AITF - Anchor Partnerships Subgroup

AITF Anchor Partnerships Subgroup


Created in 2009, the Anchor Institutions Task Force (AITF) is an action-oriented learning community promoting the role of anchor institutions in engaging in democratic collaboration in their localities to bring about equitable growth and expanding opportunities for constituencies that have been historically underserved. AITF acts as both a network and a think tank, and is
committed to a set of values, included equity and social justice, democracy and democratic practice, collaboration, and place.

AITF views anchor institutions as organizations that endure in their geographic places and play a vital role in their local communities and economies. Based on this definition, anchor institutions represent a wide array of types of institutions in different fields. Moreover, the nature of anchor institutions differs from one locality to the next. Each neighborhood, city, town, or region is an ecosystem of anchor institutions alongside other entities, such as local government, grassroots community-based organizations, philanthropic institutions and others.

As the anchor institutions field has evolved, it has become increasingly apparent that the most pressing issues of our times, which are manifested and experienced in localities, require the collective attention of multiple anchor institutions and other partners. This recognition has been demonstrated in the proliferation of multi-institutional partnerships involving numerous types of organizations in unprecedented collaborative pursuits designed to strengthen their communities. AITF has witnessed, within its own membership and elsewhere, the recent development of new collaborative initiatives intentionally leveraging the resources and expertise of anchor institutions and other partners to solve local problems.

These anchor partnerships are entities in themselves, like organizations, but with many more parts and interests. Institutions participating in these partnerships all have their own priorities, systems, and cultures, making these collaborative efforts highly complex. Despite their complexity, these partnerships are vital to the future of communities, as it is difficult to imagine
the economic, health, educational, and environmental challenges being sufficiently addressed without anchor institutions’ active participation.

With this rapid development of anchor partnerships, there is a need for a community of practice, focusing on the unique needs of these unique institutional arrangements. Therefore, AITF is creating an Anchor Partnerships Subgroup. This Subgroup would provide a forum for learning exchange among central participants in anchor partnerships to learn from each other. This kind
of mutual learning could build a sense of community among anchor partnerships from various different communities, sharpen a common idea of what works well in these collaborative initiatives, provide collective guidance and troubleshooting the navigate the unique challenges confronting partnerships, and ultimately enhance the overall capacity of these partnerships. Highly effective anchor partnerships could and should lead to the transformation of communities, particularly in the context of such uncertain times.


The format for the Anchor Partnerships Subgroup is informed by AITF’s established subgroup model. AITF subgroups periodically meet, share experiences and practices, and develop innovative ideas that inform the development of new strategies for AITF and the wider field. The Anchor Partnerships Subgroup will meet quarterly over the course of a calendar year. The
last of these four meetings would be an extended session.

These meetings would be conducted virtually. The last meeting could be in person, based on the interest of the subgroup’s members. During all of the meetings, each member would have an opportunity to share updates on their work in learning exchanges. These exchanges would surface common lessons and ideas that would lead to the identification of particular topics or themes for the subgroup to explore during a given period. For example, the group could decide that how to keep partners involved over time is an issue they want to explore more deeply. This issue could be a theme for the year. In addition to sharing lessons with each other on this theme, the group could organize a webinar, develop a publication, or pursue some other kind of project.

In between meetings, subgroup members could stay in touch through a listserv. Members can always suggest ideas for how they would like to be engaged and what kind of content they would like to discuss.

Participants and Cost

Each partnership participating in this subgroup would be represented by its central leadership. Given the varying organizational structures of these partnerships, there would be some differences in participants. But it seems that all of these collaborations have two types of leadership.

One form of leadership comes from whomever staffs the partnership. There can be a lot of variation in this regard, because some partnerships are housed inside an existing organization that serves as a hub. Others might be coordinated by an independent consultant. Some other partnerships might have opted to incorporate and become official organizations in themselves. The other major form of leadership comes from the partners themselves. These are likely CEOs of anchors or some high-level designee. Some partnerships have established leadership models for partners (for example, named leadership positions such as “Chair” or anchor leaders participating in some central governing body).

Due to the complexity of this reality, partnerships joining this subgroup would be represented by multiple participants. It would be up to the partnership to decide who would represent their initiative. It would be useful to include a blend of participants (e.g. two or three anchor partners across sectors or a staff lead plus one or two anchor partners). This blending of participants greatly enriches the learning experience among subgroup members, and helps all involved better understand what it takes to initiate, develop, and sustain multi-stakeholder anchor partnerships that catalyze significant change in their communities. Additionally, participating anchor partnerships in the subgroup could periodically decide to hold larger convenings that could include all of their members. These events would allow for an even more inclusive sharing experience.

The subgroup will be open to anchor partnerships of all types and at all levels of development. Some anchor partnerships are more advanced, but most are in early stages of development. A mix of partnerships at various points in their life cycles provides a stimulating and mutually beneficial experience.

The cost of participating in the Anchor Partnerships Subgroup is $2000 per year per partnership. These funds cover the cost of coordinating/curating the subgroup’s work – moderating meetings, developing meeting agendas, composing meeting minutes, and handling a range of logistics.