher education consortia awards under the Learn and Serve program. Since that time, PHENND has grown from an organization of five colleges and universities to over 30 and from 25 individuals to over 3,000.
Since 1997, PHENND has held an annual conference, which draws higher ed faculty, students, and administrators as well as representatives of community based organizations and public schools to discuss issues pertaining to campus-community partnership. The 2016 PHENND Conference, which drew over 120 participants from Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, focused on Environment and Sustainability. The keynote speaker was Patrick Morgan, Philadelphia Director of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Patrick discussed many of the interesting collaborations driving new re-design projects around the city, drawing heavily from his time in the City of Philadelphia’s Parks & Recreation Department.
PHENND also provides training and technical assistance to numerous university- and community-based practitioners on a wide variety of topics including student volunteer training, service-learning, community-based research, and the best practices of partnership. In addition to supporting the work of member institutions, PHENND also coordinates its own programs which bring the resources of the PHENND Network to bear on particular issues or problems. Current initiatives include the K-16 Partnerships Network and the School-Community Partnerships VISTA Project and the GEAR UP College Readiness Program.
PHENND’s growth signals an increasing recognition that significant curricular and co-curricular benefits can result when student and faculty members focus their research on working with the community. Finally, the PHENND approach provides a way to more effectively educate students for citizenship by providing them with opportunities to serve.
PHENND provides increased hope that higher educational institutions will work together to help solve our country’s most pressing problems. For the Philadelphia area, PHENND signals a new kind of democratic partnership that will result in substantial benefits for the colleges, universities, schools and communities of our region.