What Does an Anchor Mission Require? Universities Search for Answers

Posted by Nonprofit Quarterly on November 19, 2019

Last month, university leaders at two conferences took a hard look at the state of community engagement and what attendees at both conferences called an “anchor mission.” One of those organizations, the Coalition of Urban Metropolitan Universities (CUMU), brought together in Philadelphia a record crowd of nearly 500 people from its 100-plus member campuses under the theme “All In: The Urban Mission.” The other, the Anchor Institutions Task Force (AITF), which celebrated its tenth anniversary and gathered maybe 150 people, focused entirely on the role of universities and other place-based anchor institutions.

A lot has happened with respect to anchor institutions in the past decade. Ten years ago, anchor institutions existed as kind of an esoteric, quasi-academic concept. Today, the idea that institutions have an anchor mission is widely, albeit not universally, accepted. For example, 31 of the 105 member institutions of CUMU are participating in a three-year cohort called the Anchor Learning Network, which serves as a peer network to “intentionally apply their economic power and human capital in a long-term partnership with their local communities, to improve mutual well-being.”

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