In recent years, a growing number of colleges and universities around the United States have shifted to hyperlocal community engagement strategies. By concentrating efforts on a specific geographic area universities can achieve more in partnership with local families, residents, schools, and community organizations.Place-Based Justice Network
Over the past decade more and more institutions of higher education have begun to pursue a place-based community engagement strategy in order to further connect their campuses and communities. Recognizing the opportunity to learn from each other in order to advance their place-based strategies, in 2014, teams from 12 universities gathered at Seattle University for a two-day institute. Since the initial convening, teams from 25 universities have participated in three additional multi-day institutes organized by Seattle University and supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Individuals from these institutions have also participated in video conference Zoom calls to continue to exchange ideas and learn from each other. In February 2018, leaders from several of these universities met to clarify the purpose and structure of what has become known as the Place-Based Justice Network.
We define place-based community engagement as “a long-term university-wide commitment to partner with local residents, organizations, and other leaders to focus equally on campus and community impact within a clearly defined geographic area” (Yamamura & Koth, 2018). Frequently place-based community engagement initiatives utilize the concept of collective impact (Kania and Kramer 2011) and draw upon frameworks of anti-racism and anti-oppression.
Summer Institutes are national gatherings for practioners of Place-Based Community Engagement to connect, share lessons learned and explore different models for collaborating with community partners, faculty and students. These Institutes are typically 2.5 days long and include keynote speakers, plenary sessions, break out discussion and site visits. Details about the 2019 Place-Based Summer Institute is forthcoming.
The 2018 Place-Based Justice Institute was hosted by Loyola University Maryland from June 6th to June 8th. Like previous Institutes, the 2018 Institute will continued to provide opportunities for teams from universities and their communities to learn from each other through plenaries, breakouts sessions, team planning time and site visits. Reflecting the evolving purpose of the Network, the Summer Institute had a more intensive focus on how place-based community engagement initiatives can combat racism through personal, organizational and institutional change and growth. Learn more at: https://2018placebasedsummerinstitute.eventbrite.com
Focusing on a place-based community engagement strategy invites institutions of higher education and their communities into a much deeper examination of how transformation and change occurs on campus and in communities. This exploration often leads to an analysis of how to address historic and current systems that disenfranchise people based upon race, gender, class, national origin and many other personal and communal identifiers. With this context in mind, the purpose of the Place-Based Justice Network is a learning community committed to transforming higher education and their local communities by deconstructing systems of oppression through place-based community engagement.
In pursuing its purpose the Network frequently challenges the mindset of “either or thinking” by drawing upon the concept of polarities management. “Polarities to manage are sets of opposites which can’t function well independently. Because the two sides of a polarity are interdependent, you cannot choose one as a “solution” and neglect the other” (Johnson, 1996). Some common polarities of place-based engagement are campus impact and community impact, individual change and systems change, and boldness and humility.
The values of the Place-Based Justice Network frame the annual summer institute as well as other activities.
The Place-Based Justice Network is a loosely structured coalition among universities and colleges and their communities. As the Network continues to evolve three working groups provide leadership and structure. These groups and their members include:
Network Steering Committee
Continuous Learning Working Group
Summer Institute Content and Planning 2018
The book Place-Based Community Engagement in Higher Education (Yamamura & Koth, 2018) presents the emerging model of place-based community engagement as a way for universities and their communities to attain more positive and enduring results in their local communities as well as stimulating wider engagement by campus constituencies. Drawing upon the case studies of five institutions that have implemented place-based community engagement initiatives, the authors provide guidance on the opportunities, challenges, and considerations involved in putting a place-based approach into effect. The book describes the routes each of the five institutions took to turn their place-based initiatives from concept to reality, and the results they achieved.
While an increasing number of universities have or are committed to engaging their campuses in their surrounding communities, many recognize they lack the strategic focus and resources to maximize and sustain their impact on those communities. Place-based community engagement provides a powerful way to creatively connect campus and community to foster positive social transformation.
Want to get involved? Reach out to Erin Burrows for more information about upcoming opportunities to connect including our monthly Zoom calls.