Anchor Institutions

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.

  • Health institutions as “anchors”: unlocking the potential within the NHS

    This article originally appeared in the Health Service Journal.

    The NHS is not just a service that provides healthcare free at the point of need. It is a social contract with the British people to deliver well-being.

    Across its wide range of services, the NHS’s mission extends beyond making us better when we are ill, it is also about making sure we do not fall ill in the first place – playing a key part in addressing the wider social, economic and environmental determinants of health.

  • Let’s democratise the insourcing revolution!

    CLES welcomes the publication of the Labour Party’s report, Democratising Local Public Services. Its bold plan for a 21st century insourcing offers a powerful corrective to the last four decades of outsourcing, commercialisation and, more recently, unprecedented austerity. It appeals to all who have been working to combat the hollowing out, privatisation and undermining of our public services.

    However, there are some changes in emphasis and direction required. CLES agrees that insourcing of local public services should be the default position, and that far too much outsourcing is delivered by those who seek profit and extract wealth at the expense of the public service. Nevertheless, we should be building a resurgence of a public service movement and offer a hand to the many organisations and individuals who, whilst not directly part of local government, are equally passionate about public values, public services and are at the forefront of a movement to develop new forms of democratic and citizen involvement. Democratic institutions such as cooperatives, and participatory democratic forms such as community businesses and social enterprises, offer different ways of realising social, economic and environmental value. These organisations are far removed from the rapacious greed of large outsourcers and as such should have some role in the democratisation, delivery and part ownership of service production.
    “We should be building a resurgence of a public service movement and offer a hand to the many organisations and individuals who, whilst not directly part of local government, are equally passionate about public values, public services and are at the forefront of a movement to develop new forms of democratic and citizen involvement.”
    So, whilst Labour’s paper provides an excellent correction to years of marketisation and privatisation, a deepening democratic and social revolution for our public services cannot solely begin and end at the town hall. Clearly, back door outsourcing – where small alternative forms of delivery are eventually acquired and gobbled up by big private outsourcers – must be guarded against. However, the democratisation of our local public services must make provision to include, where appropriate, other socially just forms of delivery. Consequently, the debate here is not solely public sector insourcing versus private sector outsourcing.

    Celebrating eight years of community wealth building in Preston

    Much has been said about the so-called “Preston model” – a new economic approach developed by the City Council, against the grain of much conventional thinking on economic development. In eight years, Preston has shown that a different model is possible. The deep, practice-focused work now stands as proof that community wealth building can drive real change.

    That is why we’re proud to today be releasing How we built community wealth in Preston; achievements and lessons. This publication, jointly produced by CLES and Preston City Council, is the definitive telling of the story and the theory behind the ‘Preston model’, written by two organisations who have led on this work from the very beginning.

    How can health care organisations maximise their resources to improve population health? 

    The Five Year Forward View and evolution towards integrated care systems have placed greater expectations on the NHS to work across a geographical area and maximise its resources to improve the health of a local population. And while this focus on place-based systems of care has spurred developments in the way services are designed and delivered to help prevent ill health and promote wellbeing, limited attention has been given to how the NHS can influence the economic conditions that help create health in the first place.

    The impact the NHS has on people’s health extends well beyond its role as a provider of treatment and care. As large employers, purchasers, and capital asset holders, health care organisations are well positioned to use their spending power and resources to address the adverse social, economic and environmental factors that widen inequalities and contribute to poor health.

    Realising the potential for community business and anchor institutions

    Community businesses are key drivers of the local economy and a growing aspect of Local Wealth Building. They are a key means of ensuring that wealth is more readily held, used and benefits local people and communities.

    Vital to this is the extent to which community businesses are woven into the supply chains of anchor institutions. Work by CLES in three locations has found that community businesses are building local wealth and it is now time to celebrate, secure and amplify their full potential within the supply chain of anchor institutions.


    Community Business and Anchor Institutions

    28th February 2019
    This research funded by Power to Change looks at how community businesses and anchor institutions can better work together to evol...
  • What next for the Local Wealth Building movement?

    Local wealth building has emerged as a powerful tool to democratise our economy and create wealth for all. From Barcelona and Bologna to Preston, Islington, and Kirklees, the movement is growing and helping communities take back control. Jonty Leibowitz and Tom Lloyd Goodwin suggest that whilst now is a good time to recognise and celebrate these achievements, we must also be restless and ambitious, asking ourselves – ‘what next’ for this dynamic movement?

    It is no surprise that local wealth building has begun to gain traction in the last decade. Across the world, communities are beginning to fight back against a political and economic system in which wealth is hoarded by a narrow few, public services are cut to the bone, and the many are consigned to lives of economic precarity and political disenchantment.