I’ve been thinking about anchors. No, not the seafaring kind, though I do enjoy a legitimate opportunity to wear Topsiders now and again. I’m focused on community anchors – go-to neighborhood organizations – and how they’re evolving to address deeply-entrenched challenges of poverty and blight.
Increasingly, anchor institutions are engaging broad coalitions and strategies to link economic, health, redevelopment, arts, greening, and education efforts. Consider Harlem Children’s Zone and the national attention it’s spawned by creating a seamless approach to serving children and their families from birth through high school graduation. Because good schools are vital to sustainable communities, many anchors are now sharpening their proverbial pencils.
Fairmount’s recent anchor clients offer a range of innovation ideas:
- A CDC creates a local charter to attract and retain young families, raising property values and catapulting young residents to secondary school success.
- A major human service provider develops a hybrid school for its non-English speaking clients, with on-site primary care and language-intensive global studies accreditation.
- A major research University targets an underperforming public elementary, leveraging expertise and funding that will transform this neighborhood school.
What’s most important to consider?
- A clear focus on why you’re dipping your toes into sometimes-murky education waters.
- Due diligence to assess whether it’s best to go your own route or find a partner school.
- Ongoing communication between the school community, and the community at large.
How might your anchor organization add an education component to strengthen your core mission? And what is your community doing to stay moored?