anchor networks

Anchor networks sow the seeds of change

This article originally appeared in the HSJ.

Recent months have seen an increased interest in anchor institution networks, whereby NHS institutions and partners – like local authorities, universities, housing associations and the VCSE sector – collaborate to develop solutions to local social and economic problems. At CLES we work with and support many of these networks and, as this interest fuels an increase in activity, we are observing how these collaborations are not simply firefighting problems as they arise but also feeding into a more fundamental change in how anchor institutions view their role in the local economy.

In my role as Co-ordinator for the Birmingham Anchor Network I have been privileged to observe this process in action. This time last year the Network launched its pilot Hospitality to Health employment programme, as a response to an urgent employment crisis being faced by two of its members. Housing association, Pioneer Housing Group, were concerned about the number of their residents at risk of redundancy from a hospitality sector reeling from the effects of Covid-19, while at the same time University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust needed to recruit significant numbers of staff at entry level positions to support in responding to the pandemic.

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: 

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.