A vibrant network that supports anchors to take action on health

First of all, what do we mean by anchor organizations?

Anchors are large organizations such as universities, local authorities, large community organisations, businesses and hospitals whose long-term sustainability is linked to the well-being of the populations they serve. They are rooted in their place and connected to their communities.

Anchor organizations are important because they have significant assets as well as employment and purchasing power and can consciously use these resources to benefit their communities. There are many ways in which their actions can make a difference to the lives of people within the areas they are based in, for example:

  • expand access to quality work
  • using their purchasing power locally for social benefits
  • using buildings and spaces to support communities
  • reducing its environmental impact
  • working closely with local partners
  • listen and respond to what matters to the community.

In practice, this can lead to some truly innovative projects. Like in Lambeth, where the GP Food Co-Op builds gardens in GP surgeries and NHS hospitals, providing the green space and opportunity for people to socialise, learn and grow food together. Not only does this help to tackle social isolation and food insecurity, but the food is also distributed and sold to NHS staff and hospital catering services making a valuable economic contribution.

Or in Leeds, where Leeds Health and Care Academy works in local partnership to deliver engaging and progressive careers within disadvantaged or underrepresented communities across the city.

What is the purpose of the Health Anchors Learning Network?

We want to inspire anchor organizations to see what is possible. HALN provides opportunities to learn, connect and collaborate with others to improve the impact and reach of anchoring approaches. We equip our members to implement strategies that maximize the health, social, economic and environmental impact of their organizations for the benefit of their local community.

The web is free and open to everyone, and we’ve found that our tools and resources have been used by a variety of people. This includes people working directly on anchor strategies in their role, as well as those working in recruitment, public health, procurement, estates and other roles.

What has been achieved so far?

In HALN’s first three years, we have co-designed and brought together a network of almost 1,800 people across the UK to connect and learn together. We’ve built momentum and deepened practice, sharing learning through our webinars, events, learning sets, blogs and case studies. As a result, HALN is now seen as a one-stop shop for resources, ideas and best practices.

Most importantly, we have provided spaces for people to be inspired, reflect and solve problems together. As with any large-scale system change, the work participants are doing can seem complex and challenging. We know that partnership and collaboration can help.

An evaluation of our impact to date showed how participation in HALN has led to expanded networks (resulting in greater access to funding for an organization), built confidence in participants to take initiatives forward, and helped people rethink how they talked about anchors with senior leadership to enable participation.

What do you think are the main priorities of the network?

So far our focus has been on the NHS. However, anchors cover a whole range of organizations and sectors, including local authorities, community organisations, businesses, football clubs, faith-based organizations and many more.

Our priority now is to expand HALN’s reach. In 2024 we will look deeper into how local authorities can increase their impact and launch a new suite of learning for people working in local government. You also help private sector businesses understand the important role they can play in their local community.

What actions can people take now to improve the lives and health of people in their place using an anchors approach?

There are so many ways organizations can begin to take action, from adopting workforce strategies that intentionally nurture the skills of local youth, to relatively low-cost interventions like planting free trees on the grounds of Local NHS Trusts. We understand that it can be difficult to know where to start, so we’ve laid out some first steps in our case studies and blogs.

We are also very excited to have recently launched HALN Learning Pathways, a free online learning program designed to drive anchoring approaches that intentionally address inequities and drive social value in a place. The five modules bring together the wealth of learning generated by HALN, providing practical tools for people to use and adapt to their organisation.

How can I get involved in the network?

Joining HALN is easy and free, and you can get involved in our work by attending and contributing to events, sharing learning through blogs and case studies, and sharing ideas and topics that are important to focus on. if in HALN Get in touch to find out more about how you can contribute.

Next steps:

This content originally appeared in our email newsletter, which explores expert perspectives and opinion on a different health or healthcare topic each month.

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Image Source : www.health.org.uk

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