Anchor Institutions


    Healthy places

    25th May 2023
  • Anchoring our ports

    This article originally appeared in the LGC.

    The government’s new freeports are likely to extract wealth and opportunity from local communities, but there is an alternative, writes Sean Benstead.

    At this year’s spring budget, the government announced the creation of eight freeports across England to promote regional regeneration, create high-skilled jobs and ensure sustainable economic growth.

    Buying benefits for communities

    This article originally appeared in The MJ.

    The everyday activities of local anchor institutions present numerous opportunities to advance social value. Whether it’s a local authority commissioning a new homecare service or the use of targeted pre-employment training programmes by the NHS, these practices can be used to generate wider social, economic and environmental outcomes for people, place and planet.

    Social value and public expenditure

    Social value has traditionally been associated with procurement activity and the use of social value frameworks. Over the last 18 months, however, the Government has published a raft of procurement policy notices, which encourage the adoption of more progressive practice to support local economies and enable more SMEs and social businesses to enter public sector supply chains. This guidance was reaffirmed and strengthened within last year’s procurement green paper and, following public consultation, the publication of the Government’s new Procurement Bill is now imminent.

    NHS: supporting those furthest from the labour market  

    This article first appeared in the HSJ.

    NHS trusts and health boards should take the lead in deploying progressive employment interventions at local level, which can be used to leverage employment opportunities towards people who are farthest from the jobs market, write Tom Lloyd Goodwin and David Burch.

    Despite the claim that unemployment has now peaked, and reports of record vacancies in some sectors, 1.6 million people face uncertainty in the workplace as the furlough scheme comes to an end in the UK. In this context, increased youth unemployment is predicted to be a painful hangover from Covid-19 in the UK as we undergo wider economic recovery.

    Serendipity doesn’t have to be left to chance

    In the final blog of his series for this year, exploring the power of anchor institution networks, Conrad Parke discovers that what sometimes looks like serendipity is really intent.

    Last Friday we had the final Birmingham Anchor Network co-ordination group meeting of 2020. As this turbulent year draws to a close our main agenda item was the agreement of the Network’s priorities for 2021. However, I think because of the proximity to Christmas, a number of the usual attendees (who are either Chief Exec or director level) had to send replacements who, in the main, were more operationally focussed.

    Anchor Network supply chain hub: a proposal

    In the third of his blog series exploring the mechanisms for anchor institution networks to deliver on their aspiration to create and reinforce local economic ties, Conrad Parke details the thinking behind a proposal to create a supply chain hub to service the Birmingham Anchor Network. This idea is covered in our recently released how-to guide for growing anchor institution networks in place. Here, Conrad gives us more detail on the project, the logic underlying the approach and the process by which the concept has been developed.

    The challenge

    For the past six months the procurement leads from the seven Birmingham Anchor Network partners have been sharing ideas as to how they can use procurement opportunities to increase their contribution to the Birmingham economy, particularly by engaging socially generative SMEs and micro businesses.

  • One idea, many options 

    In his second blog exploring the process of translating the principles that lie behind anchor institution networks into practice, Conrad Parke explores the different models employed for establishing a network by two neighbouring places in the West Midlands.

    As I said in my last blog, the concept of anchor institution networks has taken hold across many areas of the UK, with a number of places either having launched a network or in the process of developing one. But what are the essential components of a successful anchor institution network? And how adaptable are those components to local circumstances? 

    Anchor networks in practice: “why?” to “how?”

    In the first of his series of blogs exploring the process of translating the principles that lie behind anchor institution networks into practice, Conrad Parke explores the mechanisms of turning buy in into action.

    Getting buy in for a new anchor institution network is rarely a problem. After all, why would any institution’s chief executive turn down the offer to be a part of something that will help them to employ local people and support local businesses. The real difficulty is turning that buy in into action. To this end there are (at least) two main problems: 

    No shortage of problems…anchor network solutions

    Even before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the concept of a whole-place approach to community wealth building, driven by the collective will and resources of anchor institutions, was an idea whose time had very much arrived. In the coming weeks, ahead of our first webinar exploring the power and potential of anchor institution networks, Conrad Parke, Anchor Network Co-ordinator for the city of Birmingham and the UK’s first “community wealth builder in residence”, will be exploring the process of translating the principles that lie behind the approach into practice that meaningfully impacts the social, economic and environmental justice outcomes of localities.

    From “why?” to “how?”
    At the Community Wealth Building Summit earlier this month, and through our ongoing conversations with local governments and anchor institutions across multiple scales and sectors, we at CLES have seen the enthusiasm with which the ideas behind anchor institution networks have been greeted. This is a movement that is growing, as more and more institutions see the value of collectively working to ensure that their joined-up approaches to spending, employment and the use of their assets can affect the social determinants of health and wellbeing. Amidst that enthusiasm, now is the time to move the discussion on – from the “why” to the “how”.
    Opening up the conversation
    As the “man on the ground” in Birmingham, Conrad has been embedded in the practice of the anchor network there and in the emerging network in neighbouring Sandwell for nearly 12 months and is keen to share, not only the lessons learned and his reflections on how these can be applied in other places, but also to open up a conversation with other places on their experiences. “This is a new area” he said, “we can see that people have bought into the idea, that they really see the value that anchor networks can create. But what people really want to know is what that means in their place. I hope I can share some insights into how the theory actually translates into action but I want to hear from other people too – what’s worked for you? What hasn’t? And why? I want to open up a conversation that can help us all push forward the anchor network model so that it has the opportunity to improve the lives of more people in more communities.”
    Close neighbours, different approaches
    Reflecting on his experience working with Birmingham and Sandwell, and the discussion he hosted at the Community Wealth Building Summit, Conrad was keen to emphasise the important lessons he’d learned by exploring the differences between the two places which, while being geographic neighbours, have had very different approaches to developing their anchor institution networks.

    Community Wealth Building 2020: an urgent imperative

    Quite apart from its traditional historical significance, Thursday 5th November represents a milestone for the UK in the country’s fight against Covid-19. As a second lockdown looks set to compound economic and social hardship, we are again reminded of the distressed state of our local economies and the weakened condition of the local public sector in parts of the country, following decades of austerity and underinvestment. The imperative to deliver an alternative future is now more urgent than ever.

    This Thursday, CLES will host our annual Community Wealth Building Summit and, ahead of the Summit, we are today releasing Owning the Economy: Community Wealth Building 2020.

    Right here, right now – rescue and recovery through anchor institutions

    Covid-19 is destabilising everything around us – jobs and livelihoods are being lost, businesses are collapsing and whole sectors are on the brink. As we now enter a new phase of local lockdowns, albeit with the national job retention scheme coming to an end and support for jobs and businesses ebbing away, economic and social hardship is set to worsen.

    In order to urgently address this crisis, local government must act now by harnessing the collective power of local anchor institutions – such as hospitals, universities, colleges and housing associations – to tackle the unfolding economic and social crisis.


    Toolkit: housing associations as anchor institutions

    1st October 2020
    This toolkit, building on the expertise and knowledge of the housing association sector and the Great Places Commission, is design...
  • The role of the NHS in post-Covid-19 local economic recovery

    This article originally appeared in the HSJ

    During this pandemic the need to mobilise health service capacity has been a key priority and the need for ongoing NHS readiness remains. However, we should now also start to consider the wider role of health institutions in local economic, and social, recovery and reform.

    Covid-19 and the determinants of health

    As recent work by CLES, The Democracy Collaborative and the Health Foundation has shown, health institutions are considerable anchor organisations with presence and heft within the local economy.  Anchors can exert sizable influence through their commissioning and purchasing of goods and services, through their workforce and employment capacity, and by creative use of their facilities and land assets. Positive use of these aspects can affect change within the wider economic, social and environmental determinants of health.