Place-based approaches

The Victorian Government is partnering with communities through collaborative place-based approaches to overcome complex local challenges.

Tackling complex issues in place

In communities across Victoria, there are local leaders, organisations and groups working hard to tackle long-standing social and economic challenges.

We recognise that providing services alone is not a lasting solution.

We want to work with these communities, through collaborative ‘place-based’ approaches – approaches that are designed around the specific circumstances of a place or location, led by the local community and delivered in partnership by all stakeholders (including government).

This approach leverages a community’s strengths, builds resilience and ensures effort and investment is targeted on what works locally.

See our framework for the types and characteristics of place-based approaches.

Being a better partner

The Victorian Government has been investing in place-based approaches for some time, and there have been many lessons along the way.

Place-based approaches require agile and flexible responses that cut-across governmental, organisational and sector barriers to target the underlying causes of problems in place.

We are committed to continually deepening our understanding and exploring how we can strengthen the way we partner with communities so place-based approaches can have their greatest impact.

As we work alongside existing place-based approaches, and draw insights from expert organisations and practice leaders, we will explore the way we work and what we bring to place-based partnerships such as:

  • capability, leadership and culture
  • sharing learning, evidence and information
  • providing effective supports
  • funding and sustainability

We are working to apply these lessons through changes to policy, changes to practice and importantly, sharing and embedding learning (see the learning resources available so far).

Why place?

A smoking ceremony performed by Aboriginal Australians
Photograph supplied by Aboriginal Affairs

Victoria is made up of different places, each with their own unique built and natural environments, social networks, economic conditions, and people. The places we live, learn, work and play shape us and impact our wellbeing opportunities.

Communities can face multiple challenges in the one local area, making them interdependent and complex to resolve.

By focusing on place, rather than responding to each issue individually, governments and communities can work together to tailor local responses.

Place-based approaches are designed around the specific circumstances of a place or location.  They enable local people and organisations to identify their own priorities and objectives, and design and implement a response. 

Place-based approaches leverage a community’s strengths, build resilience and target investment on what works locally.

Read more about the types and characteristics of place-based approaches in our Framework for Place-Based Approaches.

The framework

To continually improve how we work in place, we need to have a clear and shared understanding and way of talking about it. The Victorian Government’s Framework for Place-Based Approaches describes a way of thinking about place that will better enable Victorian public servants to effectively communicate across government.

The framework clarifies the difference between approaches that invite local communities to inform or contribute to government decision-making (place-focused) and those where we hand over control or are an equal partner in decision-making with communities (place-based).

Place-focused approaches

  • Plan and adapt government services and infrastructure to ensure they are meeting local needs.
  • Government listens to community to adapt how we do our business, but ultimately, has control over the objectives, scope and implementation.

Place-based approaches

  • Can complement the bigger picture of services and infrastructure. They engage with issues and opportunities that are driven by complex, intersecting local factors and require a cross-sectoral or long-term response. 
  • Place-based approaches target the specific circumstances of a place and engage local people as active participants in development and implementation, requiring government to share decision-making.
The Victorian Government working together in place framework


Sharing what we’ve learnt

One of the most important ways to improve the way we work in place, and help place-based approaches across Victoria have their greatest impact, is to capture and share our lessons. 

This enables staff from across the Victorian government, communities and practitioners to together grow our knowledge and accelerate practice.

In March 2020, we spent a day with international place-based expert Mark Cabaj to learn and share everything place-based through a series of events and interviews. See the videos below.

  • Mark Cabaj identifies three circumstances when a place-based approach is not suitable, and five benefits of place-based approaches.


  • Mark Cabaj discusses the relationship between place-based approaches and broader system-level change, and why each has an important role in achieving lasting outcomes.

  • Mark Cabaj explains how to adapt and learn while delivering in place and cites international examples of best-practice in place-based work.

  • Mark Cabaj explores the mindsets and practices that will enable governments to work more effectively with communities in place.

  • On Wednesday 11 March 2020, we hosted an event for community practitioners and organisations focussing on place-based approaches.

    Headlined by international place-based expert, Mark Cabaj, the event explored best practice case studies for working in place, and the elements required to achieve lasting change.

    Part 1 – Mark’s keynote presentation on place-based approaches

    Part 2 - Two current Victorian Government case studies from the LaTrobe Valley Authority and Department of Education, followed by a Panel Q&A also including Mark Cabaj. 

Reviewed 30 April 2020

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