This paper provides a framework for Living Cities Anchor Institutions Design Lab that was designed to advance the potential of anchor institutions to catalyze economic activity to benefit low-income people.

Anchor institutions like universities and hospitals directly and indirectly generate considerable economic activity. However, the potential impact of this economic activity for regional economies is often not fully realized, in part because the benefits and opportunities created by that economic activity are not aggregated or geographically concentrated in the anchors’ home region. Meanwhile, insufficient attention is paid to how regional residents—including low-income residents—might access such opportunities. We believe that a major barrier to maximizing the economic impact of anchors is a lack of alignment between anchors and the broader economic systems and stakeholders (e.g., small business development, regional economic strategy, etc.) in cities and regions. The purpose of the Living Cities Anchor Institutions Design Lab is to produce a concrete, action-oriented framework to advance this kind of coordination and thereby increase the economic impact that anchors can have on their cities and regions.

This framing paper serves three primary purposes:

  1. To introduce the concept of alignment between anchors and the broader regional systems with which they interact – including a typology of different levels of alignment;

  2. To describe some of the key regional systems and stakeholders with which the efforts of anchors would need to be better aligned in order to increase anchors’ economic impact; and

  3. To outline some key considerations that Design Lab participants should keep in mind as they work together to build a framework of action to advance this alignment.