What does “community led” really mean?
To create effective and sustainable social change, we believe the services and programs we provide should harness existing community energy and enthusiasm, supplement existing community capacity, and eventually become embedded within the community itself.
Australian social history is littered with “top down” interventions of one sort or another, that have not only failed in their own right, but have frequently exacerbated the issue they were supposed to “fix”.
All types of programs need to be community led, not just the ones that are traditionally thought of as community-based, but also those programs that are large-scale, evidence-based, and have been trialled elsewhere.
Being community led means listening to and understanding the people who are dealing with an issue on a day-to-day basis, as it applies within their community. Communities know what they need best, parents know what they need for their children and teachers know what is needed in the classroom.
Here at Royal Far West, we understand that due to our deep and long-lasting connection with the communities we serve. It means being aware of both the difficulties and the joys of country life. It means being cognisant of the differences between communities, and sub-groups within those communities. It also means being invited to provide expertise and technical capacity where it is needed and wanted, being adaptable and not rushing in with a one-size-fits-all approach.
The best community led efforts are long-lasting because their design and implementation involves program participants and mobilises a range of stakeholders to find solutions to the root cause of the problem.
In our case, we are addressing wicked and complex cycles of disadvantage by addressing early childhood vulnerability. Poor developmental health makes it hard for children to communicate, behave appropriately, and learn at school and social situations. This leads to lower levels of engagement, lower academic outcomes, poor employment prospects, increased likelihood of mental health issues, substance abuse, adverse encounters with the justice system, et cetera. By detecting developmental issues early, and planning appropriate care and therapy, children are given a vastly more positive life trajectory. Our role is to support communities to do that, through shorter term fit for purpose service provision, and longer-term capacity building.
We bridge the gap between what a community wants and currently knows, and where they want to be for the future, using evidence-based, data-driven practises and programs delivered child-by-child, community-by-community, in partnership with communities.