Anchor institutions are large, usually non-profit, institutions whose very purpose means they are fixed in place. Examples include local authorities, housing associations, NHS trusts, schools and universities, and public sector employers like police stations. These institutions can often be some of the largest employers in a place, with fixed assets and, in many cases, substantial procurement budgets.

Getting these anchor institutions on-side is crucial in unrolling and scaling-up community wealth building approaches, as has been the case in places like Preston and Manchester, to name just two. In Preston, the changing procurement practices introduced under community wealth building have seen local anchor institutions spend an extra £75m in the city – around £530 per citizen. The result of ten years of progressive procurement undertaken by Manchester City Council has been immense, as recent research from CLES shows:

In addition to the direct benefits, the core findings from the 2017/18 social value survey of the top 300 suppliers to Manchester City Council, revealed that they created:

  • An estimated 158,591 hours of volunteering & community sector support activities offered;

  • An estimated 665 apprenticeships created in Manchester);

  • An estimated 1,302 jobs created in Manchester;

  • 1,788 employment opportunities created for ‘hard to reach’ individuals in Greater Manchester;

  • 79% of responding suppliers paid all staff an hourly rate in excess of that advocated by the National Living Wage Foundation.

As this data shows, getting large institutions – as well as local authorities themselves – to behave like anchors and procure progressively has incredibly positive consequences for local people and places. It is a powerful lever to pull in bringing about a community wealth building approach at the local level – recent work is also scaling-up these efforts, with collaboration underway on the NHS functioning as an anchor institution.

What is Community Wealth Building? – Preston City Council

Anchor institutions are those institutions in the local area that cannot relocate to another part of the country. They are things like local councils, universities and colleges, local housing associations, and the local emergency services, which are all invested in their local area and promote community well-being for that area.

Community Wealth Building Through Anchor Institutions – CLES

Harnessing The Potential of Anchor Institutions in Preston – CLES

The video below on the Cleveland Model, produced by The Democracy Collaborative, shows how ‘anchor institutions like hospitals and universities can help worker cooperatives create green jobs in the neighborhoods that need them most’.


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