Community Conversations: Gathering Stories and Changing the Narrative

By Sandra Robinson (CEO, Together SA )

We know that Collective Impact is a whole-of-community approach to working differently together to make long-term change in any community, with community at the heart of that work from the very beginning. In South Australia, we are focusing on a variety of methodologies to create sustainable and meaningful models of engagement with communities, embedded in the Collective Impact approach.  Community Conversations allows us to engage with local people to gather their collective opinions and ideas, theme this qualitative data and align it with quantitative data to deepen our understanding of how to generate dynamic social change that will stand the test of time. In August, Together SA supported two communities to launch Community Conversations in the north and south of Adelaide. These events marked the start of ongoing conversations with local people about the change they want to see in their communities and how we might work together to achieve it.

Together in the South’s Community Conversation event at the Morphett Vale Football Club saw 300 people connect with volunteers and community leaders about what it takes to ensure children in the south are Safe, Healthy, Active, Ready To Learn And Engaging with others (SHARE). The Minister For Communities and Social Inclusion, Hon Zoe Bettison, was interviewed by local children, sharing her ideas for a stronger community.  Local MPs Katrine Hildyard and Nat Cook joined local Elected Members to talk with people and hear stories about living locally.  Ten service providers and the local Council, the City of Onkaparinga, ran free family activities to engage with the community, with not a banner or logo in sight.  As long-time partners in this Collective Impact initiative, the focus was on the common agenda, not self-promotion.

Together in the North’s Community Conversation event saw 200 people at the local community hub, enjoying free family activities and having conversations that will help us identify common themes and community strengths. The Premier of South Australia, Hon Jay Weatherill MP, joined local MP Tony Piccolo in chatting with families about what they like about living in the City of Playford and what they need to be happy, healthy, ready for today and for the future.

Community Conversations mean that local people become partners in both defining the complex social problem, and creating and implementing solutions. Local data and local stories are an essential part of understanding the past, guiding present action and shaping a better future with and for communities.

Who is Together SA
In 2013, Together SA was established as an independent, not-for-profit organisation to grow the Collective Impact movement in South Australia.  We do this through leading and supporting Collective Impact initiatives, capacity building of cross-sector stakeholders and advocating for a collective impact approach to social planning with and for communities.  We are supported by a unique platform of partnerships with cross-sector membership from community organisations state wide, in-kind contributions, government grants and philanthropy.

Since our ambitious and humble beginnings 4 years ago, the Collective Impact movement has grown from just two Collective Impact initiatives to 13 established or emerging initiatives across SA.  In 2017, Collective Impact in SA covers 238 metropolitan suburbs and 3 regional areas, with 80+ partners from the NFP, public and private sector organisations and agencies at Collective Impact tables, where 30 local residents have key leadership roles in creating change in those communities.

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