Community Self Determination

two hands shaking overwritten with text describing collaboration

The current lock down of metro Victoria due to an upsurge in Covid-19 community infection serves as a reminder of what we may all have to live with for the next couple of years. Were the situation to worsen, community self determination will become increasingly important.

It also underlines the fragility of the Prime Ministers JobMaker plans. Visionary as this may be, the reality is that so much of the economic recovery of the Australian economy is out of the hands of both the Federal and State Governments. Infrastructure projects will soak up only a small number of the 4 million people reliant upon JobSeeker or JobKeeper.

In the event the economic recovery takes longer than anticipated, there is an alternative to waiting for either Government to conjure up a miracle or for the economy to recover at its own pace. Community self determination is not a new or unproven concept. It has been shown to be effective during global warfare, in countries ridden with civil conflict and following large, natural disasters. It was very effective in parts of Christchurch following the 2011 earthquake, and following major bushfire emergencies.

It is where community band together, informally, to look out for each other. It is not a process driven by Government or by social agencies. In fact, volunteer-run community organisations are likely to be off greater value. Community collaboration functions on the basis of leaving noone behind. Community collaboration doesn’t function according to funding targets and it isn’t about raising large sums of money.

Within any community there are employers and those seeking work. There are service providers and those in need of additional support. By creating a place, or space where those in need can be linked up with those able to provide support, the community begins to work collectively as one.

As it stands at present there are a lot of agencies and support services, each working within their own bubble. They would say they are collaborating, and they do. Regrettably as the situation continues to deteriorate their systems and processes will get in the way. Agencies can also become territorial. Their collaborative processes are formal; whereas community collaboration is informal. What may be needed is a central clearing house that cuts across sectoral and interagency boundaries.

The good news is the tools are available, usually for free or very low cost, to enable this to occur. From planning to scheduling to communication there is a suite of available digital tools. Our use of technology over the past few months to enable us to work, communicate and support might be the single greatest revelation during the current crisis.

The really good news is that a community doesn’t need to seek approval to band together to support its people. When the need is there, the process occurs as if by osmosis.

I’m John Coxon. For the past two decades I have been advising and guiding social agencies and community organisations in governance, operations and service delivery. My CommunityPak service is designed to provide volunteer-run community organisations with capacity at an affordable price. Email me.

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