Penn & Philly shines light on community partnerships

The Office of the Executive Vice President launched the initiative in January, highlighting important service work across the University, the Health System, and Philadelphia.

View of Philadelphia skyline from campus

The Office of the Executive Vice President launched Penn & Philly, a new initiative that catalogues and communicates the University’s longtime and continued commitment as an anchor institution. From telling stories about Penn’s impact within the community and the community’s impact on Penn, to showcasing the institution’s collaborations with area nonprofits, Penn & Philly serves as a curated repository for sharing and inspiring projects.

The Office of the EVP, led by Craig Carnaroli, has regularly outlined the considerable economic impact of Penn and its Health System (its most recent report showcasing the institution’s generation of $15.5 billion in economic activity in Philadelphia in fiscal year 2020), but this new, years-in-the-making initiative hopes to unveil the institution’s overall social impact.

“Our physical presence as an anchor institution yields substantial benefits in terms of employment, tax revenue, and other multiplier effects,” says Carnaroli. “Penn & Philly provides a platform to improve transparency into the multitude of ways our schools and centers leverage their missions to address Philadelphia’s social challenges.”

Focus areas for Penn & Philly include:

  • Public education (collaborations between Penn and the School District of Philadelphia)
  • Healthy communities (how Penn advances Philadelphians’ overall health, safety, and well-being)
  • Knowledge in action (how Penn’s research contributes to innovative, practical solutions to Philadelphia’s biggest challenges)
  • Arts, culture, and recreation (the city’s artistic and creative experiences)
  • Economic opportunity (workforce and economic development programs, as well as employment opportunities)
  • Tomorrow’s industries (how Penn encourages and advances knowledge in Philadelphia, a city where life sciences thrive).

Currently, the Penn & Philly website displays stories on its main page about Penn Dental Medicine’s Division of Community Oral Health, which provides high-quality oral health care to people who might otherwise struggle to access it; PennAssist, which brought together a variety of collaborators to match young people with the most suitable trades; and WXPN’s Musicians on Call program, which connects musicians to hospital patients and their caregivers. Those interested can stay updated with Penn & Philly content through Instagram, and send questions, comments, and feedback to

david falcone playing guitar for a patient
Local musician and Musicians On Call volunteer David Falcone performs for a patient at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in January 2020.

“Penn and Philadelphia are family, and this website tells the story of our journey in, and with, and for Philadelphia,” says the Rev. Chaz Howard, Penn’s chaplain and vice president for Social Equity & Community. “Across the University and the Health System, and with community organizations in Philadelphia, we don’t always know all of the unique relationships and goals, so it’s important for awareness reasons, and creates an opportunity for new partnerships.”

As Netter Center for Community Partnerships Founding Director Ira Harkavy often says, Penn has an obligation to advance itself as an anchor institution, a concept he introduced and has developed throughout the years, and something the Office of the EVP has homed in on with Penn & Philly.

“It is so important that Penn function as a model democratic anchor institution that engages its academic, human, cultural, and institutional resources in partnership with its neighbors for the benefit of West Philadelphia, the city, the region, and for the University itself,” says Harkavy. “Penn & Philly is a much-needed step in sharing with others how Penn works with and for its community.”