How do we develop a strategic approach to partnerships?

4 min readAug 31, 2021

I’ve written before about how you can let a thousand partnerships bloom and take a portfolio approach to developing them, but how about with anchor institutions?

1. We support our anchor institutions to better use their levers to tackle inequality

What might be the intended impacts?

You could try and secure increased commitments by anchor institutions to improve outcomes through better prioritisation and work with anchor institutions to better anticipate & respond to challenges & opportunities.

How might you do this?

You could run a peer challenge and gap analysis across anchor institutions to prioritise which levers are most important to improve, to achieve increased employers paying the living wage. You could also develop tasks & finish sessions on 2–3 key missions to test solutions, like this experiment to test & scale tackling poverty to lead to developing an anchor institution network.

2. We help anchor institutions develop their capabilities in ways that embody the place’s values

What might be the intended impacts?

You might try to achieve that anchor institutions feel they have improved their skills in participation, equalities, research & funding. You might also ensure that the strengths & lived experience of residents & communities is better valued by anchor institutions in their work.

How might you do this?

You could develop an anchor institution network developing tools & learning sessions to share learning & improve collaboration, like this example in Birmingham. You might also develop a participation framework & academy that helps improve the skills & collaboration between anchor institutions & communities, like this example of a Public Collaboration Lab supporting local partners.

3. We amplify the impact & reputation of the local area through improved collaboration

What might be the intended impacts?

You might try and achieve improved collaboration between anchor institutions at a neighbourhood level to tackle issues. You might also try and secure increased levels of external funding & place-based giving across the place.

How might you do this?

You might create a festival of collaboration celebrating how partners help improve their neighbourhoods, like these examples of Think & Do or Everyone Everyday street spaces. You might also develop place-based giving through crowdfunding and connecting up local funders to better coordinate funding/CSR, like through a Community Wealth Fund or Commons Partnership.

You could come together around a set of design principles, like

  • We support anchor institutions to prioritise in an agile way the challenges & levers they want to tackle together
  • We develop the approaches that enable staff within anchor institutions to test out how best they use their levers in a practical way
  • We create the spaces which bring partners together to improve how they involve residents, embed equalities and work at a neighbourhood level
  • We create platforms for the place to position itself on its strengths to attract investment & build coalitions for change
  • We provide dedicated support on the place’s biggest priorities where we can join up activities to have the greatest impact

How might you start testing this out?

You could start by working with services & anchor institutions to agree on 2–3 missions we can mobilise to tackle issues, through developing task & finish group, 121 interviews, staff workshops & partnership summit.

You could then test out collaborative activities to tackle the 2–3 missions with anchor institutions to build momentum and show early impact, supported by problem-solving sessions, show & tells, external inspiration within a festival of collaboration.

As you start to develop this, you could adjust to what you’re learning & testing, embed collaboration with teams & partners through securing resourcing by anchor institutions to embed the 2–3 mission projects.

Then, going forwards, you could embed the work through developing a strategic framework & investment fund pooling resources around key missions.




Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese