Place affects the lives and outcomes of Victorians. By applying a place lens, we can support whole of government and whole of community responses to interconnected factors at a local level.
The places where we live, learn, work and play shape us
Victoria is made up of different places, each with their own unique built environments, social networks, economic conditions and people. These all affect how connected and supported people feel in their community, as well as how their lives are impacted by broader trends.
Evidence shows a person’s postcode directly affects their outcomes in life. The place where someone grows up and lives influences their health and wellbeing, as well as their access to opportunities.
Many opportunities and challenges are concentrated in place
Government has a strong growth agenda investing broadly in communities right across the state. This means there are opportunities in communities to leverage our investments to create better outcomes for local people.
Equally, many challenges are concentrated in places: communities can face multiple issues that intersect in a local area and require holistic responses that leverage the knowledge and skills of local people. All people live in places, contribute to places and are affected by places
Government needs ways of working that focus on place
Portfolio and departmental structures mean that we often focus our effort on one need, problem or population group at a time. Unfortunately, these top-down or centrally led approaches often miss opportunities and issues that are influenced by local contexts.
As a result, our current interventions and investments in disadvantaged places can be ineffective - with an increasing divide between many
disadvantaged places and the wider population.
We need approaches that span organisational boundaries and sectors to deal with causes, rather than problems. Working in place is one of these approaches.
" All people live in places, contribute to places and are affected by places." Griggs, J., Whitworth, A., Walker, R., McLennan, D., & Noble, M. (2008). Person or place-based policies to tackle disadvantage? York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Using place a frame of reference helps to do the following
Support civic engagement
Place-based approaches focus our effort and intention on communities and their strengths.
By working in place, we can:
- unlock the knowledge and passion of local people
- provide a meaningful forum for local agency
- enable communities to apply their skills and knowledge and have a sense of ownership over the decisions that are made
- build community connectedness and resilience
Think holistically and systemically
Focusing on place can help us ensure evidence-based policy decisions are implemented effectively across different local circumstances.
Thinking about how government comes together in a place:
- is a helpful frame for understanding how systems interact with and impact on people’s lives
- supports policy-makers to think differently about how government levers link and how we can bring together a different, or more holistic, group of stakeholders
- starts to break down the barriers between sectors and portfolios to drive new solutions to local issues
Support preventative, cost-effective responses
By building resilience and protective factors across the whole community, working in place supports government to focus on preventative responses, rather than crisis responses for individuals.
Targeting responses based on what works locally can support us to direct our investment where it will be most effective and have the greatest impact.
"Programmatic interventions help people beat the odds. Systemic interventions can help change their odds." Weaver, Liz (2019). The Journey of Collective Impact: Contributions to the Field from Tamarack Institute. Friesenpress. Karen Pittman, CEO of the Forum on Youth Investment
Why a framework?
Across government, much of our work is delivered at a local level. But not all this work is the same:
- Place-focused approaches use community input to improve how we do our business
- Place-based approaches add to this by sharing decision making with the community
This framework is designed to help public servants clarify the difference between approaches and support us to clearly communicate about
our work within government and with communities.
Government works in place in different ways
Government has a long history of engaging with communities and working towards local solutions. But, across government, we work in
different ways to achieve this.
‘Place-focused approaches’ involve planning and adapting our services and infrastructure with a focus on the needs of places. It is a tried and tested approach that ensures government services meet local needs.
But ‘place-based approaches’ are different. Place-based approaches can happen without government. But where we are involved, they go
further than government listening to community: they involve supporting local people and organisations to partner with us in decision-making.
Place-based approaches require us to let go of control and accept a level of uncertainty around priorities and implementation, as we work together with local partners to determine how to achieve shared outcomes.
Naming these different ways of working can help us work better together
Each approach is used for different reasons and is suited to different circumstances. There is no one right way to work in place - but different
approaches require particular skills and capabilities.
Understanding the difference between ‘place-focused approaches’ and ‘place-based approaches’ allows us to be clear about when we are inviting community to inform government decision-making versus when we are being an equal partner or handing over control in decision-making with community.
Recognising where we need to build capability
By recognising the different skills and resources required for working in place, we can identify where we need to improve. While we have strong
capabilities in listening to community, the things we need to support place-based approaches are not yet as systemically embedded
How can I use this framework?
Policy and program staff, managers, executives and decision-makers are encouraged to use this framework as a starting point to:
- reflect on current practice and your own role in working in place with communities and other parts of government
- consider and explore what opportunities there may be for you to work differently with communities and more collaboratively with cross government colleagues
- think about the influence you have supporting others in your organisation, or the broader system, to work in these ways
- find resources to support you to work better in place
Reviewed 29 April 2020