Evidence-based practice and innovation

In some ways we live in an exciting time where we are learning more and more about what works—and what doesn’t—in helping to nurturing strong families and communities. Research and research evidence play a crucial role in these discoveries and in ensuring that our work makes a difference.

When I started working with communities and families over 30 years ago, there were very few rigorously evaluated programs or approaches in family and community work. Youth and families workers often relied on their gut instincts. Now there are many programs and approaches that have been shown to make a difference and, as a field, we are thinking much more critically about how we know we make a difference.

There is no doubt that research and research evidence play an important role in innovation and new ways of working. Continue reading

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In some countries (and USA states) our marriage is illegal

In some countries (and 30 states of the USA), Cathy and I would have been prevented from marrying. In fact, even though we are happily married after 31 years and have two wonderful daughters, in some countries (and some states of the USA) our getting married would have been a criminal offence and it would have been illegal for us to cohabitate or have sexual relations.

A while ago, one of Jasmine’s teachers said that relationships like ours made her feel ill. She wasn’t referring to our relationship (as she doesn’t know our dark secret) and I’m sure that if she got to know us better, she might revise her opinion, but she made this comment in front of the whole class while Jasmine was in the room.

When we said we were getting married, some people were quite concerned (one relation didn’t acknowledge our marriage until a few years later) and people were worried about the implications for any children we had.

Colleagues have recommended that I don’t let other people know about my relationship in some work contexts (including working with some communities and in prison).

My parents deliberately hid our relationship from some of their friends and acquaintances (even though they were delighted we were getting married). Continue reading

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Half a million views

I woke this morning to a nice blogging milestone—half a million views!

Since starting the blog in early 2011 there has been a slow but steady climb in views.

Total monthly views

Average monthly views

I know there are limitations to the number of views as a measure (e.g., if somebody has a very brief look and is not at all interested, it still counts as a view) but it still is an indication of the interest. Continue reading

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Transparency report (May-August 2017)

(Photo: CC BY-SA HonestReporting.com, flickr/freepress via Flickr)

At the start of the year, I decided to provide transparency reports for my blog. While I don’t make any money from the blog, I like the idea of sharing information that might be of interest to other bloggers.

  • Total views (May-Aug 2017) – 66,660 (Average of 542 views/day)
  • Total visitors (May-Aug 2017) – 43,037
  • Total likes (May-Aug 2017) – 23
  • Total comments (May-Aug 2017) – 43
  • Total shares (May-Aug 2017) – 122
  • Total WordPress followers (end of Aug 2017) – 388
  • Total email followers (end of Aug 2017) – 322
  • Total Twitter followers (end of Aug 2017) – 522
  • Total Blog Facebook page followers (end of Aug 2017) – 326

The ten most viewed posts for the last four months were: Continue reading

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Scam alert – Renewal Letter from ASIC

Copy of ASIC scam emailI’ve recently registered Transition Newcastle as a charity with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) so when I the above email I at first thought it could be related to our registration.

The text read:

Please find information in the following link regarding the renewal for your company.
Renewal letter [which was a link – not legitimate]
Select this link to view, save or print the information. This link will remain active for 28 days.
If you no longer need your business name to be registered, please email us at bncancel@asic.gov.au
If you have any questions, contact us at www.asic.gov.au/question [which was a legitimate link]

Michelle Inda
Senior Executive Leader
Australian Securities and Investments Commission

It looked fairly legitimate except that I doubted that ASIC would send such an email. On closer inspection there were a few signs it was not legitimate. Continue reading

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Community engagement in marketing

Marketing written in colourful letters

(Photo: Geralt)

In an introduction to herself in a university course I teach on engaging communities (HLSC2241 at the University of Newcastle), one of my students said she was studying a Bachelor of Business majoring in marketing. In response to a question about why she had enrolled in the online elective, she suggested that it “obviously hasn’t got much to do with my degree but it’s something that I am interested in.”

This got me thinking about the relationship between community engagement and marketing. There is no doubt that marketing is relevant to community engagement. Recruitment plays a vital role in engaging families and communities 1-5 – there is no point organising community engagement events if nobody turns up! – and marketing can clearly help with recruitment.

At the same time, I do emphasise that while marketing and promotion are important to community engagement, they are not community engagement in their own right. So what is the role of community engagement in marketing? Continue reading

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An open letter to students about the postal survey on same-sex marriage

Here is a copy of an open letter I sent to my students studying a course on community engagement. Even though I have concerns about the postal vote, as we are having it, I hope there is a very high participation rate, and want to do what I can to make it as respectful and non-judgemental as possible.

Hi everyone,

As I am sure you know, the Australian Government recently announced a postal survey about the attitude of Australians towards same-sex marriage (commonly known as a postal vote).

As this is a course on community engagement, I strongly encourage you to participate in the postal survey (if you are eligible to do so) even though participation is voluntary. More importantly I encourage you to engage in thoughtful, constructive reflection and discussion in relations to the issues involved.

One of my fears with the postal survey is that it will polarise communities and create division. People on both sides of the debate feel very strongly about the issue and the debate is going to be ugly at times.

I urge you to use the coming weeks and months to practice some skills that are vital to community engagement practitioners: listening, being non-judgemental and accepting differing views, while at the same time thinking carefully about what you are hearing. Continue reading

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3 reasons I do not support a postal vote on same-sex marriage

Same-sex marriage postal voteLike most other Western countries there is increasing support for legalising same-sex marriage in Australia. We are about to have a national postal vote, run by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), to discover whether or not Australians support legalising same-sex marriage. Officially the ABS has been asked to collect “statistical information about the proportion of participating electors who are in favour of the law being changed to allow same-sex couples to marry” because the Government wasn’t able to get a national plebiscite through parliament and so it doesn’t have the authority to run an official vote. It argues that it can request the ABS to collect “statistical information”.

As a strong advocate for community engagement, you might imagine I believe that involving the public in this way is a good thing. That is not the case. Even though I am a strong supporter of marriage equality (notice the blog background is rainbow coloured), I do not think the idea of a national postal vote (or survey) is a good idea.

There are three main reasons I am opposed to the postal vote (but will still vote in favour of marriage equality and strongly urge others to do so). Continue reading

Posted in Families & parenting, Social change | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

An example of asset-based community development

Asset-based community-driven development (ABCD) is built on four foundations (Kretzmann, 2010; Kretzmann & McKnight, 1993; Mathie & Cunningham, 2003):

  1. It focuses on community assets and strengths rather than problems and needs
  2. It identifies and mobilises individual and community assets, skills and passions
  3. It is community driven – ‘building communities from the inside out’
  4. It is relationship driven.

As can be seen, ABCD is much more than creating an asset map. In my teaching and work, I am moving away from asset mapping to other ways of identifying and mobilising community strengths and assets.

The above video, featuring Wendy McCaig, is a great example of putting the foundations into practice without relying on an asset map.

Some of the things that stood out for me include: Continue reading

Posted in Strengths-based approaches & ABCD, Working with communities | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Updated post on vertical and horizontal community engagement

Vertical and horizontal community engagementI just updated a post on vertical and horizontal community engagement. The more I think about it the more I like it but have changed from seeing them as different approaches to community engagement to different dimensions of community engagement.

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