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Elements of the ASU brand

Social embeddedness communications

Recommendations to reinforce social embeddedness through visual and written strategic communications.


Definition and terminology

Social embeddedness means “connecting with communities through mutually beneficial partnerships.” When referring to ASU’s social embeddedness, the emphasis should be on the relationship between ASU (institution, faculty, students, etc.) and non-ASU organizations and the outcomes made possible through that partnership. Socially embedded activities identify a common goal or establish a reciprocity and mutual support even as stakeholder priorities, perspectives and needs may differ. 

When possible, avoid language such as “ASU’s impact on the community.” Instead, use cooperative language such as “codevelop solutions with the community” to signal the collaborative and mutually respectful dynamic between university and community as equal partners in creating change.”


Common misunderstandings

  • Incorrectly equating social embeddedness with volunteerism and community service, which may or may not involve expressed mutual benefits. (e.g., without collaborative planning, “days of service” may be more burdensome on organizations than helpful in advancing their core mission).
  • Incorrectly equating social embeddedness with “positive impact.” Indeed, mutually beneficial partnerships exist to create a positive impact. However, the university creates positive impact through myriad ways that may or may not involve partnerships. For example, positive impact is the intended outcome of all eight design aspirations.


Requirements for socially embedded courses and programs

  1. At least one partnership with a nonacademic organization.
  2. Positive impact to external communities and stakeholders beyond ASU and its affiliates.
  3. Shared goals and reciprocity by addressing a community‐identified need through an intellectual activity of importance, enhancing community capacity as well as student learning and research studies, and more.

Third-party validation

Within any ASU strategic communication that claims a positive impact in the community as a result of socially embedded activities, the voices of the communities impacted should be explicitly and intentionally included to validate the value of the activity from their perspectives. Quotations derived from and with permission by relevant respected community leaders and leaders of partner organizations should be included whenever possible.



Strong social embeddedness images that accurately depict the ethos of “mutually beneficial partnerships” are those in which both:

  • ASU and non-ASU partners appear represented.
  • ASU and non-ASU partners appear actively and equally engaged.
  • ASU and non-ASU partners appear to be equally respected in terms of dominance, authority, importance and expertise.