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June 13, 2018

Community anchors coming of age

The concept of a community anchor has been consistently promoted by this briefing for more than a decade. The premise being that meaningful community empowerment is simply not viable without the presence of local organisations of this nature.  Gradually, over the years, the significance of these organisations has become more widely recognised and is increasingly embedded in areas of government policy – albeit with levels of public investment in them falling far short of what is needed. Recent research from What Works Scotland draws important connections between community anchors and the big policy challenges of the day.


What Works Scotland

To read Executive Summary – click here

This research report explores the developing role of key independent community sector organisations known as community anchors  – community-led, multi-purpose organisations. It draws from six exemplar anchor organisations to explore:

·         their roles in engaging with, leading and challenging public service reform

·         how public services and the state can better support community anchors and community sector development

·         and the potential roles of anchors in building local democracy, community resilience for sustainable development, and wider social change.

It seeks to support and inform the developing discussions between the community sector, public services and policymakers regarding how they can work together.

The community sector includes a wide range of local not-for-profit organisations and groups – the local third sector. Community anchor organisations are of particular importance because they seek to be community-led, multi-purpose and responsive to local context. This enables them to lead and/or facilitate complex local activities focused on local community-led place-making, which includes:

·         local economic and social development e.g. community enterprise, local sustainable development (community resilience), asset ownership, building social capital

·         design, development and provision of local public and community services, and

·         developing community leadership and advocating for community interests – strengthening a community’s voice and power to create change.

At the heart of an effective community anchor is a community-led or -controlled governance that develops and sustains a community-led focus and vision, and the development of community ownership of assets as part of an enterprising approach which contributes to the organisation’s financial resilience. It is these strengths that support community anchors in leading and/or facilitating complex, multi-purpose activities relevant to the local context. Taken as a whole across Scotland, community anchors therefore provide crucial ingredients for any vision of change to public services and society.

The report uses the Christie Commission’s vision as the starting point and space for dialogue on Scottish public service reform – a ‘Scottish Approach’. The Commission puts particular emphasis on ‘local partnerships and participation, and local communities of place and interest’ and to the role of public service reform in creating a more equitable society.  The report considers the notion of community-led place-making and its wider implications, drawing on three particular recurring ‘Christie’ concerns:

·         renewing local democracy and the accountability of local public services

·         strengthening community resilience and local sustainability

·         social change – a fairer society and ‘balanced’ (inclusive) economy.