Engaging the community
Before the community exists
While it's not possible to talk to the future residents of a new growth area, it IS possible to get an idea of their future needs by talking to residents in comparable communities. The kinds of questions you might ask are:
- What attracted residents to that particular area?
- Have their expectations been met? Why or why not?
- What do they like about the area? What would they change?
- What are their service, community development and facility needs? Are their needs being met? Why or why not?
- How do they access programs, services and facilities? What time do they attend? How do they get there?
- What other needs do they see in the community? Are these being met?
- What types of services/community development activities/programs and facilities exist there? What works? What could be improved?
- Do they have social networks and feel like there are opportunities to participate in the community? What are the barriers?
- Is there a sense of community in the area generally? Why or why not? What would enhance a sense of community?
It's important to talk to different segments of the population in comparable communities, as they'll have different needs and perspectives. The different segments might include:
- Parents of young families
- Children and young people
- CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) residents
- Older residents
- Home-based business owners.
Residents in established areas
Growth areas are often developed near established areas or there can be existing settlements within the boundaries of the growth area that will change dramatically. These existing communities may have a different social profile to the future community, but they also have important needs while being faced with significant–and potentially daunting–change in their community.
In the initial planning stages, existing established communities can provide you information about:
- the profile, lifestyle and wellbeing of the existing community
- provision and capacity of existing services, programs and facilities
- the gaps that might be met with the new development
- community building priorities.
It is critical to understand the aspirations of the existing community for the new area, and how the two communities might be integrated.
As residents arrive
One way of obtaining information on the likely needs of these early residents is by working with developers to survey people as they purchase land. Most developers obtain information from purchasers to varying degrees for their own purposes. You can work with developers to expand the questions they ask to inform the community building evidence base.
The earliest members of the new community will be living in a place where the development is unfinished. They may not yet have neighbours, and local services and facilities may not be in place.
Engagement of new residents should be focused on ensuring that they are not socially isolated and determining what their needs are in advance.
As the community grows
The ongoing engagement of residents aims to build community capacity, involve residents in decision making, facilitate social connections and support networks, and ensure community members know what is available to them. This is further explored in Involving your community.
Throughout these broader engagement processes, the community’s needs and gaps should be continually monitored.
Engagement tools for you to explore
There are many different ways to engage communities depending on what your purpose is. Useful information and techniques that can help you to plan for your community engagement can be found at: