CFI Practice Lead Luke Craven reflects on what’s on the horizon for place-based change in 2022, particularly in the context of the community-led, collective impact initiative Stronger Places, Stronger People (SPSP).

A passionate changemaker, Luke joined CFI in October 2021 to lead and support a network of practitioners and partners working in the SPSP initiative, and its 10 communities across Australia. SPSP seeks to disrupt disadvantages and create better futures for children and their families through locally tailored and evidence-driven solutions to local problems, in partnership with local people. CFI’s role is to build capacity and work with local leaders, communities, governments and philanthropic organisations to think and act in systemic ways.

1. An increasing focus on new models of leadership for systems change

A deep commitment to systems change is transformative, in every sense of the word. It requires shifts to the way we think about hard concepts like power, equity, and leadership.

In our work, we’re seeing more and more calls to action for programs and learning opportunities that support the development of a new kind of leadership – systems leadership – that can enable, catalyse, and support systems-level change. Across government, community, philanthropy and the service sector, the story is the same: if we continue to think about leadership in the same old ways, involving the same old things, we are going to continue to be disappointed by the results.

2022 is a year of shaking up systems leadership at CFI. We’re focused on disrupting, developing, and engaging with new models of leadership. We kicked off the year with our free webinar Deep Collaboration Nation-building and Negotiations, and our global learning offering, Leadership Evaluation and Transformational Change.

This shakeup is a priority for our Stronger Places, Stronger People work too, where we are currently in the process of designing a systems leadership development program for the SPSP ecosystem, which will roll out in the second half of 2022. We’re busy figuring out what it will look like, but with systems leadership principles in mind, CFI is taking the leap toward cycles of experimentation, learning and reflection.

2. Aligning different place-based frameworks and funding streams across government

Across all levels of government, we are seeing a rapidly increasing interest in collective impact and other place-based models. This is an exciting trend but does not come without challenges. Over 2022, CFI anticipates that we will see more examples of multiple government agencies funding place-based work in a single place, often through multiple backbones or intermediaries, on varying timelines, with different policy objectives. This risks creating unnecessary complexity that falls back on communities and backbone organisations that manage multiple relationships, funding, and reporting frameworks.

Our hypothesis is that this burden involves significant staff time and diverts precious, already stretched resources, away from community-facing work. This year brings opportunities to streamline the experience of backbones and intermediaries who are holding the ‘on the ground work’ and CFI, with our partners at ISSR (University of Queensland), is questioning “How can governments collaborate to align their place-based funding and frameworks when partnering with communities?”

3. Community control and co-governance of services and support

Throughout 2022, progress on The National Agreement on Closing the Gap is going to see a big ‘uptick’ in the number of place-based initiatives and partnerships aimed at empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be participating equitably and with sovereignty in shared decision-making with the government.

As someone who is easily excited by the talk of place-based partnerships, it’s easy to read the Agreement and only focus on Priority Reform One (Formal Partnerships and Shared Decision Making), but the six reforms are collectively important and hugely relevant to place-based change. What else catches my attention? Priority Reform Two, which aims to support the development of the community-controlled sector to effectively recognise the strength, expertise, and self-determination of First Nation Peoples’ voices in communities.

The big question for the place-based change ecosystem – intermediaries, philanthropists, and other funders – is how we take up this challenge to create opportunities for the work we do to be meaningfully controlled by the communities in which it seeks to make an impact. 2022 is the year for wrestling with this question, and CFI looks forward to continuing its work with Maranguka, Bourke, and the SPSP National Leadership Group on a pilot project to explore the development of a mechanism for shared accountability and decision-making. As we step forward, let’s continue to question how we hold the role of authority, create and enable the space for communities to generate the systems change that is relevant for themselves and an equitable shared future.

2022 is set to be a big year and it’s going to be exciting to see these trends, and likely many others, shape the work as we go. We’re keen to hear from you about what you’re noticing and what we need to pay attention to, so please reach out to to connect and get the conversation started.

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