Chain Reaction Foundation
INSPIRING INNOVATIVE CITIZEN ACTION

The Tangible Dimensions of Building Community Engagement

by Margaret Bell | June 8, 2017

Building community engagement requires real, tangible steps. Discussion and consideration are important, but it is action which takes a great idea and turns it into reality. These are our tangible dimensions which need to be put into practice when nurturing strong community engagement.

The Abundance of Gatherings

We inhabit communities – not isolated bubbles – and these communities are built upon human interaction and togetherness. If we are to engage with our communities, we must embrace this togetherness, enjoying and taking part in the gatherings and events which take place in our local environment.

From small scale school events to large concerts, from street parades to local history festivals, craft workshops, and sports events, each of these gatherings represents a tangible building block for community engagement.

Examples

  • Sydney Mardi Gras – NSW’s world famous LGBT event
  • Close the Gap Day – Oxfam-sponsored, Australia-wide occasion held in support of Indigenous communities. A range of different events aimed at getting people together and inspiring action.
  • Many other ongoing gatherings across NSW providing opportunities to continue meeting.

Organised Spaces for Interaction

These gatherings – these points of contact and interaction between groups and individuals – need a venue; a suitable place for connection to occur. Our neighbourhoods are peppered with such spaces. Community centres, sports venues, Scout halls, Guide halls, places of worship, libraries, schools, music venues, even pubs; all of these spaces can be utilised to bring people together and to affect genuine change.

The next step is to put these spaces into action, and to spread the word around the community at large.

Examples

  • King George V Recreation Centre – Venue for sports groups and other active gatherings, in The Rocks area of Sydney.
  • Sydney Park Pavilion – Cricket pavilion on Euston Road in St. Peters.
  • Community centres and public venues across Sydney and NSW – The districts of Sydney, and of New South Wales as a whole, are blessed with numerous different community venues which provide ideal spaces for gatherings.

Citizen-Friendly Catalytic Associations

Social engagement requires positive reaction and interaction between different people, either on a group level or on an individual level. It is the role of the catalyst to aid and support this reaction as it develops.

There are many organisations in Sydney and New South Wales which do precisely this, ranging from major education and medical institutions to art galleries, ethnic minority groups, Elders Councils and the local media. Each of these organisations must recognise the power they have to facilitate serious engagement, and aim to use that power responsibly.

Examples

  • Helpful and supportive coverage by local press, including this recent article on Jane’s Walk, a local engagement event reported in the Cape Breton Post.
  • University of Sydney – The University hosts a variety of community events each year, and publicises efforts from numerous groups working to provide better social conditions in Australia
  • One of the many social support and community action groups which are found across NSW and beyond. These groups are designed to cover a diverse range of purposes and objectives, and they form a vital part of Australia's network of communities.

Safe Havens for Decision Makers

If engagement is to be fostered, we must first foster environments which act as safe havens for decision makers. This is where community leaders will be able to discuss and bring ideas to the fore within positive and supportive surroundings. These are areas of academic discourse and discussion, but also of empathy and solidarity; the necessary ingredients for engagement to take root.

These havens exist, but we cannot take them for granted. Instead we must protect them, we must develop them, and we must safeguard them for the future. It is these places which help great ideas to flourish into genuine engaging action.

Examples

  • State Library of New South Wales – The State Library in Macquarie Street is one of NSW’s primary locations for the dissemination of information and for academic discussion and debate
  • The Our Community Website – Our Community provides a forum and support for non-profit community organisations across Australia, providing a modern digital platform for engaging ideas to be born
  • Another of the several organisations which offer this kind of environment, and this kind of decision-making facilitation, to community leaders and figures, including regular events held by Chambers of Commerce across the country.

People are a Community’s Strongest Asset.

Margaret Bell, AM - Founder and CEO of Chain Reaction Foundation.

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