OP-ED: Don't Underestimate People Power Promise

Thursday 15 October 2020, The Examiner




At the heart of our communities are our people and for a long time, the effectiveness of “people power” has long been overlooked as a driver for meaningful and long-lasting change.

Initiatives which look to bring every day people into decision-making processes often seem like the will bring good results, but can fall by the wayside, become talk-fests or fail to deliver tangible results. I believe that the cause for this is that there is often a focus on implementing ideas that are too unwieldy, too undefined or which don’t have a broad consensus. To my mind, the better and more meaningful approach is to leverage what assets already exist in the community and making them the best they possibly can be.

This is where the City of Launceston’s initiative of the ABCDE Learning Sites comes in as a disruptive force. This stands for Asset Based Community Driven Effort and is all about focusing on “what’s strong, not what’s wrong”, by enabling a community to identify their assets, build connections and create change in the heart of the community to benefit those living within the area.

Three learning sites have already been delivered under a collaboration between the City of Launceston and the Bank of I.D.E.A.S. at Rocherlea in 2017, Ravenswood in 2018 and Mowbray in 2019, which all delivered great results and really got these communities working positively together for great outcomes.

At the conclusion of the Mowbray project, the community devised three fantastic initiatives: the paddock to plate initiative, the identification of future development opportunities in the area and the northern suburbs wi-fi program. These are no small results; they have real, beneficial effects for the community and they were all driven by the people.

The development of a Learning site is a 12-month process. To help coordinate this, the City of Launceston provides a place-based Community Connector who guides a group of community members through a self-led, flexible process. The Bank of I.D.E.A.S. has a methodology which comprises eight touchstones, among which are the recruitment of a community team, hosting conversations to discover assets, engaging locals, building connections through social interaction, visioning and planning, implementing change and fostering celebration.

This process is contextually-based and will vary in application from community to community. This includes consideration of the composition of the community, including age brackets, socioeconomic status, levels of education, demographic data and taking stock of the available assets ad opportunities to leverage. Again, the program focuses on “what’s strong, not what’s wrong”. The challenge is for community members to move from being treated as customers, consumers, clients and patients in programs that aren’t their own, and to star being treated as co-owners, co-producers and citizens in the design and implementation of actions that build their communities as healthy, caring and inclusive places and groups.

Right now, with the Rocherlea, Ravenswood and Mowbray projects being wrapped up, the program is being rolled out in Youngtown and has already started making great strides towards achieving milestones. The Youngtown BUILDERTIME event was held in mid-September and brought together people from right across the Youngtown community, utilising an informal space with conversations being facilitated by the community connector Sarah McCormack, who has been involved in previous ABCDE projects. Sarah’s role involves supporting, facilitating and mentoring the communities as they develop their vision and plans, to encourage the celebration of achievements and reflecting on what occurs. Everyone is welcome to attend the BUILDERTIME events and it is an excellent way to get in touch with other locals who want to make their community the best it can be.

While it’s still in its reasonably early stages, the Youngtown ABCDE Project already has some outstanding ideas to take stock about what it is they love about their community and to get creative about how they will continue to use them in new and novel ways. These include the use of sporting facilities and bringing people together to try new and fun activities, which will ultimately lead to happier, healthier Youngtown residents. Participants of previous projects give the program very high praise - as a good way to meet their neighbours (both literally and figuratively), to make connections and form new, positive and productive relationships with one another.

The Youngtown ABCDE program is moving up a gear in the next few months, with Peter Kenyon, the Director of the Bank of I.D.E.A.S. conducing a community workshop today, Thursday October 15 at 10 at the South Launceston Football Club Rooms, Highgate Street, Youngtown. This free and fun workshop is open to everyone, to share ideas and hear other people’s thoughts. This initiative is a win for everyone and I am looking forward to seeing some wonderful results come out of the incredible community of Youngtown through this program.

Independent Launceston Legislative Councillor

Rosemary Armitage MLC

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