The Clarence Plains Community Network (CPCN) has been meeting for 15 years out of the Clarence Plains Community Health Centre. Originally aimed at connecting service providers in the area, the Network has given rise to several collaborative projects in Clarence Plains since it was established, including the Clarence Plains Festival and the Facing Up to It project aimed at reducing family violence. While the Network has been valuable, many members identified that service providers were still often operating in isolation, and that, while good work is being done, we are still seeing the same entrenched problems in the community that have existed for decades.
The Collective Impact framework was introduced to the CPCN in early 2014 and it was decided to have a special meeting to explore how the framework might be useful for achieving population level change in the Clarence Plains communities of Clarendon Vale and Rokeby. Since July 2014, the Collective Impact group, under the new heading of One Community Together (OCT), has been meeting and establishing new collaborative practises in order to achieve positive change for the community.
The first thing that OCT wanted to do was determine what people felt was the most pressing issue for the community. A number of service providers had participated in previous consultations so had a wealth of information on which to draw. A list of previously-identified issues was presented in a survey, from which people could choose their number one concern. 113 community members participated in the survey and strongly identified public safety as their number one concern. The cost of living and employment were the issues that rated equal-second highest. This was the start of our process to build a common agenda.
The survey gave us a clear mandate to focus our work on the issue of public safety. But OCT needed to know more about what this means for people in Clarence Plains and how they would like to see the issue tackled. In order to find out more the group decided to hold some community forums.
The OCT Café Forums were held on the 26th and 27th of November, 2014. The forums were designed to follow a “World Café” format which involves creating a welcoming and pleasant environment, providing food and drink, and rotations of facilitated conversations around tables.
Sessions were held in both the morning and evening, to maximise opportunities for those with limited availability. Child minding was made available for both sessions and transport provided.
The program was designed to have facilitated and recorded discussions around tables about specific questions relating to the issue of safety in the community. The program had the following objectives:
- To have open, creative conversations about the One Community Together project
- To listen to the communities thoughts about the issues
- To creatively discuss solutions around the issue of public safety
- To come away with a shared understanding about some possibilities for “where to next?”
Questions for the forum were tested with community members and rewritten using more comfortable language. The forum was divided into two parts.
Part one questions were designed around listening to how people are currently experiencing the community:
- What makes this community strong?
- What are the worries and concerns we have around public safety?
- How do you feel about your community?
- What does a safe community in Clarence Plains look like to you?
- What things could get in the way of making good changes in the community?
Part two questions looked to the future and aimed to hear the ideas of community members:
- How can we get people to keep on doing the right thing? (ENFORCEMENT / ENCOURAGEMENT)
- How can we help people feel confident and know how to make a difference? (EDUCATION / EMPOWERMENT)
- How could we improve the ENVIRONMENT?
- How can we tackle the issue of EMPLOYMENT?
- How can we get people more involved in positive activities? (ENGAGEMENT)
The final question asked people to reflect on the most important thing people would like to happen after the forum:
- In relation to what we’ve talked about today, what would we like to happen next?
The café forums were attended by 27 community members who engaged in a thorough process of discussion and idea-sharing.
Large quantities of thoughts, comments and ideas were recorded at the forum. A small team of people then transcribed these and collated all of the information, seeking common themes and key ideas to work with into the future.
What became clear from the forum was the sense that change in the community was needed, that people were ready for it and ready to help make it happen, but that things needed to start happening quickly in order to get the communities support and trust.
In summary the forum inspired the following draft vision statement:
Clarence Plains: creating a safer community that is welcoming, attractive and passionate about the future
There were also five main things that community members were concerned about:
- Having a positive community culture where people care and welcome others
- Anti-community behaviour
- Having an attractive environment that has a better look and safer feel
- Having more activities and services, that is more things for people to do, whether young or older
- Employment and education, that is, opportunities to work and people ready to have a go.
In looking to the future, the forum came up with four areas in which we can, together, make a difference:
- Community Life – eg. we could try and build hope, reward good things that people do, have welcoming people and signage, be good role models
- Community Spaces – eg. we could try and get better lighting, clean up rubbish, build safe road crossings, fix the laneways, make nicer public spaces
- Community Activities & Services – eg. we could try and make more activities for kids & adults, art & sports projects, school holiday fun, gardens, support programs
- Community Employment and Education – eg. we could try and create training, new skills, work experience opportunities, a local skills register, local enterprise
The members of OCT recognise that one of the important elements in engaging with the community is reporting back to the community and providing that feedback loop to those involved. In follow up to the Café Forums, community members were invited to attend a special event on Australia Day.
Australia Day Fun Day
The planned event was a Fun Day, held at Rokeby Neighbourhood Centre on Australia Day, the 26th January 2015. Invitations to the event were distributed to the letterbox of every home in Clarence Plains.
A number of activities were planned for the event to continue engaging community about the issue of safety in the community, to check that our summary of the forum was on track, and to build support for acting together on the things we consider to be important in moving forward. A small handout and poster display reported back on the forum to those at the event. In addition a “Clarence Planes” paper plane competition engaged children and their parents in thinking further about safety and how they would like the community to be.
Hundreds of people attended the fun day which had a positive spirit, and gave the opportunity for good conversations around safety. The forum summary also seemed to hit the mark with people affirming that it summed up well how they feel about safety in the community.
In addition to the forum and fun day, OCT decided to use the medium of film not only to capture the journey we have started with the community, but also as a tool to engage with people about the issues being discussed. The film maker has interviewed a number of young people and long term community members about their experience of community life and their views about taking the community forward. Filming happened in the community and at the Australia Day Fun Day and it captures the difficulties experienced by community members but also the significant hope that is building for a positive future in Clarence Plains.
Clarence Plains Clean-Up
In October 2015 OCT held its first major activity, a community clean-up. Around 100 people, local residents, group members and even politicians joined together in Rokeby and Clarendon Vale to tidy up the public spaces around Clarence Plains. This event was a great success, taking many tonnes of rubbish out of the environment and bringing people together to improve our community spaces.
First Birthday celebration
A gathering of around 50 people at the Police Academy in November 2015 had us celebrating and reflecting on where OCT had come so far and recruited some new members for future activities. It was great to reflect on the progress and look forward to the future.
Stronger Together Leaders Breakfast and Community Workshop
A Partnership Grant from Council gave us the chance to stop for a couple of days and share some food and conversation and learn together about how to make our community partnership work in ways that will make a real difference. We also had the chance to talk about our work with government, business and community leaders.
The Workshop at the Grace Centre was a really important time of cementing relationships and discussing ways ahead. We learned that what is essential to our partnership is:
- Equity and Respect
- Transparency and Trust
- Mutual Benefit and Shared Ownership
How we make that real for us was a really great point of discussion. We also learned about getting through the “Groan zone”, those times where it can feel a bit tough, and how we can get through them. A photo workshop, “Place Visions” helped us connect with the physical space of our community and made it all a bit more real.
The time of learning and sharing has helped lay more foundations for a stronger future.
So what’s next?
The community continues to shape activity that will improve safety across Clarence Plains. There are a number of groups tackling the issue in bite-size chunks. Working Groups are meeting around the following topics:
- Community Life
- Community Spaces
- Community Activities and Services
- Community Employment and Education
In addition there are groups that meet about keeping things ticking along:
- Community and business engagement
- Marketing, Media and Messaging
- Shared Measurement
- Structure and governance
OCT will keep on growing community leadership and involvement, building the capacity of existing leaders and mobilising the community to bring about the desired change.
Change is possible if we work as One Community Together.
For more information contact:
Suze on 6217 9599
Kristy on 6247 8163
Cate on 6247 6778
Dermot on 0438 515 874