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Igniting Change: A case study of rust belt activism

Wood III, Perry N. (2018) Igniting Change: A case study of rust belt activism. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Policymakers in small and midsize communities (populations under 200,000) throughout the Rust Belt are searching for ways to reinvent their region to be competitive in the global, knowledge-based economy. Universities can play an increasingly important role in a region’s economic development approach if they can effectively engage with their respective communities and their communities can effectively engage them. In Erie County, Pennsylvania, four universities reacted to this challenge by publishing a joint position on their community engagement ambitions known as The Path Forward (2014). In it, they commit to address the regional economic development needs of Erie County in collaboration. Capacity building grant funds to do so have been provided by a local funding agency – the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority (ECGRA) – that administers grants out of revenue from the Pennsylvania casino gaming industry.

Based on a theory of action that views the university as a catalyst, they created Ignite Erie, a cross-sector, multi-university collaborative that can work to increase job opportunities by helping legacy industries reinvent themselves through prototypes, startups develop an effective business model, and nonprofits solve community problems. As a platform, Ignite Erie is grounded in the assumption that adaptive networks consisting of triple helix stakeholders – private industry, university, government – is the best approach to addressing some of the community’s most complex problems. And, when institutions of higher education shift their role from producers of talent to supporting company creation, they become an entrepreneurial university creating a significant advantage.

This case study is a mid-term review (2015-2018) of the Ignite Erie initiative’s state of multi-university collaboration, network formation, and outcomes. It captures the collective contributions of Erie County’s universities toward community engagement. Then, it summarizes the state of the Ignite Erie initiative’s success in achieving multi-university collaboration and regional economic development via literature review, document analysis, and interviews. Finally, it provides discussion on how to move the initiative forward describing one community’s efforts at reinvention.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Wood III, Perry N.pnw3@hotmail.compnw4@pitt.edu0000-0003-2027-8985
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMcClure, Maureen
Committee MemberWeidman, John
Committee MemberFord, Ralph
Date: 24 September 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 19 June 2018
Approval Date: 24 September 2018
Submission Date: 7 August 2018
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 122
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: rust belt, adaptive networks, entrepreneurial university, industry-university collaboration, community engagement
Date Deposited: 24 Sep 2018 15:37
Last Modified: 24 Sep 2018 15:37


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