The Healthcare Anchor Network (HAN) just released case studies looking at how five HAN member systems are designing their place-based investing approaches, addressing the conditions that create racial, economic and environmental disparities. The case studies detail the program designs, budget and staffing, program impacts, key strategies, and lessons learned. With the help of the capital provided, thousands of affordable homes have been built, small businesses have been able to tap into financial resources, lower-wage workers have saved millions of dollars in fees and interest, communities have gained valuable assets, and more. HAN looks to build the anchor mission movement in the health sector and our goal is for these case studies to help other institutions to begin or move forward with impact investing.
Case Study Example
One of the midsized city examples in Worchester (MA) is the commitment taken by UMASS Memorial Health (UMMH), a local not-for-profit safety net health system with locations across Central Massachusetts. Since 2018, when they launched their anchor mission strategy with the goal of promoting health equity by addressing the social and economic factors contributing to health problems and disparities in the area, they received significant support from senior leadership and the Board of Trustees. Douglas Brown, president of UMM Community Hospitals and chief administrative officer of UMMH, has played a crucial role in spearheading UMMH’s anchor mission strategy. “We have a robust and a nationally recognized Community Benefits Program at UMass Memorial. It was imperative to me that the anchor mission not be thought of as another Community Benefits Program or an appendix to it. It is something very different. An anchor mission is focused on leveraging the full power of the organization to develop and implement strategies to address systemic problems tied to poverty and inequality in the community,” stated Brown.
A commitment to allocate 1% of their investment portfolio – amounting to $4 million – to targeted place-based community investments by 2025 can improve the health of vulnerable populations by addressing the social determinants of health (SDOH)—including housing, employment, food, education, and access to healthcare—with a particular focus on supporting economically challenged neighborhoods within UMMH’s service area. To date, the majority of these projects have been related to affordable housing and economic and program development. Working through Community Development Corporations (CDCs), local nonprofits, and for-profit developers has been their primary investment vehicle. One project of the Community Investing Program was done in partnership with Worcester Common Ground (WCG). WCG is a not-for-profit CDC that develops first-time homeownership and affordable rental housing in the Piedmont neighborhood of Worcester.
UMMH’s Community Investing Program has provided a three-year $400,000 line of credit for WCG to purchase vacant or blighted properties and rehabilitate them for first-time homeowners. In additions, the homes will be added to the WCG Community Land Trust Ground Lease model, which provides stewardship of the land trust’s holdings in order to preserve affordable housing and community resources and “to remove land from the speculative real estate market forever.” Another project of the Community Investing Program is the Tiny Home Village, a $4.6 million joint venture of a local CDC and a for-profit developer that will create 16 tiny homes for the chronically homeless as part of the Finally Home Fund. UMMH facilitated the introduction of Worcester East Side CDC and the real estate developer, Civico. Inspired by UMMH’s anchor mission strategy, Civico is now rethinking how their real estate development projects can be used to improve health and otherwise benefit communities. UMMH has contributed $300,000 to this project, which has also received support from a state agency.
Key lessons related to the work include:
- Support from senior leadership drives internal engagement.
- Leadership of highly experienced individuals with a variety of backgrounds enables program success.
- Leverage community relationships and other resources already established through existing community health initiatives.
- Educate internal stakeholders on impact investing and its importance, particularly those with finance backgrounds.
- Anticipate that projects may take longer than expected, particularly when they rely on multiple funding streams.
- Ensure that investments align with the anchor mission strategy.
- Expand into focus areas outside of affordable housing, like small business development.
To read the full case study, click HERE.
Hospitals and health systems are vital anchor institutions in their communities. In smaller towns and rural areas, they are some of the few institutions with the resources and assets that can be mobilized for the anchor mission—intentionally applying their long-term, place-based economic power and human capital in partnership with community to mutually benefit the long-term well-being of both. In addition to the place-based investing anchor mission pillar illustrated in the case studies, health anchors can also engage in local, inclusive hiring and procurement.
The anchor frame gives community development and other potential anchor mission collaborators an opportunity to discuss with health systems how they can more effectively leverage their human, capital, and other institutional resources towards community economic development community wealth building. In doing so, it helps to open up space for a conversation around areas like hiring, purchasing and investing, which can be activated by better linking them to efforts to improve community health and wellbeing and situating them in an overall organizational strategy. To get a sense of how upstream the health system is looking, stakeholders and potential collaborators can look at their Community Needs Health Assessment (CNHA) and other resources related to their impact in the community. And as an additional resource, check out HAN’s “Making the Business Case” section in our Tools for Defining the Anchor Imperative one-pagers on the three anchor mission pillars – Inclusive, Local Hiring; Inclusive, Local Sourcing; and Place-based Investing.
About the Author
Bich Ha Pham is a policy, advocacy, and communications professional with experience in developing and executing strategic advocacy and communications plans that generated significant press coverage, awareness, and policy change for lower-income individuals and communities. Bich Ha is the Director of Communications and Policy with the Healthcare Anchor Network, where she works on communications and advocacy for various initiatives. Bich Ha previously worked on a number of exciting projects, including the path-breaking campaign that resulted in New York City support for worker cooperatives, as well as the community wealth building policy work at the NYC Public Advocate’s office as Director of Policy. Bich Ha’s previous roles also included being the Executive Director of the Hunger Action Network of NYS and the Policy Director at FPWA. She received her Juris Doctorate from New York University School of Law and BA from Washington State University.
David Zuckerman has been leading the Healthcare Anchor Network since its launch in 2017 and serves as the executive director of the network. He is a national thought leader on the role of health systems as anchor institutions in building community wealth and inclusive economic development. He is the co-author of several reports that have helped propel forward the anchor mission movement, including Hospitals Aligned for Healthy Communities toolkit series. He is also the author of Hospitals Building Healthier Communities: Embracing the Anchor Mission and a contributor to Can Hospitals Heal America’s Communities. He is the lead author of a National Academy of Medicine discussion paper, Building a Culture of Health at the Federal Level and a contributor to 2020 Surgeon General’s Report on Community Health and Economic Prosperity. He serves on the Board of Trustees for the Consumer Health Foundation, including previously as Treasurer.