Anchor Initiatives

The term “anchor” is typically applied to universities and hospitals, but municipal governments, community foundations, corporations, sports teams, and arts and cultural organizations can also behave as urban economic anchors. Anchor organizations play significant roles in their local economies due to purchasing power, real estate, employment, and a long-term interest in seeing their local communities thrive. Their history, relationships, institutional mission, and investments root them in their local communities. The sustainability of anchor organizations is inextricably linked to the vitality of their surrounding communities. It affects demand for their goods and services, employee attraction and retention, business operations and overall competitiveness. It is in an anchor’s interest, therefore, to build a strong, healthy local economy.

ICIC’s Anchor Institution Strategic Framework defines seven strategies anchors use to accelerate urban economic revitalization. Anchor organizations that intentionally engage these seven strategies will produce measurable returns for both the community and the organization.

ICIC is recognized as an authority on anchor institutions. Anchor institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania and the Cleveland Clinic have used our strategic anchor framework to guide their community engagement. Today, we continue to build on that work to support initiatives with multiple anchors that are poised to transform inner cities.

While “eds and meds” are the conventional anchors and remain the focus of most anchor initiatives, our most recent work focuses on those anchors that have been traditionally overlooked in both research and practice. Arts and culture organizations are as deeply rooted in their communities as hospitals and universities, often have significant assets to leverage and already play a significant role in local economies. In partnership with The Kresge Foundation, our recent research explores the role arts and culture organizations can play in directly expanding opportunity and creating more equitable outcomes in their communities beyond the provision of arts and culture. The report, The Overlooked Anchors: Advancing a New Standard of Practice for Arts and Culture Organizations to Create Equitable Opportunity in America’s Cities, provides a framework and pathways for arts and culture organizations to engage more deeply in their communities, and offers a set of recommendations to catalyze the wider adoption of anchor strategies.

Read the executive summary

Below is a selected list of ICIC’s work on anchor institutions:

Will Hospitals Become the New Vanguard in Urban Economic Development? (2015)

New Incentives and Opportunities for Hospitals to Engage in Local Economic Development (2015)

Creating an Anchored Local Economy in Newark (2015)

Implementation Plan for MLK Medical Campus and the Willowbrook Wellness Community (2013)

Anchor Institutions and Food Systems: A Recipe for Economic Growth (2014)

Anchor Institutions and Urban Economic Development: From Community Benefit to Shared Value (2011)

Leveraging Anchor Institutions to Grow Inner City Businesses (2010)

Using Procurement to Grow Inner City Businesses (2010)

Leveraging Colleges and Universities for Urban Economic Revitalization (2002)


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