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Inspiring everyone’s learning for strong grass-roots community development

Background

 

In 2009 the Otago Community Trust hosted world renowned community development expert Peter Kenyon, the founder and director of Bank of I.D.E.A.S. Peter delivered an inspiring workshop in Dunedin on the art of community building and how this model had been used to enhance the wellbeing of neighbourhoods around the world.

 

Following the workshop, a group of Dunedin-based community development practitioners came together to create a funding application to the Otago Community Trust (OCT). The OCT provided funding towards four community practitioners’ attendance of a Bank of I.D.E.A.S. conference in Melbourne, entitled “Planning by and with the People”. These individuals included Rebecca Williams (Dunedin City Council), Jan Hudson (Tonic Consulting), Melanie McNatty (Presbyterian Support Otago) and Sue Russell (Dunedin Council of Social Services). Their participation in this conference was game-changing, as they collectively came to realise that investing in local community development generated the greatest of social returns – resilient populations. 

 

Upon their return in 2010, the Community Builders Group (CB Group) was created, its founding members consisting of those who had travelled to Melbourne and Barbara Payton (Otago Youth Wellness Trust). Others in the community were invited to contribute leading to community-builders in its current form. Margy-Jean Malcolm was one of those early influential participants quickly becoming a core member of the group.

 

From the outset the mission of this group has been to support grass-roots community development in Dunedin; encouraging place based community leadership, sharing knowledge of best practice, and providing professional development opportunities for others with a passion for building resilient communities.

Since 2010, the CB Group have been able to facilitate a number of workshops and learning opportunities with the ongoing support of the CTO, Dunedin City Council, COSS Dunedin and Presbyterian Support Otago. These have included:

 

  • Place Based Best Practice - this workshop was facilitated by the CB Group on their return from Melbourne and focused on Blueskin Bay, Middlemarch, Portobello, and Brockville communities.

  • Victory Village – just over a van load of community workers attended this two day workshop in Nelson hosted in partnership by Victory School, the Families Commission and Inspiring Communities. Together they explored neighbourhood rejuvenation through the deliberate partnering of school and community.

  • Living Thinking and Living Practice - Alan Kaplan and Sue Davidoff (South African community development practitioners) were invited to host a retreat based in the Catlins over the course of a week.

  • Learning by Doing - Megan Courtney from Inspiring Communities spoke on the art of ‘learning by doing’ and the importance of using best practice models across New Zealand.

  • Jim Diers – Jim Diers was invited to share his experiences of Community Building in Seattle and how we can apply contemporary community development tools within a New Zealand context.

  • Asset Based Community Development – Peter Kenyon hosted a workshop on the successful application of asset based community development.

  • Building Stronger Neighbourhoods and Food Resiliency in Communities – Richard Conlin spoke on the importance of food resiliency and how it can be better achieved.

  • Masterclass with Jim Diers from Seattle and Denise Bijoux from Inspiring communities.

 

Each of these learning opportunities were made available to the wider Otago community, participants coming from as far afield as Wanaka, Ranfurly, Waitaki, Clutha, Invercargill, Alexandra and Edendale.

 

In addition to these workshops, the CB Group have also sought to facilitate local information sharing in acknowledgement of the great works being done and incredible knowledge held by Dunedin’s active place based community groups. To date these sessions have been hosted by Caversham, North East Valley and Green Island’s community groups. Our work has also contributed towards the formation of many community development groups across Dunedin.

 

Alongside the OCT, the Dunedin City Council (DCC) have become a key partner of Community Builders. Their participation in our activities has allowed the Council to consider working with communities differently and break down some of the silo mentality that existed previously. This is evidenced in the DCC’s 2016-2017 annual plan, which has included specific resourcing for place based community support.