CHANGE | Connecting community

Posted on 23/05/2013

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Yesterday Jason and I tried to catch up for a quiet coffee and general chat at Cup From Above, only to be drawn into Adam’s (Cup From Above proprietor) elaborate plans for a new initiative called ‘Connecting Aspley’. We had discussed this at other times and Adam was making moves to connect people in the community to be more responsive to locational disadvantage. John joined us a little later. Adam has been talking with all and sundry about making some moves to address social disadvantage and exclusion at the caravan park (and possibly more broadly in our otherwise affluent suburb). Adam has drawn on some of the statistical reports and commentary of Enabling Suburbs (it’s great to be a catalyst without having done much!), which revealed that low income and disadvantaged residents are concentrated in the area around the Aspley centre, particularly on the western side of the road (land uses here include caravan park, big box retail and retirement villages). Notably, Adam has brought suspended coffees to Aspley and was one of the first Brisbane coffee shops to champion the movement.

A former journalist and community development student by the name of Renee is instigating some meetings and interventions at the caravan park. She is talking with caravan park residents and service providers to enable a more collaborative approach to service provision and prevention. Adam is also talking about some program interventions at the car park such as nutrition (Jamie Oliver style approach) and, in terms of the Aspley locality, a new market to be held in one of the carparks in Aspley centre. Adam’s efforts have resulted in a compelling call to action where interested parties are drawing on our resources and assets to make a difference in our locality. Incidentally, a woman and, presumably, her daughter have been living in a car parked on my mother’s street. Police were informed by a neighbour but they say they are not able to provide any assistance.

In our conversations with Renee and Adam, we mentioned some of the more recent thinking about place-based approaches – often tied to regeneration and job/skills programs – which might have some bearing here. The situation in the caravan park is distinctly locational and contextual (and involve bother permanent and temporary residents). This place based approach gives us something to hang off from the perspective of another project Jason, John and I, together with other colleagues and friends, are working on. We are thinking we need to ‘go with the flow’ on this and have offered various kinds of professional support on a voluntary basis, including the development of a local community plan or community-economic development plan. Our feeling is that interventions in locales of wicked problems and complex disadvantage need to be strategic, collaborative and comprehensive i.e. theory of change. The idea of connecting Aspley is compelling from the perspective of the highly fragmented land use in the locality and the disconnected aspects of the suburban form; which emphasises the social isolation and exclusion experienced by caravan park residents. So from the perspective of a public art project, we might be able to weave different threads of the suburban experience.

Apparently, Council has been trying to get services into the caravan park for years but the owner doesn’t allow it. If they really wanted to do something in a place-based way, they would. For example, they could set up a human services hub in one of the empty local shops and start building relationships and initiating a program of change. Adam and Renee have already made significant inroads using Cup from Above as a base. It’s not hard and works elsewhere under the umbrella of place management and place-based approaches to social inclusion. Another aspect here is to develop strategic approaches to this based on community-economic development and collective impact.  This seems like a phronetic approach where collaborative and local knowledges can empower change.

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Posted in: community