‘What does it take to make democracy work?’ What has happened to the civic organisations where citizens could once go to address shared challenges? Do civic organisations know HOW to work with citizens today?
The US Kettering Foundation is tackling this question, and Australia’s Dr Mark Brophy – staunch supporter of Everyday Democracy and founder of Australia’s ‘Dialogue to Change Program’ – will attend a March seminar with civic engagement proponents at the Kettering’s Civic Organisations Around the World seminar in Dayton, Ohio.
The seminar will focus on citizens, organisations and the gap in civil society.
In Victoria, Mark began the Dialogue to Change process with the Maryborough community some time ago, and now, with community support and funding, Maryborough people are about to have a voice and face their ‘sticky problems’.
“Maryborough’s Dialogue to Change is a new process where our community can come together to solve sticky problems. By working together.. we can come up with real life solutions to make our community better” says Drina Andrews, Manager of the Goldfields Employment and Learning Centre in Maryborough, Victoria.
Located about 160 kilometres north west of Melbourne, Maryborough has recently been affected by the flooding in Victoria. Many Maryborough people care about their community and would like to make a difference. They face a range of complex challenges.
This Program will give Maryborough people a chance to have a ‘voice’ about what happens in their community, and be part of change. People from all walks of life will be able to work through issues and solve public problems in a productive and co-operative way.
The participants will meet in small groups for four study circle sessions spread over a few weeks. Participants will develop new relationships, understand local situations better, work with others to develop practical action ideas AND have some fun.
At the end there will be a list of action ideas that the partners in the Program will support in every way in driving the community’s action ideas.
The round of study circles are due to commence in mid March 2011.
The program is supported by Adult, Community and Further Education as part of their Community Learning Partnerships, the Goldfields Employment and Learning Centre, and Maryborough Neighbourhood Renewal.
Neighbourhood Renewal is a government initiative aimed at narrowing the gap between the most disadvantaged communities in Victoria and the rest of the State.
It aims to tackle local causes of disadvantage, not just the symptoms. Local action plans built around six practical objectives are developed:
– Increasing community pride and participation – residents are actively involved with other stakeholders in the governance of the project and in developing local action plans. They are achieving outcomes such as upgraded parks, housing redevelopments and new community hubs. Their pride is evident in greater participation in communty festivals and cultural events.
– Enhancing housing and the physical environment – the quality of housing and the local environment directly affects residents’ experience of their neighbourhood.
– Lifting employment and learning opportunities and expanding local economies – work and training opportunities are being increased. The ‘digital divide’ is being bridged and partnerships with local schools are increasing and there has been a substantial participation in the Public Tenant Employment Program.
Improving personal safety and reducing crime – Neighbourhood Renewal is reducing crime and improving community safety in project areas. Joint initiatives with Victoria Police and others include:
* Reassurance Policing
* Local Priority Policing
* Neighbourhood Watch
* early intervention measures, such as recreation and anti-bullying programs
* the adoption of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principles
– Promoting health and wellbeing Initiatives include:
* increasing physical activity and improving nutrition through recreation opportunities, park redevelopment, health promotion programs, and partnerships with schools for the Walking School Bus and Breakfast Clubs
* improving mental health and social connectedness through community hubs, health promotion programs, peer support and mentoring, leadership and governance initiatives, festivals and other recreation opportunities
* improving access to health and wellbeing services through partnerships with local agencies and organisations
– Improving government responsiveness -action plans are resulting in ‘joined-up’ government action responding to the community’s needs.
Individuals from all walks of life are encouraged to participate. If you live, work, service or have any connections or responsibilities associated with the Maryborough and/or surrounding community, you are urged to become involved.
FOR MORE INFO: Please call Drina on 5461 3185.
What a thought, getting democracy working…