Anchors in Resilient Communities

With support from the Kresge Foundation, ECC has produced a set of reports on its Anchors in Resilient Communities (ARC) projects: 

Anchors in Resilient Communities (ARC) is a place-based program that leverages 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. 

A natural outgrowth of ECC’s efforts to green the MUSH sector (municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals) and produce high-road principles and outcomes, ARC expands the roles of anchor institutions into a broader approach to wealth-building and climate resilience. 

ARC is a geographically-targeted initiative currently focused on three highly urbanized coastal cities that are at risk of the full spectrum of chronic climate conditions and extreme events:

Anchor Institutions are the centerpieces and catalysts for building stronger local economies and climate-resilient infrastructure. 

ARC combines the shared values, capacities, initiatives and interlocking relationships among ECC, Health Care Without Harm, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Community Innovators Lab (MIT Co-Lab) and Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union (1199SEIU). 

Our work in each site focuses on strengthening the community’s overall resilience – social, physical and economic – against climate risks, addressing specific problems and needs dictated by context, local circumstance and scale, as well as by local culture and capacity: economic resilience for Oakland/Richmond, energy resilience for the Bronx and critical facilities planning in Miami.  

Our work in each site is characterized by:

  • Food and Energy Resilience as key drivers for mitigating and adapting to climate change. 
  • Economic Resilience designed to harnesses the procurement, investment and economic power of our institutional partners to build more resilient local business and community capacities. 
  • Equity/Community Engagement via a robust, pre-existing community engagement component that ensures the inclusion of low-income communities of color in resilience planning and implementation. 

Oakland/Richmond (East Bay): The precipitating factor, in 2013, was how to leverage the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for deep community health and wealth benefits. The ARC effort began in earnest in January 2015, when ARC formalized its partnership with Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) and determined the project’s scope and mission, which involve leveraging the assets and capacities of East Bay institutional anchors to develop healthy and prosperous communities in the under-served neighborhoods of Richmond and Oakland. 

The Oakland project also seeks to leverage The California Endowment’s 10-year investment in Oakland and Richmond, leading to an exploration of climate risks and related issues of food quality, availability and cost, as well as agricultural jobs and energy and, in turn, to a procurement study around local food and the anchor institution’s purchasing power. 

Bronx: Informed by the experience from Superstorm Sandy – including the loss of power to 8.5 million customers due to the failure of the electric grid and the fact that public housing residents in the Bronx were among the last to regain power – this program’s strategic focus is strengthening the energy resilience of vulnerable high-density South Bronx communities that are home to several public housing developments, Lebanon Hospital and the region’s food distribution center in Hunts Point. 

MIT CoLab and the Bronx Community Development Initiative (BCDI) were already working with Emerald Cities New York to build economic democracy. These partners then developed a plan to look at the energy sector as a way to rebuild the community by addressing energy use, climate resilience and the built environment.  

In addition, in 2013, BCDI and Montefiore Hospital began discussing how the Affordable Care Act would change the way nonprofit hospitals such as Montefiore invest in communities and how Medicaid funds could address the upstream causes of poor health, rather than merely reimbursing emergency care. 

Miami: The ARC Miami project grew from 1199SEIU’s labor-management relationship and the role of union members as residents of the neighborhoods served by the University of Miami Hospital (UMH). The role of labor traditionally focused on health services and improving health benefits, as well as wages and salaries. In the context of ARC, SEIU recognized a broader role in the social determinants of health, which includes helping redefine health services to encompass wealth and climate resilience. 

 Rather than penalizing community health workers for failing to show up for work during climate events, as in the case of Hurricane Rita for example, they are being proactively involved in developing strategies for community health, wealth and climate resilience through deep community organizing and engagement and by leveraging the resources of UMH. 

The union’s role in broadening how the hospital fulfilled its Affordable Care Act mandates grew when it became clear that the hospital was not properly conducing the mandated triennial community health needs assessment (CHNA) by incorporating real community involvement. The union stepped in to help conduct the CHNA and to make it culturally and linguistically appropriate for poor, Haitian and Latino communities, as well as to undertake outreach in those communities to broaden the survey’s scope. 


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