A little bit of a whinge

Kids' Vegies on the VergeCommunity engagement can be frustrating, and I’ve had a bad week! A couple of days ago somebody stole some solar-powered lights from the Kids’ Vegies on the Verge. One of our neighbours had donated four lights (one for each corner) so that the garden was more easily seen at night. They added colour, light and warning. On Thursday night, somebody decided to steal them. I wonder what has happened to people in the past that makes them think this sort of thing is OK? Now we have the dilemma of deciding whether or not we replace them. If we do get some more, will they just be stolen again? If we don’t, is there a risk that someone might trip over the garden?

This week I was also involved in a focus group exploring the use of Blackboard (an online teaching tool) in on-campus courses. We are interested in what students find helpful or unhelpful in Blackboard to help make it as useful as possible. The professor who was running the course had asked convenors of degrees to send the information out to students. I also went around to a few lectures to invite people to participate. We had hoped to have around 20 students participate over three focus groups. We ended up with five students in one – four of whom were current or very recent students on placement at the Family Action Centre. When I went around to the lectures, very few students were even interested in taking the information about the focus groups. Students sometimes complain about the quality of at least some Blackboard sites, but didn’t take up the opportunity to help improve it.

This lack of participation reminded me of the consultation I went to recently, about Newcastle Council’s community engagement policy and framework. The sessions were widely advertised, but my session had nine people and the following one had four people. It must have been very frustrating for the Council staff who organised it.

I know it is important to find creative ways of engaging the community, but I also think we (as community members) have a responsibility to participate in consultations, giving feedback and getting involved. I know that there are time constraints, other priorities etc, but it can be frustrating when you are trying to find out what would a community wants and there is little response.

End of whinge!

There aren’t many other posts like this, as a contrast you might enjoy:

  1. Making parents feel welcome in schools
  2. What is asset-based community-driven development (ABCD)?
  3. Kids’ Vegies on the Verge: strengthening a sense of community
  4. Do you want fries with that?
  5. A story of two communities

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, environmentalist, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace, sustainability.
This entry was posted in Working with communities and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to A little bit of a whinge

  1. Having said that – everyone is entitled to a bit of a whinge – hopefully next week will be a ripper


  2. I do think that when people don’t turn up to consultations we have to look at what we are doing and where we are doing it, for a Consultation and Engagement Strategy really there is a need to get to where the people are rather than expecting them to come to a community centre or something similar. You could have some real fun, go and interview people in pubs or coffee shops, engage with kids and young people, go to the aged care facilities…….


  3. Pauline says:

    Hey Graeme,
    That’s a bummer of a week!! You’re strong, onward and upward as they say…great tip about the reflectors. Many thanks.


  4. Juliette says:

    Everyone is allowed to have a bad day :)
    But to help solve the community garden lighting issue, you could try using circular reflectors (similar to the ones used on bikes) that are attached securely to the side of the bed. They are being used on a few raised bed gardens in my area – and they are on high pedestrian activity streets, and they seem to work.
    Hope the sun’s out in Newcastle, enjoy the weekend.


    • Thanks Juliette
      Good idea about the circular reflectors. We’re also thinking about seeing if there are some solar powered fairy lights we could attach quite securely. They’d be harder to pinch.


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