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About: COVID-19 has demonstrated our collective need for increased social, economic and environmental resilience. This pandemic has often been framed as a ‘rehearsal’ – only one of many future crises. In this context, we have a collective imperative to rebuild our communities in ways that help us better weather future challenges.

Supporting recovery and rebuilding requires deeper community engagement, dialogue, working together across sectors, and strengthening relationships of reciprocity and trust. As community anchors, postsecondary institutions possess unique assets and resources that can be used to prepare us better for the future.

In that spirit, nine universities across the country, in collaboration with the McConnell Foundation, hosted community-university dialogues on “building back better’’ through the spring of 2021.

Each institution invited an array of stakeholders, and asked them what needed to be done to build a more resilient future economically, socially and environmentally, and what a post-secondary institution’s role could be in helping to steward that. Community stakeholders were bold, creative, and candid in their ideas.

Community stakeholders’ perspectives informed a powerful call to action for the post-secondary sector, and provided specific and actionable next steps for how these institutions could best respond to our collective social, environmental, cultural and economic challenges, and help us “Build Back Better”

The dialogues were inspired and inspiring. In this paper, we share back what we were privileged to hear.

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