Australia Communities and society , Democracy, devolution and governance

Anchor approaches: Amplifying the positive impacts of Local Government



The first of a four-part series exploring opportunities for Local Government to grow local productivity and place-based wellbeing by intentionally adopting Anchor approaches, this briefing introduces the key concepts and discusses how Anchor approaches can improve place-based wellbeing.

Briefing in full


  • Anchor approaches provide a ‘logic framework’ that supports the work of place-based organisations – such as Local Governments – to deliver core business in ways which maximise local value capture whilst also contributing to broader regional, national, and international policy objectives and agendas.
  • This briefing is the first of a four-part series exploring opportunities for Local Government to grow local productivity and place-based wellbeing by intentionally adopting Anchor approaches. This briefing introduces the key concepts and discusses how Anchor approaches can improve place-based wellbeing.
  • The second in the series will draw on learnings from an Auckland Council-led initiative to drive social and economic transformation in the South and West of the City through the Southern and Western Initiative (TSI)This will be followed by briefings that explore opportunities for Australian Local Governments to anchor local economic development activities and to localise supply chains – informed by our work with Logan City Council, Queensland and with Newcastle City Council, New South Wales, respectively.
  • This series will be of interest to elected members and council staff (including General Managers, procurement teams, library and community facility managers, HR professionals, community, cultural and economic development teams) and others motivated to leverage core council business activities, infrastructure, and partnerships in ways which improve wellbeing in their communities.

What are Anchor approaches?

This briefing describes four inter-related Anchor approaches, defined and developed through our action research work:

  • Anchoring Strategies
  • Anchor Missions
  • Anchor Institutions and
  • Anchor Collaboratives.

Across these four approaches, a common objective is seeking to improve place-based wellbeing through delivering core business activities (e.g. procurement, employment) in ways which also address local challenges and/or leverage local strengths. Previous LGiU briefings have highlighted the diverse contributions that one type of Anchor approach, the Anchor Institution, can make to place-based social and economic wellbeing particularly by reducing expenditure leakage from local communities. Nicholls & Zierke (2020) noted the potential for Local Government to “play a facilitation role connecting private enterprise with anchor institutions” and also to assume the role of “anchor and agent of change” – leveraging purchasing power, assets and employment to support Community Wealth Building. Acknowledging these as valuable contributions, this briefing describes additional Anchor approaches that local governments might adopt.

Anchoring Strategies are specific initiatives which leverage an organisation’s resources in ways which achieve local value (e.g. a Local Government ‘buy local’ target, or a pathway program linking local high school students to council traineeships). Anchoring Strategies can be developed by Anchor Institutions, but also by other organisations seeking to create local value from their core operations (e.g. businesses and Neighbourhood Centres). Anchor Missions, comprising multiple, interconnected Anchoring Strategies, reflect “the process of deliberately deploying the institutions’ long-term, place-based economic power to strengthen a local community, especially neighbourhoods where people facing historic and other barriers to economic opportunity live.” (Dragicevic, 2015)

Anchor Institutions are large organisations that are based in, and have a long-term commitment to, a suburb, town, city or defined region, and that demonstrate their commitment by intentionally aligning their long-term, place-based economic power to strengthen their local communities. These institutions generally have a mission or purpose which is closely connected to the current and future wellbeing of a particular geographic community. Anchor Institutions are vital to their communities because they:

  • are often the largest local employers and spenders
  • own and/or manage important local infrastructure and assets, including land and buildings
  • procure and invest locally
  • contribute to local development, revitalisation and economic growth
  • support local social, sporting, cultural, and environmental activities.

In some communities multiple Anchor Institutions have joined together to form Anchor Collaboratives which harness and align the resources and efforts of multiple organisations, often through formalised alliances and strategies, around a specific Anchor Mission(s) within a defined community.

Each of these Anchor approaches can be adapted to identified local priorities, and be designed to improve social, economic, environmental, and/or cultural wellbeing. As we have highlighted in Universities as Anchors-in-Place, they can also support the development of ‘nested framings’ which set out the place-level value being created through local Anchoring Strategies (e.g. increasing ‘quality’ local jobs) along with potential contributions to related regional and/or national goals (e.g. reducing the unemployment rate) and broader agendas such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (e.g. Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth).  

Local government and Anchor approaches

Whilst the term Anchor Institutions is not widely used in Australia (it is more common in North America e.g. Toronto, Cleveland, and in the UK e.g. Preston; Wigan), we propose that many Australian local governments meet the definition above, as they have an enduring connection to their communities and both a remit and a key interest in delivering core business in ways which create local value. However, we suggest the positive impacts which result from delivery of core council business could be amplified and diversified by developing a clear Anchor Mission and/or establishing or joining an Anchor Collaborative.

How Anchor approaches can improve place-based wellbeing

Anchor approaches generate robust and long-lasting place-based outcomes by providing a framework for establishing and delivering on explicit internal (for Anchor Institutions) and external (for Anchor Collaboratives) intentions to create positive impacts and overcome local challenges (e.g. declining viability of Central Business Districts due to the closure of small businesses), including through leveraging local strengths and opportunities (e.g. the presence of a significant industrial or academic institution).

The collection and analysis of local data is an important input for building a sound understanding of local strengths and opportunities, and informing the development of Anchor approaches. In many cases, how to design, capture, and analyse this will need to develop iteratively alongside the implementation of any chosen Anchor approach, as it is usually the case that new types of data will be needed.

The diagram at Figure 1 below, from YCGU’s Universities as Anchors-in-Place, describes six domains of activity that can be activated via an Anchor approach in order to deliver core business and improve place-based wellbeing. These domains do not all need to be activated at once, and an Anchor approach could start through any domain – decisions about which domain provides the best entry point will be determined by local context and priorities. These domains are:

  1. Active collaboration with community – e.g. co-designing and co-monitoring an Anchor Mission with citizens and other local stakeholders
  2. Procurement and supply chain – e.g. ‘buy local’ targets and commitments
  3. Place-based impact investment – e.g. pooling investment with other Anchors and/or Philanthropic, Corporate, Government investors to enable strategic local projects designed to create significant local impact
  4. Local recruitment and workforce development – e.g. using local data to catalyse education and training institutions to develop the capability of local under-employed cohorts, including to fill local skills shortages
  5. Generation and regeneration of infrastructure and healthy environment – e.g. refurbishing key council infrastructure to diversify use options, and expanding access to poorly serviced groups
  6. Growing affordable housing – e.g. sharing data, directly growing supply, using land and planning scheme levers to increase supply of affordable, well-located, and appropriate housing, to ensure housing for key community cohorts such as the aged.

Some of these domains (e.g. procurement, recruitment, and active collaboration) can be activated through Anchoring Strategies developed and implemented by any local organisation as part of their business-as-usual operations. Other domains (e.g. growing affordable housing) may only be realistic for some Anchor Institutions. Anchor approaches can be adopted in formal and public ways (e.g. via published Anchor Missions), or via internal, less visible but still valuable mechanisms (e.g. via use of the Anchor domains in decision-making).

Figure 1: Six strategic activity domains through which Anchor Institutions (such as local government) can support the places and communities in which they operate.


Anchor approaches present a range of opportunities for Local Governments to improve local wellbeing by intentionally delivering core business activities in ways which also tackle local challenges, and/or leverage local strengths. Some of the ways that Australian Local Governments could work with Anchor approaches include:

  • Using the six strategic activity domains of the Anchor Institution model (set out in Figure 1) to document and measure some of the positive local impacts which result from delivery of a council’s core business.
  • Developing an Anchor Mission to leverage core business in a way that meets council requirements whilst also addressing local priorities and opportunities.
  • Convening or joining an Anchor Collaborative to pool effort and resources and grow local wellbeing.
  • Taking inspiration and learning from other councils which have already adopted an Anchor approach (e.g. Auckland; Preston; Wigan), whilst taking care to customise the approach to local priorities and contexts.
  • Sharing stories and learnings to support the application and development of Anchor approaches by Local Government in Australia (as exists elsewhere).

Potential also exists for clusters of local governments to aggregate impact data and stories to underscore, and communicate more broadly, the valuable contributions that local governments make to regional, national and international agendas.

Future briefings in this series of four papers will highlight some of the practical steps being taken by local governments in Australia and New Zealand to implement Anchor approaches. The next briefing in this series will draw upon a review undertaken by the YCGU of Auckland Council’s The Southern and Western Initiative (TSI) to describe how each of the six strategic activity domains have been activated to grow prosperity and wellbeing in the South and West of that city.


Related Briefings


About the Yunus Centre Griffith University

Based in Logan, Australia, YCGU has adopted an Anchor Institution framing to intentionally align its work in ways that directly benefit the people, businesses, and institutions of Logan, as well as our broader University stakeholders. This series is informed by our exploration of Universities as Anchors-in-Place, by our work with local governments in Australia and beyond, and by the work of The Democracy Collaborative and that of Julia Slay. This briefing draws upon multiple sources, including Community Wealth Building in Australia: A New Focus for Regional Economic Development and a previously published review of TSI. It reflects the continuing evolution of our Anchor approach, as shown in Figure 1 of Professor Anne Tiernan’s LGiU briefing (September 2021) entitled Strategies for driving economic regeneration, regional productivity, and innovation, which has been modified based on learnings to date. 


For more information on this briefing contact LGiU Australia by emailing