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.