Just as place-based approaches differ from traditional programs, managing them on an ongoing basis also requires different resources from a traditional contract. It requires deep relationships, trust and a commitment to continuous learning and improvement.
Providing place-based approaches with adequate flexibility is critical to enabling effective local action. But it also requires effective engagement and monitoring to ensure work is on track and lessons from innovative approaches are being captured and adding value for government.
As place-based approaches are typically testing new and innovative ways of working, it is important to continually reflect on what is working or not, why this may be, and what time and support might be needed to adapt.
You should consider dedicating a person to managing the contract, playing an enabling role between community leadership and government, continuing to build the relationship, and ensuring that decision-making power is distributed most appropriately across partners.
This often does not require 1.0 FTE but does require someone with an ongoing connection to the place -based approach that has time to invest in the relationship.
Regular meetings or co -locating with partner organisations for a period of time can help the VPS to really understand the local work that is happening, build relationships and solve problems on the ground.
Having a consistent point of contact within government who has enough time to fully engage as a partner is key to ensuring strong, productive relationships that support positive outcomes for communities.
It is important to continue to build trust with open conversations, interrogate where power and decision-making over funding is sitting, and whether this balance is enabling or hindering the best outcomes for community.
Implementing in action: Lighthouse Project
The Greater Shepparton Lighthouse Project (Lighthouse Project) is a place-based approach established by local leadership in 2014 to activate the whole community to support young people to realise their full potential.
The Victorian Government, through the Department of Education & Training (DET), began supporting the Lighthouse Project in 2017 following resourcing being identified as one of the key priorities of the Goulburn Regional Partnership. A flexible funding agreement was developed that is not contingent on pre-defined outputs established by government.
The DET Goulburn Area VPS team responsible for the agreement manages it through a range of steps:
- Regular reporting: While funding is flexible, there is strong reporting in place with first quarter progress reporting and final reporting standard each year. To ensure transparency, each year the Lighthouse Project presents government with a detailed workplan on how it intends to utilise its funding over the course of the year. It then reports on its expenditure, based on the proposed plan. ▪
- Dedicated contact and meetings to initially build and then foster the relationship: The Service Support Branch Manager in the DET Goulburn Area office manages the relationship. To build trust and ensure outcomes and reporting are on track, there are monthly meetings between the manager and the Lighthouse Project CEO to discuss project management and shared opportunities to leverage change in education settings and the broader community.
- An Advisory Group chaired by DET brings together government leaders from DFFH, DJCS, Victoria Police and Greater Shepparton City Council. This group have been key to connecting the Lighthouse Project to stakeholders and help them build stronger relationships into government, the platform allows for discussion of shared issues and priorities to identify opportunities across the interconnecting systems of government and community.
- Being an advocate within government: Lighthouse Project have identified that having an advocate within government who understands how they operate, their mission and also the Greater Shepparton context (its people, its culture, its challenges and strengths) has been important to its success as a place-based approach. An effective advocate is openminded and open to a new way of working. They create space at the table for place-based approaches to have their voice heard and their way of working understood and supported. “We have seen and know firsthand that this type of working can yield strong results, especially if enabled.”
Spotlight on: optimising local funding
Place-based approaches can be a powerful tool for making existing funding work better for a local community—but this also requires commitment from government.
Place-based approaches recognise that there is sometimes already enough money ‘in the system’ to effectively support a community. By their collaborative nature, they do not focus only on their own organisation’s funding and targets, but on broader outcomes. This means they can look holistically at what resources are in a local area and how they can be utilised to have the greatest impact.
“It is less a question of needing more resources overall, but rather a need to coordinate and utilise what is available with greater focus on making a positive difference to people’s lives.” — The Centre for Policy Development on its place-based employment model (PDF, 33.6 MB)
But realising this potential also requires government to be flexible and open to adapting existing funding so that investments have the greatest impact for acommunity. For example by:
- supporting local partners to undertake a financial mapping exercise to understand what funding is currently being spent in the local area. This could involve sharing data and intelligence on Victorian Government-funded services being delivered in a community.
- pooling current government funding in the local area, either by designing a new funding agreement or clearly aligning objectives and reporting requirements across a group of existing grant or service agreements.
- reallocating existing funding to different services or programs that a place-based approach has identified will have a greater impact for the community.
Case study: Bass Coast
The former Department of Health and Human Services’ South Division worked with local services to change funding arrangements for the community health promotion program in the South Coast. This was the first voluntary agreement to structurally adjust funding arrangements to create a place-based primary prevention funding pool in a catchment.
The funding adjustment aimed to further strengthen joined-up work between health services, councils and other agencies in the South Coast. Under the proposal, existing recurrent funding provided by the department to support prevention and health promotion in the catchment would be consolidated. The pooled funding would used for a South Coast primary prevention team—a dedicated team of staff supporting prevention and health promotion across the catchment.
Thanks to this strong commitment from partners to work collectively, the South Coast Prevention Team was formed in 2019. It is now using pooled health promotion resources to better align prevention work with the broader health agenda across the region. This initiative is tailored to the local context, by building off existing service networks, fostering local integration and responding to an identified need in the local area.
Tool: Funding manager position description
What is this tool?
A generic position description for a role responsible for implementing a place-based funding agreement, including example role statement, key responsibilities and key selection criteria.
How do I use it?
You can use this generic example as a basis and tailor it to the specific skills, connections or content knowledge needed for your place-based approach.
What will I get?
A clearer idea and description of the human resources you need to manage your funding agreement on an ongoing basis.
- The VPS place-based capability framework which defines knowledge, skills and behaviours the VPS requires to work effectively with place-based approaches and can help you in developing position descriptions and interview questions.
Example role statement
The role has responsibility for managing and facilitating the delivery of a place-based initiative [or range of place-based initiatives] and for providing strategic advice to senior stakeholders on strategic directions and priority projects across the local area. They will enable communities and partners to work together to achieve better outcomes in the local area.
Experience in leading and facilitating improved community outcomes, an open, engaged mindset, together with excellent stakeholder and project management skills, are critical in this role.
Example key accountabilities
- Enabling place-based progress: Enable implementation of a place-based approach, ensuring local objectives are understood and met. Enable the initiative to deliver on the intent of local leadership by identifying how to support community aspiration and objectives. Administer grants, including monitoring progress, and managing grant agreements, contracts and payments.
- Maintaining and fostering strong relationships: Engage actively with a variety of stakeholders from the government, private, community, health and education sectors to leverage opportunities for collaboration, communicate key needs and share information. Listen to and understand context for partners and translate this into meaningful impacts. Deliver key messages and performance expectations as needed. Convene stakeholders to share information and progress issues.
- Track and assess progress and lessons: Actively monitor progress and key issues, including through, but not limited to, reporting requirements. Identify trends, risks and key lessons and insights. Share these actively with the wider team and stakeholders. Contribute to operational and strategic duties.
- Be a great team member: Actively participate as a team member to support the sharing of information, building of culture and maintenance of positive, robust relationships. Collaborate and support work to identify opportunities to achieve outcomes, as well as ensure awareness of initiatives.
- Provide authoritative advice: Communicate key issues, updates and decision points to stakeholders and decisionmakers. Provide authoritative advice on emerging risks and opportunities. Understand and communicate key elements of context for relevant programs and work agendas.
Example key selection criteria
- Program design and delivery: Excellent project management capabilities with experience leading and delivering projects, including planning and contributing to the implementation of projects in complex environments. Regularly communicates with and supports project team members. Ensures project objectives are met by anticipating and managing potential emerging issues. Ensures good governance and provides advice and recommendations to senior management to support decision-making.
- Partnering and co-creation: Builds and maintains partnerships to achieve objectives. Coaches others on the co-creation process and builds team commitment to co-creation by demonstrating personal commitment. Builds trust in partnerships through timely and quality delivery of outcomes. Facilitates discussion and navigates differences of opinion to reach decisions.
- Working collaboratively: Guides others to create a culture of collaboration. Identifies, and works to overcome, barriers to knowledge or information sharing. Identifies opportunities to work with other teams to deliver outcomes.
- Communicate with impact: Active listener. Makes a positive impression on others and comes across with credibility. Communicates orally in a manner that is clear, fluent and holds the listeners’ attention. Able to deal with difficult and sensitive topics and questions.
- Technical capabilities (desirable): Understands the context and drivers of [social/health/economic/etc.] outcomes, particularly in local communities. Understands how place-based approaches differ from service provision or grant delivery in enabling outcomes in communities.
Tool: Funding relationship mirror
What is this tool?
The funding relationship mirror was developed by ten20 (PDF, 2.6MB) for place-based funders and initiatives to reflect on their existing relationships and identify their strengths and where they need to grow.
How do I use it?
You can use this tool alone, with your team, or with your funder-initiative partnership. Use the statements on the following pages to help you reflect on where you are strong, ok or need to grow. You may want to consider your reflections and how they may be similar or different to your partner’s reflections on the relationship.
What will I get?
An identification of the strengths of your funding relationship and where it needs to grow. In particular, the tool can be used to interrogate the role of power—what different types of power exist across the relationship, how is it used and the impact it has.
The Funding Relationships Mind Stretcher, also developed by ten20, which provides a list of conversation starter questions and thought provoking videos and books that aim to stretch minds, provoke new ideas and provide new reference points.
Use the statements below to reflect on where you are strong, ok or need to grow.
- We understand each other’s values and what has shaped them
- We are aligned on the outcomes, the collaborative aims to achieve, the timeline and approach
- We spend good time together in community to listen, observe, learn and actively engage
- We learn together and openly share information, including challenges
- We are open and prepare to take risks with the collaborative
- We both deliver on the commitments we make to each other
- Our community collaborative understands:
- the funder role we pay in their change effort
- our intent to transition power to community, responding to its needs rather than imposing solutions
- our willingness to have new conversations and work in new ways
- We challenge how our existing systems and practices may be reinforcing marginalisation of Aboriginal voices, perspectives and lived experience and explore how to decolonise existing structures and ways of doing things
- We amplify the leadership of Aboriginal Victorians to be heard and integrated into decision making
- We listen and uplift the truth of shared histories in community, celebrating and preserving that truth
- Data sovereignty and cultural IP are respected
- Funders and backbone members have earnt the trust and respect of Aboriginal community leaders
- Timelines are flexible and can move at the speed of community and account for cultural business
- Our mindsets and governance frameworks allow for agility and adaption
- Funding agreements allow for adaption around timing, amounts and areas for allocation
- Funds for the collaborative are held and overseen by clear and enabling governance and decision-making structures that allow for agility and accountability
Equity and shared power
- We openly discuss and work toward shared equity and power:
- the different types of power in the relationship are openly acknowledged (e.g. power to decide, information power, expertise power)
- helpful and unhelpful uses of power are understood from other’s perspectives (we challenge how existing systems and practices reinforce traditional power dynamics that constrain community voices)
- steps are taken to better balance power (e.g. use of accessible language, shifting who informs and makes decisions)
- We seek out and support local communityled strategies that build racial, ethnic and gender equity
- We convene and build strong networks and ensure community has access to their expertise, perspectives and influence
- We align with other funders around reporting and effort to ensure community needs are best met
- Community defines progress markers rather than funders
- We build incentives for collective and collaborative approaches at every stage
- We share all new knowledge for all to gain – not just a few for themselves
- We have an embedded learning practice which facilitates our growing awareness of our own power, how we use it and understand how it is perceived