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Foundation Operations: Finance-> Investment Policies-> Anchor Institutions

Anchor Institutions as an Emerging Community Building Asset

Universities, hospitals, churches, and other anchor institutions in communities are often a force in local development and community wealth building. With the right strategic focus, these institutions can leverage billions of dollars to benefit surrounding communities through targeted purchasing, real estate development, endowment investments, workforce development, training, and other means. Health funders can encourage anchor institutions to operate in a way that helps enhance community health and well-being.

In Cleveland, Ohio, The Cleveland Foundation is committed to addressing economic issues and developing neighborhoods in the region. The Greater University Circle Area, which includes the Cleveland Clinic campus, the Veterans Administration Medical Center, the traditional University Circle area, and surrounding neighborhoods, has suffered from years of isolated development and economic decline. Over the next few years, it is expected that more than $1.5 billion will be spent by the key institutions on new structures and developments. The foundation is leading a coalition of universities, hospitals, grantmakers, financial institutions, transit authorities, and city officials to develop strategies to stimulate reinvestment in the area so that it becomes the region’s leading district of medical, educational, and cultural institutions surrounded by vibrant residential neighborhoods. This Greater University Circle Initiative is focusing on “cross-cutting issues that are important to the area as a whole, but currently not the responsibility of any individual institution” including transportation, housing, green space, and programs for economic inclusion.

In Cincinnati, the Health Alliance – the largest health system in a tri-state area – is addressing community health beyond the provision of health care by looking at economic and environmental issues. The system has made investing in locally owned and diverse suppliers (small, minority and women-owned enterprises) a priority, spending over $20 million with those businesses in 2006. Acknowledging that “the medical industry has lagged behind others in terms of reducing waste to landfills and incineration,” the Health Alliance also implemented a new waste reprocessing program, reducing medical waste by more than three tons. The following are other ways in which health funders can address the role of anchor institutions in their communities:

  • award project grants to anchor institutions and community-based organizations to jointly design and implement neighborhood health programs;
  • encourage medical and public health schools to include completion of a community-based rotation among their graduation requirements;
  • support job training programs targeted at neighborhood residents to provide them greater access to service jobs in local hospitals and health institutions and other anchors;
  • encourage state-level policies aimed at motivating hospitals and other anchor institutions to link a percentage of their financial assets, including their endowment funds, to community development efforts;
  • provide incentives to hospitals and other institutions to link their food service operations to local organic food producers, both to support community economic development and to provide healthier meals to customers;
  • convene a range of local anchor institutions to explore how they might collaborate to benefit the community through their programs and business operations;
  • support and publicize research that assesses and surveys anchor procurement procedures including the degree of purchasing from minority-, women-, and locally owned businesses; and
  • provide funding to help catalyze the creation of community outreach and engagement units within anchor institutions that are tasked with the responsibility to create anchor-community partnerships.


Related Reading

The Cleveland Foundation, “The Greater University Circle Initiative: Leveraging Institutional Investments to Create a 21st Century Community” (Cleveland, OH: July 2007). This paper provides an overview of the foundation initiative.

The Democracy Collaborative, “Linking Colleges to Communities: Engaging the University for Community Development” (University of Maryland, College Park: August 2007). This report reviews the history of policy and funding decisions that have shaped the agenda and direction of higher education. It surveys the growing movement for university community engagement and suggests a strategic framework by which America’s foundations could play a catalytic role. See, in particular, “Conclusion: Awakening the Sleeping Giant,” pages 97 – 104.

Fulbright-Anderson, Karen, Patricia Auspos, and Andrea Anderson, “Community Involvement in Partnerships with Educational Institutions, Medical Centers, and Utility Companies,” prepared by the Aspen Institute Roundtable on Comprehensive Community Initiatives for The Annie E. Casey Foundation (Baltimore, MD: January 2001). This paper presents findings from a project which studied partnerships between community-based organizations and colleges, universities, medical centers, and public utilities.  

Health Alliance, “Community Benefit Report: 2006 Summary” Cincinnati, OH: Health Alliance, 2007.  

Health Care Without Harm, “Food and Food Purchasing: A Role for Health Care,” Going Green: A Resource Kit for Pollution Prevention in Health Care, (Arlington, VA: April 6, 2006). 

Kulick, Marie, Healthy Food, Healthy Hospitals, Healthy Communities: Stories of Healthcare Leaders Bringing Fresher, Healthier Food Choices to their Patients, Staff and Communities (Minneapolis, MN: Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, May 2005). This report highlights several examples and discusses hurdles to overcome and lessons learned.


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