Our Choose Localism Strategy

Our webinar series was designed to showcase a series of practical and interlocking initiatives positioning councils as the pivotal entities for enabling strong local governance - supporting their communities to have 'voice choice and control over decisions which affect their place'. Links to the recordings of the webinars are at the end of this article.

The strategy involves three interrelated initiatives which taken together empower communities to be the authoritative voice on what should happen in their place - a mix of place making and growing community well-being. The three are:

  • Supporting and empowering self-identifying communities as genuine representatives of their place. This includes councils providing capacity building and support for capability development together with modest funding to support administration and policy activity (experience demonstrates this is an investment which provides very favourable returns for councils which do it well).
  • Facilitating local place/well-being planning as a way in which communities can spell out what their priorities are and how they would like to see them addressed.
  • Participatory budgeting enabling communities to share in determining how public funds should be spent within their place - this is a growing practice internationally widely welcomed as a powerful tool for strengthening local democracy.

Taken together these three sit under an overarching umbrella; an anchor institutions approach coordinated and facilitated by the council. This is an approach which began in the US city of Cleveland and is now spreading internationally with the UK City of Preston the exemplar for Westminster jurisdiction councils. 

Anchor institutions are organisations locally rooted and embedded in the local community. The essence of the anchor institution approach is bringing anchors together so that, as they undertake their business as usual, they do so in ways designed to improve local economic, social and environmental outcomes. In both the US and the UK it's been presented as a way of taking back control of the local economy looking to reverse the damage done by de-industrialisation and outsourcing of services and procurement to providers with no strong commitment to the local community.

That its presentatīon began as primarily a local economic development strategy reflects a quirk of US local government practice; the relative lack of a sense of the council being the focal point for local governance.

It's evolving to be much more than this.The essence of the anchor institutions approach as it is developing within local government is the council acknowledging its role as the leader in the governance of its communities. Generally, this reflects a combination of the existing purpose, role and powers of councils and the way the empowering legislation is infused with an obligation to consult with and reflect the interests of their communities. It is a way in which the council can bring together key stakeholders across its district so together they can collectively assert the district's voice against the growing impact of trends such as centralisation and national outsourcing. It's the critical element in underpinning an effective choose localism strategy.

The think tank, following the success of the webinar series, is now working with a number of councils to help them develop and implement this choose localism strategy. We will be continuing to work with the think tanks, practitioners and others who helped us put together the webinar series and drawing on the best of international expertise in strengthening the local economy, the local democratic voice and community well-being.

Over the next few weeks we will be uploading a range of reports to the interesting reading section of this website  to showcase anchor institutions practice including social procurement and community wealth building. Below we provide the links to the recorded webinars. We know from feedback that these webinars are a major catalyst for change and look forward to supporting that over the coming months and years.

view the recordings of the webinars here:

Webinar 1 Wiltshire’s community governance https://youtu.be/hm7i4wKYvuo

Webinar 2 recording anchor institutions https://youtu.be/jhb9eMzIfQo

Recording Webinar 3: The Portland experience: an international exemplar for community strengthening

Recording - Webinar 4: Empowering community voices: the role of local place planning

Webinar 5: Participatory budgeting: user-friendly local democracy in practice