Smoking and community engagement

All campuses of the University of Newcastle (UoN), Australia, are now smoke free.

I love working in a smoke free environment and don’t miss the days when smoking was much more common. When I was much younger, I had to put up with smoking at meetings, at concerts, on public transport, in restaurants and even in my guitar lessons. Dire warnings of the consequences of banning smoking in restaurants, public places and so on have proven to be unfounded.

At the same time I wonder about the implications for community engagement of the Uni becoming a smoke free campus.

I’m proud of the commitment my University has made to equity of access to higher education. The commitment is backed up by action and UoN has a history of supporting students from a range of backgrounds to succeed at university. We are the largest provider of enabling programs in Australia [which provide alternative pathways to university entry] and 27% of our students come from low socio-economic backgrounds (compared to a sector average of 16%). Continue reading

Posted in Being an academic, Working with communities | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The relationship between community engagement and community development

The relationship between community engagement and community development

Community engagement is at the heart of community development.

In her useful discussion of community development, Jessica Smart (2017) discusses the difference between community-based work “which involves the community”, and community development, “which is led by the community” (para. 5, emphasis added).  She suggests that community-based work is characterised by:

  • Decision-making power rests with the agency
  • The problem or issue is defined by the agency
  • There are defined timelines
  • Outcomes are pre-specified, often changes in specific behaviours or knowledge levels (Jessica Smart, 2017).

Community development in characterised:

  • Power relations between agency and community members are constantly negotiated
  • The problem or issue is first named by the community, then defined in a way that advances the shared interests of the community and the agency
  • Work is longer term in duration
  • The desired outcome is an increase in the community members’ capacities
  • The desired long-term outcomes usually include change at the neighbourhood or community level (Jessica Smart, 2017).

Continue reading

Posted in Working with communities | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Password protected post

You may have noticed that I just published a password protected post. I had hoped that subscribers would not be notified, but you were!

It includes a couple of resources for Alternative to Violence Project facilitators that will not be of wide interest and I’m not quite ready to make the post public. As a subscriber, if you really want to see it you are quite welcome to by using the password Transforming.


Posted in Families & parenting | 2 Comments

Protected: Transforming Power mandala

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Posted in Families & parenting

Creating an online course on engaging families and communities

(Photo: geralt)

From 2018, an undergraduate online elective I teach on community engagement at the University of Newcastle will be one of a growing number of courses (or subjects) the Family Action Centre is offering in family studies at both an undergraduate and a postgraduate level. This means that the course will have a greater emphasis on engaging families as well as communities.

Twelve months ago I restructured the course (HLSC2241 Engaging communities), which I’ve been teaching since 2008, so that it had a greater focus on how community engagement is used in practice.

Prior to last year’s restructure, it had five modules:

  1. Introduction to community engagement
  2. Building on community strengths
  3. Strategies for community engagement
  4. Case studies of community engagement
  5. Summing up

The new structure was largely built on three broad areas where community engagement is used:

  1. Introduction to community engagement
  2. Community engagement in community development
  3. Community engagement in service delivery
  4. Community engagement in planning and decision-making
  5. Summing up

At first I thought it wouldn’t be too big a change to incorporate engaging families, but the more I think about it, the bigger it seems.

When the focus was mainly on community engagement, the emphasis was largely on how to involve people in community development, service delivery or planning and decision making after the initial engagement. With the increased focus on engaging families, particularly marginalised families, I think we need to explore the initial engagement of families (getting them through the door, or letting service through their door) much more. Continue reading

Posted in Families & parenting | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Recruitment: an important step in engagement

Without successful recruitment, family and community engagement can flounder. Before programs and other initiatives can successfully engage participants, people need to show up or become engaged in some other way. Although advertising and promotion are not engagement in their own right, unless people know about a program or initiative, engagement can be challenging. If people don’t become engaged, particularly marginalised  families and communities, it can be tempting to label them as “hard to reach” (Cortis, Katz, & Patulny, 2009; McDonald, 2010), when we really need to look at our own practice, processes and procedures.

This was all driven home to me in a recent two-day Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshop I helped facilitate. We were delighted to have seventeen people register for the workshop. We felt we had reached the participants that we wanted to target. Some of them had been told to do a relevant course by a court or by Probation and Parole. Some were referred by a drug or family service, including some who were wanting to regain (or improve) access to their children. Others wanted to improve their relationship with their partner.

On the day of the workshop, however, only seven people showed up and only two people came to the second day. Clearly we have a problem. Continue reading

Posted in Facilitation & teaching, Families & parenting, Working with communities | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The importance of recruitment in engagement – an example

There were some problems with formatting that I couldn’t fix so I’ve re-done the post here Continue reading

Posted in Families & parenting | Leave a comment

Strengths-based measurement

(Photo: Pixabay)

As practitioners and researchers we need to think carefully about the types of measures we use with the people we support. The measures we use can cause pain and distress for participants, undermine trust and engagement, and produce unreliable data.

A few years ago, I was talking with some researchers and policymakers about measuring outcomes of family services. One of them was complaining that many family workers resisted using standardised outcome measures. I asked if it could partly be because many services were strengths-based and didn’t want to use measures that focused on problems and what was wrong. Her response was “tough!” For her the research and measurement were much more important than adopting a strengths-based approach. Continue reading

Posted in Being an academic, Families & parenting, Strengths-based approaches & ABCD | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Transparency report (January-April 2017)

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

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

  • Total views (Jan-Apr 2017) – 61,233 (Average of 510 views/day)
  • Total visitors (Jan-Apr 2017) – 41,117
  • Total likes (Jan-Apr 2017) – 33
  • Total comments (Jan-Apr 2017) – 39
  • Total shares (Jan-Apr 2017) – 374
  • Total WordPress followers (end of Apr 2017) – 370
  • Total email followers – 294
  • Total Twitter followers – 489
  • Total Blog Facebook page followers – 250

My top ten posts for the first four months of the year were:

  1. What is the Strengths Perspective? (10,492 views)
  2. What is asset-based community-driven development (ABCD)? (4996 views)
  3. What is community capacity building? (3396 views)
  4. What are social models of health? (3150 views)
  5. Types of community engagement (3026 views)
  6. What is the Spectrum of Public Participation? (2889 views)
  7. Making parents feel welcome in schools (2757 views)
  8. 10 things I’ve learnt about strengths-based community engagement (1558 views)
  9. Ethics and community engagement (1535 views)
  10. 10 ways to reduce your consumption (1493 views)

April was a very busy month for me at work so I didn’t publish any new posts. The posts I’ve published so far this year (with the number of views they’ve received) are:

If you liked this post please follow my blog, and you might like to look at:

  1. Transparency report (2016)
  2. Blogging as an academic
  3. Why I blog
  4. Sustaining Community blog – 2015
  5. About me
  6. 7 principles guiding my work
Posted in Being an academic | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Donald Trump the musical (with Tim Minchin)

I’m a big fan of Tim Minchin, and I am quite scared that Donald Trump is the president of the USA, so this sketch on the Late Late Show appealed to me.

Even though we live in serious times, humour is a wonderful way to express our concern and outrage at some of the things happening in the USA.

In the humour, there is a serious message:

Just because I find myself in this story,
In the next election you can, change it for me.
If you think the ending is fixed already,
You might as well be saying,
You think that we’re OK,

And that’s not right!
And if it’s not right!
You have to set it right! (Lyrics available from the Late Late Show with James Corden).

If you liked this post please follow my blog, and you might like to look at:

  1. Five things that scare me about Trump as president
  2. Song for Sunday – When I grow up (from Matilda)
  3. The paradox of inconsequence
  4. 10 ways to reduce your consumption
  5. Give Frank a Break! (A humorous video about the serious issue of plastic pollution)

If you find any problems with the blog, (e.g., broken links or typos) I’d love to hear about them. You can either add a comment below or contact me via the Contact page.

Posted in Social change | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment