Last month Lars Boggild posted a blog suggesting universities should think of themselves as anchor institutions in our communities. Interestingly, this is one of the missions of our RECODE work here at the Carleton Centre for Community Innovation (3ci). Like Lars, we see the potential that universities can play in contributing to sustainable, vibrant and diverse communities. But to make this shift, universities need to utilize all their resources and think more broadly about their mission. This approach has sometimes been referred to as “the eds and meds”. To date, it is mainly US-based institutions that have taken up this challenge. It’s time to make this movement more prevalent in Canada.
“We want Carleton to be a catalyst for other institutions in Ottawa.”
At Carleton we are using some of our RECODE resources to challenge the university itself to become an anchor institution in Ottawa. We’ve identified two key areas for action: first, engaging the university in creating an affordable housing fund for impact investment in affordable student housing. And second: encouraging a commitment to social value procurement as a part of the non-unionized goods and services the university purchases annually. We want Carleton to be a catalyst for other institutions in Ottawa.
Anchor Institutions such as Carleton University (above) are deeply embedded in their community both with their physical assets and their purchasing power. We want to leverage this impact through avenues such as social value procurement policies and commitment to affordable housing.
The objective of this work is to leverage Carleton University’s assets to play a significant role in the social finance/impact investing ecosystem in Ottawa. Carleton has various pools of assets (endowment fund, pension fund, and operating capital) that can be used to directly benefit the community of Ottawa. Our RECODE project’s goal is to mobilize a portion of these assets toward investing in community impact.
Anchor institutions can’t work in isolation from community partners, and we are working with an Ottawa-wide multi-sector affordable housing initiative, Broadening the Base. We’ve identified an interesting model for the Carleton University Student’s Association to explore: Concordia University’s PUSH Fund—a collaborative effort between the Concordia Student Union, the Chantier de L’Economie Sociale, and Desjardins to fund the construction of affordable student housing in Montreal.
3ci is also investigating social value procurement strategies together with our community partner the Centre for Innovative Social Enterprise Development (CISED). Ryerson University provides a great example of how social value procurement policies can contribute to a school’s anchor mission—their new policies require 25% of food delivered to campus be sourced from local/sustainable suppliers. This policy shift is supported by the student body, administration, and even the multi-national food distributors!
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and with this in mind 3ci is mapping out a course of change for Carleton University, and creating a template from which other Ottawa anchor institutions can work from. The full impact of change will only be felt when all of a community’s anchor institutions are working towards the same end goal. Now that’s a change in institutional DNA we can all get behind.