A one-off grant of $100,000 last year provided under Mr Ryan’s auspice, enabled this community centre to stay open, employing locals, providing a focus for those who need help both practical and emotional.
Can you compare these two projects? Is it an either/or scenario? Do the people who come into Our House to talk about how to pay the gas bill or to join in a singalong have any connection to a project that will create “leadership teams” who will learn to think strategically in order to influence policy and planning into the future.
Maybe that’s an idea for the Reference Group for the Thinking Community project to tackle, as they begin to plan for their four workshops and forum discussions over the next year.
The entire project has funding of $60,000, with the other $30,000 coming from the Community Foundation.
Sue Clarke, who heads up the Foundation, said the idea grew out of the now defunct Bendigo+25 Community Plan.
She says she wanted to turn around the negativity, particularly around the involvement of young people in the community, and begin to work towards increasing the leadership capacity of people across a wide spectrum.
Mrs Clarke is on the Thinking Community Reference Group, along with Andrew Skewes, Trevor Budge, Jane Farmer, David Pugh, Trudi McClure, Karen Ward, Ian Mc Burney, Nick Byrne, Prue Mansfield, Nigel McGucklian, Penny Wilkinson, Tim Gentle Alexandra Gartmann, Cathy Wallace, Fabian Reid and Lynne Talbot.
Mr Reid, chief of staff for outgoing Federal Member for Bendigo Steve Gibbons, says that where the +25 group got bogged down in the immediate problems - how to fix a drain, which roads need to be widened - this group is about teaching us how to think.
The bigger picture. The long-term vision.
Inviting a company called Action Foresight to Bendigo, Thinking Community will workshop “foresight and futures studies”, then “innovation processes”, then “prototyping and modelling social enterprises and initiatives for change”.
Finally they’ll “prepare to launch the leadership group/foresight-to-innovation networking platform as a ‘living lab’.”
Mr Pugh, who heads up St Luke’s Anglicare, is enthusiastic about what the project can do, despite the tendency for consultancies such as Action Foresight to describe what they do in a kind of ultra-weasel-word style that invites scepticism, if not cynicism.
He says he got on board to pick up where +25 left off, so that out of that failure, a success might be built.
“When you set up a community group, the risk is people drift to action plans and short-term cycles, with goals to fix up the bus stop - and there are already a whole lot of groups that can continue to do that, like council,” Mr Pugh says.
“But we want to ask, is there a longer-term way to think through it?
“The goal of the current group is that it’s not the usual suspects and the committee itself is not on the thinking group.”
Through the workshop process, the committee hopes to identify 50 community leaders, who will then each “engage with” 10 other people, making a network of 500.
At the end of the first year, Mr Pugh says he hopes there will be a “framework” within Bendigo able to support continuing “thinking”.
“There are already a number of groups involved in thinking, such as the university and council, and we think we can get a fair bit of alignment with those to get that framework in place.”
This idea may be one of great vision itself, but it remains to be seen what the Bendigo community, including those who frequent Our House, think.