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Getting Started On an Anchor Strategy

In Part 1 of our examination of anchor institutions, we shared several examples of collaborations between LISC local programs and neighboring universities and hospitals. These relationships have provided benefits to the anchors, the LISC offices and the residents of the surrounding neighborhoods. But it takes careful planning and cultivation before those benefits come to fruition. So how can you get started on an anchor strategy in your community?

Ellen Watters, principal of Ellen Watters Consulting, works on anchor institution strategies with LISC and other organizations and served as co-project manager of the Central Corridor Anchor Partnership in the Twin Cities, a collaborative of 13 healthcare and higher education institutions addressing economic opportunity and community stability in neighborhoods along a light-rail corridor in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Watters offers a three-phase way of looking at the potential for an anchor strategy in your community.

Start with Research and Mapping

The location of ProMedica's new headquarters in downtown Toledo helps integrate it into the community.

Photo by Counselman Collection via Flickr Creative Commons

First, list all anchors located in or adjacent to your targeted neighborhood. You can expand your thinking beyond “eds and meds” to entities that are rooted in and connected to the specific place by history, proximity or mission. Is your community home to a museum? A government institution?

List the anchors with which your organization has a relationship with the leadership, perhaps through your board members or other community stakeholders. Also investigate local foundations and intermediaries to see where they might be working with anchors and able to connect them to communities and community organizations.

Next, look at areas where the anchors have demonstrated interest in the community. Do they have health, financial or educational partnerships or programs at the community level? Do they have strategic plans or community health needs assessments that explain their priorities and goals? Consider where these align with your mission, your community’s needs or the constituencies you serve. For areas of alignment, gather data on the local context, such as data on the local labor market for workforce development, or small businesses for procurement strategies.

Then Define Shared Value
With your research complete, you can develop a shared value proposition – a statement that shows the overlap between the anchor’s interests and the community’s and lays out the benefit to each party of working together on these interests. Look at where the anchor’s and neighborhood’s goals overlap: Safety? Employment? Affordable housing? Include the potential return on investment to the anchor and to the community. Use your research to ensure that it speaks to the anchor’s needs and priorities as well as your own.

Neighbors participate in a planning process in West Philadelphia

 Along with shared values, there are two critical components for success that the anchor itself must have if your anchor strategy is to succeed.

  1. Recognize and accept its role as an anchor in the community: The anchor must be motived to work with the community on shared goals, and those shared goals should bilaterally benefit the community as well as the anchor. Organizations like LISC play an important role in convening stakeholders and developing a plan for how the anchor can engage community stakeholders including citizens, government, community partners, and corporations.
  2. Align the goals of anchor work with internal policies for execution: Managers should take care to ensure that the mission of anchor work is aligned at all levels of the organization. In many instances, anchor work will require the organization to adapt policies and procedures to support execution. The goal of these changes should be to align expected outcomes with an internal plan for execution. Employees at all levels of the organization should understand the goal of anchor work and a have plan for execution, which involves identifying specific responsibilities, timelines and resources for delivering on the work the partnership requires. LISC’s experience demonstrates that providing incentive structures and setting clear milestones both support organizational alignment.

Finally, Scope Out a Potential Strategy
Think about what resources and partners will be needed to bring the strategy to fruition and where you can acquire them. Look at other plans and partnerships that exist in the neighborhood to see where there is alignment, or potential competition. Consider whether you need partners to make the strategy a success and investigate whether potential partners have the capacity and the interest to work on this with you. Create a shared value framework to share with the anchor leadership as you explore this possibility with them. Make sure it reinforces the anchor’s goals and shows how working with you would help advance them.

Legrand Lindor of Caribbean Apparel received small business financing supported by Northeastern University and LISC Boston.

Photo by Paul Gargagliano

Smaller community organizations may need to consider recruiting other partners to an anchor strategy. In an August 2017 report, Anchored in Place: How Funders are Helping Anchor Institutions Strengthen Local Economies, The Funders Network outlines the history of anchor institutions’ engagement in their communities and examines how foundations are working with anchors to connect them to their communities and help direct their efforts to ensure they address local needs and promote equity and inclusion. This role highlights the importance of intermediary institutions that, like LISC, can provide both a broader national perspective on community development strategies and critical local connections to neighborhood partners, leaders and residents.

Different types of organizations can play this role, including CDFIs, foundations, chambers of commerce or local governments or corporations. As Eric Uva, Director of Small Business Lending for LISC’s New Markets Support Corporation, puts it, “it comes down to having some convening strength. The important thing is that they have the motivation and the ability to convene and connect players.”

Establishing an anchor strategy can be a tall order, but it can also be rewarding, Uva continues. With mutual planning and plenty of communication, the players on both sides can ensure that the anchor supports strategies important to the community, even as the community organizations’ work furthers the key goals of the anchor.

Read Part 1 of this series, Anchor Institutions Open Doors in Their Communities

See more of our articles about anchor institutions.

Posted in Commercial & Economic Development

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