by Karen Corr, Social Entrepreneur at Make a Change Australia
Originally published by the Bendigo Weekly on 3 June 2016
2020: It’s official, Bendigo has made it to a world leadership city.
Key challenges have been addressed and Bendigo has been awarded the most creative and socially innovative city in Australia. The lines between government and community have disappeared.
In the past five years true collaborative partnerships have been forged through a shift in attitude and produced the most extraordinary results.
As a community we respect our leaders – at all levels. We have expanded the concept of leadership to beyond the elite and those in authority to recognise that leadership is a generous contribution at many levels of society.
People who are passionate about creating positive change in their community and have the skills and drive and commitment to do so have been key to creating effective social change and in turn a thriving, livable city for all. Whether labelled changemakers, social entrepreneurs, volunteers or innovators, it is acknowledged that these people are crucial in the future development of the city and their time is valued.
Ample cross sector support has been given to these community leaders who have been recognised as highly educated, resourceful, caring people working tirelessly and often in an underpaid or voluntary basis to make a difference in their community.
Respect is given to those that give up their careers and give their time so generously to create new innovative approaches / initiatives / enterprises for the benefit of the community. In particular, government and local agencies have worked hard to remove the road blocks allowing us to foster effective partnerships and create collaborative and innovative solutions.
Investment in skill development and ongoing support for emerging leaders has significantly expanded the capacity to make positive change in Bendigo too. More people are willing to have a go at making good stuff happen and are rewarded in their efforts.
Risk taking in backing social enterprise is now encouraged and there are adequate seed funding programs to enable this. The word ‘failure’ has been replaced with ‘learning’ in our common discussions, which allows us to benefit fully from all innovative processes, irrespective of their immediate outcomes. This has been and continues to be, our foundation for long term sustainable improvement.
We have achieved extraordinary results in the way consultation occurs within communities. Rather than governments talking to communities about what they want and need, it is now standard practice that communities talk to each other about what they want and need and outcomes are produced that are community driven and owned with the support and partnership of government agencies.
This is a much more powerful and long lasting approach for those communities.
A direct link between creativity, community and economic development has been achieved. Investment to drive cross sector collaboration and partnerships for community benefit, utilising and respecting the resources that already exist in our community has made a huge difference in outcomes for the city.
As a result of all this, Bendigo has transformed itself. Local businesses are thriving. There are many more micro businesses and social enterprises creating local employment whilst at the same time addressing key social issues.
The city is alive with creativity – festivals, participatory events and pop-up shops. There has been a shift in thinking and action when it comes to the purchase of local art, locally made, locally grown. The creative industry is alive and well in this town.
Neighbourhoods have become vibrant hubs of activity, they are more connected and there is much less social isolation of individuals and groups.
Our most disadvantaged are supported and empowered.
Health and well being statistics have improved.
Education is considered crucial to the overall wellbeing and development of the city – programs of education, not just through schools, but for the general public, and particularly those who are in most need, are invested into by business, community organisations and government.
Our environment is respected and people are aware of the many benefits a healthy and nurtured environment provides and are actively working to not only lessen the impact but restore and regenerate it.
Young people are included in decision making and seen as contributors and listened to as our next generation of leaders. More and more innovative housing models are being developed giving more people options to have a secure and affordable home.
Our indigenous culture is acknowledged and respected, included and celebrated. Multiculturalism is celebrated. Fear of the unknown has, in the past, caused angst, upset and divide. Community led initiatives have been supported. These initiatives have built connections, understanding and respect between different cultures and backgrounds.
The strategic approach to build a culture of collaboration and innovation via effective partnerships has paid off, and Bendigo whilst it was good before, is now the most livable, inclusive city in the world.
“Now it’s the age for the translator. It’s the age for the bridge builder. It’s the age for Velcro. It’s the age for Lego. It’s the age for combining what we already have into what we need.” Van Jones
Karen Corr is passionate about creating positive change.
Karen has a background in environmental engineering with over 10 years experience in water management and sustainability consulting.
She left her career to start a life in community sustainability and social entrepreneurship. She has been involved in numerous other social change initiatives: the Bendigo Sustainability Group, Goldfields SolarHub, Reposer Bendigo, WiserAustralia and the Central Victorian Greenhouse Alliance.
Karen set up Make a Change Australia to work with local people to create effective social and environmental change.