The Emerging Role of Universities in Collective Impact Initiatives for Community Benefit


  • Jason Smith Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Lynn Pelco Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Alex Rooke Virginia Commonwealth University



community engagement, anchor institutions, partnership, collective impact


Universities are increasing their efforts to more clearly demonstrate their social value. This article illustrates how higher education administrators can incorporate collective impact partnerships in their community benefit strategies. The article explores two of the more familiar paradigms for community benefit—community engagement and anchor institution. Collective impact principles and practices are then presented. Finally, a case study provides a tangible example of how one university’s role in a collective impact initiative transitioned in response to the community. We end the article with ten takeaways and an invitation for higher education administrators to identify their own learning and action steps that can help shift focus from proving to improving their institution’s value to the community.

Author Biographies

Jason Smith, Virginia Commonwealth University

Jason W. Smith, PhD, is the partnership executive director for Bridging Richmond and an administrative and professional faculty member in the Division of Community Engagement at Virginia Commonwealth University.


Jason W. Smith
Division of Community Engagement, Bridging Richmond
Virginia Commonwealth University
901 West Franklin Street
Box 842527
Richmond, VA 23284
Telephone: 804-828-3909

Lynn Pelco, Virginia Commonwealth University

Lynn E. Pelco, PhD, is the associate vice provost of community engagement in the Division of Community Engagement at Virginia Commonwealth University and holds a joint faculty appointment as professor in the VCU School of Education.

Alex Rooke, Virginia Commonwealth University

Alex Rooke is the network coordinator for Bridging Richmond, hosted by the Division of Community Engagement at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Alex Rooke
Division of Community Engagement, Bridging Richmond
Virginia Commonwealth University
901 West Franklin Street
Box 842527
Richmond, VA 23284
Telephone: 804-827-4581


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