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Building Community Health & Wealth by Leveraging the Power of Anchor Institutions

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ECC & East Bay Partners Poised for Program Development Phase 

ECC’s Anchors for Resilient Communities (ARC) initiative is poised to move from Phase I – research and learning – to Phase II – program development leading to implementation in underserved neighborhoods in Oakland and Richmond in California’s East Bay.

ARC’s mission is to leverage the assets and capacities of community anchors – large place-based institutions such as hospitals, universities and local governments) – to improve the health, local economies and climate resilience of low-income communities of color. ARC is a natural outgrowth of ECC’s efforts to green the MUSH (municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals) sector to produce high-road principles and outcomes. ARC expands the roles of these institutions beyond providing alternative energy solutions and jobs into a broader approach to wealth-building and climate resilience. 

ARC:

  • Is place-based;
  • Uses a multiple-benefit strategy that operate at the nexus of community health, wealth and climate resilience;
  • Emphasizes equity and inclusion;
  • Promotes local ownership and control;
  • Creates and anchors living-wage jobs;
  • Keeps wealth local;
  • Builds “ecosystems” and institutions of support;
  • Leverages local community assets; and
  • Helps communities mitigate and adapt to climate change.

In designing ARC, ECC’s national office, EC Oakland and their partners (see list), ensured equity inclusion by convening a powerful “table” that includes representatives of disadvantaged neighborhoods along with the anchors and funders that support ARC’s goals of improved community health, wealth and climate resilience.

ARC Partners
The California Endowment

San Francisco Foundation

California Wellness Foundation

Kaiser Permanente

Kresge Foundation

University of California San Francisco/Berkeley
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Dignity Health

Emerald Cities Collaborative

Health Care Without Harm

The Democracy Collaborative
Avivar Capital (GPS Capital Partners)
Healthy Richmond

East Oakland Building Healthy Communities


Assets and Capabilities
Anchors’ assets and capabilities include purchasing power, career pathways and job opportunities and acting in the public roles as community hubs. The latter is defined as functioning as safe havens during extreme weather and as permanent sites for distributed energy such as solar installations and micro-grids. Significantly, local energy assets speed community recovery from extreme weather and, on an ongoing basis, lower energy costs and resulting pollution – thus contributing to community health and wealth, in addition to climate resilience.

In late April, EC Oakland convened the ARC partners to assess Phase I findings and plan next steps. A key take-away was the need to identify the economic sectors that can move communities towards sustainability, resilience and inclusiveness. (Video of session here; accompanying presentation here.)

Influencing Economic Sectors
During the ARC presentation findings, ECC President and CEO Denise Fairchild emphasized that ARC is intended not simply to look for job opportunities but to move markets and influence economic sectors. As a frame for moving ARC forward, she posed the question, “Which sectors can be influenced to be healthy, sustainable, resilient and inclusive?” She added, “The key is leveraging capital to make markets operate differently,” and noted, “There is no shortage of opportunities.”

Both providers and advocacy organizations in the health care field have been key players in ARC, as their work contributes so directly to better health outcomes. One anchor, Kaiser Permanente, sees the ARC table as a particularly strong partner to support and engage community partners in its larger national effort to build its total health approach for residents of low-income neighborhoods. 

Local Food Procurement|
A natural complement to ARC’s total health focus is procurement of local, healthy, sustainable food, which is likely to be a key element of ARC’s implementation phase. And all steps of the food supply chain – from manufacturing and processing to distribution and retail – have emerged as places where anchors need community partners.

Photo by Take Back Your Health Conference Los Angeles 2015

Indeed, the combined procurement of East Bay anchors is $6.8 billion, said Steve Dubb of the Democracy Collaborative. Capturing even 1 percent of that market, he said, would be a $68 million opportunity.

And food is a huge part of the California economy overall, with food and beverage processing constituting the state’s third-largest manufacturing sector.

Localizing the food economy demonstrates another ARC tenet – working both the demand and supply sides of the equation:

  • Aggregating demand for healthy food;
  • Increasing community access to healthy food;
  • Creating jobs for community residents;
  • Increasing markets for local producers.

Local procurement also contributes to a more healthful environment by reducing the carbon emissions that fuel climate change. And as Fairchild noted, climate change is a “threat multiplier” for frontline communities that suffer above-average rates of cancer and respiratory illness due to their proximity to sources of pollution.

The “community co-benefits” of local food procurement include:

  • Increased access to fresh, healthy foods;
  • Reduced dependence on fossil fuels for transport of food and conventional production;
  • Improved air, water and soil quality;
  • Reduced dependence on harmful pesticides, fertilizers and toxic chemicals;
  • Preservation of regional natural resources and healthy agricultural lands;
  • Increased understanding of the importance of our connection to the environment and how food can be sustainably produced in ways that protect our air, land and water resources; and
  • Mitigating the effects of climate-induced drought on the agriculture sector by preserving food access.

ARC is also looking at the clean energy/green building and green enterprise (such as demand for zero waste, recycling, green cleaning and such) sectors, all of which also address the three areas of community health, wealth and resilience. Moreover, the anchors in Oakland and Richmond are committed to moving into those sectors.

“This is a very synchronistic time for our Anchors for Resilient Communities initiative,” said EC Oakland Director Tara Marchant. “We look forward to leveraging the findings, of our Phase I research into creative, tangible, measureable environmental, economic and equity benefits for residents of our target East Bay communities”.

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