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Effective Governance

Effective governance involves the policies, processes, and systems that the anchor collaborative uses to facilitate productive and informed decision-making. Effective governance structures help guide the collaborative's direction, operationalize the vision, and ensure oversight and accountability. A well-functioning governance system captures and aligns the diverse interests and efforts of anchor collaborative members and the community, while providing opportunities for connection, trust-building, and accountability, as well as ensuring that resources are used efficiently and effectively.

Implementing anchor strategies in collaboration requires partners to work together in new ways. Taking the time to create a thoughtful governance structure that is tailored to the collaborative’s culture and norms allows anchor collaboratives to respond to changing circumstances and emerging challenges. By establishing structures and processes that endure beyond individual projects or initiatives, governance ensures that collaboratives can continue to thrive and evolve over time, leaving a lasting impact on the community.

The backbone and/or convener, in consultation with members of the collaborative, will need to find a balance between too much and not enough structure. Members of the collaborative and the backbone should feel empowered, motivated, and prepared to make decisions—and not bogged down by unnecessary processes or procedures that create rigidity, fatigue, and inhibit progress. Governing bodies should be action-oriented and designed to promote bi-directional exchanges of information and ideas, in order to avoid passive engagement by members. Further, the level of authority granted to each governing body and the backbone should be clearly outlined.

For anchor collaboratives, governance structures may take many different shapes. Here we discuss recommendations for organizing the anchor collaborative, the role of committees and community advisory groups, and elements that make an effective governance structure—including clearly established roles, documentation of core information about the collaborative, and principles for engagement.

Organizing for decision-making

The anchor collaborative’s governing bodies are responsible for making important decisions related to every success factor outlined in this playbook: the collaborative’s strategic direction and moving ideas into action (see 3.1 Shared Imperative), advocating for the anchor mission and the collaborative (see 3.2 Activated Champions), community partnerships (see 3.4 Collaboration with Community), staffing and fundraising (see 3.5 Sustainable Resourcing), collecting data and monitoring progress (see 3.6 Quality Data and Impact Measurement) and public engagement (see 3.7 Strategic Communications).

Whether the backbone is a standalone organization, a program or an initiative of another nonprofit, or something less formal, collaboratives share commonalities in their decision-making structures. To facilitate effective decision-making, many anchor collaboratives structure their partnership using the constellation model, which is applicable to any group of multisector partners working toward a joint outcome with a focus on action. With the constellation model, “public education, service delivery, research and other tangible social change activities are handled by ‘constellations’ or small, self-organizing teams. These teams thread into an overall partnership, which is held together with a framework that shares leadership between the partners.”

In practice, the constellation model is applied to anchor collaboratives by organizing members into committees—including an executive committee or board, implementation committee that gets the collaborative off the ground, and working groups for each of the collaborative’s respective strategies. Some collaboratives have a separate community advisory board whereas others integrate community members into each level of the collaborative’s governance structure. With support from the backbone and/or convener, these “constellations” bring together individuals from anchor institutions and community groups who have shared interest and expertise, providing several layers of decision-making on strategic direction and anchor strategy implementation.

[43] Tonya Surman and Mark Surman, “Listening to the Stars: The Constellation Model of Collaborative Social Change,” Social Space, (2008): 25, accessed February 1, 2024,

Role of committees

Committees include leaders and staff from different levels and departments of anchor institutions and community organizations. Multi-level, cross-departmental engagement supports institutional adoption of anchor mission principles and ensures momentum is not lost as key leaders or staff transition into new roles.

Sample Governance Structure
Sample Governance Structure
Note on champions and committee members

A best practice for collaboratives is to clearly document the purpose of each committee, the level of authority it is granted, and whether it is time bound or meant to exist as long as the collaborative is active. Some collaboratives have new members sign Memorandums of Understanding or nonbinding agreements that outline the expectations of anchor collaborative members in terms of participation and resourcing of the collaborative, including their participation in its governing bodies. This can help with the initial staffing of each committee, and signals to each member the depth of engagement that is expected at the outset. Furthermore, a periodic rotation of representatives on these committees brings new and diverse voices to tables that shape the collaborative’s direction.

Below we outline the roles and responsibilities for common levels of governance. The examples provided are just that, and each collaborative will have to decide what is the appropriate level of structure for their partnership.

Examples of Anchor Collaborative Governance Structures

Philadelphia Anchors for Growth and Equity (PAGE)

Staff: 3 full time staff that includes 1 director and 2 program managers

Backbone: Economy League of Greater Philadelphia

  • Leaders from each anchor institution member are on the Economy League board of directors. Since PAGE is focused primarily on Impact Purchasing, procurement leaders meet to strategize, understand current needs, and share best practices.
  • The Real Estate and Construction Committee, jointly led by procurement leaders at two anchor institutions, establishes the agenda for the collaborative and priorities to ensure alignment with what makes sense for the city.
  • PAGE meets regularly with procurement partners to understand the barriers that arise when doing business with anchors so they can better inform PAGE programming.

South Florida Anchor Alliance (SFAA)

Staff: 1 full time project director, supported by 1 external facilitator

Backbone: The Health Foundation of South Florida

  • Once members sign the blueprint for action, which outlines the collaborative’s goals and strategies around supplier diversity and workforce development, they nominate individuals to participate in quarterly workgroups. In addition, members commit to having the executive attend at least one meeting per year.

Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance (SINA)

Staff: 6 full time staff including an executive director, directors, and analysts

Backbone: SINA is an independent 501(c)(3)

  • The three chief executives from each anchor institution convene annually to approve SINA’s budget, discuss essential topics, and hear updates from SINA.
  • The board consists of nine members, three representatives from each institution, who are responsible for providing monthly feedback and hearing updates. The executive committee on the board consists of a board chair, secretary, and treasurer, who handle signing checks and address urgent matters between meetings. In addition, the board engages with SINA every five years on strategic planning.
  • On the REACH (Recognition, Education, Achievement, and Community Health) Committee, volunteers from the three institutions collaborate on community-based programming.

St. Louis Anchor Action Network (STLAAN)

Staff: 1 full time executive director

Backbone: University of Missouri-St Louis

  • Executive Leadership Committee (ELC): executive leaders from each anchor institution, focused on understanding the foundations of the collaborative, community engagement, and the origins of existing disparities.
  • Implementation Committee: Senior leaders oversee operations and inform ELC about anchor strategies, specifically in hiring and purchasing. Both committees advise the executive director on strategic planning, growth, institutional support, and sector-specific considerations.
  • STLAAN has two working groups: hiring and career development, and purchasing and local business engagement, which each have representatives from the community and each anchor institution.
  • The Research Group evaluates STLAAN’s effectiveness and identifies areas for improvement, focusing on developing strategies to increase employment and business support.

Tacoma Anchor Network (TAN)

Staff: 1 part time consultant supported by part-time staff from the City of Tacoma

Backbone: The backbone function for TAN is provided by an independent consultant and funded by the City of Tacoma.

  • Each member of TAN designates a leadership-level anchor champion for the Steering Committee, which meets bi-monthly. The TAN Steering Committee meets monthly and is the forum for network-wide decisions. Anchor champions serve as liaisons between executive leadership and the network.
  • Working groups meet monthly and are organized into three groups: Local Procurement Landscape, Healthcare Careers Pathways, and Affordable Housing. TAN also holds all-network meetings every other month with a broad group of stakeholders.

West Side United (WSU)

Staff: 12 full time staff including an executive director, directors, and program managers

Backbone: RUSH University Medical Center

  • The Executive Leadership Council, which includes a representative from each of WSU’s founding partners, serves as the steering committee, overseeing the development of anchor mission strategies and guiding WSU’s transition to a 501(c)(3).
  • WSU directors lead working groups for Impact Workforce, Impact Purchasing, and Place-based Investing, which drive specific initiatives forward.
  • WSU Community Advisory Council (CAC) comprises 18 members who meet quarterly to guide the planned or proposed initiatives and ensure that the community voice is represented at all levels of the governance structure.

Governance Structure, Tacoma Anchor Network (TAN)

The Tacoma Anchor Network prioritizes participation and inclusivity in its governance. When it comes to structure, it aims to create just enough structure to support the work, but not so much that the structure becomes a burden. The backbone function for TAN is provided by an independent consultant and funded by the City of Tacoma. Each anchor institution member of TAN designates a leadership-level anchor champion to participate in the TAN Steering Committee, which meets bimonthly. Staff from each anchor also participate in working groups and in-person convenings as relevant to specific areas of work in procurement and workforce, for example. TAN also holds virtual all-network meetings every other month, bringing together a wide variety of partners around an evolving set of learning topics. Through this structure, TAN serves as a learning community by which members engage with shared learning topics together, and take those learnings back to their respective organizations.


Executive committee

For most collaboratives, the highest level of governance is the executive committee (sometimes called a board of directors or executive steering committee). This group, comprised predominantly of executive-level leaders from each anchor institution within the collaborative and ideally joined by community leaders, determines the overall strategy and direction of the collaborative. Executive committees typically meet quarterly.

  • visioning and strategic planning, including deciding which strategies the collaborative will focus on (e.g., hiring, purchasing, investing, or another anchor mission strategy);

  • resourcing the collaborative, helping secure funding, cultivating relationships with funders, and staffing key positions—such as selecting a trusted convener or hiring an executive director;

  • nominating key staff from their respective institutions for engagement in committees, and meeting regularly with those staff members and the backbone, which shares updates on the collaborative’s progress;

  • approving major decisions around their internal organization’s processes that facilitate the anchor collaborative’s success (e.g., removing bachelor’s degree requirements for certain jobs, new systems for tracking vendor demographics, or new or renewed allocations for place-based investments); and

  • monitoring progress and approving any major decisions that will have a material impact on the collaborative including large grants, strategic pivots or expanded scope, new partnerships, new members of the collaborative (including onboarding new members), and corrective action.

Leadership Transitions, Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance (SINA)

Having consistent, senior-level representatives from each institution on SINA’s board has helped the organization endure more than twenty executive transitions over the years and secure institutional buy-in from leaders. When a chief executive comes to an anchor-institution member organization, SINA relies on its current board members to bring them up to speed. SINA recommends striking a balance between engaging many mid- and upper-level leaders at organizations while retaining a strong connection to the chief executives. The partnership should rely on more than the chief executives to keep it sustainable, but should keep the executives engaged and have buy-in to drive successful collaboration.

Implementation committee

The implementation committee members are senior-level leaders within anchor institutions who have a direct line of communication to the C-Suite. Members of this committee understand their organization's broader priorities while also bringing deep insight on internal operations. Individuals with a thorough understanding of the anchor mission and their organization’s efforts around equitable economic development are most effective in this role. Implementation committees may start by meeting monthly and transitioning to quarterly once the collaborative gets off the ground.

  • serving as the liaison or “lead” for their institution to the collaborative, keeping executive leaders informed, and identifying additional staff to involve in the collaborative’s work;

  • ensuring anchor strategies are aligned with the organizational and departmental priorities of anchor institutions, and elevating any major questions or requests from the collaborative to executive leaders, including changes to organizational processes necessary to facilitate anchor strategy implementation;

  • informing a data collection strategy for the collaborative, including identifying which metrics are initially available and which need to be introduced or refined for alignment with the collaborative’s goals;

  • structuring the collaborative including outlining cadence, composition, and duties of other committees;

  • identifying and building relationships with community partners, and establishing partnership agreements and criteria for new partnerships/engagements; and

  • providing more “hands on” support for the backbone and/or convener by participating in working-style sessions or designing specific program elements or tactics as needed.

Working groups (anchor strategy-specific committees)

Working groups collaborate with backbone staff to advance specific programs or priorities of the anchor collaborative. For instance, a collaborative might have a dedicated working group for each of its anchor strategies around workforce, purchasing, and place-based investing. Members of the working group are typically manager-level or higher within the anchor institution and have expertise in their working group’s focus area. In some cases, working groups designate co-chairs who support the backbone in planning agendas, leading discussions, and engaging more deeply with the backbone staff. Members of community groups relevant to the respective strategy of the working group are vital partners for co-designing solutions and bringing implementation expertise to the working group.

  • designing mechanics of anchor mission strategies, including the role and duties of each partner involved;

  • informing any organizational changes necessary to better facilitate implementation of anchor strategies (e.g., adjustments in recruiting practices for an impact hiring program or systems for reaching diverse vendors);

  • collaborating with community partners to deepen connections with the populations and geographies where the collaborative is focused;

  • integrating community feedback into anchor strategy design and implementation;

  • solving specific problems for the collaborative, such as designing initial communications or fundraising plans; and

  • collaborating with the higher-level implementation or executive committees when a project or initiative will substantially impact the goals, outcomes, or time and resources required by the collaborative.

Staffing the anchor collaborative’s working groups

Working groups need not exist in perpetuity. While working groups around the long-term anchor strategies of Impact Workforce, Impact Purchasing, and Place-based Investing should remain consistent, a collaborative may stand up a new group to answer a specific question or complete a specific task for the collaborative. This was the case with the St. Louis Anchor Action Network, which created a communications committee in its early days to craft key messages and brand guidelines for the collaborative. The committee sunsetted once the materials were completed and the backbone organization felt well equipped to move the communications strategy forward.

Community advisory groups

Community members may be represented in some or each level of governance mentioned above, and/or be a part of a dedicated Community Advisory Board whose members have a direct line of communication to the other committees. Community representatives are typically individuals from community-based organizations serving high-priority neighborhoods and/or residents of the collaborative’s focus neighborhoods who are not employed by an anchor institution.

Community representatives and advisory groups provide essential insight for anchor strategy design and implementation. For instance, the experiences of small and minority-owned businesses in efforts to contract with anchor institutions should inform anchor institution policy change and programs for vendor capacity-building. Experiences and circumstances of job seekers from communities of color should inform a comprehensive workforce pipeline program that offers on-the-job training, living wages and benefits, and wraparound services during the training period. Community-development organizations, CDFIs, and community coalitions should inform a place-based investment strategy and help build a pipeline of community investment opportunities. 

  • providing critical expertise regarding community history, current conditions, assets, and resident experiences;

  • working with other committees to gather and integrate perspective and feedback from populations who the collaborative seeks to engage through anchor strategies;

  • working with other committees to determine appropriate budgets and staffing needs for anchor strategies;

  • informing any organizational changes necessary to better facilitate implementation of anchor strategies (e.g., adjustments in recruiting practices or contracting requirements); and

  • holding anchor institution members accountable for their commitments, and providing feedback to ensure strategic plans and programs resonate with community members rather than only serving the needs of anchor institutions.

In alignment with principles for community engagement, transparency, and accountability, anchor collaboratives can host open committee meetings and working groups that may be attended by members of the public, allowing stakeholders to observe or participate in proceedings—with meeting agendas, meeting minutes, and relevant documents shared on a publicly accessible platform. Clear and accessible communication strategies allow the public to stay informed of the collaborative’s activities, decision-making processes, and outcomes. For more, see section 3.4 Collaboration with Community and section 3.7 Strategic Communications.

Principles of engagement

When you bring together passionate people, you need to expect differences of opinion—and even conflict.

The work of anchor collaboratives is complex. Anchor collaboratives should embrace and encourage open dialogue, collective problem-solving, and consensus-building to ensure broad ownership and commitment. For the anchor collaborative to be effective, partners must remain open to new ideas, challenge the status quo, and work together in ways that may feel unfamiliar at first. In many communities, this means confronting deep history, and challenging conventional wisdom and power dynamics. In this context, establishing principles of engagement means that anchor collaborative members agree on a set of practices, processes, and conduct to which each member will adhere. These principles set the tone for the collaborative, clarify expectations in terms of conduct, and prepare the group to confront difficult subjects and decisions in ways that are productive.

Steps for getting started: Establishing principles of engagement

  • Living your values: What are the collaborative’s 3-5 core values (e.g., equity, integrity, transparency, accountability)? When you think of each value, what does it mean for your work together (e.g., how will anchor strategies reflect our commitment to racial equity?)? Document the group's responses, share with any new members of the group, and revisit the core values annually to identify where the collaborative demonstrates its values and where there is room for improvement.

  • Communications norms: Develop clear guidelines for communication within the collaborative, which can include preferred channels, expected response times, and other boundaries.

  • Group dynamics: Create space for all members of the collaborative to contribute and voice their opinion without disruption. Ask that members be mindful of how they are engaging in group discussions to ensure that they are not overly dominant or disengaged. Empower members of the collaborative to ask clarifying questions of one another. Clearly state when and how a decision is being made.

  • Accountability systems: Establish systems of accountability. Before a meeting concludes, create an action plan, state who is doing what, agree on a timeframe for completion, and follow up about progress when the deadline arrives.

[44] Kristen Handricken, How Meeting Agreements Support Equity and Inclusion (Boston University Diversity and Inclusion, 2020),

The anchor collaborative charter

No matter the level of formality members choose to embrace, collaboratives benefit from a charter or similar document that outlines key pieces of information about the collaborative. Below are the common components to include on the collaborative’s charter, drawing from the documents of existing collaboratives as examples.

“Take time to build a shared understanding of what you value, where you are, what you have and what you hope to accomplish together. The shared understanding will help you navigate any twists and turns as things change and opportunities emerge.” - BUILD Health Challenge’s Community Health Workbook

Table 3. Sample Charter for an Anchor Collaborative

Mission And Vision

Mission (Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance (SINA)): SINA's mission is to work cooperatively with community stakeholders to restore economic vitality and improve the quality of life for the benefit of the people who live, work, visit, study, and play in the neighborhoods of South Central Hartford.

Vision (Tacoma Anchor Network): The Tacoma Anchor Network is creating a new normal for how business is done by leveraging institutional assets to address economic, social, and racial inequities. We work collaboratively to keep resources circulating locally and ensure that all people who live here can work here and all people who work here can afford to live here.

Guiding Principles
(West Side United)
  • Social justice and health equity are at the foundation of our work.

  • West Side neighborhoods are vibrant and have important assets.

  • Uniting efforts among institutions that often compete for resources must occur.

  • We must address health holistically, accounting for social determinants of health and mitigating barriers to health opportunities.

  • The voices of West Side residents are central to our decision making.

  • WSU's planning committee, composed of community leaders and hospital stakeholders, laid the groundwork and built momentum for the long-term goal of closing the life expectancy gap.

for Participation

(Sample) Anchor institutions and community partners who are rooted in or serve the specific zip codes where the collaborative is focused. Anchor institutions agree to adopt the anchor mission, commiting to intentionally leverage their resources and assets to address the needs of the surrounding community.

Geography Served

(St . Louis Anchor Action Network) The collaborative is focused on 22 zip codes in St. Louis city and county that have been impacted by more than a century of systemic racial and spatial inequities.

of Members

(Sample) Members of the collaborative are expected to sign on to the collaborative’s strategic plan and nominate appropriate staff for committees. Members of the collaborative also commit to annual data reporting on a set of metrics agreed upon by the group.

Processes for
Decision Making

The group will make decisions by consensus.

Continuum of Progress: Effective Governance

Effective Governance involves the documentation of policies, processes, and systems which enable collaboration and shared decision-making between anchor collaborative members, community groups, and the backbone leader. With the support of the backbone and/or convener, anchor collaboratives can develop an effective governance structure that allows for shared leadership and ownership of the collaborative’s successes and shortcomings to continually improve and adapt as needed.
There is a shared desire to establish a governance structure, but none has been established yet. One or a few committed champions are informally advising the collaborative’s direction.
Members begin to organize into committees and leadership roles based on their skills and expertise.
Members of the collaborative actively participate in established layers of governance and have collective ownership over the group’s activities and outcomes.
The collaborative is working to document its mission and vision, charter, governance framework, legal status (if applicable), policies, and goals. The group is examining the different models for decision-making, consensus-building, and evaluation.

The collaborative has documented the roles, purpose and scope of power within each level of the governance structure. The partnership may become more formalized through memorandums of understanding.

With documented processes for implementing and monitoring programs, the members are focused on evaluating progress and adapting their approach as needed.
The backbone or convener serves predominantly in a leadership role, and creates opportunities for shared decision-making where possible; members are figuring out their role in decision-making and require significant guidance to do so.  
The backbone and/or convener move into more of a facilitation and organizing role, with decision-making starting to shift to governance bodies (e.g., steering committee or working groups); members of the collaborative possess the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions in partnership with the backbone.
While the backbone continues to provide coordination and facilitation functions, members of the collaborative are fully confident in their decision-making abilities and there are enough processes in place to facilitate collective decision-making without being overly bureaucratic.
The collaborative is exploring models for shared governance with community groups.
Community representatives are part of the collaborative’s governance structure, either through a designated advisory group or integrated within existing committees.
Members are actively working alongside community groups through a clearly defined governance structure to make decisions collaboratively.
Member Mindset
I am still learning how I can best serve the interests of my organization and the community through this collaborative.
I understand my role in the governance structure of the anchor collaborative and the processes by which the collaborative functions. I am committed to advancing the goals of the collaborative.
The collaborative’s governance structure supports my ability to provide input, make decisions about the collaborative’s direction, and onboard new members as needed.
Backbone Mindset
The collaborative relies heavily on my leadership for decision-making. I am working with the collaborative to define the governance structure that is right for our group.
My role is shifting from decision-maker to facilitator in the governance of the collaborative. I am connected to all relevant staff within each member organization.
I support the collaborative through facilitation and am confident in member’s ability to advance the work.
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