Gladstone Regional Council Community Development Strategy, 2020

  • Project Name: Gladstone Regional Council Community Development Strategy, 2020

  • Location: Gladstone, QLD

Engaging community to establish priorities and actions

The Context

Gladstone Regional Council sought to engage with their community to understand the current needs and priorities in the region and how Council could work with the community and key stakeholders to enhance community connection and wellbeing. The Council recognised they needed to develop a Community Development Strategy and Action Plan to guide the council’s work with the community and establish priorities and actions. The council contracted Engagement Plus to help develop their five-year Community Development Strategy and Action Plan.

The Engagement

This project was based on a large-scale engagement program. The purpose of this engagement program was to gather community views as it related to community priorities, needs and challenges within the region. The engagement was required to be inclusive and diverse to enable community members to share their views in a variety of ways.

The Approach

The council’s overall goal was to understand the vision for community development in the Gladstone Region. Using three steps to our approach, we asked:

  • What does a strong community look like to you?
  • How do you think we can create an even stronger Gladstone Region?

Step One—Review and Report

Our first step was to complete a desktop review of the Gladstone community using demographic data, statistical reports, and previous engagement reports. In addition, we completed a best practice review of community development plans of local government across Australia and internationally.

From that review, we prepared two research-rich reports to help the council tailor their strategy.

  • Report 1: A best practice review of other local governments’ community development strategies and a comparison review of Gladstone Regional Council related strategies and policies.
  • Report 2: A compilation and review of the relevant demographics and engagement data.

These reports helped council to further understand their community and the various local government approaches to community development within Australia.

Step Two—Community Engagement

Our second step was to establish a large community engagement program to understand community views and assist in developing community development priorities. We used a variety of engagement techniques, including:

  • workshops
  • interviews
  • focus groups
  • pop-up market stalls
  • surveys
  • online engagement

In every case, our goal was to gather information to help council to create a better strategy for the entire regional community.

Step Three—Community Reference Panel

As part of our community engagement program, we recruited a Community Reference Panel. The members of the panel met six times throughout the project. They discussed the results of the desktop research, guided the engagement approach and helped develop the overall strategy.

We also held an Appreciative Inquiry workshop with the Community Reference Panel. This workshop included council staff and was designed to help the attendees really get to the heart of what our research would report.

The Appreciative Inquiry workshop followed four stages:

  1. Discover – Appreciating and Valuing the Best of What Is.

Information and stories are gathered about what is already working well.

  1. Dream – Envisioning What Might Be.

Setting the vision and guiding principles.

  1. Design – Determining What Should Be.

Developing the pillars of the Strategy and the action areas for the Strategy.

  1. Deliver (or Destiny) – Innovating What Will Be.

Finding the best ways for improvement and ongoing measurement (performance indicators).

This Appreciative Inquiry approach enabled council staff and the Community Reference Panel assist in the development of a vision for the Strategy and highlight the highest-priority action areas for community development in the region.

The Outcomes

During our engagement period, we were able to gather a fantastic amount of information from the community, as well as communicate messages about the development strategy to the wider audience. There were 937 views of the ‘conversation’ webpage that had all the key information about the development plan. We had over 320 surveys returned.

The engagement program and research helped us to identify five priority areas, guiding principles, a vision, actions and key performance areas for the Community Development Strategy.

The Community Development Strategy and Action Plan provides a strong framework for Council to work in partnership with the community to improve community connection and wellbeing. The Strategy and Action Plan will strengthen community capacity, foster opportunities for collaboration and connection and improve community wellbeing.

The council endorsed The Gladstone Regional Council Community Development Strategy 2021-2026 on 1 June 2021. A copy of the Strategy can be found here.

Lessons Learned

This project highlights Engagement Plus’ ability to research and synthesise information, as well as create exciting ways to engage with a range of stakeholders. We met our goal to produce an innovative and responsive strategy that would guide council’s community development approach for the next five years. In addition, we further cemented just how powerful a collaborative community approach to engagement can be.

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Community development strategies are vital for helping you understand the needs and priorities of an area. Get in touch to see how Engagement Plus can help you today.