Thomas J. Gamble Civic Institute

The Mercyhurst University Thomas J. Gamble Civic Institute is a university-community partnership dedicated to the well-being of the Erie region and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The staff at the Civic Institute follow an action research model, providing high-quality, objective information, utilizing data-driven decision-making, and promoting evidence-based strategies.

The Civic Institute collaborates with several community partners in areas including child welfare, domestic violence, housing and homelessness, drugs and alcohol, criminal justice, and health. The Civic Institute promotes positive outcomes within our community by linking resources and facilitating discussions with key partners and decision-makers. The Mercyhurst Civic Institute staff holds nearly 70 years of combined professional experience. Each staff member provides our organization with a wealth of knowledge from practical work experience in diverse fields related to our areas of focus.

To accomplish community-based goals, the Civic Institute provides support to partners through the following activities:

  • Board facilitation.
  • Fostering collaboration among diverse community areas. 
  • Creating spaces for community education. 
  • Implementing research and data analysis techniques. 
  • Evaluating community programs and initiatives. 
  • Assisting in strategic planning. 
  • Guiding effective survey design and collection methods. 


Our Work

The Mercyhurst University Civic Institute is a fee-for-service organization that conducts work primarily with local and state government organizations as well as nonprofit agencies. Efforts principally focus in the five main areas noted below. Staff expertise and knowledge also provide opportunities in other domains at various times.

Child Welfare The Civic Institute designs and conducts ongoing program evaluations for county-funded community-based programming. Our organization also facilitates the Policy and Planning Council for Children and Families (PPC), a board established through Erie County Council that oversees holistic prevention efforts countywide. The PPC serves as the prevention branch for a holistic approach addressing violence and other youth problem behaviors, including delinquency, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, school dropout, and symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Criminal Justice The Civic Institute has engaged with local criminal justice systems and agencies for many years, assisting in the development of data-driven and evidence-based policy, programming, and community policing and enforcement strategies. Our staff works in tandem with local police, probation departments, and legal personnel to guide our community to bring about systemic adaptations. These initiatives help not only concerned citizens, but also benefit those who serve in the criminal justice community. The Civic Institute has completed multiple evaluations of criminal justice programs in Erie County, and has helped to design and fund large initiatives that have been noted at the regional, state, and national levels. Our organization has also facilitated the Erie County Criminal Justice Coalition and the local planning board for over 20 years.
Drug and Alcohol  The Civic Institute has partnered with county- and state-level drug and alcohol offices and programs for multiple program evaluations and data gathering initiatives. Results of these efforts have given insight into how effective programs are, and ways that offerings can be bettered. Our staff has also been involved with local drug and alcohol community collaboratives to address today’s most pressing issues. 
Health The Civic Institute engages in efforts addressing the social determinants of health that impact community welfare. These may present health risks affecting the conditions where people reside, work, and play.
Housing and Human Services The Civic Institute has partnered with stakeholders in addressing the homeless population of Erie County. The Civic Institute oversees the annual Point in Time Count — the HUD-driven census of our homeless population. Our team has directed and informed local homeless and housing stakeholders about a proposed five-year strategic plan and engaged with committees to work on strategic action areas of focus. Additionally, we provide technical assistance to the local policy board and assist in program monitoring, written standards, grant reviews, and community outreach.  

The Civic Institute addresses any areas that serve to improve the well-being of our community. Though we have long-standing partnerships with many domains, our staff is engaged in a variety of areas including educational systems, technology, and independent programs. The Civic Institute hosts special events, lectures, and conferences to address topics of interest to our community.


Community Engagement 

The Mercyhurst University Civic Institute is closely engaged with our Erie community as we actively participate in initiatives relating to our current work. In some instances, the Civic Institute brings community partners together to facilitate dialogue; while at other times, we provide a space to share our expertise and knowledge. Explore some of our involvement with community partners below: 

    The Civic Institute is the research partner for the City of Erie's Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation (BCJI) Program. The BCJI is a research-driven program out of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, and U.S. Department of Justice that emphasizes crime reduction based on place, community-oriented, and data-driven efforts that are committed to building trust and partnership in neighborhoods. The City of Erie's BCJI neighborhood is from East 6th Street to East 26th Street and from Holland Street to Wayne Street

    The Child Abuse Prevention Task Force is a collaboration of agencies and organizations that provide services across Erie County working to raise awareness of the potential resources and information available to their clients and consumers. The Task Force is committed to the prevention of child abuse and neglect through advocacy, education, and public awareness. 

    The Erie Coalition aims to ensure that a trauma-informed community can help build the foundation for its residents to overcome the past, thrive in the present, and face the uncertain future with renewed confidence.

    The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency stipulates that all counties operate a Criminal Justice Advisory Board to evaluate a county's suitability for support of criminal justice initiatives. Locally, the Erie County CJAB is known as the Erie County Criminal Justice Coalition (ECCJC). Over the years, the ECCJC has been instrumental in pivotal decision-making for justice-related issues at the county and local levels.


    The Heroin Overdose Awareness Task Force aims to raise awareness and take steps to help prevent addiction.

    The Erie Country Truancy Task Force seeks to gain a thorough understanding of truancy and identify strategies to effectively address the issues in an effort to reduce truancy throughout Erie County. The task force includes city and county school districts in addition to juvenile court judges, child welfare, juvenile probation, non-profit social service agencies, and other community stakeholders. 

    Erie Together is a movement of hundreds of local individuals, organizations, schools, and businesses working together in strategic ways to prevent and reduce poverty, elevate prosperity, and make the Erie region a community of opportunity where everyone can learn, work, and thrive.

    The Maternal and Child Health Committee is facilitated by Early Connections.  The committee seeks to promote comprehensive community health improvement processes by promoting positive maternal, child, adolescent, and family health outcomes in Erie County. 

    UnifiedErie was formed with the purpose of reducing crime and violence in Erie County using a three-pronged approach—enforcement, prevention, and reentry. It is a collaborative effort, with invested members coming from multiple disciplines to work together on this important issue.