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Summary

This briefing is the third in a four-part series exploring opportunities for Local Government to positively influence local productivity and wellbeing by deliberately adopting Anchor approaches.

The first briefing in the series Anchor Approaches: Amplifying the positive impacts of local government provides a comprehensive overview of diverse anchor approaches available to local government. The second briefing in the series, Anchor Approaches: Activity domains for system-level transformation showcases an initiative from Auckland, New Zealand. Since 2012 Auckland City Council has, through The Southern and Western Initiative (TSI), been designing and implementing innovative community-based strategies to support local and system-level transformations to improve the lives of South and West Aucklanders.

This third briefing draws on learnings from The Yunus Centre Griffith University (YCGU) collaboration with Logan City Council (LCC), where individual initiatives have built over time into what is now a common vision with pooled resources, delivering place-based impact investments that are transforming economic opportunities for many in the city.

This current briefing will be of interest to councils motivated to work over the long term with other organisations in their area that have a shared purpose and willingness to combine activities, resources, and assets to improve the wellbeing of their communities.

Briefing in full

An Anchor Institution is a large entity that is based in, and has a long-term commitment to, a suburb, town, city, or defined region, and that demonstrates that commitment by intentionally deploying its economic power to strengthen local communities.

Local Government meets the definition of an Anchor Institution as councils have an enduring commitment to their communities and deliver core business in ways that create local value. While Local Governments may not identify themselves as Anchor Institutions, their behaviour, core business and role in their communities is consistent with the definition.

When Anchor Institutions come together to adopt an Anchor Collaborative approach, they harness and align their resources and efforts, often through formal agreements, around a specific Anchor Mission(s) or other shared vision within a defined place-based community. Anchor Collaboratives are formed when Anchor Institutions agree to align, so as to multiply the impact of their individual efforts and budgets.

This paper outlines what is now being recognised as an Anchor Collaborative approach involving LCC and YCGU. This has evolved over time and is grounded in a shared concern to positively impact economic outcomes for their local communities. The collaboration has resulted in the co-delivery of place-based programs that leverage local strengths and create opportunities relevant to the specific context of the local area. The Logan Anchor Collaborative has had a specific focus on fostering relational capital between the partners, as developing high levels of trust is foundational to an effective and long-term partnership.

How Anchor models can improve local wellbeing

Figure 1 (below) illustrates six domains of activity that can be activated to meet core business requirements whilst also advancing the shared vision of an Anchor Collaborative.

 

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 activity domains in practice: Logan City’s Place-Based Collaborative Programs

This briefing focuses on one of the six activity domains: place-based impact investment. Place-based impact investment involves the pooling of resources to enable strategic local initiatives that maximise positive social change (impact) in a defined place.

In 2017, LCC and YCGU identified an opportunity to pool resources to multiply the impact of their joint investments into the city. This was made possible because of the trust generated through several discrete collaborations undertaken over many years, and was underpinned by recognition that they had a common interest to improve economic wellbeing amongst Logan’s communities. Whilst no formal agreement is in place, both organisations are increasingly recognising that their relationship demonstrates many characteristics of an Anchor Collaborative. The sections below provide an outline of the activities that provided opportunities to test assumptions around the shared commitment, and that have led over time to this deeper and longer-term collaboration between the two Anchor Institutions.

A shared focus on young people, entrepreneurship, and innovation

A starting point for the Anchor Collaborative relationship was joint investment into a capability development program, designed to demonstrate and advance innovation and entrepreneurship skills within the City. The Entrepreneurship Seminar Series (ESS) Program commenced in 2015, and was delivered at Griffith’s Logan campus for over five years, attracting up to 120 participants each month. The co-design and co-delivery of this successful and high-profile program provided an important platform through which LCC and YCGU were able to hone their collaboration skills and practices, whilst demonstrating the usefulness of the learning opportunities to local businesses and community members. This was a foundational step in developing trust and consolidating the relationship between the two organisations.

Following the successful delivery of the ESS Program, the Anchor partners secured a State Government grant, through the Advancing Regional Innovation Program (ARIP) designed to support the development of innovation hubs and enterprises in regional Queensland. The partners applied for this additional investment as their early successes had identified the power of bringing together small to medium enterprises, industry and academia to harness local change through an intentional focus on addressing social, economic and/or environmental impact. The collaboration through the ARIP had a particular focus on: developing new pathways into start up opportunities, development of business acumen and entrepreneurial education programs for young residents aiming to build a local impact enterprise ecosystem. Co-delivery of this program furthered and deepened the relationship between the Anchor partners, and their shared commitment to catalysing local, transformative change.

Homebase Program: supporting impact entrepreneurship capability development

Building on this relational capital and the tested assumption that the Anchor Institutions shared a common purpose, the next step saw the partners applying for a Federally-funded place-based enterprise development grant (DISER). Through what became Homebase, they co-designed and implemented a suite of programs to support, promote and expand the Logan impact enterprise eco-system. In just twelve months, over 2500 Logan residents and impact entrepreneurs were engaged through Homebase events, intensive impact accelerator courses, and community-led initiatives.

The most dynamic of these activities was Elevate+. The Elevate+ program recruited and supported local impact entrepreneurs to develop their enterprise ‘pitch’ and present it to a panel. The panel chose 40 Logan-based entrepreneurs (representing 16 impact enterprises), community-led initiatives, and University-developed impact products/services to embark on a tailored developmental journey. In designing and delivering Homebase, the Anchor partners worked closely together to draw in outside talent to support the learning journeys of program participants and foster and grow their impact enterprises.

Key features and practices of the Logan Anchor Collaborative

The Logan Anchor Collaborative has evolved over five years, and has withstood the inevitable internal and external disruptions any long-term relationship endures, including changes in staff, funding sources, elected representatives, and community organisation partners. The Collaborative endures because it is grounded in demonstrated trust and an ongoing commitment to supporting practices that promote and enhance relational capital between the organisations. This, in turn, supports the sharing of resources and assets and the co-design of experimental programs and new ways of working.

Now drawing on over five years’ experience, some of the key features and practices essential to the success of the Collaborative, and that contribute to maintaining the firm foundation, include:

  • achievement of ’early wins’ through discrete initiatives: demonstrating the capabilities of the Collaborative to Logan businesses and communities; generating good will towards it being recognised as effective in partnering with Logan communities
  • building on each discrete activity, through testing assumptions around a shared vision for Logan, that could be upheld at the highest levels in both organisations
  • engagement in genuine co-design and co-delivery of local events and projects, proving a shared commitment to the collaboration and advancing the shared vision
  • multi-layered and multi-modal relations between the two Anchor Institutions, involving diverse staff in diverse ways to generate a wide range of inputs and to diffuse benefits broadly
  • support and cross-promotion of events convened by each Collaborative member demonstrating a united approach and expanding opportunities for participation and connection across Logan.

What motivates these two Logan Anchor Institutions to collaborate?

Logan City Council

Many of Logan’s residents follow a Vocational Educational and Training pathway, and the region has a lower-than-average uptake on pathways directly into university. Having a strong collaborative partnership with the local university is seen as important for increasing the uptake of Logan residents opting for university pathways, and thus improving pathways into meaningful employment. With Logan City Council’s strong and direct connection to over 38,000 small to medium enterprises and to its local communities, the partnership is improving the understanding of both organisations as to who to engage with and how to design capability building opportunities that most benefit those in the local area. The collaboration also provides Logan City Council with an expanded resource base through access to a wide range of experts from various fields, campus facilities and new funding pools, to inform the development and delivery of evidence-based approaches to improving outcomes across the Logan region. Some of these areas include: health, education, food security, business development, and access to national and international research bodies.

The Yunus Centre Griffith University

In the beginning, discrete activities were driven by Griffith University Logan Campus, and the initiatives of the last five years have involved the specific partnership with YCGU. The Yunus Centre’s vision to accelerate transitions towards regenerative and distributive economies is aligned with Logan City Council’s interest in transforming livelihoods for Logan communities. The Yunus Centre grounds its local impact objectives through working purposefully with Logan City Council on co-designed and co-funded place-based investment projects and programs. The small scale of the Logan campus is an important dynamic within this Anchor Collaborative, as it helps mitigate against potential negative impacts a larger University campus can sometimes have on a local area (Will Universities assist or distract from strategic recovery planning).

Comment

Anchor Collaboratives take time to establish, as fostering the relational capital necessary to advance the shared vision is critical to effectiveness and to navigating inevitable internal and external disruptions. This example is illustrative of the organic way Anchor Collaboratives often evolve – through small projects and periodic engagement that grows into a more intentional collaboration over time. Open lines of communication, trust building activities, shared ownership, and acknowledgement of contributions to programs and outputs are important practical approaches that foster trust. Acknowledgement of the importance of resourcing and creating space for ongoing attention to relationships is crucial, as people change roles, restructures occur, and local needs evolve in response to changing conditions.

To amplify impact, Local Government is well placed to work with other Anchor Institutions that have aligned visions for improving the lives of local people and of their places. As this example demonstrates, it is possible to ‘start where you are’ through building-out from existing initiatives towards more intentional collaborations over time.

 

Based in Logan, Australia the Yunus Centre Griffith University has adopted an Anchor Institution framing to intentionally align our 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 reflects the continuing evolution of our Anchor approach, as shown in Figure 1 of Professor Anne Tiernan’s LGiU briefing (September 2021) 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 mzierke@sgsep.com.au

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