SECTION FIVE - Making the Most of What You've Got
“Every community has more potential resources than any one person knows.”52
Councils can play a lead role in harnessing existing community assets such as people, infrastructure and resources, while simultaneously encouraging and affirming those that do it of their own accord (i.e. the many individuals and groups involved in volunteering).
While needs assessment and problem identification have often been the cornerstone of community planning, this can have a ‘deficit’ focus. There is however a growing trend towards more ‘asset’ based methods (i.e. what strengths do we have, how can we support what is already working). With some lateral thinking, making the most of what a community already has can provide low cost solutions to its needs.
More simply, it is a glass half full way of viewing community, versus a glass half empty.(52)
The Australian tradition of ‘mateship’ and helping others is a sometimes overlooked or taken for granted community asset.
However, the desire to help others in the community is the most frequently cited motivation for volunteering in Australia.(53) As well as the obvious benefits that volunteer services provide to recipients, the very act of volunteering itself can fulfill an individual’s need to belong, feel valued and find meaning in life.(54) Indirectly, the individual benefits of volunteering then go on to flow into greater levels of community trust and civic engagement(4) and help to build community goodwill and community mindedness.
Economically speaking, there is also growing recognition that official national accounting figures such as Gross National Product (GNP) seriously underestimate the economic value that many important activities such as unpaid labour and volunteering give to the community.(5)
The following volunteer programs, DAS, the Pet Companion Program, PetLinks and SAFE demonstrate ways in which such services can be successfully implemented throughout different sections of the community, benefiting both those involved in providing and receiving the volunteer services, as well as the broader community.
Infrastructure and Place
Enhancing ‘the fit’ between existing resources and community needs can often be both more effective and less expensive as community improvement options than solutions that rest on a ‘more is better’ premise. In a recent community consultation relating to parks for example, residents didn’t actually want ‘more’ but wanted the local parks to feel safe, to be well maintained and to cater for children of all ages.(55)
Programs or promotional strategies that draw people to visit a community facility or park are also cost effective methods to make the most of what already exists and tap into people’s desire for a strong sense of community.
The following case studies provide examples of ways in which councils have effectively drawn people into their parks to create community and healthy outcomes.
Making the Most of What You've Got Case Studies