Community Planning and Development

Project                 Southern Downs 2030 Community Plan
Client                    Southern Downs Regional Council (Queensland), July-December 2011

P1160010Southern Downs Regional Council required the consultancy services of Engagement Plus to develop a long-term community plan. Engagement Plus was responsible for the development of the community plan including the engagement strategy. The engagement strategy targeted internal and external stakeholders including the wider community as well as potential strategic partners in the implementation of the plan. With support from Council staff, Engagement Plus facilitated a wide range of engagement activities across a number of months including a project launch, postcards, visioning workshops, displays and “Get Involved” sessions (libraries, markets, shopping centres, school visits), goals and directions workshops and the formation of a community advisory group. To complement the project, a creative arts competition was also run to attract images for use throughout the final document. Internal engagement involved regular meetings with the Internal Working Group, several Councillor and Executive Management workshops and extensive two-way communication.

A substantial volume of documentation was collected over the months of engagement that needed to be analysed and collated into a draft ready for public distribution. One challenge, which this presented, was that some of the ideas put forward by the community were of a micro-level action plan nature, rather than a long-term aspirational goal. So that this valuable input was not lost, these micro-level projects/actions were recorded in a separate document for Council’s use in the next corporate planning cycle.

Despite tight legislative timeframes of a 1 December 2011 endorsement, Engagement Plus was able to deliver a final community plan ahead of schedule and one that is widely accepted and “owned” by stakeholders. Critical to meeting this timeframe was the project management expertise required to ensure deadlines were met and quality outcomes achieved. By thorough research of previously developed plans, Engagement Plus was able to identify a number of themes important to the community. Rather than “starting from scratch” these themes were presented back to the community for validation and reflection to establish relevance before moving forward with the development of the community plan. This enabled Council to be seen to be listening to past engagement and to feedback to the community on progress achieved since similar planning processes in the past.

Following endorsement of the content of the plan, Engagement Plus worked closely with graphic designers to create a document that reflects the content of the plan, the diversity and vibrancy of the region as well as tackling the sometimes-challenging themes presented throughout the plan.

Project                 Community Sector Services ReviewIMG_2892
Client                    Moreton Bay Regional Council (Queensland), May- August 2011

Moreton Bay Regional Council and its partners, Queensland Health, Department of Communities and Regional Development Australia, contracted Engagement Plus to undertake a review of the community services sector in the region. The project required us to engage with service providers and workers across the Moreton Bay Regional Council area to identify needs, issues and opportunities for the community and community services sector.

Key project objectives included:

  • Identification and mapping  of community services and programs in and servicing the region
  • Engagement with the sector through diverse methods to gain meaningful information and data
  • Identification of key needs, issues and trends affecting the sector and the community
  • Identification of opportunities for support and partnership to respond to these needs, issues and trends
  • Explanation of the state of the community services sector in the region with reference to gaps, overlaps, tensions and synergies.

The methodology for engagement developed by Engagement Plus included project information about the consultation on Council’s website, two questionnaires, several interagency network workshops, focused interviews, an open forum and monthly internal stakeholder team meetings.

The open forum was facilitated by Engagement Plus and was attended by over 120 service providers. Keynote speaker for the day-long forum was Tim Costello who spoke about the strengths, resilience and adaptability of the community services sector in ensuring the needs of all community members are met and innovative partnerships and solutions to challenges faced in the sector. Zing technology (facilitated discussion using wireless keyboards with participant responses projected onto large screens) was also used to further explore issues raised by the sector in network meetings and preliminary survey returns.

Engagement Plus prepared the information and data to come out of the engagement process to develop a Needs and Opportunities Report that Moreton Bay Regional Council will use to inform the strategic planning, operational planning and resource allocation processes of its community development team. The needs identified are broad and comprehensive and the report also includes a framework for the various levels of the community, sector and government to consider how to most effectively address these. The final report will also serve as an advocacy tool for the sector as it will present evidence on need.

Project                 Building Partnering Capacity and Stakeholder Engagement Transition to Medicare Local
Client                    Sunshine Coast Division of General Practice, March-June 2011

IMG_2884The Sunshine Coast Division of General Practice approached Engagement Plus to undertake significant stakeholder engagement in relation to the proposed National Health Reforms and to build the partnering capacity of primary healthcare providers in the Sunshine Coast and Gympie regions. Stakeholders in the region included community service organisations, Queensland Health (public health, drug and alcohol, local hospital network), local government, private providers including general practitioners, specialists and allied health providers, advocacy and consumer groups and government agencies including Department of Transport and Main Roads, Department of Housing and Centrelink.

The project comprised of two components: a series of three stakeholder forums and a significant body of work around building partnering capacity. The stakeholder forums were attended by approximately 200 participants and addressed the following topics:

  • Stakeholder input and feedback into the Division’s submission to become a Medicare Local
  • Collaborative Health Service Planning
  • Visible Partnerships and Action

Engagement Plus was responsible for circulating communications materials associated with the stakeholder forum; coordinating invitations and registrations; program development; program facilitation; venue liaison; evaluation and reporting.

The Building Partnering Capacity project component had the objectives of:

  • Identifying which primary healthcare providers were intending to form a partnership under the new Medicare Local model
  • Assessing the value of partnering considering internal operations and systems as well as external liaisons
  • Determining current barriers and opportunities to effective partnering
  • Determining opportunities to establish or improve relevant systems and tools to support effective partnering.

Engagement Plus worked with a diverse range of primary healthcare providers some of whom were also involved in the stakeholder forums. Engagement processes included: workshops and detailed interviews with two levels of management within organisations; senior or executive management and service manager/coordinator or operational staff. The project investigated issues such as values of partnering, communication, decision-making, existing partnerships and networks, and the desired future function and structure of partnerships. The outcomes of the project enabled the Division to refine their submission to become a Medicare Local and strengthen existing partnering capacity in the region.

The Sunshine Coast Division of General Practice will commence operation as a Medicare Local on 1 July 2012.

Project                 Review of Community Engagement Toolkit
Client                    Sunshine Coast Council (Queensland), November 2010 – November 2011Framework

To further support the developing culture of engagement at Sunshine Coast Council, Engagement Plus was asked to evaluate and refine Council’s draft Community Engagement Toolkit.  The draft toolkit was a combination of all the documents the three previous councils (Maroochy, Noosa and Caloundra Shires) were using to guide their engagement practice prior to amalgamation. The draft toolkit was not widely used within Council, was deemed to be too long with an over-reliance on completing worksheet style tables and not flexible enough for small to large scale projects.

Engagement Plus held workshops, a series of phone interviews, an online survey and regular email communications activities for internal stakeholders to gain a better understanding of the:

  • Awareness among council staff of the toolkit
  • Usefulness and practicality of the toolkit
  • Current usage
  • Adequacy of toolkit as a resource
  • Relevance of the content in the toolkit to the Sunshine Coast context
  • Effectiveness of the tools contained within the document.

Our internal engagement identified the need for extensive rework of the document resulting in the development of two separate documents: a Community Engagement Framework and the companion Toolkit.  Key issues identified through the engagement included:

  • The eight-step process is valued by staff although some steps such as ‘Closing the Loop’ need more emphasis in documentation and practice
  • Adaptability of the toolkit for different projects and the level of influence the community would have
  • Format of the toolkit to have electronic templates and be available on Council’s intranet
  • Lack of tools in the “toolkit”- new document to have tools, tips and resources
  • Modification of existing documentation protocols such as the use of the Project Brief and Communications Plan rather than another template required for community engagement activities
  • Need for a consistent approach to external protocols and tips for working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, Youth, People with Disabilities, Seniors and People from diverse backgrounds
  • Links to policy
  • Currency of toolkit to be easily and regularly updated

Through extensive internal engagement the Framework contains information specific to the Sunshine Coast context, the communities within the local government area and is the resource that guides the development of robust community engagement plans. The Toolkit contains information on specific techniques and other resources related to the implementation of community engagement plans.

A suite of electronic templates was developed to accompany the documents and these included: Project Brief including dedicated section for community engagement; Marketing Plan with specific reference to engagement strategy; engagement outcomes report; stakeholder and risk analysis; event planner and workshop run sheet. Council have also made progress with the development of a community engagement register hosted on the intranet which includes details of previous and planned engagement activities and links to project briefs and outcomes reports. The register will also hold details of staff trained in community engagement practice to act as mentors for less experienced staff.