5 reasons why if you work in Community Engagement you should be watching South Australia

I’ve been in South Australia for 4 years now and there has been a steady build up of amazing opportunities for the community to get involved in the decision making process. The South Australian Government since 2013 has shown an extremely strong commitment to supporting a culture of effective stakeholder and community engagement. Not just highly marketed campaigns with glossy adverts and photo opportunities but high quality activities and events that allow the South Australian public to get involved, debate and decide on some of the State’s wicked problems.

Premier Jay Weatherill has shown passion and commitment in promoting his government to lead good engagement which will help him and his cabinet to create better decisions by bringing the voices of the community into the issues that are relevant to them.

Now it seems that over the next month or so along with some on going engagement schemes, we are going to see an increase in opportunities in South Australia which if you work in Community Engagement it would be really worth watching or if you can, get involved in. Here’s a run down of whats happening.

  1. Better Together and the Better Together Showcases

Better Together is built on six engagement principles to provide a consistent approach across the South Australian government and to guide best practice in involving the community in the decision making process, they are:

We know why we are engaging

We know who to engage

We know the history

We start together

We are genuine

We are relevant and engaging

The Better Together program offers public sector employees practical support through advice, training and events, and partnerships to support and deliver innovative engagement techniques and approaches. One of its brilliant offerings are the Better Together showcase events which are an engaging series of events featuring thought-provoking guest speakers, informative presenters and inspiring practitioners who have shaped and influenced engagement practice not just in South Australia but across the world. The idea of the Showcases are to bring new energy, enthusiasm and skills into the engagement community across South Australia.

So far there have been 7 Showcases with another planned for October. Follow @YourFutureSA on Twitter for more or visit http://yoursay.sa.gov.au/initiatives/better-together-showcase to see whats happened before.

2. Fund My Community

Fund My Community is a program which distributes $1 million for not-for-profit, non-government, community groups to provide programs or services for isolated, vulnerable or disadvantaged South Australians with the funding allocation decided by the community.

Eligible non-government, not-for-profit community organisations can apply for funding between $10,000 and $100,000 to deliver a service or project that meets the program’s objectives. The South Australian community is then invited to tell us which projects they think should receive the funding. The projects that receive the most community support are verified before being offered funding. Again, more information is found at www.YourSAy.sa.gov.au.

3. Citizens Jury — Nuclear

The nuclear debate is currently the hottest topic in South Australia with a proposed waste disposal station planned for somewhere in the state. After a commissioned report, the Premier has decided to give the community an opportunity to really have a say on this issue by instructing a number of citizens juries to be held. The first Citizens’ Jury, run by @Democracyco (twitter), was held recently and marked the beginning of a comprehensive consultation program. A group of randomly selected South Australians came together over two weekends to discuss South Australia’s future role in the nuclear industry.

Over the process, the jury have examined the Royal Commission Report and have been able to call on expert witnesses to help them work through the issues and better understand the choices available. After their deliberations, they have produced a simple report identifying the key topics that need to be discussed during the state-wide consultation program. For more information and to see what’s next in the process visit http://nuclear.yoursay.sa.gov.au.

4. IAP2 Australasia 2016 Conference

This October IAP2 Australasia will return to Adelaide for it’s annual core values conference and awards. Its been 4 years since this showcase event has been in South Australia and it now returns when the SA community is experiencing some of the best community engagement opportunities around. Showcases, talks and a tour of some completed and ongoing projects are on the cards. Its a great opportunity for both professionals and community members to learn from and network with peers. The IAP2 conference will be part of the states Open State event. https://www.iap2conference.com.au/Home

5. Open State

This October it’s hoped that more than 10,000 people will come together for Open State in Adelaide. Open State is ten days of collaboration, innovation and enterprise to help shape the future of South Australia.

From 18–27 October 2016, around 50 events will be held at various locations along the cities historical North Terrace and will include conferences, showcase events and other activities. Open State will feature engaging speakers and thought leaders on collaboration, innovation, ideas and enterprise from across Australia and around the globe.

To register your interest in one of the 50 events visit openstate.com.au.

So a lot going on!

As well as these opportunities I’m also currently lucky enough to be working on the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary with Dept. of Environment, Water and Natural Resources which is using collect impact to develop a community focussed bird sanctuary, protecting habitat and the rare birds that visit South Australia during the summer months whilst also looking for opportunitues to support and develop ideas for the local economy. Birdwatching or avitourism/ecotourism is big business!

Having developed partnerships with the local Kaurna people, Vietnamese farmers and many local resident and community groups as well the 4 local councils, in which the 60kms of coastline sits, the sanctuary is proving to be a great collaborative project. During October not only will the Bird Sanctuary team be taking part in the IAP2 Conference (running a tour)and running an Open State event to reimagine the North of Adelaide, there will also be some big announcements all thanks to the engagement processes being used. Follow @BirdSanctuarySA on Twitter or find the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary on Facebook for current updates.

Its certainly a great time to be in community engagement in South Australia.

Innovative Community Engagement. @engage2act Director and Board member, #engage2act advocate, #gatehashing instigator.

Innovative Community Engagement. @engage2act Director and Board member, #engage2act advocate, #gatehashing instigator.