December 2022

Place based change and systemic barriers

During the second half of 2022, CFI supported a number of in person forums that brought people from across one of Australia’s largest initiatives for strengthening community-led systems change, Stronger Places, Stronger People  together to learn, share and identify challenges that can not be addressed in community alone. . These discussions touched on systemic barriers in the work, as well as barriers facing continued evolution and support for place-based and community-led change in Australia. 

Coming out of these learning forums was a shared commitment from government and community partners to surface and articulate the evolving place-based change practice as a way of responding to systemic barriers being faced, in two ways.

The first barrier identified by government partners was a lack of shared understanding of language such as place-based and community-led. With the growth of place-based initiatives, similar terms are often being used to describe approaches and concepts that can be different in intent, or in practice. In the context of the Australian Public Service reform agenda reshaping the relationship with the public as one of partners, and an increasing desire by Australian governments to apply community-led approaches, it was considered timely to draw out the different ways of working required by different approaches.

In response to a Government Learning Event in Sydney in June, CFI developed a paper to support an enhanced understanding of the intentions and ways of working of four different approaches or frameworks. The paper also articulated a set of principles for community-led practice for further evolution.  It is hoped that this will support consideration of the skills, capabilities and authorising environment required to sustain and strengthen these ways of working, and inform the APS reform agenda.   

The second barrier Backbone Teams’ identified is the need to capture and demonstrate the impact of this work, in ways that honour their own voice and stories. Although global evidence suggests that systemic and population level change can take decades to achieve and sustain, the reality remains that policy makers, funders and community partners’ require evidence of results and change to remain engaged. 

Over the last three months we have worked with SPSP Backbone Teams to gather and  present an early evidence of impact and behavioural changes that are being seen across the ecosystem. The report highlights evidence-based change in three areas:

1) There are examples that show SPSP is improving the wellbeing, and long-term trajectories, of children and families in their communities,

2) the partnership between governments, service providers and community members is changing behaviours – amplifying voices, using resources differently and building local, regional, state and national level change platforms,

3) Without Backbone Teams, and the local governance infrastructure and ways of working that they provide, these changes wouldn’t happen.

The report has been shared with the Minister for Social Services and is informing pre-budget discussions about ongoing support to SPSP. It is also informing engagement with a range of partners and funders of SPSP communities. CFI were honoured to work in service of the SPSP Backbone Teams to produce this report which is based on the generosity of community members and partners sharing their time, experience and knowledge. It is both a celebration of their efforts as well as an evidence-base for the impact of community-led change.

Authored by Sarah Callaghan, Practitioner and Partnerships Lead

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