Our Mission

Our Mission

Founded in 1992, the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships is the University's primary vehicle for advancing civic and community engagement at Penn. It brings together the resources and assets of both the University and the wider community to help solve universal problems such as poverty, health inequities, environmental sustainability, and inadequate, unequal education as they are manifested in the University's local geographic area of West Philadelphia and Philadelphia at large. The Netter Center develops and helps implement democratic, mutually transformative, place-based partnerships between Penn and West Philadelphia that advance research, teaching, learning, and service. These partnerships help improve the quality of life on campus and in the community. The Netter Center works with and serves as a model for other higher education institutions across the United States and around the world.

Rationale for University Engagement

  • Penn’s future and the future of West Philadelphia and Philadelphia are intertwined.
  • Penn can make a significant contribution to improving the quality of life in West Philadelphia and Philadelphia.
  • Penn better fulfills its academic mission by working collaboratively with the community to help improve the quality of life in West Philadelphia and Philadelphia.
  • Penn will more fully realize Benjamin Franklin’s founding vision for the University, as well as higher education’s civic mission in general, through working in partnership with its neighbors.


  • Develop and sustain democratic, mutually transformative, place-based partnerships between Penn and West Philadelphia.
  • Galvanize and engage the broad range of Penn resources, particularly its human resources of students, faculty, staff, and alumni, to work with and contribute to West Philadelphia.
  • Strengthen civic and community engagement across the University so that it becomes more central to Penn.
  • Educate Penn students to be creative, compassionate, ethical citizens who significantly contribute to the welfare of others.
  • Advance academic engagement and learning with the community to generate knowledge that helps solve real-world problems.
  • Improve education and schooling at all levels through higher education-community partnerships.
  • Create and strengthen regional, national, and international networks of institutions of higher education working collaboratively with their local communities.
  • Build a global movement of engaged higher education institutions and academics to advance democracy and social change.

The Netter Center implements the following strategies to advance its mission

  • Academically Based Community Service (ABCS), involving collaborative real-world problem solving that is rooted in and connected to research, teaching, learning, and service.
  • University-Assisted Community Schools (UACS), a comprehensive, collaborative approach to neighborhood and school improvement that educates, engages, empowers, and serves not only public students, but also all other members of the community.
  • Anchor Institution Approach, in which universities engage and integrate their extraordinary intellectual and institutional resources in significant and sustained community-development partnerships.
  • Inclusive participatory governance involving students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members.
  • Regional, national, and global adaptation of the aforementioned strategies.
  • Evaluation of impact at Penn, in West Philadelphia, and beyond.

Read more about Our Approach.

Read more about Netter's Anti-Racism Working Group.

Francis Bacon

"It is not possible to run a course aright when the goal itself has not been rightly placed."

Francis Bacon (1620)