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Anchoring Economic Development in Community Needs

Local funders are working with anchor institutions to reinvigorate local communities by connecting low-income residents to jobs and converting hospital lawns into community gardens. (Geoff Peters/Wikimedia Commons)
Local funders are working with anchor institutions to reinvigorate local communities by connecting low-income residents to jobs and converting hospital lawns into community gardens. (Geoff Peters/Wikimedia Commons)
September 25, 2017

DENVER – Anchor institutions – organizations such as hospitals and universities that develop deep roots in surrounding communities – are finding new ways to bolster local economies and create opportunities for more low-income residents, according to a new report by the Funders' Network.

Dace West, vice president of community impact with the The Denver Foundation, says local funders are also getting into the action.

"There's a real opportunity for us to work with institutions that haven't traditionally been involved in community and economic development in a way that's driven by community needs," she states.

The Denver Foundation played a key role in a collaboration that resulted in jobs for 400 local community members.

Working with the University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical Campus, 80 students from local neighborhoods have graduated from a 10-week training program.

Nearly 60 percent of graduates were hired, with a 98 percent retention rate.

Charles Rutheiser, a senior associate with The Annie E. Casey Foundation, notes the core business aspects of universities and hospitals can be deployed in partnership with communities to achieve better health and educational outcomes.

He points to programs that encourage students to stay in school and that help young people make a successful transition to college.

"Anchor institutions are a new and important chapter in the long history of new approaches to community development in the United States,” he states. “These institutions can partner, invest and act in new and different ways without sacrificing their bottom line."

Ruthheiser adds the foundation is exploring how to expand the anchor category to include other institutions with community connections, including for-profit companies, sports teams, libraries and museums.

The next step, he says, is to translate these best practices into policy, so that more localities can support anchor-based community development.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO