Connecting Communities Conference

Connecting Communities Conference

I’m looking forward to speaking next month at the Connecting Communities Conference organised by the Local Community Services Association (LCSA).

The title of my talk is “Community development in a world of evidence-based practice” and this is what I’ve said in the abstract:

The Targeted Earlier Intervention Program Reform argues there is a need for a service system that is, amongst other things, “Evidence based – grounded in what we know works and building on that knowledge”. What does an increasing emphasis on evidence-based programs and practice mean for community development practitioners? How can we understand evidence-based programs and practice in a way that is consistent with community-led approaches to community development? What skills will we need to flourish (as communities and services) in a world of evidence-based practice?

It follows on from some work I’ve been doing with children and parenting support programs in regional and rural NSW to enhance their capacity to implement evidence-based programs and practice. The project was funded by the Department funded by the Department of Social Services through the Children and Families Expert Panel. (Click here for posts relating to this work.) In this talk my focus will be on community development rather than family work.

While there are clearly benefits to evidence-based practice, we also need to be careful that we don’t focus on “quick measurable outputs” at the expense of “the long-term development goals of communities” (Westoby & Ingamells, 2012, p. 387). In a recent article, some colleague and I discussed three practices community workers use in navigating some of the dilemmas of working in such a context: patience, “letting go,” and negotiation. At the conference I’m planning to reflect on how community workers can retain a commitment to community development processes and principles like these, while also being open to using evidence (from a range of sources including research, practitioner wisdom and lived experience) and measuring the impact of our work.

In the abstract I mention the Targeted Earlier Intervention Program Reform, which is a review of a variety of the state government funding programs including Community Builders, Families NSW, and Child Youth and Family Support. (Many of the community development organisations that are members of the LSCA are funded through these programs.) It’s interesting to note that in the latest report as part of the review Reform directions – local and client centred there has been a shift in the language from “evidence-based practice” to “evidence-informed practice”. Is this a change in focus or just a change in language to make it more acceptable to practitioners?

Watch out for more posts as I prepare for the conference.


Westoby, P., & Ingamells, A. (2012). Teaching community development personal practice frameworks. Social Work Education, 31(383-396). doi: 0.1080/02615479.2010.550913

If you liked this post please follow my blog (top right-hand corner of the blog), and you might like to look at:

  1. Navigating dilemmas of community development: Practitioner reflections on working with Aboriginal communities
  2. Bottom-up community development
  3. 10 things I’ve learnt about strengths-based community engagement
  4. What are complex problems?
  5. Research evidence for family (and community) workers
  6. Social change and strengths-based approaches

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.
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