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The principles and premise behind Great Place.

Australia is facing immense, complex and fast converging challenges.

To thrive in this environment, we need to see communities as an integral part of the approaches we take. Communities have instead been more or less at the mercy of decision-makers in business, government and not-for-profit organisations. This leads to complacency about the importance of our communities and the role they can play in shaping the future of our regions, states and nation. In fact, the harsh reality is that unless we are embarking on a specific “community engagement” or “community development” program of one type or another, communities are largely overlooked in the day-to-day doing of the things we do. It's time for this to change.

We must remember that the very same people who shape our thinking, influence policy and make key-decisions about the future all live in local communities. Our local communities are actually made up of our best thinkers, leaders and organisational representatives who of their own volition are already responding strategically to very complex and challenging issues.

Great Place recognises that our greatest community assets are largely untapped – particularly when it comes to developing community driven strategy that addresses short-term issues, and beyond. While today’s key issues may be drought, education, jobs or housing development; communities can start dealing much more meaningfully with those kinds of issues while also ensuring that they are working towards generating a resilient future for themselves, their state and Australia.

Such community driven strategy is formulated and actioned as an integrated approach and process that brings together all elements of community as a whole place and thinking as a whole system – the social, economic, ecological, education, aesthetic, health, aesthetic, cultural, civic governance and built environments. In this way, we can deal with the complex, systemic risk and opportunity in communities while forging strong relationships with the organisations that share mutual dependency with community.

Optimisation of this integrated approach is achieved by having key organisations (business, government and NGO’s) also develop internal, complementary strategy that drives sustainable, mutual value for themselves, their customers and communities.

The great thing about Great Place is that communities are already doing this. It is just that more could be doing it and all could be doing it better. You need to look no further than the locally owned Bendigo Bank branches or Australia’s first community-owned wind farm in Daylesford and Hepburn, Victoria to find examples of strategic approaches to real community challenges. Approaches that are delivering material returns to businesses, organisations and community.

Getting a Great Place initiative started in your community is easy. If you or a group within your community wants to up the ante on how you are dealing with local challenges and opportunities then there are a number of clear starting points – you can check them out under the Great Place Entry Paths Just remember that no matter where you start and how many people are involved, there is always more to learn, new things to do and room to grow. Take the first step now.

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