Harwood Community Conversations

Blue Mountains Lithgow Integrated Neighbourhood Network’s (BLINN)

Harwood Community Consultation

In 2014 three BLINN (Blue Mountains Lithgow Integrated Neighbourhood Network) managers attended Harwood Institute Public Innovators training. Having been inspired by the Harwood method of community consultation it was decided the model would be implemented across the Blue Mountains. In February of 2015 the BLINN partners embarked on a journey with the Harwood Institute. Managers trained Community Development Workers and together they linked in to the Harwood Institute training webinars and coaching calls. Over the next six months we would come together as a team and embark on our journey to turn outwards and listen to our community to better inform our work.

About The Harwood Institute

The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation is a non-profit that teaches and coaches people and organizations to address pressing problems and to change how their communities work together. Based on more than 25 years of innovating with communities, The Harwood Institute has developed a proven practice used in thousands of communities nationally and worldwide.

By using Harwood Community Conversations and the Harwood ASK exercise MMNC  build its understanding of Public Knowledge.

Why is Public Knowledge Important?

Public Knowledge is important because it:

  • Roots our work and decisions in what matters to people.
  • Identifies key issues and their connections in language that people use.
  • Reveals common themes.
  • Enables us to set realistic goals.
    • Public knowledge informs our choices which increases positive outcomes.
  • Too often we substitute expert knowledge for Public Knowledge.

Why is it Important to Engage the Community?

We engage the community to build an understanding of:

  • People’s aspirations for their community;
  • People’s concerns;
  • How people think and talk about a given issue in relation to the community;
  • The changes needed to reach our aspirations for the community; and
  • What people believe we can do, and who they’d trust to take action?

 

Community Consultation with Young People -The strength of partnerships

The Stronger Family Alliance was also undertaking their own Harwood journey and training up partners in the same “Community Conversation” and “ASK” tools. By the end of 2015 this afforded BLINN and SFA a fabulous opportunity to partner and talk with children and young people. Neighbourhood Centres as generalist services were able to reach out to their established networks. To start the ball rolling Mid Mountains Public Schools welcomed in their local Community Development Worker to consult year five and six students.

Students were reminded that there are no right or wrong answers, every perspective and topic is valid. Using the ASK exercise opened a dialogue with young people and was a successful means of gathering Public Knowledge that is authentic and recorded in the participant’s words.

The four questions in this exercise help gain a better understanding of community hopes and aspirations.

Using Harwood has informed how we

Engage the community – inviting new people opens the door to new relationships

Find new partners – sharing Public Knowledge creates coalition opportunities

Develop strategies – working on the issue AND building capacity to work together

Mobilise resources – creating natural pathways for people to contribute

 

What have we learned?

We have noticed that there are distinct themes connected to each suburb, region and Blue Mountains wide.

For example:

Woodford residents are very concerned about preserving the infrastructure in their town that is linked to its history. The sense of place and identity was a high priority, along with mobility and access.

Mid Mountains residents all raised safety and mobility around their neighbourhood as a concern for them. This theme is also very prominent when speaking to young people at Hazelbrook Public School.

Blue Mountains When we compare our activities with that of Katoomba & Springwood Neighbourhood Centre’s we find common themes like connectedness, jobs, housing, public celebrations and opportunities to connect are reoccurring themes.

Young People in Hazelbrook

Young people in this group are concerned about all areas of their community the words used most when asked what kind of a community do you want? Were, friendly, kind, fun, and safe. Safety was referred to in over 57% of the written responses. Of these comments 46% related directly to footpaths.

By examining common themes across all areas and groups we can see what people have in common and focus efforts on areas that will have greater impact and positive outcomes.

Where this public knowledge has been used:

  • Pocket of change

A conversation in Lawson led to a pocket of change in a local community group.

The concerns revealed at a conversation were done so in a safe and supportive environment. Following the conversation the facilitator was able to work further with this community group. They are on the path to greater social cohesion which has enabled fabulous outcomes for the members, and the wider community.

  • Grant Applications

We have confidently referenced Public Knowledge in two grant applications at the end of 2015. One was successful and funded a Mini Seniors Expo in April 2016.

We have also received funding from a partner to run more youth programs.

At the end of 2016 MMNC and community partners were successful in applying fro a grant to improve the Skate park in Lawson. This need was identified through the Harwood process.

  • Informing programs

-Using Public knowledge to inform the content of the mini Seniors Expo led to a high level of engagement and a number of measurable outcomes.

-Consulting Young people in Mid Mountains Schools informed the structure of our of school holiday workshops. Mid Mountains Neighbourhood centre scheduled two “Movie Making for Tweens (8-14yr olds)” workshops and they were booked out within two weeks of being advertised.

  • Sharing Public Knowledge

Pedestrian Access and Mobility Paper Feedback to BMCC

Public Knowledge from MMNC’s ASK in schools activity in 2015 has been presented to BMCC as part of the community response to PAMP.

2016 update: The above feedback was included in the 2016 Play strategy published by BMCC.

The beauty of this work is that in the end we save time implementing our programs because they are responding to needs identified in the community by the community.