Every community needs a Community Anchor to thrive… but what are they? Why are people talking about them? And how exactly do they strengthen communities? Here is our introduction to ‘community anchors’, what they are, how we see ourselves as our community’s anchor and our plans to strengthen the communities we serve. We hope it will benefit our community members as well as those interested in the role community anchors’ play in neighbourhoods across the UK and beyond.
1. What makes a strong and independent community?
“An examination of the characteristics of strong and independent communities shows that they possess the ability to unite – and ‘hold together’ – usually around some local organisation which they own.” (1)
The community organisation literally acts as an ‘anchor’. It plays a significant role in empowering its community by creating a focus for community groups and by championing collective interests. Without this organisation, community representatives find themselves too isolated to create a cohesive and empowered community.
2. “because of their roots within their communities”
The term community anchor first appeared in 2004 in the government report Firm Foundations, which was the government’s official framework for community capacity building. It states,
“We are calling them ‘community anchor organisations’ because of the solid foundation they give to a wide variety of self-help and capacity building activities in local communities and because of their roots within their communities.”
We think ‘roots within the community’ is an incredibly important part of this. As Chichester’s local organisation, we are building an ever-increasing knowledge of local need. And importantly, we are in a position to respond to this need, find solutions to problems, creating partnerships, being ambitious on behalf of our community.
3. Give me couple of examples of how Chichester Community Development Trust is the community’s anchor please!
We see it all the time… the lack of support or withdrawal of funds for maintaining local assets such as libraries, community centres or green spaces. CCDT has already ensured that the communities it looks after have common assets – their community buildings – than mean that the people in our neighbourhood can control and influence the activity here. These buildings are ‘the community hub’, the focal point for the local community to come together and thrive. And we plan to do so much more….which could include a community shop, pub, retail and leisure spaces. We will also strive to take on new services including delivery of services, projects and contracts on behalf of the community for the community.
We also bring opportunities into the neighbourhood. We work on behalf of our community, we consult, gain feedback and use this information to deliver projects and services on behalf of our residents and meet their needs.
4. What else might I expect from a community anchor?
- A building: a physical space which is community controlled, owned or led;
- A focus for services and activities meeting local need;
- A vehicle for local voices to be heard, needs to be identified and for local leaders and community groups to be supported;
- A platform for community development, promoting cohesion while respecting diversity;
- A home for the community sector which is supportive of the growth and development of community groups;
- A means of promoting community led enterprise, generating
- independent income while having a social, economic and environmental impact;
- A forum for dialogue within communities, creating community led solutions, and
- A bridge between communities and the state which promotes and brings about social change.
5. Is it sustainable?
Where do community anchors get their money from?
Funding comes from a mix of sources…
Ownership of assets:
Like CCDT, community anchors aim to survive independently and can do so party thanks to income generated from community assets.
CCDT owns and manages community assets on behalf of the communities. Our two community buildings are nearly running at capacity, with rentals of the spaces for meetings, parties, talks and to small businesses providing sports and recreation, which provides the neighbourhood with an eclectic mix of community activities to choose from. Any rental surplus generated from these buildings can support the work of the organisation and fill the gap for services where funding is not available (for example our internet Café or youth club).
This year, we will add to our communities’ assets as the Chapel (see blog post) is transformed into a state-of-the-art, multipurpose community facility.
Next year, we should take ownership of the community facilities in Lower Graylingwell, a multipurpose sports and community building, sports pitches and community garden for the benefit of the community.
In five years’ time, we plan to survive on a mix of income from community buildings and spaces, a café at Havenstoke Park, a small business enterprise hub and a shop.
In addition to the income streams from letting community buildings, Community Anchors can also raise funds from
– Consultancy services
– Arts and leisure services
– Business support services
CCDT has delivered a number of consultancy projects to other boroughs looking to replicate our work or deliver similar initiatives. We have worked with town, city, borough and county councils delivering presentations, tours and training on a variety of areas including governance, working and engaging developers, asset transfer, managing community buildings and land.
Community Anchors can also attract contract funding from local authorities and other statutory bodies…becoming a provider of local services that match the needs of the local community. CCDT provides back to work support, runs a large youth work programme and an adult learning programme for the people of Chichester.
6. What is the local need in Chichester?
Chichester is a fantastic city with a lot going on but with a number of new developments taking place across the district over the next 5 to 10 years services could become strained. The needs of the community of Chichester including community safety, education, enterprise and employment could be met with a number of community anchors providing services and programmes to individuals in their own locality.
7. How can we strengthen community participation?
By becoming engaged in their local community, taking part, volunteering or simply attending local provision individuals can strengthen their community by having a voice, a part in the design of their community and a say in how services are run and delivered.
8. This anchor’s holding nicely!
Locality, a national network organisation, believes “community anchor organisations are fundamental to the creation of thriving neighbourhoods, uniquely placed to provide solutions to many of the intractable economic, social and environmental problems we face as a society. They foster self-reliance rather than dependency, and provide communities with a degree of resilience to cope with changing circumstances.”
These words echo our values, mission and vision. We are our community’s anchor and look forward to the next few years…all the progress, problem-solving, enterprise and opportunities that we will create as a community.