Bringing It

Bringing It #103: PHENND, An Important New Book, and Job Application Reminders

April 13, 2023

Dear friends,

This issue of Bringing It spotlights PHENND (the Philadelphia Higher Education Network for Neighborhood Development) as an innovative example of place-based engagement that brings together over 25 higher education institutions in the Philadelphia region for networked action and learning. Place-based engagement, which focuses on institutional commitments to specific neighborhoods, cities, or regions, is an especially important area of innovation in higher education. A focus on place may allow staff, faculty, and students to consider the interconnection among different social issues and, if sustained with commitments across time, may provide opportunities to build mutually beneficial partnerships with community-based organizations. It holds promise for connecting pedagogy with community-based learning, research, and co-created projects; institutional resources with equitable development practices; and college access with local K-12 partnerships. A commitment to specific places, particularly those adjacent to higher education institutions, may also lead to assessments of institutional challenges, both current and past, and could lead to more authentic, honest, and equitable relationships moving forward.PHENND is a particularly important and innovative model of regionally focused engagement. PHENND connects institution-types that may be siloed in higher education, such as public and private universities, undergraduate liberal arts colleges, religious institutions, and community colleges. PHENND’s central staff facilitates long-term relationships among institutions and with key community partners. We also see PHENND bridging divides on campuses among staff, faculty, and students by creating opportunities for shared projects and learning on multiple kinds of issues within the Philadelphia region.We encourage readers who are inspired by PHENND’s example to connect with consortia and networks that are focused on institutional engagement, anchor partnerships, and place-based pedagogy, such as The Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU), the Anchor Institutions Task Force, and the Place-Based Justice Network. We also want to point out BT2P’s own PLACE Collaboratory. Among a very rich literature, we especially want to point out the latest issue of CUMU’s Metropolitan Universities Journal, which focuses on “The Pedagogy of Place-Based Initiatives and Anchor Institutions,” and also features articles by several BT2P partners; Erica Yamamura and Kent Koth’s Place-Based Community Engagement in Higher Education: A Strategy to Transform Universities and Communities; and Robin Bachin and Amy Howard’s new edited collection, Engaging Place, Engaging Practices: Urban History and Campus-Community Partnerships (described later in this issue).

PHENND: Networked Collaboration for Regional Impact

By Hillary Kane, PHENND Director, and Janine Wright, PHENND K-16 Partnerships Manager

The Philadelphia Higher Education Network for Neighborhood Development (PHENND) is a consortium of more than 25 colleges and universities in the greater Philadelphia area. Begun in 1987 and housed at the University of Pennsylvania, PHENND works to build the capacity of its member institutions to develop mutually beneficial, sustained, and democratic community-based service-learning partnerships. The consortium actively seeks to revitalize local communities and schools and foster civic responsibility among the region’s colleges and universities. PHENND provides a vehicle for coordinating and, where appropriate, combining the efforts of higher eds so that they can make a significant contribution to improving the entire Philadelphia region.PHENND has a two-fold mission: (1) to build capacity of higher education institutions to partner with communities and (2) to manage regional, multi-university initiatives that target higher ed resources in specific areas of need. Over the past ten years, we have added a third component to our work: to manage regional communities of interest (or subnetworks of PHENND) dedicated to advancing community engagement in key areas such as K-16 partnerships, college success, and sustainability.We have distilled the core functions of PHENND into five types of activities or strategies for network building:

  • Information Clearinghouse
  • Provider of training and technical assistance
  • One-on-one consultations
  • Convener of events and networking opportunities
  • Manager of regional programs

Over time, we have also developed subnetworks, or communities of interest within PHENND. They are:

  • K-16 Partnerships
  • College Success Network
  • Democratic Civic Engagement
  • PHENND Sustainability

PHENND holds significant AmeriCorps grants and is able to deploy AmeriCorps members in community organizations, on college campuses and in K-12 schools throughout the academic year. PHENND also hosts several community events including an annual conference and an annual K-16 Partnerships Institute, both designed to engage stakeholders in issues impacting K-12 education and beyond.These events and others serve not only to share important resources and information but to encourage and support collaboration and the cross pollination of ideas. We believe that the relationship building that occurs in these moments is the very heart of our work.

Networking relationships: More than the Sum of Their Parts

In 2020, PHENND undertook an exercise to determine just how effective we are being in terms of facilitating relationships and collaboration. We engaged in a social analysis study to better understand the relationships between campuses and communities and the strength of those relationships. We did so in order to determine the distribution of partnership and collaboration among Philadelphia higher education institutions in reference to campus community partnership work and determine which PHENND activities are most successful in the facilitation of networking and collaboration.Findings from this initial study:

  • The PHENND network is tightly connected and densely interwoven.
  • The PHENND Director has a high degree of centrality; that is, she is at the center of the majority of our networking relationships.
  • Network Leaders come from diverse institutions, but PHENND is crucial to connecting many of them.
  • Mutual participation in PHENND activities predicts a high level of collaboration between campuses, though no one specific activity is key to network centrality.

This process reinforced many things for us; (1) having staff dedicated to convenings is a key component of the strength of networks, (2) though no one activity spurred network centrality, the cumulative effect of participating in several PHENND activities was striking and (3) studying an agency’s social networks can be a way to measure and quantify the strength of agency relationships which can seem like they do not lend themselves well to analysis.While our initial entry into social analysis was a good starting point, there is still additional study to be done to determine ongoing effectiveness. We were, however, quite pleased with results showing PHENND’s centrality in building networks and partnerships.To read more about PHENND, and our exploration of social analysis methodology, please see this article in the Social Innovations Journal as well as our most recent Annual Report.

New Book: Engaging Place; Engaging Practices

BT2P celebrates the important new book edited by our friends Robin Bachin and Amy Howard, Engaging Place, Engaging Practices: Urban History and Campus-Community Partnerships. We expect that this collection of case studies rooted in public history will be of interest to educators, researchers, and administrators who wish to foster equitable and generative place-based partnerships.Bachin, Howard, and their contributors bring a wealth of experience to their contributions. Bachin, the Charles W. Tebeau Associate Professor of History and Assistant Provost for Civic and Community Engagement at the University of Miami, is the Director of the Miami Solutions Lab, which empowers communities to engage issues of climate change and affordable housing. Howard, the Senior Administrator for Equity and Community at the University of Richmond, is a leader on the Imagining America National Advisory Board and has numerous publications in the field of civic engagement. We know that their book will inspire and inform future place-based work. Congratulations!

BT2P Job Ads Reminders

The Narrative Change Strategist will lead the development of the Paradigm Project’s narrative change, communications, and public outreach strategies. They will generally oversee, and periodically contribute to, storytelling about the future of higher education, current educational innovations, and the goals of the project, and they will help to create tools and resources for the project’s movement-building work. This role requires a capacity for collaboration and complex relationship-building, as well as strong interest in the challenges, purpose, and future of higher education. It is a full-time position that can be either fully on-campus at Elon University or hybrid with regular campus visits. To learn more about the position and the qualities we hope to find in a candidate, visit Elon’s employment site: Communications Coordinator will oversee communications operations, content curation, and editing, including BT2P’s website, social media, biweekly Bringing It newsletters, and future platforms. Working with the Narrative Change Strategist, they will commission and publicize content about educational innovation and the goals and values of the Paradigm Project. They will supervise and be supported by student interns. This .75 position (30 hours per week) is based on campus at Elon University and carries full benefits. To learn more about this position and the qualities we hope to find in a candidate, visit Elon’s employment site: candidates should feel free to contact David ([email protected]) with questions about either position. The review of applications will begin on April 14th and will continue until the positions are filled.

With gratitude for all that you do,
David, Grace, Paul, and Todd