Social Connectedness

Local Issue Civic Networks

Higher Education Institutions Dedicated to Collective Impact on Local Issues Through Civic Networks

A civic network is a clustered, multi-constituency approach to the issues of our time such as equitable access to quality and affordable education, social connectedness, and innovation for civic and economic prosperity.  Civic networking, then, is a process of building networks of constituents committed to local issues of mutual benefit or concern, collectively stimulating civic participation, and leading to a collective investment in strategic planning that is sustained over time and heavily action-focused.


The assets of the higher education are vast and challenging to quantify– whether it’s willing teams of students; faculty looking to make a difference and tackle issues with knowledge-sharing and research; higher ed leaders whose legacy is to move from piecemeal to community-wide. New Jersey Campus Compact is joining higher ed in the fight for the shared opportunity to prosper and contribute to society.


 Examples of Local Civic Networks

A small but inspiring sample of model networks are outlined below, and it is based on these localized  approaches to large-scale issues that New Jersey Campus Compact will advocate and convene around the issues we should stand together on.

Say Yes Syracus

Say Yes Syracuse

This national model deserves top spot on this inspirational list of local issue civic networks. Say Yes Syracuse is a coalition formed in order to deliver year-round, comprehensive supports to Syracuse City school students from K-12 through college, including FREE TUITION to admissions-eligible students. According to the Say Yes to Education Foundation report, Rebuilding Communities

“The program approaches educational improvement as a vehicle for transforming the city. By making the Syracuse public school more effective and more appealing, Say Yes assumes that homes will become more desirable, property taxes will rise, business and industry will be attracted to the city, and will ensue.”


The profound belief on the coalition is that every student can graduate a post-secondary institution of their choice when given the appropriate supports, resources, and opportunities. The coalition is made up of the following:

“Syracuse City School District, Syracuse University, Onondaga Community College, Say Yes Higher Education Compact partner colleges, Say Yes to Education, Inc., the Syracuse Teachers’ Association, the Syracuse Association of Administrators and Supervisors, the City of Syracuse, Onondaga County, the American Institutes for Research, and a diverse group of Syracuse area corporate, non-profit, and philanthropic organizations”.


View the video to see what Say Yes has done to transform Syracuse

New Jersey Promise Communities

New Jersey Promise Communities

Spearheaded by USDOE Promise Neighborhoods philosophy is to improve the educational and developmental outcomes of children and youth in our country’s most distressed communities. Modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone, Promise Neighborhoods ensure access to great schools and strong systems of family and community support that will prepare them for success from cradle to college and career. It involves a commitment to bring residents and stakeholders together to devise a seamless continuum of locally-appropriate strategies and solutions to support educational improvement for children and strong systems of support for their families and the community. Ultimately, the vision is that all children and youth growing up in a Promise Community have access to great schools and strong systems of family and community support that will prepare them to attain an excellent education and successfully transition to college and a career.


There are three designated Promise Neighborhoods in New Jersey, for which the lead CBO’s are:

(1)  Center For Family Services (Camden)
(2)   La Casa de Don Pedro (Newark)
(3)   NJ Community Development Corporation (Paterson)


Secretary for Higher Education, Rochelle Hendricks, will assume leadership for these expanded initiatives with the Harlem Children’s Zone initiative on behalf of Governor Christie and will work closely with the Commissioners of other key agencies, including the Departments of Education, Children & Families, Labor & Workforce Development, Community Affairs and the Office of Attorney General.  Currently, New Jersey is the only state that has forged a formal partnership with Harlem Children’s Zone.

The Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance (CTJJA)

The Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance (CTJJA)

The Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance (CTJJA) was launched in November 2001 as a collaborative effort of the Center for Children’s Advocacy, Connecticut Voices for Children, Regional Youth Adult Social Action Partnership (RYASAP), and The Tow Foundation.

When responses are splintered and, for those living close to the edge, punitive in orientation, the costs are great for individuals, society, and are economically naïve. Watch Education vs Incarceration.  The mission of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance is to reduce the number of children and youth entering the juvenile and criminal justice system, and advocate a safe, effective, and fair system for those involved.   RYASAP Executive Director, Bob Francis, recognized that a greater scale of impact could be achieved through a coalition rather than alone. CTJJA coordinates their policy advocacy work and has achieved significant policy reform and impact, for example:

  • Moving youth care out of centralized state facilities and into local residential communities
  • Raising the age of jurisdiction from 16 to 18 years
  • Reduction in recidivism and juvenile incarcerations

United for Prevention in Passaic County

United for Prevention in Passaic County

United for Prevention in Passaic County (UPinPC) seeks to create environmental change relating to substance abuse by promoting awareness, communication and support for all county residents. Read more and link it to

In 2013, Connecting for Good reported that:

Our state’s institutions of higher learning can serve as strong civic anchors – convening and networking a broad range of interdependent stakeholders from the education, corporate, philanthropic, government, and charitable sectors. The overriding purpose is to enhance social connectedness. Colleges and universities can aspire to present an unbiased view on the most urgent issues of our time. Higher education as a whole- can be the convener within these networks; leading to stronger social connectivity and economic resilience.

 There were many comments of support from Presidents, CEOs, and nonprofit leaders, but it was Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill who said, “The overriding issue is social connectedness which can lead to the types of civic networks that are so important. Higher education can be the civic pillar within these networks, leading to social connectivity and economic resilience”. It is just good business.



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