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January 2019 Anchor Collaborative Convening

From January 16th to 18th, 2019 the second Anchor Collaborative Convening brought together 55 leaders and champions of anchor collaboratives from 25 communities across the US and Canada. The Democracy Collaborative would like to extend our immense gratitude to New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA), The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and to all of our participants who brought thoughtful, fun and creative energy throughout.

What is the Anchor Collaborative Network?

The Anchor Collaborative Network (ACN) was initiated to build a shared movement of place-based collaborations that are working to accelerate equitable, inclusive strategies that respond to local needs and challenges. These collaboratives are comprised of anchor institutions, funders, and community partners working together to achieve shared, place-based goals of economic inclusion and equity. The ability to adapt strategies to what’s working and not working on a local level leads to opportunities for new ways of working on a city’s most intractable challenges.

At a time when the struggles facing communities across the country are so complex and intersectional, when wealth and health disparities are widening, and discourse in the public square is increasingly polarized, there has never been a moment in which collaboration was more necessary.

What we did together

Our intended convening outcomes were to…


Build and strengthen meaningful connections through which we can get and give support and thought partnership


Learning through experiences and insights of others


Develop tools that advance and promote our work and best practices individually and collectively - both internally and externally


Clear commitment and excitement to move forward powerfully together

This was no ordinary conference. The leaders and conveners of place-based collaboratives came together to advance their work and unpack the varied and shared challenges that each of us face when building more inclusive, equitable, and participatory economic cities throughout the world. Over the course of three days in New Orleans we:

  • Toured multiple New Orleans neighborhoods to learn about how NOLABA, partner organizations, and local anchor institutions are collaborating for positive change throughout the city

  • Shared the values that drive our work and connect our anchor collaboratives across the country and globe

  • Launched four Working Groups focused on priorities identified in the previous Anchor Collaborative Convening: Success Factors for Anchor Collaboratives, Case Studies, Community of Early Practice, and Strategies to Get to Systems Change

  • Engaged eight dynamic anchor collaborative leaders during Ignite Talks to hear stories from Richmond, Baltimore, New York Metro Region, Toronto, London, Memphis, Poughkeepsie, and the Twin Cities.

  • Learned about the innovative anchor strategy being implemented and coordinated by the New Orleans Business Alliance

  • Shared experiences, questions, and insights through peer coaching to help each other overcome barriers and move toward new ways of understanding and articulating challenges in advancing local, collaborative anchor strategies

  • Identified tangible next steps that can be carried forward in our local communities

  • Elevated the uniqueness of all of our work, celebrated our successes, and shared lessons learned

Working Group Summaries

Community of Early Practice: This group, comprised of individuals seeking to launch anchor collaboratives in their communities, began by recording all of the questions they had regarding what goes into starting a collaborative. Then, they clustered, sequenced, and prioritized the key themes that emerged from their initial questions to guide their future activities. This community of early practice has thus committed to meeting virtually on a monthly basis to learn from one another, support one another, share with one another, and hold each other accountable to moving forward the work in their home communities. In their first virtual meeting, this cohort will decide which big questions they want to tackle first and what they would need to do in order to answer those questions.

Strategies to Get to Systems Change: This group grounded the systems change conversation in the actual work each collaborative was doing on the ground  starting with the question: which system are you trying to change? They then themed these systems and observed the many different intervention levels from very specific to broader institutional, societal, and economic systems. Using this, the group built a shared vocabulary with what they mean by systems change. After laying the groundwork for a bigger conversation, they tried two different tools for drawing connections between the day in and day out work of their collaborative to the ultimate end goals they are trying to achieve in their communities. The result of these activities was a clear realization that the articulated goals of collaboratives are metric oriented, yet the change they are trying to make is about behavior, relationships, and trust. Moving forward, this group hopes to develop tools and strategies for anchor collaboratives to have this level of dialogue with local stakeholders in an accessible and constructive way.

Success Factors in Place-Based Collaboration: In New Orleans, this working group prototyped a visual self-evaluation tool for collaboratives. They began the working session by developing a working list of success factors for collaboration ranging from factors such as community engagement and empowerment, cross institutional buy-in, meaningful data and a trusted convener. Once the group themed the factors, they created a spectrum for each factor conceptualizing what it would look like when a success factor would look like when thriving and what it would look like when that factor was missing from the work of a collaborative. The group then sketched out what a visual representation of these spectrums would look like and thought through the applications of the tool. This working group hopes to continue to develop and test this framework for evaluating both the strengths and growing edges of a collaborative.

Case Studies: In New Orleans, this group prototyped an interactive case study template. They brainstormed the storytelling elements and information that they would want to learn from other collaboratives as well as the type of information, milestones, and challenges they would want to share when talking about their own collaborative work - everything from specific implementation strategies to broader goals and vision. The group then themed, prioritized, and ordered these elements into a template that could eventually be shared with collaboratives around the country to more easily share and elevate the story of their work.

What’s next?

A Design Team comprised of a half a dozen anchor collaborative leaders is actively working to iterate a framework for continued collaboration. Our next step will be to test the key activities of the proposed network with the broader anchor collaborative community and determine priorities for how we will continue our work together.

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