Press Release: Six Universities Partner with The Democracy Collaborative to Develop and Share Best Practices for Measuring Community Impact

Learning cohort will build off the recommendations in The Democracy Collaborative’s report "The Anchor Dashboard"


Takoma Park, MD — November 19th, 2014

The Democracy Collaborative, with the support of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, has convened a group of anchor institution leaders from six universities to explore how to better align their operations to benefit the places they call home.

Building off the recommendations in The Democracy Collaborative’s 2013 report The Anchor Dashboard , the Learning Cohort will work to develop shared best practices for measuring the impact of colleges and universities on their surrounding communities. Charles Rutheiser, Senior Associate in the Center for Community and Economic Opportunity at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, described the convening of this community of practice as “ an exercise in discovering how anchors and foundations can work together to ensure that both institutions and communities can thrive."

The six universities which have agreed participate in the Learning Cohort to develop and pilot these shared metrics are:

  • Cleveland State University (Cleveland, Ohio)
  • Drexel University (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
  • The University of Memphis (Memphis, Tennessee)
  • The University of Missouri-St. Louis (St. Louis, Missouri)
  • Rutgers University-Newark (Newark, New Jersey)
  • SUNY Buffalo State (Buffalo, New York)

The resulting metrics, developed and refined in light of the six participating anchor institutions’ experiences and aspirations, will provide a key component for evidence-based strategies to leverage the economic and institutional resources of anchors for community benefit by helping universities share successes and lessons learned within a common framework. The projected framework will also help universities align their internal operations for effective community benefit—as John Anderson Fry, President of Drexel University put it, to “embed [this work] in the DNA of the institution.” According to Associate Provost and Dean Kevin Railey of Buffalo State, “these indicators frame the overall discussion of how universities and colleges contribute to the public good beyond their students. We invest money all the time, but how do we have our mission in mind when we do so? Without something like this there are particular areas that people don’t think are our responsibility. This is a tool to create rich conversations with people on our campus. It’s aspirational.”

Moreover, such a framework will also help universities make the case for the value of their impact to the public. Michael Howell-Moroney of the University of Memphis explained that universities “do a lot of work–but how do we quantify it? How do we provide that Rosetta stone to translate to others so that they understand the value?” Such conversations are key in developing more mutually beneficial long-term relationships between universities and communities; as Nancy Cantor, Chancellor of Rutgers University – Newark, asks “How do we have a parallel, if not intersecting, dashboard that allows us to get a sense for the levers of institutional transformation as well as community transformation?”

The commitment by the leadership of these six universities to participate in the Anchor Dashboard Learning Cohort represents an important milestone in the growing movement around embracing an “anchor mission” at educational and medical institutions across the country. As Democracy Collaborative Executive Director Ted Howard notes in his introduction to The Anchor Dashboard , “... local human and economic relationships link institution well-being to that of the community in which it is anchored. Increasingly, anchor institutions across the nation are realizing this interdependence and are expanding their public or nonprofit mission to incorporate what we call an “anchor mission.” In other words, they are consciously applying their long-term, place-based economic power, in combination with their human and intellectual resources, to better the long-term welfare of the communities in which they reside.”

About The Democracy Collaborative:

The Democracy Collaborative is a national non-profit research institution dedicated to developing new ways to build community wealth and stronger local economies. For more information about the Collaborative, visit For more information about The Anchor Dashboard, visit


John Duda, Communications Coordinator

The Democracy Collaborative


Phone: (202) 559-1473 x102

Twitter: @democracycollab