Chapter Eight: Skills, capabilities and mindsets


What capabilities are needed in place-based approaches?

Place-based approaches by their very nature require innovation. In the context of government, this requires many capabilities, as well as knowledge, behaviours and the right underlying attitudes. These take time to develop.

  • Technical skills such as implementing monitoring, evaluation and learning or understanding flexible funding models are important, but equally so are often less championed capabilities. These include connecting and convening, building shared accountability and trust, or capabilities like working collaboratively and systems thinking.
  • These skills and capabilities need to be developed and fostered for the effective design and implementation of place-based approaches. Capability and willingness to work with the broader institutional systems, across sectors (including government, private sector, community and health sector) and with community, is also key. This can be challenging and requires ‘out of the box’ thinking and the skills to work with local communities.
  • The Place-based Capability Framework defines and describes those capabilities (skills, knowledge and behaviours) required by the VPS to work effectively in place. The Victorian Public Service Capability Framework also includes capabilities that enable place-based approaches.
  • Building and sustaining a more collaborative and ‘joined-up’ cross sector culture, complemented by supportive systems and processes, are key enablers of place-based approaches (O’Flynn, Buick, Blackman, and Halligan, 2011).

How it works

Key capabilities

There are many things you can do to build the capabilities required to successfully implement a place-based approach.

Capabilities can be used throughout the employee ‘life cycle’ from developing position descriptions when recruiting new team members, to the onboarding of teams and the creation of learning and development initiatives. Understanding the capabilities required to work with place-based approaches at the outset will help you develop these as the initiative matures.

The following capabilities are important for VPS staff and teams working with place-based approaches.

Adaptive and facilitative leadership

Contributing to and fostering a culture of iteration and learning from successes and failures, will support place-based approaches to succeed. The following capabilities support this required leadership:

Demonstrates adaptive and facilitative leadership:

Understands different viewpoints and creates an environment where stakeholders have an equal voice and contribution to decision making. Creates a culture of learning from successes and failures.

Moves groups of people toward a goal:

Identifies common goals and facilitates diverse stakeholders towards the goal, balancing group motivations, needs and values to find common ground.

Promotes a test and learn culture:

Creates opportunities for government and community stakeholders to share successes and failures and learn from them.

Encourages an iterative, learning approach:

Creates a culture of continuous improvement, participating in regular review and evaluation to surface lessons learned and applies these to next steps.

Balancing power and sharing accountability

Balancing power and sharing accountability is critical to place-based approaches. By understanding and using power dynamics effectively, shared accountability and trusting relationships can be built between government and community partners. These capabilities are key:

Awareness of own power:

Able to identify and declare own power and agenda to create transparency in power dynamics. Balances power to ensure all stakeholders are empowered to make decisions.

Shared accountability and trust:

Builds and maintains trusted relationships that encourage shared accountability and transparency.

Flexibility during co-creation:

Is open to working with new ideas during collaborative engagement, role modeling good collaboration with others.

Awareness of power dynamics:

Understands, articulates and maps intersecting power dynamics to achieve better outcomes for place-based initiatives. Promotes ethical use of power dynamics in place-based approaches.

Balances government and community needs:

Balances listening and contributing and government priorities with community needs, seeking alignment amongst stakeholders. Understands how changes to government priorities may impact various stakeholder groups and manages relationships accordingly.

Information and data sharing

Improving the quality of information and data that is shared with communities, in line with privacy standards and legislation will enrich place-based approaches. The following capabilities support this:

Information and data sharing advocacy:

Able to describe information and data sharing requirements and why they exist, appropriately accessing and sharing information. Creates a culture of greater data transparency.

Accessing information and data through others:

Works with relevant stakeholders to obtain, share and interpret information and data. Proactively develops and maintains relationships with government and community stakeholders to build a culture of information and data sharing, championing ongoing and sustainable data sharing arrangements.

Improving data quality, access and relevance:

Recognises the importance of quality and relevance when collecting information, ensuring data received is appropriate and relevant. Identifies data access, quality and relevance issues contributing to a culture of continuous improvement in this area.

Adheres to relevant legislation:

Appropriately applies and communicates privacy standards and other relevant legislation related to own work., complying with privacy standards and other relevant legislation, noting or addressing concerns.

Joined-up work

Balancing government and community needs to deliver effective place-based outcomes is critical to place-based approaches and requires capabilities such as:

Connecting and convening:

Acts as a conduit between government and community to ensure the communities needs are met providing seamless solutions and promoting collective buy in.

Working better in government:

Uses organisational politics and lateral relationships to break down internal silos to achieve effective community-led outcomes.

Knowledge and application of place-based work

Capabilities that support the specialist knowledge to establish, support and enable place-based approaches are:

Application of place-based knowledge, tools and methodologies:

Understands the principles of place-based approaches, tools and methodologies to identify and interpret emerging trends and support community-led work

Enabling place-based approaches:

Identifies when place-based approaches might be useful to a community and identifies local strengths and capabilities and any gaps.

Flexible funding models:

Partners with funders seeking flexibility and alignment where possible. Advocates for change to government funding systems to ensure best practice flexible funding principles are met.

Place-based monitoring, evaluation and learning

Capabilities that support the monitoring, evaluation and learning of place-based approaches are:

Implementing place-based monitoring, evaluation and learning:

Develops monitoring, evaluation and learning approaches with stakeholders to enable collaborative outcomes.

Leverages lessons learned:

Uses lessons learned to leverage opportunities for continuous improvement.

Communicating the benefits:

Shares monitoring, evaluation and learning outcomes with the community so that all parties can benefit equally.

The following VPS Capabilities also enable place-based approaches:

Influence and Persuasion:

  • Adapts the content style and message or tone of communications to suit the audience to gain agreement to proposals and idea using an effective written and verbal communication skills

Systems thinking:

  • Considers the wider context, breaking complex topics or situations into smaller parts to gain better insights and inform actions required

Partnering and co-creation:

  • Builds effective partnerships with the client/ customer/community throughout problem solving process to gain critical insights and develop effective solutions.

Promotes inclusion:

  • Embraces diversity, drawing on insights into the community’s beliefs, needs, and values to inform required actions

Working collaboratively:

  • Builds trust and rapport with others
  • Sets common goals through a high degree of empathy
  • Display willingness to share control and responsibility with peers (the service, external partners, and community) in the delivery of work and outcomes.

Key considerations

Building your team

As you build your team, consider whether the mix of members engaged covers the key stakeholders and interests. If not, this could be addressed by recruiting people who work in different institutional contexts, as they understand cultural/organisational interests and can act as a conduit for recruitment and capacity development.

Think about assigning a dedicated project coordinator role to a team member who has expert knowledge of the issue and area concerned, to play an intermediary role, facilitate partnership working, be a principal contact and support the integration of people and information.

For more information on skills, capabilities and mindsets to support your team and colleagues to develop in priority areas, see the Place-based Capability Framework and tools and the Victorian Public Service Capability Framework.

Case study: Community Support Groups


Community Support Groups (CSGs) work with culturally specific communities to strengthen services for individuals at risk of youth disengagement or antisocial behaviour. The government funds this initiative to link young people with existing programs, co-design new activities and build the capacity of community to work together.

There are several CSGs across metropolitan Melbourne:

  • Social cohesion CSGs in Dandenong, West Heidelberg, and ‘The Huddle’ which includes Flemington, Kensington, North Melbourne and Wyndham.
  • The Northern CSGs, which reach into Dandenong, Melton, Brimbank and Wyndham.

CSG Approach

The CSGs vary in their focus between locations, but all use community-led, place-based prevention and early intervention approaches to build protective factors against youth disengagement. Government funding is delivered to community-led auspice agencies, staffed by community members to oversee the day-to-day operations of the CSGs.


At each location, Local Reference Groups (LRGs) including community members and government representatives from relevant departments/ agencies which advise the auspice agency to develop and prioritise activities and programs.

CSGs exemplify how government representatives can engage with stakeholders meaningfully by listening to them and prioritising activities and programs based on their advice.

Additional tools and resources