Netter Center Director Ira Harkavy has written and lectured on the role of anchor institutions, particularly higher education institutions and academic medical centers ("eds and meds"), since the 1990s. The Netter Center published, “Anchor Institutions Toolkit: A Guide for Neighborhood Revitalization" in 2008 with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The Toolkit draws on Penn's experience in working to revitalize the West Philadelphia community in collaboration with a range of key stakeholders. The Netter Center works in close partnership with the Office of Executive Vice President on issues of community economic development that help advance Penn's role as an anchor institution.
Partnerships between anchor institutions and communities has gained increased impetus over the last decade, particularly through the work of the Anchor Institutions Task Force (AITF). In 2009 the Task Force on Anchor Institutions, an ad hoc national panel chaired by Ira Harkavy, advised the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on how the agency could “strategically leverage anchor institutions, particularly institutions of higher education and medical centers (‘eds and meds’), to improve their local communities and help solve significant urban problems.” Soon after the task force submitted its report, “Anchor Institutions as Partners in Building Successful Communities and Local Economies,” it became a permanent, formal organization, the AITF, with the mission of forging democratic civic partnerships involving anchor institutions. The AITF, which has grown to include approximately 700 individual members, is guided by the core values of collaboration and partnership, equity and social justice, democracy and democratic practice, and commitment to place and community. Marga Incorporated administers AITF, with Harkavy continuing to serve as chair. The development of this group as a permanent organization has helped bring the idea of anchor institutions increasingly into national academic and policy discussions.
The following publications by Ira Harkavy and colleagues describe the role of universities as democratic anchor institutions: